Ever felt Ephesians 2:1-10? You've probably read it, maybe multiple times. But ever felt it? Ever drunk it? Steeped in it? Had it knock you over?
Ephesians 2:1-3 is just brutal. Paul pulls no punches. How bad are we? Really, really, really, ridiculously bad. According to those three short verses we are, apart from Christ, dead. Dead, Paul says. Like, you know, dead-dead.
"But wait," we think, "I sure didn't feel dead. I could do stuff." Oh, you mean like obeying your appetites (v.3), following the way of the world (v.2), and worshiping Satan (v.2)? Good job there.
It doesn't get worse than this. We are dead, belly-ruled, world-following, devil worshipers. The curse we both suffer and embrace has us hemmed in on all sides. There is no escaping. We are much, much worse than we think we are.
Oh! But verse 4! Two sweet words start the reversal of our will and fate. Two words. Not "be still" but with the same effect—the ten-hutting of a storm. Two words that part the sea, roll back the darkness with violent force, like the jolting, snapping up of window shades. Two little words like wings of a seraph, breaking through our tomb with a bright ray of light and lifting us up and through the spiritual aether, seating us in the heavenlies (v.6).
Two words: the crash cart, the smelling salts, the sweet manna, the dagger in the devil's neckbone.
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…
You feel that? Not if you didn't feel verses one through three, you didn't. "Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet," Thomas Watson tells us.
The curse is four fathoms deep and un-swim-uppable. But "but God" signals the divine retrieval, our Spiritual surfacing, our deliverance. "But God" barrels in, carrying us out in two strong arms. "But God" heralds the arrival of God's glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and in its wake trails the train of all the blessings Christ has purchased for us with himself.
If you understand those two words—"but God"—they will save your soul.
—James Montgomery Boice