By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
The story does not end with our being dead in trespasses and sins. The story does not end with our being children of wrath. In one of the greatest contrasts imaginable, Paul introduces God into the scene. In fact, although Paul uses the first three verses of this seven-verse long sentence to speak of the place where you and I began (spiritually dead), both the main subject of the sentence and the beginning of the story is God. Just like everything else in our relationship, it starts with God. God is the subject of this gracious act of redemption. We are the recipients. The remainder of this verse describes our gracious God.
First, God is rich in mercy. Aristotle describes mercy as an “emotional concern for those who undeservedly suffered some calamity”. The Old Testament emphasizes mercy and loving kindness in regard to the covenant that God has made with His people. The New Testament concept of mercy takes it far beyond Aristotle or even the covenant relationship of the Old Testament as the compassion is based on the calamity that we as sinners deserve. It is based on God’s love. Hoehner writes, “God extends His mercy toward sinners because He loves them and knows that they are hopelessly trapped in their own snare”. Later Paul will speak of the unfathomable riches of Christ (3:8). The riches of God’s mercy are beyond our comprehension.
Next, Paul speaks of His great love with which He loved us. God’s love is the demonstration of His rich mercy. Paul adds emphasis to God’s love in two ways. First, he uses both the verb and the noun for love (agape in the Greek) in the same phrase (Greek scholars refer to this method of emphasis as the cognate accusative). God loved us with love. He doesn’t leave it there as he also uses the word great to describe God’s love. It is also described as His love. It is the great love that only belongs to God with which we are loved by God. There is also a relationship between the words rich and great as His mercy is rich and His love is great. The magnitude of God’s power toward us that was described in Eph. 1:19-23 is actualized in His rich mercy and great love. We are the objects of both.
Just like everything else in our relationship, it starts with God. We have nowhere to go if He has no mercy. Our plight is hopeless if He has no love. In contrast to God’s wrath, which is the natural place of the unbeliever, the riches of God’s mercy and the greatness of His love explode into our lives in a manner which we can scarcely comprehend. We deserve the close relationship with His wrath but He offers something else because He is rich in mercy and great in love. His mercy takes us from the place of wrath that we deserve to the place of incomprehensible love that we do not deserve, not even a little. It is His mercy. It is His love that brings us to where we are as believers. Hallelujah!!!