And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:1-10
I want to call your attention to the first two words of verse 4 – “But God.” Those who have read many of the epistles of Paul would know that he almost always uses these two words to introduce the Gospel. Paul reminds the Ephesian believers of the terrifying state that they were in prior to their salvation, But God. Every time you read scripture and you come across the word “but” followed by God, it is a distinct sign for you to listen up and pay attention, for what follows these words is always magnificent and wonderful to the astonished heart who receives them. However, my goal in writing this is not to describe these words as a mere introduction to the Gospel, but to explain that these two words are the epitome of the Gospel in and of themselves. In these words, Paul is explaining to us the basic fundamental tenant of our Christian faith. These two words must constantly be flowing off the lips of believers, especially in trying times such as these.
As believers we are not of this world, but we are not out of the world. We still face the same economic trials, social issues, and dark afflictions that the most avid of unbelievers do. We must listen to their complaints, their descriptions of how dark the world has grown, and upon them finishing we absolutely concur on the evils of this world. However, that’s not where our statement finishes. Upon our conclusions of the horrible terrors and trials of this world, we come to the same transition as the apostle Paul; BUT GOD, and then we continue to speak to them of the mercies and love of which God has performed for us. You see this is the simplicity and beautiful brevity in which God has summed up the Gospel for us to share with all those we come to meet. This is the incredible answer we have to offer disheartened and disgruntled individuals. As Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones would say, “The Gospel begins where man ends.” When man is finished, when the philosophers are finished and all the answers they provide prove insufficient; the Christian lovingly but boldly adds, “But God!”
In the context, this word “but” is so symbolic of hope. Just look at the first three verses of the chapter, nothing could be more hopeless than what is described by the apostle as the state in which all who are outside of Christ are currently in. Not only are they dead in their sins, but they are children of wrath! What desolate, horrifying, and hopeless situation this is to all those not in Christ. Praise God the text does not end here. For the reader and hearer of these words the broken heart assuredly is pounding with fear and anguish, but we then come to the most beautiful and incredibly powerful transitional statement ever uttered by men, “But God.” This “but” is the great hope for us. There is no other hope for mankind found outside of these two words!
I know at times that the trivial discussions of people make it so hard to find the perfect spot to interject with the Gospel. I know that we often try to prepare ourselves for every objection to creationism and theology that will be directed towards us. However, I never want us to lose sight of the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Two words sum up the entire doctrine of our redemption. There was nothing going for mankind, we had nothing to offer God, we were children of wrath, who radically and openly rebelled against God. Like Adam and Eve our sin caused us to flee God, to hide from God. Oh how depressing and desolate the story would be if it ended here. “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.” Beloved, do not be so concerned with your intellectual, theological, or speaking ability. Nothing can stop you from being able to minister the Gospel to a world who longs for its truths. It simply begins and ends with “But God.”