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 — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
In the last post we saw the terrible moral state of man. Here we see what God had done for us “because of the great love with which He loved us”. But God…. has to be one of the most wonderful signposts in the Bible that something wonderful is about to be revealed. But God who is merciful, but God who loved us, but God who made us alive, but God by whose grace you have been saved, but God by His immeasurable grace shows us kindness, but God.….being rich in mercy.
Rich in Mercy
Ask someone to describe God and what one word do you think would be most used? Imaginary, almighty, fiction, creator, non-existent, love? How about merciful? Full of mercy, rich in mercy. What is the very essence of the Living God that makes Him different from most human, religious concepts of God? His mercy. God is called “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
What is mercy? Giving compassionate treatment, being kind and forgiving, alleviating distress, leniency towards an offender, forbearance, benevolence. It is the act of not giving someone what they deserve. Previously we learned that we are all dead in our sins. But God who is merciful made a way for us to be made alive in Christ. We deserved judgment and punishment but God offered mercy and compassion in sending Jesus to die for us to save us. Jesus told a story about two men and their attitude towards approaching God. One of them said:
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:3)
That is a good prayer if you want to approach a holy God. We all need the mercy of God! But alongside God’s mercy is God’s grace.
By grace you have been saved.
Twelve times in this letter Paul uses the word grace. This is the fourth occasion and probably the most important as it introduces the concept that by grace you have been saved. An earlier post in this series had a brief description of grace. Here we will look at where the word grace comes from.
The word for grace in biblical Greek is “charis“. At that time people in the Greek culture used “grace” as a greeting, meaning “joy and goodness to you”. Aristotle described grace as providing some much needed thing to someone, without any desire for something to be received in return.
Paul had the revelation that the grace of God provides us with salvation. Salvation is a gift from God:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)
We can do nothing to deserve this gift from God. By grace you have been saved means: by the unmerited, merciful, loving kindness of God you have been given what you do not deserve and can give nothing for, which is forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life in Christ.
Grace is an aspect of the steadfast, loving kindness of God.
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, (Exodus 34:6-7)
But there is more –
In the heavenly places in Christ.
Paul goes on to say and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. God’s grace has not just given us salvation from punishment for our sins. God’s grace has placed us in Christ Jesus. We are adopted as children (Ephesians 1:5), made part of the body of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:27), redeemed (Galatians 3:13), have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22) and so much more, all by the grace of God. These are part of the immeasurable riches of His grace – in kindness toward us that we will see forever. God is good. God is kind and he wants to bless us richly now and forever.
Jesus is full of grace and truth (John 1:14) because his very existence proves the grace of God. The gospel is the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24), the message we proclaim is grace, grace, grace!. Given what we do not deserve, we can rejoice in the grace of God.
These verses sum this up:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23-4)
In the next post we look at what this gift means for us.