Death to Life (Some Thoughts on Grace)
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." - Ephesians 2:4-7
It seems to me, as I read this passage, that the whole beauty and glory of God's wonderful provisions for us are encompassed within the space of these few verses. These verses give us a description of the transition from where the Ephesians had been - "dead in trespasses and sins", to where they were when Paul penned this passage and declared them "alive together with Christ"!
Note the following 8 phrases as you read this passage:
1) "Rich in mercy" - The Almighty One is not stingy in the distribution of His mercy. He is "rich" in the bestowal of His mercy to those who come to Him. The chorus of an old song proclaims:
"Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
God's great mercy is bestowed on the undeserving, powerless, helpless sinner who is willing to accept that mercy on the simple terms of the gospel. Jesus died and paid the price for us. We must accept His free gift to us through faith and obedience to the gospel.
2) "Because of His great love" - There is no other reasonable explanation for God's drastic action at Calvary except for God's great love for us. To love those who are unlovely and dead in sins, enemies of God, and then for Jesus to offer His life demonstrates a love that has no equal. John 15:13. The prodigal of Luke 15 went from a life blessed with love and plenty to a prodigal lifestyle where he was without a loving father and without even food to eat. He "came to himself", realized his sin and unworthiness, and returned to a father who lovingly received him. His father said: "This my son was dead and is alive." Only love from our Father will lift us from the stench and filth of sin to a place of safety and belonging with our wonderful heavenly Father.
3) "Made us alive" - Already mentioned is the transition from death to life when one comes to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus came that "they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" - John 10:10. What we do on the day we come to Christ is in preparation for the day of death and our meeting with the Lord. We begin to live, really live, when we become alive with Christ.
4) "Together with Christ" - We are not merely presented to Christ when we arise from baptism, we are then with Him in "newness of life" - Romans 6:4. In this same passage (Romans 6:3-11) the apostle Paul declares that we can now see ourselves ("reckon yourselves" - v. 11 NKJV) as "dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Our lives are forever intertwined with the Savior. We walk in His steps, imitate His example, adopt His mindset (Philippians 2:5), and aim to be with Him throughout eternity.
5) ("By grace you have been saved") - This parenthetical phrase assumes that the Ephesians know the concept of grace. They surely had come to know a God who had bestowed His wonderful grace on them when they turned to Him from idols (Acts 19:1-20). The "death to life" action was working in them and filling them with hope for their future with Him!
6) "Raised us up together" - We have been raised with Christ! This is pictured in Romans 6:3-5 - "As many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death...We were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." At that resurrection our seat is reserved for us in the heavenly places, where Christ is already preparing for our entrance - John 14:3.
7) "Ages to come" - Throughout the Gospel Age, and perhaps throughout eternity, saints and angels will marvel at what God has done through the work of Christ!
8) "Exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" - The mercy and love of an almighty God demonstrates the grace He extends in kindness toward us. The practical aspects of His grace may be seen in the following ways: access through prayer to our Father in heaven, the ministry of angels, the strength promised for the hour of temptation and trial, His word as a lamp to our feet and light to our way, forgiveness when we sin, the hope that anchors our souls...the list could go on and on!
The Ephesians had chosen a new course for their lives after hearing Paul and others proclaim the good news of the gospel. Men and women who had previously "walked according to the course of this world" are now following a different course of life. Now they are traveling through life in step with Jesus toward their place in heaven. Perhaps in our journey we need, from time to time, to pause and remember God's wonderful grace He is bestowing on us. From John Newton's 1779 hymn "Amazing Grace" these words will help us:
"Thru many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
Twas grace that bro't me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home"