But God

Stan Mast

READ : Ephesians 2:1-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (vv. 4-5 NIV)

Jeremiah felt mangled by God (Lam. 3:11 NIV), as good as dead. In our text today Paul says all of us actually were dead. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions. . . . We were by nature objects of wrath.” What a wonderful text for this joyous season! Leave it to a Calvinist to cast a pall over Christmas.

Actually, it is a wonderful text because of the words Paul wrote in verses 4 and 5. I want to focus particularly on those two words, “but God.” They are the best summary of the gospel I’ve ever read. “But God” is the reason there is a Merry Christmas.

A leading Christian magazine asked a number of famous theologians to summarize the gospel in seven words. One said, “God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow.” Another wrote, “Divinely persistent, God really loves us.” Or, “In Christ God’s yes defeats our no.” What seven words would you pick? It’s an interesting exercise.

Here’s another exercise for the Advent season. As you read through your Bible, underline all the places you find Paul’s two-word summary, “but God.” They always signal the turn from trouble to triumph, despair to hope, sin to salvation. Listen for them in the stories surrounding Christ’s birth, in places where we would least expect to meet God.


Thank you, O God, for saving us by your unexpected grace.