Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV)
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
In the first three verses of Ephesians chapter two, the apostle Paul plainly describes the spiritually helpless state of our souls. Before coming into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, we were spiritually dead to God (vs 1), subjected to the influences and values of godless powers (vs 2) and enslaved to wayward desires of our body and mind (vs 3). The prognosis of our spiritual condition was not only bleak; it was absolutely hopeless.
However, verse four begins with “But God”. Only God and God alone could help us. And so, Paul writes in verses 4 and 5, “because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, (he) made us alive together with Christ”! Even when we were dead, he made us alive. HE made us alive; not WE, ourselves, but HIM alone! Like a helpless baby swept up in its mother’s loving arms, so we were saved and embraced by the merciful love of God.
A profound peace settles upon your soul when you realize your relationship with God, the Father, is founded solely on His great love for you. The pressure to prove to yourself that you are worthy of His love simply fades away. When you realize God’s love for you is founded in Him and not in you, it frees you to look long and hard at the cold meanness of your soul. You are able to deal truthfully and boldly with your sins and shortcomings because you’re not afraid of being found unworthy. Why? Because your worth is NOT found in who you are today but rather it’s found in the One who loves you and sees what you will become in glory.
Now, from my experience, I can tell you that what I just wrote in the previous paragraph is a spiritual truth that must be battled for ruthlessly in your own life and in the lives of your Christian brothers and sisters. The core desire of our sin nature is to glorify itself. Since our fall in the Garden of Eden, our sin nature longs to be like God - worthy of people’s praise. And so the truth that we are not glorious, we are NOT worthy of praise - but rather quite ugly and in need of forgiveness - is an idea that our sin nature despises. So, our continual struggle here on earth will be to believe the truth in the previous paragraph.
So, as you embark on memorizing Ephesians chapter two, when you reach verse four emphatically say “BUT GOD” and then pray that His Spirit would continually minister the foundational truth that His love for you is founded in Him alone and not in you.