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What does it mean that God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4)?

rich in mercy

In Ephesians 2:4, the apostle Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us” (ESV). The word but signals an emphatic contrast between verses 1–3 and verses 4–10. Therefore, to understand the meaning and significance of God’s being “rich in mercy,” we need to review the immediate context.

Ephesians 2:1–3 paints a sobering picture of the human condition. In verse 1, Paul writes that we were “dead” in trespasses and sins. This does not mean that we were physically dead because, in the next verse, he writes that we followed “the course of this world” and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (verse 2, ESV). As a result, we “lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (verse 3, ESV).

The contrast between human impoverishment and divine abundance could not be more striking. God is not only merciful; he is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). The Greek word for “rich” means that God abounds in mercy. As Jeremiah testified, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22–23, ESV). In other words, God’s mercy is overwhelmingly generous. We do not deserve it, yet He continues to give it. How great is our God!

Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, God was still merciful to us “because of his great love for us” (Ephesians 2:4). God’s love is more than sentimental feelings; it is a love that moved Him to action: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV; cf. Romans 5:8). God loved us so much that He gave His only Son for us. Now, that is true and unconditional love!

Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2). He started the work, and He will see it to completion. Paul writes that God “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5, ESV). We were dead. Now, we are alive. Not because of our own efforts, but because of His grace:

He has “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:6–9, ESV).

Mercy is not only about what God does; it is also about who He is: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). He is always loving, compassionate, and forgiving. Let us not, however, take His mercy for granted. Instead, let us make every effort to walk in righteousness, continuously thanking Him for being rich in mercy: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

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What does it mean that God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4)?
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This page last updated: January 12, 2024