4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
REASON FOR HOPE
But God who is rich in mercy… These words are profound and pregnant with meaning. Despite our desperate, flawed condition God took the initiative and stepped in. We were the objects of his wrath, but God, out of the great love with which he loved us, had mercy on us.
Consider how Paul describes that love of God. He doesn’t say simply that God loved us; rather he says, out of the great love with which he loved us. We were dead and the dead don’t rise. But God made us alive with Christ. We were slaves and powerless, but God has set us with Christ in a position of honor and power.
It’s essential that we hold both parts of this contrast together: What we are by nature and what we are by grace; the human condition and the divine compassion; God’s wrath and God’s love.
So what has God done? And why did he do it? Verses 5 and 8 tell us God has saved us – by grace you have been saved. Most of us are so familiar with this traditional language of salvation that its meaning is lost. Paul uses three verbs: in verse 5 we read, God made us alive together with Christ; in verse 6, he raised us up with Him; and in verse 6b He made us sit with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus. The verbs refer to three key events in Jesus’ life: his resurrection, his ascension and his enthronement.
But notice what Paul is saying here: he is speaking about us. He is not writing about Christ, but about you and me. His emphasis is not on God raising Jesus and giving him a position of power and authority, but rather that he’s given us new life, he’s raised us, and he’s seated us with Christ. God has not just given us a new citizenship. He now treats us as royalty.
Why has God done this? Clearly it is not because there was something within us that was intrinsically worthy of merit or God’s special attention. Rather, it was something within God himself that prompted the action. Mercy, love for the outcast is what God has shown us.
So Paul writes: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
There are three foundation words of the gospel here – salvation, grace and faith. Salvation is more than forgiveness – it is deliverance from the death, the slavery, and the wrath, that we’ve already considered (Day 37). Grace is God’s free and undeserved mercy towards us. Faith is the trust with which we receive the gift for ourselves.
How do we know these statements are true? The resurrection of Jesus Christ bears witness to it.
And there is more: 10For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Paul wants us to understand that we are God’s work of art – that our salvation is in fact a masterpiece of creation. In the Sistine Chapel in Rome Michelangelo’s masterpiece, ‘The creation of Adam’, portrays God reaching out to man. Paul wants us to know that God’s masterpiece is of a totally different order. Salvation is not just creation or re-creation: it is a new creation.
Furthermore, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works – good works which God prepared beforehand. Verse 10 ends with a word that we find back in verse 1 – the word walk. Walk is a Hebrew idiom for our manner of life. We are called to be pedestrians, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward, going somewhere. Formerly we walked in trespasses and sins in which the devil had trapped us. Now we walk in good works that God has eternally planned for us to do.
Through God’s astonishing grace we can be new people. We can go to bed every night with a sense of peace because we know that we have been forgiven. We can wake up in the morning with a sense of purpose and joy. We now have every reason to ask each day, ‘Lord, what good works have you prepared for me to do today?’
You might like to consider:
- what the words, but God who is rich in mercy, tell us about God;
- what Paul is telling us about salvation – that it is a gift – and the way God now sees us;
- how God now expects us to live.
For Further Thought. Ask:
- Has this series of Bible readings and Reflections helped you understand more clearly the great themes of the biblical narrative?
- Do you have a better idea of your part in God’s story?
- What does the Lord want you to do with your life that will make a difference in the city or community where you live?
You might like to pray:
Almighty God, you have conquered death through your dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ and have opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant us by your grace to set our mind on things above, so that by your continual help our whole life may be transformed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit in everlasting glory. Amen. (BCP, Easter Day)
Teach us, gracious Lord, to begin our works with reverence, to go on in obedience, and finish them with love; and then to wait patiently in hope, and with cheerful countenance to look up to you, whose promises are faithful and rewards infinite; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (An Australian Prayer Book, 1978, A prayer of dedication)
© John G. Mason, Reason for Hope – 40 Days of Bible Readings and Reflections – 2016. All Rights Reserved.