Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV) … “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…”
He loved us (v. 4). 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. But God has two kinds of attributes: those that He possesses of Himself (intrinsic attributes, such as life, love, holiness), and those by which He relates to His creation, especially to man (relative attributes). For example, by nature God is truth; but when He relates to man, God’s truth becomes faithfulness. God is by nature holy; and when He relates that holiness to man, it becomes justice.
Love is one of God’s intrinsic attributes, but when this love is related to sinners, it becomes grace and mercy. God is “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and in “grace” (Eph. 2:7), and these riches make it possible for sinners to be saved. 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 do deserve; and in His grace He gives us what we do not deserve. And 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 (Rom. 5:8; John 3:16).
He quickened us (v. 5). This means He made us alive, even when we were dead in sins. He accomplished this spiritual resurrection by the power of the Spirit, using the Word. In the four Gospels, it is recorded that Jesus raised three people from the dead: the widow’s son (Luke 7:11–17), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:49–56), and Lazarus (John 11:41–46). In each case, He spoke the Word and this gave life. “The Word of God is quick [living] and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). These three physical resurrections are pictures of the spiritual resurrection that comes to the sinner when he hears the Word and believes (John 5:24).
But our spiritual resurrection is much greater because it puts us in union with Christ: God “made us alive together with Christ.” As members of His body we are united to Him (Eph. 1:22–23), so that we share His resurrection life and power (Eph. 1:19–20).