“But God…”

Last night before our prayer meeting, I led some of our leaders in the first lesson of First Steps, a seven-lesson series designed for new believers. The lesson is entitled “Salvation: A Work of God.”

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. (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)

One of the highlights of the lesson is on reflecting on the two words “But God…” The first three verses describe our desperate and hopeless condition apart from Christ. We were dead because of our rebellion against God. “But God” did something none of us deserved – he made us alive in Christ. It is not because of who we are or because of something we have done or something he foresees that we will do. It is purely out of his own mercy and grace. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), on a sermon based on that two words (“But God”), said:

With these two words we come to the introduction to the Christian message, the peculiar, specific message which the Christian faith has to offer to us. These two words, in and of themselves, in a sense contain the whole of the gospel. The gospel tells of what God has done, God’s intervention; it is something that comes entirely from outside us and displays to us that wondrous and amazing and astonishing work of God. (God’s Way of Reconciliation: Studies in Ephesians 2, p. 59)

When we see the great disparity between our helpless condition apart from Christ and our life now with Christ and when we realize that we have done nothing to merit it, the “amazing” in “Amazing Grace” will really be “amazing.”

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine
You are forever mine
(by Chris Tomlin)

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