Key passage

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace though his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Ephesians 2:1–10

Quotes from Chapter 19

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us…

Ephesians 2:4

Verses 1 through 3 tell us why we needed saving: we were spiritually dead. Verses 5 and 6 tell us what the saving was: God made us alive. But it’s verse 4, right in the middle, that tells us why God saved us. Verses 1–3 are the problem; verses 5–6 are the solution; and verse 4 is the reason God actually went about fixing the problem rather than leaving us where we were.

He is rich in mercy.

Nowhere else in the Bible is God described as rich in anything. The only thing he is called rich in is: mercy. In his justice, God is exacting; in his mercy, God is overflowing.

Ephesians 2:4 says, “God, being rich in mercy…” Being, not becoming.

He is the spring of all mercy… it is natural to him… It is his nature and disposition, because when he shows mercy, he does it with his whole heart.1

Thomas Goodwin

This is why he delights in mercy.

Who is a God like you,
forgiving iniquity and passing over rebellion
for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not hold on to his anger forever
because he delights in faithful love.

Micah 7:18

This is why David acknowledged in prayer to God that the mercy shown him was “according to your own heart” (1 Chron. 17:19).

Mercy is who he is. If he is essentially merciful, then for him to pour out mercy is for him to act in accord with who he is. It is simply for him to be God. This does not mean he is only merciful. He is also perfectly just and holy. He is rightly wrathful against sin and sinners.

He is so possessed with love to his people that he will hear nothing to the contrary.2

Goodwin

Divine love is not forbearance or longsuffering or patience. Though God does forbear with us, his love is something deeper, something more active.

Great love fills his heart; rich mercy flows out of his heart.

Christ was sent not to mend wounded people or wake sleepy people or advise confused people or inspire bored people or spur on lazy people or educate ignorant people, but to raise dead people.

Sin was not something we lapsed into; it defined our moment-by-moment existence at the level of deed, word, thought, and even desire—”carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” We not only lived in sin; we enjoyed living in sin. We wanted to live in sin. In short, we were dead. Utterly helpless. That’s what his mercy healed.

We can be immoral dead people, or we can be moral dead people. Either way, we’re dead.

The mercy of God reaches down and rinses clean not only obviously bad people but fraudulently good people, both of whom equally stand in need of resurrection.

The grace and mercy of God is so bound up with and manifested in Jesus himself that to speak of Christ appearing is to speak of grace appearing.

Jesus not only proved that God is rich in mercy by going to the cross and dying in our place to secure that mercy. Jesus also shows us how God’s richness in mercy actually looks and speaks.

Consider God’s richness in mercy for your own life. He doesn’t meet you halfway. His very nature is to engage death and bring life. He did that decisively once and for all at your conversion, but he continues to do it time and again in your sin and folly.

The evidence of Christ’s mercy toward you is not your life. The evidence of his mercy toward you is his—mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned. Eternally. In your place.

If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven.

Whether we have been sinned against or have sinned ourselves into misery, the Bible says God is not tightfisted with mercy, but openhanded, not frugal but lavish, not poor but rich.

That God is rich in mercy means his mercy is not calculating and cautious, like ours. It is unrestrained, flood-like, sweeping, magnanimous.


  1. Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, 12 vols. (repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2006), 2:179.
  2. Goodwin, Works, 2:176.

Questions

  • What is the only thing God called rich in in the Bible?
  • Why does God delight in mercy?
  • If God is mercy, does this mean he is only merciful? What are some other attributes of God?
  • Why is it significant that God is both loving and merciful?
  • What is a person’s natural inclination? What does it mean to be dead in sin?
  • Why was Christ sent?
  • When Jesus appeared, what does this chapter say became visible?
  • What are some characteristics of God’s mercy?
  • What evidences of God’s mercy exist in your life?
  • How can you have confidence in God? Are there specific circumstances you need to trust in Him?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.