After two weeks of meditating on our condition before coming to Christ, we now begin to consider the work of God in raising us from our desperate condition. In verse 4, Paul returns to the splendid theme which he began to develop back in chapter one – the exceeding greatness of the power of God toward us, as demonstrated in the raising of Christ from the dead. In chapter 2, recall that the Holy Spirit has purposefully delayed the main verb of this sentence, “made us alive,” until verse 5. Well the subject of this main verb is God. It is God who saves – He does for us what we could not possibly do for ourselves. By His Spirit He unites us with Christ. “But God … made us alive … raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places.”
The word but is a conjugation; it links what follows to the previous sentence; it also suggests a contrast. In our text, God stands in contrast to man. While man is both dead in sin and a powerless slave, dragged along by the course of this world, God is powerful; He is able to raise us from spiritual death and cause us to live in Christ. Jesus is the resurrection and the life – His death grants us pardon so that we are forgiven, but then His life grants us liberation so that we might live for Him.
These two words, “but God,” in a sense contain the whole Gospel. They emphasize what God has done to initiate and secure the salvation of His children, because of His rich mercy and love with which He loved us. Salvation is something which comes completely from outside of one’s self. The manner in which this is done is going to be magnificently described in verses 8-10; but first Paul wants to be sure that his Gospel begins with a powerful and loving God and not with hopeless mankind.
For those familiar with the Scriptures, these two words, “but God,” are familiar. In Psalm 41:4-13 for example, David is surrounded by enemies, is betrayed by a friend, and his outlook is bleak; there appears to be no way out. But as he looks up and by faith sees God – “But you O God …” (v. 10) – his outlook changes. Likewise in Psalm 102:1-11 the Psalmist pours out his sense of despair, until a moment of illumination lifts his gaze beyond his hopeless circumstances. Above all of the chaos, He sees the Almighty and sings, “But you O Lord,” and his demeanor changes. Again in Psalm 130, the Psalmist begins overwhelmed by a sense of his own sin. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, who could stand? As he puts his focus upon God, he finds relief and deliverance in what God has done: But there is forgiveness with You (Ps 130:3-4). This week, in addition to these Psalms read Acts 7:9-10, 13:28-30; Rom 5:8, 1 Cor 2:9-10, 10:13, Gal 3:18, and Phil 2:27 taking note of the change that “but God” brings about.
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