Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are “but God.”
The Walking Dead
No, this is not about the endless series you see far too often on cable. It’s about “but God!” Every time I read a verse that says “but God,” it is fantastically good news that follows. There are dozens and dozens of verses that have “but God” in both the Old and New Testaments. When people are convicted so badly that they feel they can’t be forgiven, I remind them about myself and other sinners, who but for God, would have had no hope, but salvation is not like boarding an airline and where you can have too much baggage, but sometimes people feel they have too many sins to overcome and too much to have forgiven, even by God. I can reassure them that holiness is not the way to Jesus. I can point them to Ephesians 2, where the Apostle Paul wrote, “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” (Eph 2:1-5).
Once we were dead in sin, but God made us alive!
Once we were captive to Satan, but God set us free!
Once we were children of wrath, but God has now not appointed us unto wrath.
The Bible teaches that we were dead in sins (Eph 2:1), and just as dead men can’t raise themselves to new life, as in the case of Lazarus who needed Jesus’ help, neither can we resurrect ourselves after we die… but then we read, “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” (Eph 2:4-6). Look at this!
We were dead in sin, but God “made us alive together with Christ.”
We were held captive by the prince of this world and following his way, and enslaved to the course of this world (Eph 2:2-3), but God raised us up with Christ and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places. We were the children of wrath and deserved God’s judgment, but instead of pouring out His wrath on us, we will spend eternity with Him, as He shows the immeasurable riches of his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:7).
No More Separation
The Apostle Paul wrote that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39), so Paul wanted to remind the church at Ephesus to “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). What changed? It was Jesus that changed us, and Jesus brought with Him the words, “but God.”
We were dead in our sins, but God made us alive with Christ.
We were captive to the prince of the power of the air and enslaved to the course of this world, but God raised us up with
Christ and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places.We were children of wrath, deserving of His judgment, but now, God will spend eternity showing us the immeasurable riches of his kindness toward us because of Jesus Christ.
But for God
We were children of wrath, but God promises us His endless kindness.
We were enslaved to the spirit of this age, but God freed us to sit with Christ.
We were dead in sins, but God made us alive, together with Christ.
Brothers and sisters, this is good news!
Lest we confine these precious words, “but God,” to New Testament Scriptures, let’s examine a few like Genesis 50:20, which says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” The Sons of Korah wrote, “Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol; death shall be their shepherd, and the upright shall rule over them in the morning. Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell. But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (Psalm 49:14-15).
I cannot possibly include all of the “but God’s” in the Bible, but significant ones include Acts 13:29-30 where it says, “And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7-8). A few others include:
1 Corinthians 1:26-27
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standard, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
We cannot deliver ourselves from the wrath of God and eternal death. We can’t think that holiness is the way to Jesus, because Jesus is the way to holiness. Do a word search for the words “but God” in your Bible and you’ll see how the impossible becomes possible. The dead are made alive. The captives are set free. And the wrath that was our due, shifted to the Son of God Who gave His life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45). For us, it was impossible, but for God, all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Thankfully, what we cannot do, God can.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.