Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 25
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|Dr. Barber calls “But God…” “among the most powerful words in the Bible. He explains from scripture what God did for us…while we were yet sinners!|
The Marvelous Grace of our Loving Lord – Part 1
Turn with me to Ephesians 2. We are coming out of those verses which talk about what it used to be like when we were sinners, before we came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. I want to entitle this study, “The Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord.” We sing a hymn with those words, but we also see it in our text as we look beginning in verse 4.
Let’s go back, though, and read verses 1, 2 and 3. Let’s remember what it was like one more time to be lost. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
It is so sad to realize that all of us at one time were the living, walking dead, controlled by our flesh and used as pawns by the devil to accomplish his work. Isn’t it awful to think that at one time in our life the devil had full reign and rule in our lives? Until Jesus came into us, we were his very tools on this earth to get his damaging work done. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers of what they used to be. Folks, we need to realize where we’ve come from. So often as believers we take it all for granted. We forget that we were once dominated by the flesh. We were once the pawns of the devil. We need to realize now that we are in newness of life. We don’t live like we are lost. We live differently. We are saints. That word means we are set apart now for God’s use. We are totally, drastically changed. Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a brand new creature.
Well, verses 1, 2 and 3 provide a backdrop for the rest of the chapter. If you want to highlight something that is beautiful and expensive, you put it in front of something that is black, the deepest black that you can find.
They say in South Africa that the people who sell diamonds enhance their diamonds that way. They always find a piece of black velvet, and they put those diamonds on it. Diamonds, pearls, whatever it is, the blacker the backdrop, the more eloquent the pearl or the stone.
Well, you see, nothing could be any blacker than our sin. Verses 1-3 show us that’s what we used to be. Paul uses that to highlight the grace of God that comes in verses 4- 10. Nothing is as beautiful. Nothing is as expensive. It is freely bestowed, but it was very expensive to God. It cost God the death of His Son upon the cross.
The first two words of verse 4 are among the most powerful words in all of Scripture. Coming right out of that awful, sinful, dreadful condition, it says, “But God.” That is so powerful to understand. That phrase is used 41 different times in Scripture. I picked three of them just to show you what I am talking about. When man couldn’t, and man wouldn’t, God did. “But God…” In the midst of the darkness of sin, in the midst of the mire of sin, “BUT GOD…”
It is used in Romans 5:8 to describe His love towards us when we were unlovable. In the context it says that men would not even die for good men. Then it goes on and says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” No man would ever die like that. Jesus, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, emptied Himself of His glory, came to this earth and took upon Himself the body of human flesh. He lived a sinless life and took our sin upon Himself. He did what no one else would do. “BUT GOD…” While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When I was in college, one of the things that used to always irritate me were these real brainy students that had no common sense whatsoever. In one of the classes I was in, I loved the professor. He couldn’t see real well.
One day, in this particular class on world religion, we were talking about the different religions in the world, comparative religions. One of these brains, you know, who absolutely did not have enough common sense, said, “What right do we have to go to other countries in the world and to tell them that Christ is our God and should be their God and that we serve the only true God? Why not let them serve Buddha or Allah or whoever it is they want to serve. I mean, after all, what you call Him doesn’t matter.” Well, I didn’t know that my professor had it in him. He took off his glasses. Now that’s dangerous, because he couldn’t see with them, much less without them. He had big tears in his eyes. He walked around and steadied himself on the rostrum there and for the next 30 minutes there was not a dry eye in that place. He said, “You name me one god who would come down to this earth and die on a garbage heap for the very creation that had rejected him.” He went down through the religions of the world, named every one of the gods and when he finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in that class. That fellow never opened his mouth again. He understood now why it is we need to “go ye therefore into all the nations” and tell them about our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.
“In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When we were unlovable, “BUT GOD” died for us.
Secondly, it is used in I Corinthians 1:27. It is used to describe His choice of us when we were unlikable. “…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,…” I Corinthians 1:29 says, “…that no man should boast before God.” In other words, when the world rejects us, when the world calls us fools because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to remember He is the one who accepts us.
I think rejection is the worst thing a human being can go through. Many of us have been rejected in life, and we need to hear somebody say, “I accept you. I love you. I choose you.”
When I was growing up in high school, I was tall, skinny and uncoordinated. I was loud, and nobody seemed to really want to be around me a long period of time. I mean, it was okay for a while, but then everybody disappeared. I never knew exactly what to do next. I never knew whether to laugh, be quiet, or do something. I was always doing the wrong thing. I couldn’t walk and chew bubble gum at the same time. I was never picked to be on anybody’s team. I was always the last one chosen. I always felt rejected.
Well, I went off to college and my coordination begin to come along. Athletically I began to do better, but socially, it seemed to get worse. I remember coming home from college one year. I miss my Mama. Sometimes I enjoy just saying that. I just miss her. I wish sometimes I could get hold of her just for a second or two just to talk to her. She was such a loving, loving individual. I had come home from college, and I was so rejected inside. I felt so foolish because there were some things I had done I wished I hadn’t done. Every time I opened my mouth, it was just to change feet. I sat on the couch and said, “Mama, I don’t understand. I don’t feel accepted by anybody. I feel stupid. I feel foolish. I feel awkward. I look different.” My Mama laid my head over in her lap, and she just took her hand and began to stroke my hair. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. It is almost like I can feel her touch on my head. She kept saying, “Wayne, God loves you. God loves you just like you are. Wayne, if you’ll let Him, God will use you. It doesn’t matter what the world thinks about you. God didn’t throw away your identity. God didn’t throw away your personality. God didn’t throw away your individuality. God loves you, Wayne, and He wants to do something in your life. Just let Him choose you. He’s chosen you. You receive that choice in your life.”
It is a wonderful thing that He chose us when we were unlikable. The world throws us out. God loves us. He chooses the foolish things to manifest His glory in our life.
Not only that, that little term “BUT GOD” is used to describe His design for us when we were unusable. So many people come into the Kingdom of God, and they think that God should be real excited because we are on His team. They bring in all their baggage. They bring their expertise from the world. They bring in their way of thinking. My friend, God’s got a different design, and we haven’t got a clue. God gifts us and makes all of us useable. Until we realize that, it will never function the way He wants it to function.
I Corinthians 12:24-25 says, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”
Oh, how we see the marvelous grace of God. “BUT GOD…” He’s the one who changed it. Man could not have changed it. God changed it. He revealed His love for us. He revealed His choice of us. He revealed His design for us. That’s God. God did it. We were in the darkness and the blackness and the mire of sin, “BUT GOD.”
Our text goes on to say in verse 5, “…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” Oh folks, when we speak of “us” in this context, don’t forget who we are talking about. Ephesians 1:1 tells us we are talking about the saints who are faithful in Jesus Christ. They are the only ones who will appreciate this. Those that aren’t faithful don’t appreciate this. The people who are faithful are overwhelmed by it.
In Ephesians 1:13 Paul says those who have heard the gospel, the truth of their salvation and have believed, He made alive. He raised them up and seated them in the heavenlies.
Verse 8 is the key verse in the context of Ephesians 2:4-10. Look at it very quickly. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” That’s why we are looking at the marvelous grace of our loving Lord.
What does it mean when you mention grace? So many people don’t seem to understand what grace is. The word is charis. It comes from the word chairo, which means “rejoice, to rejoice.” Oh folks, listen, when you start understanding what grace is, it’ll turn something on inside of you. You have to rejoice. It’s wonderful to understand what grace is. It’s not what man can do. It is what God would do.
If I asked you, “What do you think grace is?”, you would likely say, “It is God’s unmerited favor.” You are exactly right, but what does that mean? Let’s take it a step further. It is what God and God alone can do to a man, for a man, in a man and through a man. Man on this earth will never deserve any of it. It’s what God does, not what man does.
Well, let’s begin looking at the marvelous grace of our loving Lord. First of all, I want us to take a good look at the giver of grace. Look back at verse 4. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,…” We are going to look at the character of God, the giver of grace. You see one of the attributes that comes out in this verse, “But God, being rich in mercy,…” It is not just His grace. So often when we talk of God we speak only of His grace. It is like a coin. On one side you have heads, and on the other side you have tails. Well, if you take grace and this other word that comes out in the verse, it is like the flip side of the same coin. On one side there is grace. On the other side there is mercy. Who is the giver of this grace? He is a merciful God.
Now, what in the world does the word “mercy” mean? We know what grace is. It is what God does to, in, for and through a man, that a man could never deserve. It absolutely has to do with a man’s sin. Look at the state man was in. He was dead in his trespasses and sins. So therefore, grace dealt with that sin. Do you know what mercy is? It is the word eleos. It refers to God’s compassion. Oh folks, God cares about Wayne. He cares about you. It’s the compassion of God.
There is a word that we use all the time. We say, “The Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you realize that word “Lord,” kurios, in their culture was never used of a person that they didn’t already know had compassion and concern for them. There was another word that was used for those kinds of lords. That word is despotes. He was somebody who was a master, yes, ruler, yes, but he could have cared less about the people he ruled over. The word kurios, had built in it the fact that He was a compassionate caring concerned Lord. That’s the word we apply to our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is what deals with our sin. Mercy is what deals with the consequence of our sin.
I want to tell you that mercy was displayed at the same time God’s grace was displayed. What is the ultimate consequence of being dead in your trespasses, of walking formerly according to the course of the world, of formerly living in the lust of our flesh, all of which is found in verses 1, 2 and 3? It is separation from God. God cared about that ultimate consequence. He is merciful. Therefore, He showed grace by allowing Jesus to come and die for us. He did what nobody else could do. He was willing to pay what nobody else would pay.
But folks, it goes beyond the cross. God cares about the consequences of our sins, even now that we are believers. He is a merciful, merciful God. He is interested in the consequences of our sin. As a matter of fact, if you will look at verse 4 it says He is rich in mercy. I love that. “Rich” there is the word plousios. It means “abundance of wealth.” In other words, if you want to talk about riches, you go to God. The first thing you’ll find is that He is rich in mercy. Our God abounds with mercy.
Why is He so merciful? Why does He want to show mercy to you and me? Why does He care about the consequences of the stupid choices that you and I have made? Well, go on in the verse. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” Paul is showing us that God has already proven that He loves us. Out of His love, He shows mercy to us. He uses a phrase here that points us back to the cross. He uses the aorist tense and talks about something that has already happened. He said, “…with which He loved us,…” If you ever find somebody that questions the love of God, the character of God, quickly take them to the Word of God because they evidently are denying something that has already taken place. The very fact that Jesus came and died shows how much He loves us. “We love Him because He first loved us.” It points back to the manifestation of His love.
Yes, He loves us. How do we know that? Jesus came and died for us. It’s out of that great love that He has here that His mercy flows. Why does He show mercy? Because He loves us. Oh, I’m so glad that I’m not God, aren’t you? There are two absolutes. One is, there is a God, and two is, you are not Him and neither am I. I am glad of that. There’s no man who would be merciful like that. Oh no. We live in a world where everybody has to fight for what their rights are. That is not true with God. He loves us. He shows us His grace, and He shows us His mercy.
Go back and read verses 1, 2 and 3 and think about all the consequences of sin that He is dealing with there. He says, “But God, being rich in mercy,…” God loves you. If you are turning to people to find it, you will not find it there. You have to go to Him. You can’t come to church and find it. You go to Jesus and find it. We’ve been saying this for 12 years. I don’t know what else to say. You are not going to find it in an organization. You are not going to find it in a person. It is the Lord Jesus. We’ve got to come to Him.
Maybe you are a believer and somehow have forgotten what it was like to be lost. You’ve gone back into that old sin. God still loves you, and God’s grace can still meet you. God’s mercy will help you bear up under the consequences of the wrong choices in your life. Our God, is an awesome God. He’s a God of mercy, and He’s a God of grace.
We will look at the greatness of grace what it does for us in our next study. When you think of grace, don’t ever think that doesn’t involve mercy. It’s the other side of the same coin. On one side is the sin. On the other side is the consequence of the sin. “But God, is rich in mercy,…” “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.”