God’s love is not of the Led Zeppelin variety. It is neither friendly love, nor romantic love, nor erotic love. The Greek language had words for these kinds of love. Yet Ephesians 2:4 employs the word agape, which is self-giving, sacrificial love. Agape seeks not selfish pleasure but rather whatever is best for the other person. According to Paul, God is filled to the brim with this kind of love for you and for me.
Mercy is something we desperately need from God or we are utterly without hope. As we have seen, the first three verses of Ephesians 2 lay out the bad news of our living death as we are in bondage to sin and Satan, standing under God’s judgment. But verse 4 makes a sharp U-turn: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy…” Notice that God doesn’t merely have mercy. He is “rich in mercy.”
Throughout the past two weeks, we’ve been hearing the bad news of our condition outside of Christ. I’ll admit that hasn’t been much fun. We’ve seen that we were in bondage to sin, Satan, and the God-opposing power of the world. Yesterday, we learned that we were worthy of God’s righteous judgment… [Yet] the next chapter of God’s story begins in Ephesians 2:4 with fantastic good news captured in two little words: “But God.”
At times in Scripture, such as in the book of Revelation, God’s wrath is indeed pictured dramatically as an experience of natural horrors, such as fire and brimstone. But in this theatrical imagery, we can miss the point of God’s wrath. It isn’t just about God’s anger. Rather, the wrath of God is his righteous judgment of sin and sinners. God’s wrath hates evil, despises injustice, and holds all of us accountable for the sin in our lives, our systems, and our world.
Through his grace in Jesus Christ, God is at work in us, renewing our minds so that our thoughts might be full of truth and goodness. The renewal of our minds can make a difference every day in all that we do, including our daily work. As you face difficult challenges in your workplace, God will help you think rightly and wisely about them. The Spirit of God will lead you if you seek God’s guidance and truth. Taking time to pray, even quietly for a few moments in your workplace, can make all the difference.
Do you ever feel as if your body is on the other side, fighting against you? Perhaps you’re trying to lose weight but your cravings always get the better of you. Or perhaps, as you age, you begin to feel aches and pains that you never had before. Or, more seriously, maybe you’re fighting a disease that threatens to take your life. Your body just doesn’t seem to be on your side. According to Ephesians 2, our bodies are indeed fighting against us in a way… Yet we must not forget that God created human bodies as good.
No matter the specifics, it’s no fun to have a bad boss. According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we have all had a bad boss, one more worrisome and pernicious than what I’ve just described. Here’s how Ephesians 2 begins: “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…”
When Paul speaks of “this world,” he is not thinking about the physical earth: rocks, trees, water, and so forth. Rather, he is thinking about what we might call culture, worldview, or the spirit of the age. He is envisioning the world as a system of powers that pulls us in the direction of sin and death. When we were dead in our trespasses and sins, we were living according to the ways of the world, a world that entraps us and entices us to live contrary to God. We were living behind enemy lines.
Today’s passage uses the metaphor of walking to depict our living death apart from God… Before God delivered us, we were not merely dabbling in sin. Rather, we were walking in it consistently, knee-deep in the muck of rebellion against God… As we’ll see later in this chapter, when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, thus receiving God’s grace through him, not only are we forgiven for our sins, but we are also welcomed into a new way of living.
Ephesians 2:1 speaks of death, not literally, of course, but metaphorically. Though you were alive physically, you were dead in a way that was quite serious. You might say you were spiritually dead, though this condition affected far more than just your inner life. And why were you dead? Because you were cut off from God, the source of life, the one who is life. And what cut you off from God? Your “transgressions and sins.”