Monday, April 25

His Workmanship, Part 2

Commentary on verses 4-5 of Ephesians 2, in which we find out that we have been recreated ex nihilo by fiat.
But  God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved... (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)
In the first part of the examination of Ephesians 2:1-10, we looked at verses 1-3, where we find a description of the condition of the person that is dead in sin. Throughout the verses, we find reminders that this condition is a universal one. The believers that Paul was writing to were once dead in trespasses and sin, and the rest of mankind remains that way. People who are in this condition stand opposed to God because they want to be, and also because they are under the dominion of Satan who works within them to keep them opposed to God. It's a helpless state, and it seems a hopeless one, too.

Except it's not hopeless for us, because there is Someone who has intervened for us:

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us. It is God who intervenes for us in our hopeless situation, and his action comes from the greatness of his love for us, and out of the richness of his mercy. God's love is the primary cause of his action, love from a personal God for a particular person. Mercy is a more general thing, for mercy regards a pitiable situation; but love is personal, focusing on us as individual persons: God "loved me and gave himself for me." It was because God loved us so greatly that his mercy was so rich toward us.

  • Even when we were dead in our trespasses. Out of his love for us, God acts in this merciful way while we are still in the condition described in verses 1-3: living according to the way of the world, following our evil leader, with disobedience still one of our defining qualities.

    The description of the sort of people we were when God extended his love to us doesn't make us sound even slightly worthy of love or mercy. There is nothing positive in the description to draw his love toward us--no extenuating circumstances to call out his mercy. While we may be helpless, we certainly aren't innocently helpless, but rather, we find ourselves in the exact condition that our obstinate disobedience deserves. Not only is our condition deserved by us, but we are not uncomfortable in it. We may be in a miserable situation, but we don't percieve our circumstances that way. We need help, but haven't yet discovered that. This is how we are when God, because of who he is rather than who we are, initiates action to help us.


    Ex Nihilo Cowboy.
    There's a whole park of
    these something from
    nothing sculptures in the
    state of Washington.
  • Made us alive together with Christ. Made us alive contrasts with dead in sin. What God does can rightly be called a resurrection. Toward the end of this passage Paul calls this being "created in Christ Jesus", and it would be another ex nihilo creation. The same sort of creative work that took place when God said, "Let light shine out of darkness," happens when God shines "in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV). God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Romans 4:17 ESV)" when he takes our nothingness (dead in sin) and recreates us (makes us alive together with Christ).

    The condition we were in makes resurrection or creation the only solution to our problem. What's wrong can't simply be patched up a little and we're made good as new. Starting over from scratch is required: new life, new creation, re-birth, resurrection.

    And this recreation is be done "in Christ". It is Christ's death and resurrection that makes this recreative act of God possible. His death and resurrection is the grounds for our resurrection. His new life, received by him as a reward for his obedience, is transferred by the Spirit from him to all those who belong to him. Those who are included with Christ in his death and resurrection die to their sins in his death and are raised to new life in his resurrection.

  • By grace you have been saved. This is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the preceding passage, isn't it? We receive something entirely undeserved. We offered nothing; God gave it all. Out of love, through his mercy, grounded in Christ's work, and not because of anything we had within us to call any of those things forth. What we were calling for from God as children of wrath was the expression of God's wrath against our sin. Yet God, in his grace, through Christ's work, called forth something else for us: new life from death, new creation from ruin. By grace we have been saved.

    Stay tuned for more in part 3.
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