What is the meaning of God being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4)?
The phrase "rich in mercy" comes from Ephesians 2:1–7, which says: "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once 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. 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—and 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."
What we first notice is that this passage connects God's mercy with His great love for us. We would be dead in our own trespasses and sins without the mercy that God gives us. Just as God extends His mercy to us, we are to extend mercy to others (2 Samuel 22:26).
Throughout the Bible, we see God's mercy evident in His love for His people and His kindness and mercy toward them even while they are trapped in their own sins. Daniel cried out to God on behalf of the Israelite people in the midst of their sins, knowing that God would be merciful to them yet again (Daniel 9:18). Even when He was angry with the Israelites, God still promised them His mercy (Jeremiah 3:12). After committing adultery with Bathsheba, David cried out to God seeking His mercy so that His sins may be forgiven (Psalm 51:1–2). God's mercy is perfect and never ending: "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).
In a grand culmination of God's mercy, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Left in our own sins, we would have been banished to death and eternal punishment (Romans 6:23; John 3:16–18). Titus 3:5 says: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." While we were dead in our sins, the merciful sacrifice of Jesus has given us the opportunity to be alive in Christ (Romans 6:11).
As we continue on in our Christian walk, God is still faithful to cleanse and purify us of all sins (1 John 1:9). He is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). Only God is able to forgive our sins, and there is good news for us: "O Israel, hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is mercy, And with Him is abundant redemption" (Psalm 130:7 NKJV). We can put our hope in God with confidence, knowing that even when we make mistakes, He will still be rich in mercy toward us.
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