Amplified: But God—so rich is He in His mercy! Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so very much (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: But God, being wealthy in the sphere of mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and God, being rich in kindness, because of His great love with which He loved us
BUT GOD, BEING RICH IN MERCY: o de theos plousios on (PAPMSN) en eleei: (Eph 2:7; 1:7; 3:8; Exodus 33:19; 34:6,7; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 51:1; 86:5,15; 103:8, 9 10, 11; Psalms 145:8; Isaiah 55:6, 7, 8; Daniel 9:9; Jonah 4:2; Micah 7:18, 19, 20; Luke 1:78; Romans 2:4; Romans 5:20,21; 9:23; 10:12; 1Timothy 1:14; 1Peter 1:3).
There is an old "Rolaids" commercial (upset stomach) and the jingle was "How do you spell relief?" How do you spell "relief" from spiritual death and despair? You spell it "But God". You were going straight to hell and eternal separation from God (2Th 1:8, 9) until those great words sounded forth… BUT GOD! Praise God for His "but God's" in Scripture (see below noting the very first use in Genesis! What a merciful God we serve.) for without them mankind would have no hope of spending eternity with Him. In the wonderful passages that follow we read of the Divine motivation for reaching down and saving us.
But God - 41x in the NASB (95) - Gen 8:1; 17:19; 20:3; 21:12; 45:8; 48:21; 50:20, 24; Exod 21:13; Num 22:22; Jdg 15:19; 1 Sam 23:14; 1Chr 28:3; Job 34:5; Ps 49:15; 52:5; 64:7; 73:26; 75:7; Jonah 4:7; Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21; 12:20; 16:15; Acts 2:24; 7:6, 42; 13:30; Ro 5:8; 1Cor 1:27; 3:6, 7; 6:13; 7:15; 12:24; 15:38; 2Cor 7:6; Gal 3:18; Eph 2:4; Phil 2:27; 1Th 2:4
In a similar divine reversal of destiny, Paul reiterates the "before" and "after" in his letter to Titus…
But (1161) (de) introduces a contrast (term of contrast) and what a dramatic contrast this presents with the preceding dreary description of an unbeliever (Ep 2:1, 2, 3-see notes Ep 2:1; 2:2; 2:3) and here the description of a believer! One "two letter conjunction" changes the fate of mankind from certain eternal death to the potential for eternal life! The phrase "but God" also shows the problem of alienation was not with God but with man. To the contrary, "but God" shows that it is God Who initiates the salvation Paul proceeds to describe.
Our salvation hangs entirely on those two words. We were dead…But God! We were enslaved…But God! We were trapped…but God! We were self-destructing…but God! We were lost in sin…but God!
We were children of wrath and deserving of an eternity in the torments of hell, BUT GOD instead of pouring out wrath God will spend eternity showing the immeasurable riches of his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Expositors Greek NT comments
G Campbell Morgan wrote…
Ephesians 2:4, 2:5 offer three words which answer to the desperate state of mankind:
Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve—Judgment. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve—Salvation.
In (en) indicates the "sphere" in which God is rich, in this case it is mercy! God being rich in mercy is God's character, His attribute (See mercy).
Rich (4145) (plousios from ploutos = wealth, abundance, riches) is an adjective which defines that which exists in a large amount with implication of its being valuable. Literally plousios refers to having an abundance of earthly possessions that exceeds normal experience. As used in Eph 2:4 plousios refers to being plentifully supplied with something. Rich is used most often in the NT in the sense of having abundant possessions and especially material wealth and was a frequent topic addressed by the Lord Jesus. It is used figuratively in James to describe those who are rich in faith (Jas 2:5, cp similar use to describe the believers in Smyrna - Rev 2:9).
God is "plentifully supplied", overabounding, without measure, very rich and wealthy in regard to His mercy.
Plousios - 28x in 28v - NAS = people(1), rich(19), rich man(7), rich man's(1), rich people(1).
Plousios - 56x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (Lxx) - Ge 13:2; Ruth 3:10; 1Sam 2:10; 2 Sam 12:1f, 4; Esth 1:20; Job 27:19; Ps 10:8; 34:10; 45:11; 49:2; Pr 10:15; 14:20; 18:11; 19:22; 22:2, 7, 16; 23:4; Pr 28:6, 11; Eccl 10:6, 20; Isa 5:14; 32:9, 13; 33:20; 53:9; Jer 9:23; 24:1
Mercy (1656) (eleos [word study]) is the outward manifestation of pity. Aristotle says eleos is an emotional concern for those who undeservedly suffered some calamity. That's a good definition except that mankind has DESERVEDLY suffered the calamity of sin and spiritual death through Adam! This fact makes God's "definition" of mercy even more "altruistic!"
In the Septuagint (LXX) mercy (eleos) often translates the Hebrew word hesed which speaks of God's loyal or steadfast love, His unfailing love and His tenderness (cf Lxx uses of eleos for Hebrew hesed in 1Ki 8:23, Ps 89:49, Isa 63:7). Eleos in the NT describes kindness or concern expressed for someone in need. Mercy indicates the emotion aroused by someone in need (all mankind dead in their trespasses and sins) and the attempt to relieve that one and remove his trouble. Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity, which assumes a need on the part of him who receives it and resources adequate (God is "rich") to meet need on part of him who shows. Mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands compassion or forbearance shown esp to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.
Mercy is God's kindness and good will towards miserable and afflicted sinners, joined with His desire to help them. It is much more than being merciful because God instead of dealing with us as those who rightly deserve wrath and judgment, deals with us in compassionate mercy.
Wuest writes that eleos is…
Hiebert defines mercy as
One needs to distinguish between grace and mercy. Grace is shown to the undeserving, while mercy is compassion to the miserable. Grace is God’s solution to man’s sin. Mercy is God’s solution to man’s misery. Grace covers the sin, while mercy removes the pain. Grace forgives, while mercy restores. Grace gives us what we don’t deserve while mercy withholds what we do deserve.
BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US: dia ten pollen agapen autou en egapesen (3SAAI) hemas: (Deuteronomy 7:7,8; 9:5,6; Jeremiah 31:3; Ezekiel 16:6-8; John 3:14-17; Romans 5:8; 9:15,16; 2Thessalonians 2:13; 2Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-7; 1John 4:10-19)
Because (1223) (dia) in this verse means on account of, which explains why God is so rich in mercy. It is on account of His great love. Or as Marvin Vincent notes this clause might be phrased "it is in order to satisfy His great love." As an aside always pause and ponder term of explanation like "because" and "for." Stated another way, the term of explanation explains the cause for the demonstration of mercy in the previous clause. What is the "cause?" God's love, love that seeks the highest good in the one who is loved and bestowed irrespective of merit to those who are undeserving!
Great love - God's love to any degree would have been enough, but Paul says it was His great love. God is not miserly, withholding His best from those who deserve nothing at all! Amazing love indeed!
Great (4183) (polus) is that which is present in relatively large in quantity or measure. God's love is infinite like all of His attributes. And so God's love is infinitely great as beautifully expressed in Frederick M. Lehman's hymn The Love of God…
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
When hoary time shall pass away,
Verse 3 was penciled on the wall of a narrow room in an insane asylum by a man said to have been demented (perhaps, but his acknowledgment of this precious truth might make him more "sane" then many outside the asylum!). The profound lines were discovered when they laid him in his coffin.
Love (26) (agape [word study]) is unconditional, sacrificial love. Agape love speaks of a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the one loved, a love that impels one to sacrifice one’s self for the benefit of the object loved. It is the love shown at Calvary to undeserving sinners (Jn 3:16, Ro 5:5, 6, 8, Ro 8:35-39, Eph 5:2, 25).
Jesus expounded on this great "Calvary" love declaring that…
Paul emphasizes the greatness of this love for those so unlovely writing that…
The apostle John adds that…
Agape is God's willful direction toward man. It involves God doing what He knows is best for man and not necessarily what man desires. For example, John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world, that he gave." What did He give? Not what man wanted, but what God knew man needed, i.e., His Son to bring forgiveness to man.
Speaking to faithless Israel God speaks of coming days of restoration declaring…
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F B Meyer writes that GOD'S LOVE WAS NOT DAUNTED BY OUR SIN. (Ephesians 2:5)
Amplified: Even when we were dead (slain) by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ; [He gave us the very life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him, for] it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation). (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: that even while we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor that you have been saved!) (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ - it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: and we, being dead with respect to our trespasses, made us alive together with the Christ; by grace have you been saved completely in past time, with the present result that you are in a state of salvation which persists through present time (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: even being dead in the trespasses, did make us to live together with the Christ, (by grace ye are having been saved
EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN OUR TRANSGRESSIONS: kai ontas (PAPMPA) hemas nekrous tois paraptomasin: (Eph 2:1; Romans 5:6,8,10)
Spurgeon - God loved us even when we were dead in sins. His love does not depend upon what we are; it flows from his own heart. It is not love of something good in us; it is love of us because of everything good in him. Here you see the greatness of his grace, in that "he loved us, even when we were dead in sins." (Exposition)
Even when - serves as a reminder of our helpless, hostile state in Adam.
Dead (3498) (nekros from which we get English "necropsy") denotes the body derived of life, and refers literally to the physical condition of being deceased. It is used here figuratively to refers to the spiritual condition of those who are unable to attain to the life of faith in and of themselves.
Spiritual death is the state of the natural or unregenerate man as still in his sins (see note Ephesians 2:1), alienated from the life of God (Ep 4:18, 19-see note), and destitute of the Spirit (Ro 8:9-note). Prolonged beyond the death of the body, spiritual death is a state of eternal separation from God in conscious suffering. This is called "the second death" (Rev 2:11, 20:6, 14-see notes Re 2:11; 20:6; 20:14) (See also Births, Deaths, and Resurrections.)
Wuest points out that Paul uses…
two parallel phrases here, “God being wealthy in the sphere of mercy,” and “we being dead with respect to our trespasses.” The entire translation is, “But God being wealthy in the sphere of mercy, on account of His great love with which He loved us, and we being dead with respect to our trespasses, hath quickened us together with Christ.” (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
Transgressions (3900) (paraptoma [3x in Ephesians 1:7, 2:1, 2:5] from parapipto = fall aside from para = aside + pipto = fall) means a deviation from living according to what has been revealed as the right way to live. The basic idea conveyed is that of stumbling or falling so as to lose one's footing. Paraptoma conveys the idea of a false step and so often is translated a transgression. The idea behind transgressions (transgress in English means to to go beyond or overstep a limit or boundary and is from Latin trans- across + gradi = to step) is that we have crossed a line, challenging God's boundaries. Similarly, the word derived via the Old French from a word meaning "to pass over" or "to go across" to commit an offense against a person or a set of rules.
MADE US ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHRIST (BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED): sunezoopoiesen (3SAA1) to Christo chariti este (2PPAI) sesosmenoi (RPPNPN): (Ep 2:1; 5:14; John 5:21; 6:63; Romans 8:2)(Ep 2:8; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24; 4:16; 11:5,6; 16:20; 2Corinthians 13:14; Titus 2:11; 3:5; Revelation 22:21)
Spurgeon on "made us alive"…
Ah! That accounts for everything: "together with Christ." When we get "together with Christ", then are we made alive, then are we saved. Are you. my dear hearers, "quickened together with Christ"? (Exposition)
Made us alive together with (4806) (suzoopoieo from sun/syn = together with, speaks of intimate union with + zoopoiéo = make alive, quicken) means to cause to live with Christ or to give life with Christ. Either idea is utterly amazing considering unregenerate man's dire straits. To an extent this verb could be seen as somewhat synonymous with "saved" but it can also have the meanings of to keep alive or to preserve life.
The result Paul writes to the Colossians is that now…
Jesus explained some aspects of being made alive declaring…
Paul adds that…
The apostle John writes…
With is a small but critically important preposition we must understand (see word study on sun) because Paul uses sun as a prefix in three compound verbs in Ephesians 2:5 ("made alive together with") and Ep 2:6-note ("raised up with", "seated us with") each of which conveys a truth regarding our salvation. Sun means not only are we together with Christ, but we are so "mixed together" (so to speak) with Him that no one can separate us from Him or Him from us! This is good news and serves as just another marker that underscores the believer's eternal security in Christ.
Wayne Barber addresses the practical implications of this great truth asking…
Paul uses suzoopoieo in one other letter writing to the saints at Colossian explaining this same truth that…
when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. (Col 2:15-note)
Paul expands on this wonderful truth in Romans 6 asking…
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized (he is not speaking of water baptism but of a spiritual baptism, an identification with) into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Ro 6:3, 4-see notes Ro 6:3; 6:4)
This walk in newness (brand new quality unlike anything experienced before) of life is a new life God gives every believer through his or her identification with Christ in His resurrection. On one hand, our identification with Christ in His death broke the power of indwelling Sin. Our identification with Him in His resurrection resulted in the implantation of Christ's divine life. This spiritual transaction is what Paul is referring to when he says, “We were made alive together with Christ”.
Now Paul interjects (something that interrupts) with the declaration "by grace you have been saved."
Grace (5485) (charis [word study] from chairo = to rejoice, be glad) in this context defines God's beneficent disposition toward sinners. The grace of God is undeserved, unsought, and unbought (except that it is made available by the precious blood of the Lamb of God). Salvation or giving us new life had to be all of grace because we were all dead in our trespasses and sins!
The infinitely high price of redemption was paid for by
the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor (His incarnation), that you through His poverty might become rich (spiritual riches that Jesus gives to all who place their trust in Him). (2Cor 8:9)
So the riches of our salvation (calling, election, justification, sanctification) were all made possible by the "impoverishment" of Christ Who became a man, suffered and died a cruel death on the cross so that grace could be manifested in our life. When we realize what it cost God to express grace, it helps us realize the wickedness of our sin and the undeserving state of mankind. What an amazing divine paradox -- grace was immeasurably costly for God to express and yet is unconditionally free to all men. Grace is God’s favor freely offered but expensively expressed!
Grace not what we do or don't do is the ultimate ground of salvation, Paul recording that God
saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity (2Ti 1:9-note)
Comment: Here we see a clear distinction between God's grace and man's works. All of this grace was given to us in Jesus Christ. We could not earn it; we did not merit it. This is the grace of God! Believers must remember that the same grace that saved them the first time is the same grace that "saves" us every day (present tense salvation [see Three Tenses of Salvation], progression sanctification, grow in holiness and Christlikeness). Believers tend to forget their continual (lifelong) need to remain dependent on (and confident in) God's sufficient grace to meet our every need every day. (cp 2Cor 12:9-note, 2Co 12:10-note)
An atheist said,
"If there is a God, may he prove himself by striking me dead right now."
"You see, there is not God."
"You've only proved that He is a God Who possesses amazing grace."
Saved (4982) (sozo [word study]) has the basic meaning of rescuing one from great peril, in context the inevitable wrath of God on all sons of disobedience. Additional nuances include to protect, keep alive, preserve life, deliver, heal, be made whole. Notice that sozo is in the perfect tense, which pictures a past completed action with enduring effect, thus emphasizing once again the permanence of the sinner's salvation in Christ. See note on Ephesians 2:8 where Paul again uses sozo in the perfect tense! The perfect tense expresses a completed action with continuing results in the present. God's grace saved us in a moment in time and God's grace keeps us saved eternally. The passive voice is often referred to as the "divine passive" where God is clearly the subject.
Wuest explains that…
The perfect tense speaks of the existence of finished results in present time. But Paul is not satisfied with showing the existence of finished results in present time. He wants to show the persistence of results through present time. So he uses the verb “to be” in the present tense which gives durative force to the finished results. Thus, the full translation is,
“By grace you have been saved in past time completely, with the result that you are in a state of salvation which persists through present time.”
The unending state of the believer in salvation could not have been put in stronger or clearer language. The finished results of the past act of salvation are always present with the reader. His present state of salvation is dependent upon one thing and one thing only, his past appropriation of the Lord Jesus as Saviour.
His initial act of faith brought him salvation in its three aspects, justification, (Ed note: see discussion of Three Tenses of Salvation) the removal of the guilt and penalty of sin and the impartation of a positive righteousness, Jesus Christ Himself, an act which occurs at the moment of believing, and a position that remains static for time and eternity; sanctification, positional, the act of the Holy Spirit taking the believing sinner out of the first Adam with his (Adam’s) sin and death, and placing him in the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) with His righteousness and life, an act that occurs at the moment of believing; (sanctification) progressive, the process by which the Holy Spirit eliminates sin from the experience of the believer and produces His fruit, gradually conforming him into the image of the Lord Jesus, a process that goes on all through the life of a Christian and continues all through eternity, and which never is completed, for a finite creature can never equal an infinite one in any quality; and glorification the act of the Holy Spirit, transforming the mortal bodies of believers into glorified, perfect bodies at the Rapture of the Church. The believer has had his justification, he is having his sanctification, and he is yet to have his glorification. The earnest of the Spirit guarantees to him his glorification. (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)