When God Saved Us
Every Christian knows that we are saved by grace through faith, that our salvation is a gift of God rather than a result of our own doing (Eph 2:8). But this truth is so counter-intuitive, so contrary to our sinful nature, that it is easy for us to compromise its validity in daily living. We need to ponder this truth often. We need to preach this truth every week. And we need to live by this truth moment by moment.
I know of no better way to keep this truth before us than to meditate on it according to the imagery put before us in Ephesians 2:4-5.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
To get our minds wrapped around the startling reality of salvation by grace, just ask yourself this question: "When did God save us?" The answer is right there in this text, and I love what it tells us about God’s grace.
It tells us that our condition prior to being saved by grace is death. We were dead in our trespasses. This we were also told back in Ephesians 2:1. This "deadness" does not refer to being unconscious. Just read Ephesians 2:2-3 and you'll see what it means to be dead. It means to "walk" in these trespasses and sins. It means to "follow the course of this world" and "the prince of the power of the air." It means to "live in the passions of our flesh" and "to carry out the desires of the body and the mind." So, in this "deadness" we were very much alive and active. Simply put, apart from salvation by grace, we live naturally, "like the rest of mankind," but this natural life is lived as "children of wrath" in complete opposition to and rebellion against God. As if we were dead to him. There’s no other way to describe it.
But now notice again what this text tells us about "when" God saved us by grace. It happened "even when we were dead in our trespasses." And this salvation is called being "made alive together with Christ." So, while we were dead, God made us alive. I love that! When else could we have been made alive other than while we were dead? It is so obvious it wouldn't even need to be expressed, unless of course the Scripture wanted to emphasize what is meant by grace.
We are always tempted to add something, anything, to grace. Perhaps we make just the slightest move toward God while God does all the rest. But this is not biblical grace. Perhaps we just stopped moving away from God and let him catch us. No! That is not biblical grace either. The picture drawn for us here is as clear as can be. We were heading in the opposite direction, away from God. We were living in rebellion against him, the most hardened enemy of God there could be. That's when he saved us. That's when he "made us alive." That is grace.
One more thing. Let's ask the question again. "When did God save us?" Not only did this happen "even when we were dead in our trespasses," but it happened in the Christ-event. It happened when Christ himself was crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of the Father. Historically, it happened long before you and I were even born.
In other words, it happened when it could only be explained as a unilateral act of God's free and sovereign grace.
What Jesus achieved in his life and death was not only to establish the Christian faith, it was also to create Christian disciples. His actions did not merely make salvation possible; it guaranteed salvation for all those whom God loved with his great love (Eph 2:4).
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
~"And Can It Be?" by Charles Wesley