Ephesians – Chapter 2, Part 1
God’s Way of Salvation
Introduction/Outline & Ephesians 2 ~ Vs. 1 – 4
Chapter 2 – Introduction:
In Chapter 1, Paul introduced himself and told us of the surpassing spiritual blessings we have received positionally and of the greatness of God’s power toward us, His Church, so that we would grow personally and more intimately with our head / husband Jesus Christ. In that, He discussed God’s eternal plan in choosing those who are predestined to sonship and the fact that all believers of the Church Age on earth and in heaven will be brought together under Christ the Head of the Church.
Now in Chapter 2, he tells us of the surpassing riches of God’s grace and greatness towards us in the demonstration of His power to save us and build us (both Jew and Gentile) into His Holy temple. He explains the execution of God’s eternal plan by showing how God makes sinners saints and then places them into the church, Christ’s body. So we have a proclamation of God’s purposes:
- Regeneration, as we go from death to life, 1-10.
- Reconciliation, of both Jews and Gentiles as One, 11-22.
The first 10 verses in this chapter are among the most evangelistic in the Scriptures, explaining beautifully the actual steps which occur in salvation, and in vs. 11-12, Paul expands the concept of the body of Christ established in Eph 1:20-23 by God’s great power. Therefore, both Chapters 1 and 2, and including Chapter 3, tell us of our position, as believers, in Christ Jesus. And as we noted, Chapters 1-3 are the theological chapters of this book, explaining God and His plan for mankind, especially the believer, whereas Chapters 4-6 are instructions on how to walk in that plan.
Chapter 2 – Outline: Positional Relocation.
- The New Position in the Heavenlies, the new life in Christ. God has spiritually regenerated sinners, transforming them from death to life, vs. 1-10.
- The New Position in the Household, unity in Christ. He reconciled Jews and Gentiles, moving them from alienation to oneness, vs. 11-18.
- The New Position in the Habitat, the Church is a Temple for the habitation of God through the Spirit. Gentiles are no longer aliens but fellow citizens of heaven being formed into a Holy temple for God’s dwelling, vs. 19-22.
Chapter 2 – Theme: God’s Grace:
The great theme of this chapter is God’s grace towards man as Paul discusses how sinners who deserve nothing but God’s wrath can become trophies of His grace.
- Vs. 1-10, speak of the grace panorama regarding our regeneration, from death to life, and our new position individually.
- Vs. 11-17, speak of grace and the barrier regarding our reconciliation, Jews and Gentiles as one.
- Vs. 18-22, speak of grace and the Church regarding being fashioned into the Temple of God.
Chapter 2 – Analogy: The Temple of God:
The analogy used in Chapter 2 is that believers / the church are being made into a temple for God. It tells us of:
- The materials for the construction of the temple, vs. 1-10.
- The method of construction, vs. 11-18.
- The meaning of the construction, vs. 19-22.
As in Chapter 1 we had the analogy of the Church as being a body, that is, the living and functioning manifestation of God here on earth. Now in Chapter 2 we are given another analogy for the Church, that being the Temple of God, as we are being “fitted together” for God’s own purpose. As we note the various verses and principles within this chapter, we will also discuss them in terms of Solomon’s Temple and the Tabernacle in the wilderness, especially in vs. 14.
Eph 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”
This begins the subject of the first three verses, which is “how grace found us,”
Vs. 1, Grace found us spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Grace found us under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Grace found us under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
In this verse grace found us spiritually dead as noted in the phrase, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”
In addition, vs. 1-7, form the third of the eight long sentences in this epistle, Eph 1:3-14, 15-23; 2:1-7; 3:2-13, 14-19; 4:1-6, 11-16; 6:14-20 with 124 words. In the Greek, the subject and the main verbs do not occur until vs. 4-6.
In vs. 1 we also see that this chapter begins with the little conjunction “and” KAI, as it is actually a continuation of the thought of the first chapter. Paul has been talking about that tremendous power that raised Jesus from the dead. We shall see that this power is the same power that made us alive in Christ, when we were dead in trespasses and sins. That takes power! It takes resurrection power and authority. It is this power that so many of God’s children want to and should know.
“Were dead” is the Present active participle in the Accusative Plural of EIMI that ascribes a state of “being” to all believers. That state of being was NEKROS, the noun for “dead, lifeless or useless.” Here it is speaking of our spiritual death due to the imputation of Adam’s original sin at the moment of our physical birth. We remain in that spiritual death until we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, at which time we are “born again” to the spiritual life. So this was the universal state of spiritual being.
Next we see the sphere in which we operated under our spiritual death, “in trespasses and sins,” which is in the Dative of HO PARAPTOMA KAI HO HARMARTIA.
“Trespasses” is the Dative Plural of PARAPTOMA, παράπτωμα that means, “misdeed or trespass.” It means to fall beside or near something, to falter or sin. It means a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, or sin. It refers to a fall or deviation from the truth or that which is correct, for example, “an erroneous step,” and refers to deliberately falling or hurling oneself toward an enemy, (in this case Satan and his cosmic system). It is any lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God, where transgression is violation of something you know to be true as a part of Divine law.
It describes the believer’s sins generally in Gal 6:1. But is used to speak of the fall of Adam in Rom 5:17, and the fall of Israel in rejecting Christ, Rom 11:11-12.
It is used in our verse for our transgressions which contributed to our spiritual death, emphasizing our past deliberate disobedience toward God, choosing rather to walk inside of sin and Satan’s cosmic system than choosing Christ as our Savior.
“Sins” is the Dative Plural of HAMARTIA, ἁμαρτία that means, “Sin, a sinful deed, sinfulness.” It is the more popular word for sin in the N.T. used as an umbrella or catch all for sins. In legal terminology and in philosophical language HAMARTIA is an umbrella term which includes offenses of all kinds from simple misunderstandings to heinous crimes. It is used for any action deserving punishment or which must be atoned for.
The verb HAMARTANO means, “to err, to miss the mark or goal,” literally and figuratively. In a figurative it signifies improper acts; as such, it carries moral overtones. The nouns HAMARTIA is utilized in a metaphoric sense, but conveys the incorrect action’s origin and nature, and more often concerns the action itself.
Therefore, we were spiritually dead but how did we demonstrate it? By our transgressions; violating Divine law, and our sins; missing the mark of God’s perfect righteousness.
So we were spiritually dead because of Adam’s original sin and we operated in that sphere, prior to our salvation, through our willful violation of God’s laws and missing the mark of His perfect righteousness.
Therefore, this verse speaks to our old condition, being spiritual dead to God, which we cannot blame Adam for solely, because even if he did not sin, we would have, as demonstrated by our own trespasses and sins in this life. Knowing from Chapter 1 that God has saved us, we see His grace emphasized because we all were sinners, Rom 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So we see that God’s grace found us even when we were spiritual dead!
Continuing the subject of “how grace found us”:
Vs. 1, Grace found us spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Grace found us under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Grace found us under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
“Grace found us under the control of Satan.”
Eph 2:2, “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”
This verse further depicts the lost condition of mankind by specifying the forces working against them. We first see in this verse that prior to our salvation we constantly “walked according to the course of this world.”
“Walked” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of PERIPATEO, περιπατέω that means, “Go about, walk around; walk, live, conduct oneself.”
“According to the course” is KATA HO AION, where AION means, “age or era,” and “of this world” is HO KOMOS. So the “age or era of this world” represents the anti-God influence that we previously chose to be under as we walked in our transgressions and sins. It is speaking of the influence of worldly / cosmic thinking upon the unbelievers.
Pastor R.B. Thieme Jr., noted, “Not only does Satan rule the planet earth but he also has compiled a tremendous mass of thoughts, opinions, speculations, hopes, impulses, objectives, aspirations, trends, and panaceas which form the entire scope of Satanic doctrine for ruling.” That is the course of “this world.” So this phrase tells us that our daily life style was to operate in sin inside of Satan’s cosmic system.
Therefore, this is a way of saying that fallen creatures manifest their state of spiritual death by living lives of enslavement to the world’s standard of values, values that are human-centered, not God-centered.
Next we see the power that works behind this “spirit” of the age, or the ways of this world and how Satan takes advantage of man’s lost condition, by linking the above mentioned corrupted way of life to Satan and his rule over planet earth, “according to the prince of the power of the air,” KATA HO ARCHON HO EXOUSIA HO AER.
“Prince” is the Noun ARCHON, ἄρχων that means, “ruler, prince or leader.” It means “highest ruler, a king,” but it is someone who becomes a ruler without inheriting a throne. Notice that Satan is not called “king,” he is called ARCHON because he did not inherit the world, he seized it. He seized it at the fall of man.
“Power” is the noun EXOUSIA, ἐξουσία that means, “authority, right or power.” One thing Satan recognizes is the importance of authority, so he is called the highest ruler of authority.
“Air” is the Noun AER, ἀήρ that means, “air or atmosphere” and emphasizes the realm in which Satan has authority, within the atmosphere of planet earth, the “first heaven.” He does not have authority in heaven, nor will he have authority in Hell. His authority is here and now, on planet earth only, from the Fall in the Garden to the Second Advent of our Lord.
Finally, in the third phrase we have, “of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience,” HO PNEUMA HO NUN ENERGEO EN HO HUIOS HO APEITHEIA.
Here we see that Satan is at work “in the children of disobedience” or he is “operating in the sons of disobedience.”
“The spirit (PNEUMA) that is now working (ENERGEO)” refers back to Satan’s cosmic system that operates in rebellion to God and His laws.
“Sons of disobedience” is HUIOS for “sons or offspring,” and APEITHEIA (a-pay-thay- ah) for “of disobedience,” meaning, “willful unbelief and obstinacy.” It refers to all unbelievers. In scripture it refers to doctrine of demons entering the right lobe of the soul of those who are negative toward God and His Word. Here specifically it refers to the unbeliever’s thinking as Satan has influenced them.
This depicts the forces which war against the human race, especially those who seek to live godly lives: the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The world is an external foe, its evil influences surrounding the believer.
The flesh (the self-life) is an internal foe, its weaknesses making it susceptible to temptation.
Satan is an infernal foe, going about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Peter 5:8. He uses the influences of the world to seduce believers, and he takes advantage of believers by attacking them at their weakest points.
But God has not left believers at the mercy of these enemies of the soul. He is the eternal Friend and Deliverer who will bring victory.
So we see that God’s grace found us even when we were under the control of Satan and His cosmic system!
John 20:12, “and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laying.”
Continuing the subject of “how grace found us”:
Vs. 1, Grace found us spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Grace found us under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Grace found us under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
Eph 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Just so we do not apply arrogance and say we were never like the unbelievers of this world, i.e., the “sons of disobedience,” God adds here, “among them we too all,” EN HOS KAI HEMEIS PAS. And just to make things doubly sure, He closes this passage with, “even as the rest,” HOS KAI HO LOIPOS, where LOIPOS means, “the remaining, rest or others.”
So the first and last phrase of this verse counters any arrogance of exclusion from sin and evil we may think or say we had. Therefore, there is no escaping it and no getting around it. We were all sinners who fell short of the glory of God. That is why His grace had to come in!
So here, Paul specified the third force that works against unbelievers, their fallen sinful nature as we have three phrases that once again speak the types of disobedience we “formerly lived in,” or literally “had our conduct once in,” ANASTREPHO in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative, with POTE for “once” and EN meaning “in.”
ANASTREPHO, ἀναστρέφω means, “overturn, return; turn here and there, stay, live; to conduct one’s life, or act.” It comes from the root verb STREPHO that means, “turn, return or change.” ANASTREPHO typically means to “turn back,” but here and several other places it refers to “conduct in living one’s life,” especially in the sense of the practice of certain principles. So here it speaks of our former conduct of life living under the influence of our Old Sin Nature inside of Satan’s cosmic system. It is defined in three ways:
- “The lusts of our flesh.” This uses the noun EPITHUMIA, ἐπιθυμία that means, “desire, longing or craving.” This desire is “of our flesh,” SARKOS, that is used literally for our skin, but also figuratively, here and elsewhere, for the Old Sin Nature. It refers to the evil desires we used to have. This is also the first area of the three temptations of Satan and his cosmic system, 1 John 2:16; Gen 3:1-6; Luke 4:1-13, which we call creating an appetite to sin within your soul by negatively influencing our Sin Nature. The other two are beauty, (the lust of the eyes). and ambitious pride, (the boastful pride of life).
- “Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” This uses POIEO for “indulging” that simply means to do something. The thing that you do is give in to “desires,” THELEMA that means, “will desire, determination, purpose, etc,” “of the flesh” (SARKOS – Old Sin Nature) and the “mind” (DIANOIA – mind, intellect, feelings or disposition). It means you did what you wanted to do, as unbelievers habitually yield to the cravings of the sinful nature with which they were born, Rom 5:12.
This is the culmination of the “three temptations” of Satan’s cosmic system that you allowed to take root in your thoughts when you chose to sin, just as the Woman and Adam did in the Garden, Gen 3:6. It speaks not only to external influences but also the internal influence of your OSN that when left unchecked leads you into all kinds of sins.
- “Were by nature children of wrath” EIMI PHUSIS TEKNON ORGE. Here we see that our Adamic nature (OSN) is one of sin and trespasses that caused us to be under condemnation. In other words, we were being pulled irresistibly under Satan’s authority, under the authority of the OSN, toward the Lake of Fire, “even as the rest,” i.e., all other unbelievers are. The word “wrath” speaks of God’s abiding opposition to evil, Mat 3:7; Rom 1:18, and it is a reminder that those individuals who continue in their unbelief practicing sin, are facing the wrath of God.
The Doctrine of the Old Sin Nature
Definition. The Old Sin Nature is that which was acquired originally by Adam’s fall and subsequently acquired by us at the point of physical conception passed down through the male. It is the source of the soul’s rebellion toward God.
The Fall of Man Resulted in Numerous Changes from the Garden.
- Satan became the ruler of this world.
- The Old Sin Nature became the ruler of man’s body.
- Mankind became spiritually dead, and therefore under the condemnation of the justice of God, which became our new point of reference.
The Essence of the Old Sin Nature is Specified in the Greek of Rom 6:6. Basically it is fourfold.
- There is an area of weakness which produces all personal sins, Heb 12:1 specifies the principle. The doctrine of hamartiology classifies three types of personal sins: mental, verbal, and overt.
- The Old Sin Nature has an area of strength which produces human good in contrast to Divine good. Human good is described in Isa 64:6 and the principle is mentioned in Rom 8:8.
Isa 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
- There is a lust pattern in the old sin nature, Rom 7:7; Eph 2:3. Approbation lust is the basic concept, the basic motivator of life and is why people seek to get attention from others. There is power lust, materialism lust, sex lust, and so on.
- The old sin nature has antithetical trends; a trend toward lasciviousness and a trend toward asceticism. One is as bad as the other, both are evil.
The Biblical Nomenclature for the Old Sin Nature.
- The flesh (carnal KJV), Rom 7:14; 1 Cor 3:1-3; Gal 5:16; Eph 2:3.
- Old self/man, Eph 4:22; Col 3:9.
- Sin (in the singular). The singular of the Greek word HAMARTIA generally refers to the Old Sin Nature, Rom 5:12, 7:14; 1 Cor 15:56; 1 John 1:8. The plural generally refers to personal sins as we noted above in vs. 1.
- Heart is generally used for the right lobe and occasionally for the Old Sin Nature’s influence on the right lobe, Jer 17:9; Mat 12:34-35; 15:19; Mark 7:21-23.
Principles of the Old Sin Nature.
- The Old Sin Nature is a source of spiritual death in mankind, Rom 5:12.
- The Old Sin Nature is perpetuated in the human race through physical conception, Psa 51:5; 1 Tim 2:13-14.
Psa 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”
- The believer continues to have an Old Sin Nature after salvation. There is no such thing as sinless perfection, 1 Cor 3:1; 1 John 1:8.
- The Old Sin Nature frustrates bona fide Divine good production in phase two, Rom 7:15.
- The Old Sin Nature is not found in the resurrection body of the believer, 1 Cor 15:56; Phil 3:21; Col 3:4; 1 Thes 5:23.
- Divine judgment solves the problem of the Old Sin Nature. Phase one judgment: Christ is judged for our sins on the Cross, 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24. There is a phase two judgment: the believer’s sins in time are judged by the rebound technique, 1 Cor 11:31; 1 John 1:9. There is also a phase three judgment where the believer’s human good is judged, 1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10
Having noted in vs. 1-3 that the Grace of God has found us under three areas of evil:
Vs. 1, Spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
The Contrast is:
We were under these authorities taking us to the Lake of Fire, but now we are under God’s authority taking us eventually to surpassing grace. God’s grace found us spiritually dead, under the control of Satan’s cosmic system and our own Old Sin Natures, yet He has purchased us away from it all and entered us into eternal life with hope and blessings. So we see that God’s grace found us even when we were spiritually dead, under the control of Satan and his cosmic system and under the control of the Old Sin Nature!
Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us….”
In the first three verses, we have noted the state or condition in which we were in when God’s grace found us and brought us to salvation. All three of these conditions are the direct result of Satan’s rebellion in eternity past and his subsequent attack on mankind. Now beginning in vs. 4, we turn to God’s grace that was applied towards us to purchase us out of the slave market of sin and into eternal life, as a result of Jesus Christ breaking down the dividing barrier of sin that held us at enmity with God.
Eph 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”
In contrast to the first three verses, here is the good news. God has both holy anger against sin and also merciful love for sinners. So we see more of our “riches in Christ,” here being His mercy towards us, which we are told are based on His love.
The first half of this verse tells us that “God (THEOS) is (EIMI) rich (PLOUSIOS) in mercy (EN ELEOS).” The Adjective PLOUSIOS, πλούσιος means “rich, wealthy, abounding in material resources, abounding, or abundantly supplied.” The Noun ELEOS, ἔλεος meaning, “mercy, compassion, pity, or sympathy” is defined narrowly as an emotional response to someone else’s condition of distress. It is kindness or concern expressed for someone in need, i.e., mercy, compassion, pity, or clemency. In other words, God has more than enough mercy to go around, more than enough to save every member of the human race, as His mercy is exhaustless.
Here we have an anthropopathism, which is ascribing to God a human characteristic of feeling or emotion, which He does not actually possess, so that we can better understand God’s grace policy toward mankind; what He has done for us and why, in terms of human frame of reference by the use of language of accommodation.
Our “condition of distress,” was being spiritually dead in our sins, under the control of Satan and his cosmic system and fully under the control of our Old Sin Nature. But yet because God is abounding in mercy, He is able to save mankind, Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3.
Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Therefore, man does not have to continue to live on the lower plain of his sin described in the first three verses of this chapter, because God made a higher level of life possible for those who would accept it.
Principles of Mercy
“Mercy” is the Noun ELEOS, ἔλεος meaning, “mercy, compassion, pity, or sympathy.” It is defined narrowly as an emotional response to someone else’s condition of distress.
Another less frequently used word for “mercy” is OIKTIRMOS, οἰκτιρμός that means, “pity, mercy or compassion.” It denotes the lamenting that occurred at the death or misfortune of another. It expresses the sympathy and pity one felt towards another that often manifested itself in some form of assistance. It is used for God in relation to how the believer should function and operate in this world towards others,Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 1:3; Phil 2:1; Col 3:12; Heb 10:28.
To fully understand mercy there are three words that need to be distinguished: love, mercy, and grace, which are all found in our passage, Eph 2:4-10.
- Love is that in God which existed before God would care to exercise mercy or grace.
- Mercy, on the other hand, is that in God which motivated Him to duly provide for the need of sinful man.
- Grace is that in Him which acts freely to save and bless mankind because all the demands of holiness have been satisfied in Christ.
The difference between grace and mercy is that mercy is that within God which provides for man, while grace is the expression of that provision. Sinners are not actually saved by mercy but by grace. Mercy only provides a Savior and draws the sinner to Him. God’s mercy alone goes out to every living creature, not His active grace. It only goes out to the believer.
The Object Lesson of God’s Mercy.
The mercy of God was revealed in the Holy of holies inside the Tabernacle with the cherubs and the Mercy Seat. Jesus Christ as the God of Israel was actually going to dwell above the Mercy Seat between the cherubs in the Holy of holies. This is taught in Lev 9:23 and Num 16:42.
The Mercy Seat was the lid atop the Ark of the Covenant, Ex 25:17f, called the KAPPORETH meaning, “atonement, cover or lid.” Both were constructed of wood and gold representing the humanity and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, respectfully. Together, they represent the hypostatic union. In the N.T., Heb 9:5, “Mercy Seat” is the Adjective HILASTERION that means, “means of expiation or place of propitiation.” HILASTERION also functions as a technical term for “Mercy Seat” in replacement of KAPPORETH in the Septuagint. “Martin Luther is credited with the first use of “mercy seat” (German, “Gnadenstuhl”) as an equivalent to the term HILASTERION.” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.)
The ark was a wooden box approximately 50” by 30” by 30” made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Inside the Ark were three items that spoke of the sins of Israel, Aaron’s rod that budded, a jar of manna and the tablet that had God’s commandments, cf. Ex 16:32f; 31:18; 40:20; Num 17:8-10. Heb 9:4 tells us that inside the box were:
Heb 9:4, “Having a golden altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant.”
- The urn of manna, which represented sin as rejection of God’s logistical grace provision.
- Aaron’s rod that budded, which speaks of sin in the sense of rebellion against the authority of God and rejection of God’s system for communication of doctrine.
- The tablets of the Law, which spoke of sin as transgression of Divine law, since the law defined freedom in the client nation.
These three also represented the condition or state we were in when grace found us, in vs. 1-3.
- In vs. 1 we were spiritually dead manifested by our trespasses, willful disobedience to God’s provisions, and sins, missing the mark of God’s righteousness.
- In vs. 2 we were under the control and authority of Satan and his cosmic system in rebellion against God’s authority in our lives.
- In vs. 3 we were under the control of or enslaved to our Old Sin Nature in direct contrast to God’s Divine law.
The contents being placed inside the ark represent Christ bearing our sins on the Cross, 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21.
1 Peter 2:24, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
2 Cor 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
When the high priest came into the Holy of holies twice on the Day of Atonement, he sprinkled blood over the top of the Ark or Mercy Seat. Blood was sprinkled twice on the Mercy Seat on the Day of Atonement, once for the priest, the blood of a bull, and once for the people, the blood of a goat. That blood represented the saving work of Christ on the Cross as noted in Rom 3:25
Rom 3:25, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation (HILASTERION – Mercy Seat) in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.”
There the term HILASTERION occurs, the only other time it is used in the N.T., and could be literally translated, “which (with reference to Christ, vs. 24) God presented, a ‘mercy seat’ through (the) faith in His blood.” The implication is that Christ is the site at which atonement takes place through faith.
Then we see in Ex 25:21, “And you shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I shall give to you. 22And there I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”
The Day of Atonement portrayed the whole picture of salvation from the standpoint of propitiation. The sprinkling of animal blood represented the spiritual death of Christ bearing our sins and the acceptance by the integrity of God of this work. The resultant principle is that at the moment of salvation, the righteousness of the Father is satisfied, freeing the love of God to motivate the justice of God to bless the believer. God is now free to love and bless us.
Therefore, Christ is the Mercy Seat. Sin is inside the mercy seat. The righteousness and justice of God see the blood on the Mercy Seat, which represents the work of Christ on the Cross, and are satisfied.
The New Testament also confirms the importance of the Mercy Seat as a shadow of propitiation,
Heb 9:5, “And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”
On each side of the Mercy Seat was a gold cherub: one represented the righteousness of God the other represented the justice of God. One golden cherub representing the righteousness of God looked down and was satisfied because Jesus Christ was perfect in His humanity. The other golden cherub representing the justice of God judged those sins, and God the Father was satisfied with His own judgment. This was also depicted in the two angels who sat in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, John 20:12, signifying that the righteousness and justice of God had been satisfied with the completed work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
The key to all of this is found in Ex 25:22, “And there I will meet with you.” The Mercy Seat or the place of mercy was the place and is the place that God meets fallen humanity. Every believer has a relationship with God, which is based on His mercy.
Mercy means grace in action. Paul recognized the grace of God and the grace policy for the Church Age in 1 Cor 15:9-10.
1 Cor 15:9-10. “I am the least of all the apostles; I am not even fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and His grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind without compromising His Divine essence. Grace means favor, kindness, and mercy. Grace means Divine mercy and Divine forgiveness. We are forgiven on the basis of what God has done for us, never on the basis of what we have done for God. There is nothing we can do for forgiveness. Forgiveness is provided for us on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
As a Jewish legalistic unbeliever, Paul was vigorous in his persecution of the Church. He looked for many opportunities to kill and imprison believers.
1 Tim 1:12-14, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
Mercy is one of the main reasons why the Lord was patient and compassionate toward the Exodus congregation just as He was towards Paul.
Heb 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Therefore, mercy is the basis and the grounds for the believer’s relationship with God. God is merciful, yet when we talk about the ability to serve and honor God, we talk about His grace. But when we talk about our sins and failures, we talk about mercy. Mercy is actually related to our sins and failures, whereas grace is related to the provisions of God. This mercy is given for our past failures and grace is given for our present needs.
Heb 4:16, proves this principle when it says, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”
Post salvation, mercy is for the forgiveness of our sins through confession, 1 John 1:9, and grace provides for our every need. We receive mercy for our past mistakes and grace for our spiritual strength and integrity under pressure. Mercy is the application of grace and reminds us that redemptive freedom rescued us from the pathetic condition of our sinful state and our sinfulness.
Next in vs. 4 we see that God applies the mercy of His grace towards the sinner, “because of His great love with which He loved us….” In other words, Love goes into action on our behalf.
Eph 1:5, “In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will.”
Here we have both the noun AGAPE and verb AGAPAO that mean “love.” In the N.T. it expresses a love that wills to initiate a relationship and show kindness and self-sacrifice regardless of whether the object of the love is worthy or even likable. It is a love that does not depend on emotional response. It is an expression of the nature and character of the one who loves.
AGPAPE tells us of God’s love for the world, John 3:16, and for sinners, Rom 5:8; Eph 2:4. It also characterizes Christ’s love for His church, Eph 5:25, and for individual members of His body, Gal 2:20.
AGAPE Love is what motivated God to express His mercy towards us as sinners because, “He loved us,” the Aorist, Active Indicative of AGAPAO. Therefore, God intervened because of His great (POLUS – greatness in magnitude and quantity) love, which is the motivating force behind all that He does. In quantity God has enough love for all of us, and in scope His love is great. It is also perfect because God’s character is perfect.
AGAPE reveals God’s deepest nature: He is love, 1 John 4:8. AGAPE here does not note an aspect of God or a feature of His character; rather, it encapsulates the very nature of God and summarizes the activity of God’s words and deeds throughout the history of salvation. Therefore, love caused God to act in mercy, which can be defined as love in action. Because He loves so much, God performs specific acts of mercy towards sinful man.
By nature, “God is love,” 1 John 4:8. But God would love even if there were no sinners, because love is a part of His very being. Theologians call love one of God’s attributes because it is intrinsic to Him. When this love is related to sinners, it becomes mercy and grace. As we have noted, God is “rich in mercy,” vs. 4, and we will also see that He is rich in “grace,” vs. 7. These riches make it possible for sinners to be saved.
The verb “love” in the English language is a transitive verb, meaning that it must have a subject and an object. God is the subject in this case, and He can love spiritually dead mankind solely on the basis of His own perfect character and Divine self-esteem. From the state of His perfection, God can love all mankind in spiritual death having an Old Sin Nature. Yet, there is no way God can personally love man through physical birth, for man is born spiritually dead in his sin. Part of his spiritual death means he cannot be the object of God’s personal love. Furthermore, man cannot produce enough righteousness to equal perfection. In fact, man’s righteousness is called “filthy rags” in Isa 64:6. Man has only relative righteousness. Therefore, God’s love toward mankind must first be AGAPE love, impersonal, in that it does not depend upon the merit of the object (man); it depends on the merit of the subject, (who and what God is). Since we are born spiritually dead and totally helpless to have a relationship with God, there is no way God could personally love us because we are attractive to Him. Furthermore, there is no system of works we could perform that makes us attractive. Therefore, Divine impersonal love is always directed toward the world of unbelievers.
Under Divine impersonal love, God can love unworthy creatures, i.e., both fallen angels and unbelievers in mankind; not because of who and what they are, but because of who and what God is. Mankind does not have virtue or integrity, but uses his volition to sin and to perform functions of human good and evil. So God’s love toward His creatures has to be impersonal. This category of love requires all the virtue, integrity and holiness of God. Compared to God, all objects are unworthy. God’s impersonal love depends on who and what God is, never on who and what mankind is.
Because God is holy (just and righteous), His divine love is divorced from any unfairness, altruism, sin, human good, or evil. Therefore, God can convey impersonal love to all fallen angels and fallen man under real spiritual death.
Divine impersonal love toward all mankind is expressed in 1 John 4:9-10.
1 John 4:9-10, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The only thing that can satisfy God regarding our sins is the fact that each one was judged in Christ on the Cross. God the Father’s impersonal love was demonstrated in judging all the personal sins of the human race in His Son on the Cross. Our Lord’s impersonal love was demonstrated by His perfect motivation and perfect integrity in going to the Cross, founded in His perfect personal love for God the Father. As a result, He obeyed the Father’s will, going to the Cross and receiving the judgment of our sins. Therefore, no work can ever be substituted for the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. When God gives in grace, it demands faith on our part, not commitment. There is no commitment in faith. No one can have eternal salvation by believing and making a commitment to God or making Christ Lord of your life. Christ is our Lord; we do not make Him Lord or recognize Him as Lord. This is adding to faith in Christ.
The greatest manifestation of God’s impersonal love is expressed in John 3:16 and Rom 5:8.
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Rom 5:8, “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died as a substitute for us.”
It comes as a shock to some people when they discover that we are not saved “by God’s love,” but by God’s mercy and grace. In His mercy, He does not give us what we deserve; and in His grace He gives us what we do not deserve. All of this is made possible because of the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It was at Calvary that God displayed His hatred for sin and His love for sinners.
Finally, the “us,” HEMEIS (the plural of EGO) in our verse and vs. 5, includes both Jews and Gentiles, as Jesus Christ, motivated by His AGAPE love, took on the sins of all Jews and all Gentiles as God the Father, motivated by His AGAPE love, judged those sins in the body of Jesus Christ. Having paid the price for the sins of all Jews and Gentiles, when anyone, Jew or Gentile, believes in Christ’s saving work, the mercy of God saves that believer by His grace.
The Doctrine of Divine Love
God’s love is a part of His essence. He does not possess life. He is life. We possess life; God does not. The life that God has is infinite, eternal, unending, unchanging life. Part of God’s life is love. Love is a part of the essence or being of God, 1 John 4:8.
All three members of the Trinity have coequal and co-eternal sovereignty, absolute righteousness, justice, eternal life, love, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, immutability, and veracity. Love belongs eternally and coequally to each member of the Trinity. The love of God has always existed. There never was a time when it did not exist. Love which is characteristic of the essence of God can be called Divine love.
2 Thes 3:5, “And may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”
Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
The perfect love of God always comes from perfect virtue. Because God is holy and unchangeable, Divine love cannot be compromised by sins, human good, evil, including Christian degeneracy, dead works or any function of the sin nature. This means that Divine love cannot be corrupted by any creature failure.
God’s love is self-motivated and totally compatible with all of His attributes. God’s love is always compatible with God’s justice and is absolutely perfect in every function. God’s love is always fair. Perfect righteousness excludes arrogant self-righteousness. Perfect righteousness means God’s love is totally moral. Since God’s love is perfect virtue and is a Problem Solving Device, it cannot be divorced from either His holiness or His Divine attributes.
Since God is holy, He is perfect in His righteousness and in His justice. Since God is eternal, He is eternally perfect in His righteousness and in His justice. Therefore, since God cannot be anything less than perfect nor anything less than fair, this includes the use of His Divine love. Therefore, because God is holy, His love can only function in perfect virtue, honor, and integrity.
Rom 3:24-26, “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God is Omniscient, which means that God has simultaneous knowledge of all things in eternity past. Therefore, Divine love always functions in a rational manner. God’s love is devoid of emotional content. But you must learn to distinguish between emotion and compassion. Many people think of emotion as compassion; it is not. God’s love is never cancelled or changed by His Divine knowledge and omniscience. God knew billions of years ago about our sins and failures, but His knowledge of these did not cancel His love. Nor does God’s love for us increase because we advance to spiritual adulthood.
God is Immutable; therefore, His Divine love is unchangeable, stable, compatible with His perfect character, and cannot be corrupted by anything. God’s love cannot increase or decrease. God’s love cannot expand or diminish. God’s love cannot begin or end.
- God never reacts to us. Since God always has been love and always will be love, He never falls in love. God’s love is in no way subject to corruption. Because God is immutable, His love does not increase or diminish. God’s love cannot be changed by any form of human failure or vacillation, moral or immoral degeneracy.
- Because God is immutable, His love cannot change. This means that Divine love does not improve or decline, increase or decrease. God’s love always remains the same whether it has an object or not. It is very difficult for man to even begin to understand the love of God. When man changes, it often appears as though God is changing. But in reality, God remains consistent with His own perfect and immutable character. Rejection of God’s eternal love never results in any form of sinful or evil reaction by God.
Man’s sinfulness and failure cannot and does not change or affect God’s unchangeable Divine love. Even God’s pre-knowledge of our sins and failures did not cancel or diminish God’s love for us. Because God is perfect and absolute, His Divine love cannot be prejudiced, unfair, or in any way discriminatory.
So we see that from the love of God the Father and the Love of Jesus Christ our sins have been paid for once and for all time. The one who receives Christ’s sacrificial work for the forgiveness of their personal sins is the one who is also the recipient of God’s personal love and will live in perfect righteousness forever.
- God’s love always depends on who and what God is never on who and what mankind is.
- God’s love exists with or without an object, since God’s love eternally existed unchangeable and with optimum capacity.
- God’s love is never sustained by attractiveness or worthiness of an object, nor does it depend on the merit, works, sacrifices, flattery, or legalistic modus operandi of human beings.
- Divine holiness is the sphere of integrity for our exercise of impersonal love for all mankind.
- Divine personal love always functions in compatibility with Divine integrity, which means that God’s personal love never contradicts the justice and righteousness of God.
- All three categories of God’s love have combined to form Problem Solving functions of God, which do not contradict or compromise His Divine attributes, and He has passed on these Problem Solving Devices as a part of our spiritual life.
- Divine love is always a source of God’s grace policy. This means that human works, worthiness, merit, good is not the basis of God’s love for us.
1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.”
2 Cor 13:14, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.”
Next in Part 2, we will study:
Verses 5 – 7
Two Categories of Spiritual Death
Eight Results of Adam’s Original Sin
Salvation is by Grace through Faith
Doctrine of Grace