A Study of Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
The doctrine laid down by the apostle is that God loved His people even when they were dead in sins. Now when we consider what is involved in being dead in sins, when we take a view of who and what God is, and who and what men in sin are, it may well make us pause and ask ourselves the question, “Does God, can God love His people, when they are dead in sins?”
To this, consistently with His truth, there can be but one answer. If once you hold with the doctrine of election, if once you believe that God loved and chose His people in Christ before the foundation of the world, if once you believe that with God there is no variableness neither shadow of turning, you must necessarily believe that no circumstances which occur in time can alter or affect what was done in eternity.
Having been loved in Christ, having been blessed in Him with all spiritual blessings, and made accepted in the Beloved, however they may have lost the image of God in which they were originally created, however low they may have sunk in the Adam fall, however they may have become dead in sins and personally defiled by actual transgression, the original and eternal love of God towards them could not be impaired or diminished, much less utterly cease.
He loved them therefore when they were dead in sins. Though there was everything in them to make them hateful and loathsome in His pure and holy eyes, though He hates their sins with perfect hatred, though no heart can conceive or tongue of men or angels express the infinite desparity which there is between a God so holy and sinners so vile, yet if we once that the love of God to His people depends on their obedience to His Word, and that it comes and goes according to their spiritual life and death, their holiness and unholiness, we at once overthrow the whole plan of salvation, and destroy every foundation of electing love.
But you say: “It is Inconceivable that God can love sinners in all their sins, dead in them, without repentance, faith and love, or one spark of goodness or holiness.”
It is indeed inconceivable, and that makes it so deep and high a mystery.
Yet what would be the consequences of any other view?
Ask yourself, for instance, Why did God quicken your soul when dead in sins?
You will say, perhaps, “His unspeakable mercy moved Him. He saw my ruined state; He knew that I could not quicken my own soul, and He therefore bade me live, because He would not let me sink into eternal death.”
True, most true.
The mercy and compassion of God to poor sinners is a blessed truth, and is beautifully set forth by the apostle in the words, “But God who is rich in mercy.” But we have already shown that in the bosom of God love and mercy blend together, and that love is the moving cause of mercy. He does not love because He pities, but He pities because he loves.
Was not this shown in the parable of the prodigal son?
Did not the father pity his truant child because he loved him?
He was his son; this drew forth his love. He was hungry and in rags; this drew forth his pity. There might be others as hungry, naked, ragged and destitute; but they were not as sons, the objects of the father’s love.
As this point, however is so obvious, we shall not further dwell upon it; though we might ask a caviller how he would understand Paul’s declaration when, speaking of the love of Christ, he says “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” If Christ gave himself for Paul, it was because He loved Him.
Now who, where and what was Paul when Christ gave Himself for him on the cross?
Was he alive unto God, or was he dead in sin?
Did Christ, then, love Paul when he was holding the Clothes of the witnesses who stoned Stephen, and was thus consenting to his death as a righteous act?
Did He love Paul when he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord?
If not, will you fix the exact timewhen Christ began to love him?
And if you put it at any period after the crucifixion, you will contradict the words, “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
However inconceivable, then, by our mind, however surpassing every thought of our heart, we must still, if we would hold the truth with a firm hand, abide by this, that God loved His people even when they were dead in sins, and that that is the one reason why this love is so great.
By J.C. Philpot