He is what he is

“But God, being rich in mercy…” Ephesians 2:4

These are famed words of the apostle Paul: But God. Exploring in some detail (and not without chilling effect) our fallen condition in the first first three verses of the chapter, these words are the great pivot of grace upon which the chasm between what we were and what we are can be felt. And it is often felt by believers, which is why these words are so famous.

What I would like to consider very briefly is the words which follow. What they come to is this: God did what he did because God is what he is. He set himself in glorious conjunction with our fallen state, making us alive with Christ, because of what he is, namely, rich in mercy. You may have noticed that I did not say God is who he is (which is true, and really just another way to say it), but God is what he is (which seems to drive the point home). This is God’s being, his eternal essence. And what God is is merciful, very merciful. It is, as it were, the stuff he is made of.

All God’s saving acts in time and space hang upon and flow out of what God always is, for here is One who does not change. And so you see that the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ always leads us back to the One from whom it came bursting forth: God, in all his incomparable fullness. We are what we are because he is what he is: rich in mercy toward sinners.