What does Ephesians 2:4 mean?
ESV: But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
NIV: But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
NASB: But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
CSB: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us,
NLT: But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,
KJV: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
NKJV: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Verse Commentary:
This verse begins Paul's contrast between the lives of unbelievers, including Christians before they have been saved, and the lives of born-again believers in Christ (John 3:3). The difference between these two groups of people is God, not us. Paul does not say, "but then we did…" He only refers to the power of God.

Two reasons are given for God's change in our lives. First, Paul mentions God's mercy. God is associated with mercy throughout Scripture, particularly in Romans in which Paul offers his most extensive teachings on salvation (Romans 9:15, 16, 18, 23; 11:30, 31, 32; 12:8; 15:9).

Second, Paul mentions God's great love for us. God both has love and gives love to us. God is love and expresses love by saving people from sin (1 John 4:8; Romans 5:8). The difference between our unsaved and saved conditions is clearly not based on human effort (Ephesians 2:8–9), but according to God's mercy and love in our lives. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), not even express the faith to accept His gift of salvation (John 6:44).
Verse Context:
Ephesians 2:1–10 clearly explains the relationship between our lack of obedience, the grace of God, and our salvation. Those who are saved by Christ do not deserve this salvation. It is only by mercy, and by grace, that God chooses to forgive. In this section, Paul will repeat the claim that human effort has no impact on salvation whatsoever. No Christian can brag about their ''goodness,'' since we are saved entirely by the grace of God, not by our own good deeds.
Chapter Summary:
Paul repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is accomplished on the basis of grace, through faith. Good works, human effort, and our best intentions will never be enough to earn salvation. Every person is marked with sin, both deliberate and accidental, and for this reason we deserve to be separated from God. Only through His mercy and grace can we be saved, leaving no room for bragging. This also means that all who are saved, Jew and Gentile alike, are part of the same spiritual family. There is no cause for hostility between believers; we are all unworthy, and all saved by the same kindness of God.
Chapter Context:
The first three chapters of Ephesians focus on doctrinal issues; the last three show how those principles should be applied in real life. Chapter 2 makes a pair of related points about our status as saved believers. First, salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God, not human efforts. Second, this means all Christians are part of the same family, Jew and Gentile alike. This bridges chapter 1's explanation of God's awesome glory to chapter 3's discussion of God bringing His long-awaited plan into action.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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