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
In a similar
divine reversal of destiny, Paul reiterates the "before" and "after"
in his letter to Titus...
For we also once were foolish
ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and
pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one
the kindness of God our Savior and
His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds
which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the
washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,6 whom He poured
out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being
justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of
eternal life. (Titus 3:3, 4, 5, 6, 7-See notes
(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
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
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.
Greek NT comments
A return is now made to the
statement which was interrupted at Eph 2:2. The resumption might have
been made by oun (therefore). The adversative de
(but), however, is the more appropriate, as the other side of our case
is now set forth—the divine grace which meets the sinful, condemned
condition, and which stands over the dark background of our death by sin
and our subjection by nature to the divine wrath. God who is wroth with
sin, is a God of grace. His disposition towards those who are dead by
trespasses and sins is one of mercy, and this is no stinted mercy, but a
mercy that is rich, exhaustless.” The word “rich” is the translation of
plousios, “wealthy, abounding in material resources, abounding,
abundantly supplied.” (The
Expositor's Greek Testament)
The word "But" here puts two
matters into contrast. The first contrast is between man and God; the
second is between the state of man and the mercy of God, and this is the
main thought in the mind of the writer. The picture of man's state is
very dark: "dead through your trespasses and sins"—that is, cut off from
all the true things of life; therefore, walking under the dominion of
"the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience"; therefore
living "in the lusts of the flesh"; therefore "children of wrath." Can
any conditions more hopeless be imagined? How can it ever be that those
living under such conditions shall become "holy and without blemish?"
What wisdom can plan such a deliverance? What power can be equal to
carrying out such a purpose? The complete and final answer is given in
"But God, being rich in mercy!"
In the wealth of His mercy there the
wisdom that plans, and the might that accomplishes. Mercy is
compassion, and in God that is more than passive, it is active; it is
pity, working on behalf of those who are helpless; it is love, doing the
things that love desires to be done. When that compassion, pity, love,
is predicated of God, the vastness of it is postulated, the sufficiency
of it is recognized. This is the very heart of the Gospel. Over against
all the appalling facts of our weakness and wickedness, we must place
the wealth of the mercy of God, which had its unveiling and found its
mode of action in Christ. Presently Paul referred to the "exceeding
riches of His grace"; and we feel the power of the expression. It
exceeds all our need. It is an ocean in which all our emptiness is
filled without loss to its superabundance. (Morgan, G. C. Life
Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible).
(eimi) is the
indicates this is God's continual state, rich in mercy. How
grateful we are for the present tense in this description.
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
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
(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
"plentifully supplied", overabounding, without measure, very rich and
wealthy in regard to His mercy.
28x in 28v - NAS = people(1),
rich(19), rich man(7), rich man's(1), rich people(1).
Matthew 19:23 And Jesus said to His
disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 "Again I say to you, it is easier for
a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man
to enter the kingdom of God."
Matthew 27:57 When it was evening, there came a rich man
from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of
Mark 10:25 "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Mark 12:41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing
how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich
people were putting in large sums.
Luke 6:24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving
your comfort in full.
Luke 12:16 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich
man was very productive.
Luke 14:12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him,
"When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or
your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they
may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment.
Luke 16:1 Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich
man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as
squandering his possessions.
Luke 16:19 "Now there was a rich
man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously
living in splendor every day.
Luke 16:21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from
the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming
and licking his sores.
Luke 16:22 "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to
Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was
Luke 18:23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for
he was extremely rich.
25 "For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Luke 19:2 And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a
chief tax collector and he was rich.
Luke 21:1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts
into the treasury.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that
though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you
through His poverty might become rich (plouteo).
Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great
love with which He loved us,
1 Timothy 6:17 Instruct those who are rich in this present world
not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,
but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
James 1:10-note and the
rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like
flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and
its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so
too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of
this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He
promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the
rich who oppress
you and personally drag you into court?
James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are
coming upon you.
Revelation 2:9-note 'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are
rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but
are a synagogue of Satan.
Revelation 3:17-note 'Because you say, "I am
rich, and have become wealthy,
and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and
miserable and poor and blind and naked,
Comment: Same word rich
presents a striking contrast between the believers in Rev 2:9 in Smyrna
and those described in Laodicea! Riches have a distinct tendency to
"blur" our spiritual vision. We lose sight of what is truly (eternally)
important, those things that make us rich in God's eyes!
Beware all who read this and are
financially well off!
Revelation 6:15-note Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the
commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid
themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
Revelation 13:16-note And he causes all, the small and the great, and the
rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark
on their right hand or on their forehead,
Plousios - 56x in the
- 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
Pr 10:15 The rich man’s wealth
is his fortress, The ruin of the poor is their poverty.
Pr 14:20 The poor is hated even by his neighbor, But those who love the
rich are many.
Pr 18:11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high
wall in his own imagination.
Pr 22:2 The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the
maker of them all.
Pr 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes
the lender’s slave.
Pr 22:16 He who oppresses the poor to make much for himself Or who gives
to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Pr 23:4 Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your
consideration of it.
Pr 28:6 Better is the poor who walks
in his integrity, Than he who is crooked though he be rich.
Pr 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own eyes, But the poor who
has understanding sees through him.
[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
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
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.
writes that eleos is...
God’s “kindness and goodwill toward
the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them”
(Vincent). Grace meets man’s need in respect to his guilt and lost
condition; mercy, with reference to his suffering as a result of that
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
defines mercy as
“the self-moved, spontaneous loving
kindness of God which causes Him to deal in compassion and tender
affection with the miserable and distressed.”
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.
Grace is getting what we do not
Justice is getting what we do deserve.
Mercy is not getting 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)
(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!
- 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!
(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.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
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.
[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).
expounded on this great "Calvary" love declaring that...
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the
wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever
believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that
He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not
perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the
world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through
Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has
been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only
begotten Son of God. (John 3:14, 15, 16, 17, 18)
“Greater love has no one than this,
that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)
emphasizes the greatness of this love for those so unlovely writing
But God demonstrates His own love
toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro
John adds that...
In this is love, not that we loved
God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for
our sins. (1John 4:10)
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.
[word study]) describes the love God gives freely and unconditionally
regardless of response -- love that goes out not only to lovable but to
faithless Israel God speaks of coming days of restoration declaring...
"I have loved you with an everlasting
love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3) (Amazing
divine love to love the unlovely!)
><> ><> ><>
F B Meyer writes that GOD'S
LOVE WAS NOT DAUNTED BY OUR SIN. (Ephesians 2:5)
In the day that we were born, we were
cast out in the open field, dead in trespasses and sins, and to the
abhorring of our person. But He loved us even then. His great love was
not diverted by the spectacle of our loathsomeness. He knew what we
were, and what we should be, and how much pain and sorrow we should cost
Him; but He loved us still. He foresaw our failures and backslidings,
and lapses into the darkness of shadow; but none of these things availed
to quench his love. So rich was He in mercy that He could afford to be
prodigal of his wealth.
It is a great comfort to know that God loved us when there was nothing
to attract his love; because He will not be surprised by anything He
discovers in us, and He will not turn from us at those manifestations of
evil which sometimes make us lose heart. He knew the worst from the
first. He did not love us because we were fair, but to make us so. We
cannot understand it; but since He began He will not fail nor be
discouraged until He has finished his work. (Love:
On God's Side)