Having looked at the first three verses of the second chapter of Ephesians, and having laid the groundwork for a fuller understanding of what is presented there (as well as what is to come), we can now move forward. Upon that forward movement, we read “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (2:4-5a).
So even though Israel was still in exile, having been unfaithful to their covenant God’s intentions for them, which was to be a light to the Gentile nations; and even though in that unfaithfulness they sought not to reveal God’s glory to them, but rather harbored animosity and resentment as part of a desire to drive them from their land rather than being a beacon that would draw them to their God and His temple, God was rich in mercy. Even though all men from all nations, due to Adam’s fall in which man willfully submitted himself to worshiping what was made rather than the Maker of all things, were in exile from God’s intention for them to bear His image and have dominion over His creation, God was rich in mercy.
Why was He rich in mercy? Because Israel was His chosen, covenant people. He was rich in mercy because He had another chosen people, with which He was making a new covenant through Christ. God had a renewed Israel that He was bringing forth, a people in union with Christ through belief in the Gospel, that He would empower by His Spirit to proclaim God’s glorious rule through Christ’s Lordship over all creation, and so establish and extend the kingdom of God, thereby being a blessing to all peoples. This had been Israel’s charge, based on the Abrahamic covenant that had been passed to them through their forefathers, but which had been almost completely abandoned due to their turning inward and erecting barriers and walls of separation between themselves and the peoples of the world. Nevertheless, God exercised His great love for those that He had gone forth to redeem for Himself, doing it in the midst of their transgressions.
Paul, being part of two camps, Israel by descent and renewed Israel through belief in Christ as Messiah by the gift of faith, speaks of all being dead in transgressions. Effectively, the transgression of both camps was exactly the same, with that transgression being rooted in idolatry. Israel’s continuing exile was engendered by idolatry, and though idol worship had ceased from the land, the idolatry was manifested in an exaltation of the marks of national identification that set themselves apart from the other nations whom God sought to bless. For those that would be renewed Israel, the idolatry is easier to understand, as we can simply scan the pages of history up until that time and since, to see the lengths to which men will go in their creation of beings to worship, rather than worship the One being Who was their Creator.
It was in spite of all of this that the love of God broke on to the scene of history, was demonstrated through Christ’s crucifixion, and unleashed into this fallen world as part of the power that raised up Christ from the dead. That Resurrection power, which includes the love of God that makes one alive together with Christ, is contained in the message of the Gospel, and is made manifest in the Gospel proclamation that Jesus is Lord. Those who adhere to this grand statement, who hold to this confession by God’s gift of faith through the Spirit, have been exodus-ed out of the realm of death, delivered from the exile attendant upon their transgressions, and now share in the eternal life of the resurrected Christ in the inaugurated kingdom of God, in full expectation of a coming consummation of that kingdom, along with the renewed physicality of a bodily resurrection (just like Jesus) in a renewed and restored creation (just like the one that God pronounced very good) upon Christ’s return.
Because of that hopeful expectation which exists because, as Paul says, “by grace you are saved” (2:5b), meaning that his readers have been redeemed from exile and delivered from death into eternal life (here and now and in the age to come) as God’s gracious gift to, there is an obligation by the same type of love to bless all peoples through sharing the message of the Gospel, continuing the powerful, onward, life-altering march through the simple affirmation that yes, Jesus is Lord.