Even When we were Dead

Remarks at Bradford, 1926

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Human love can do great things to serve and save its object as long as life lasts, but when death has done its work the end is reached and it can do no more. And what is the most tragic, the most oppressive, the most heart-breaking thing in death? It is the unresponsiveness of the dead. Love may gather all its treasure and pour them out in the death chamber: they avail nothing. It may plead and agonize for one word from the silent lips — nay, for but one flicker from the still eyelids in response to its yearnings: it is all in vain. The silence is absolute, the breach is complete, love is beaten and death is the victor. But it is not thus with God's love. His love is GREAT LOVE — greater than death, and for His great love wherewith He loved us even when we were dead in sins, He has quickened us together with Christ.

We were dead, without a movement, without a pulse of life, towards God, without response to His claims or pleadings, and not dead only but dead in sins. Chains bound us, darkness enshrouded us. There was not only the unresponsiveness of death, but the added enmity of sin; our case was hopeless to all "BUT GOD." How wonderfully those two words "But God" break in upon the gloom; and being "rich in mercy," the great love wherewith He loves us is not a baffled and hopeless love: He has triumphed over death and quickened us together with Christ, even when we were dead. Let us look into the depths of the darkness of death in which we were, and rejoice that God has broken in upon it for His great love's sake, and has gotten us out of death for Himself. What a joy must have filled the widow's heart at the gates of Nain when she received her son from the dead! Who can describe her feelings? But think of God's joy, the exultation of "the great love wherewith He loved us," when He was able, according to the riches of His mercy and the power at His might, to quicken us together with Christ! And not that only; He could not be satisfied with only delivering us from dark and unresponsive death, but He has raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ — that is the height of His favour, it is unsurpassable! Man could not be in a higher place than that. How puerile are the thoughts of men, and how empty their highest ambitions when compared with this! And death cannot take this from us. All the hopes of a man in the flesh lie shrivelled and dead beside his open grave; the most eloquent eulogy that can be poured out there avails him nothing: his day is done, he is gone, is buried and will soon be forgotten. But not so is it with those whom God has quickened together with Christ, the present grace by which we are saved is to issue in the coming glory, for in the ages to come God will show the "exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." The consummation of the purposes of God in regard to us will be worthy of the great love wherewith He has loved us, and of the power and rich mercy that has raised us up. Let us consider these great expressions God is "rich in mercy," His love is "great love," He will "show the exceeding riches of His grace" to all the ages, and this in "His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus." It is no wonder that now we, the living, praise Him, He has found the worshippers that He sought.