But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us,
I. First, then, we are to notice THE RICHNESS OF GOD'S MERCY AND THE GREATNESS OF GOD'S LOVE. There appears to me to be a difference in the terms which are used here, and that this difference is intentional — that the mercy, in fact, refers to man in his fallen state, and that the love refers to the manner in which that mercy is manifested. And taking it in this point of view, it will be necessary to dwell upon the two expressions separately — the mercy which is called rich, the love which is called great.
1. This mercy appears to be called great on account of the amount of mercy which is dispensed. But when we look at the inspired Word of God, we see at once the amount of mercy which is being dispensed to the world, for God has been pleased to reveal Himself as "plenteous in mercy." "He keeps mercy for thousands." I put these two facts together, and I read that for backsliders there is a willingness on the part of God to manifest His rich mercy. I look at the history of Matthew the publican, sitting at the receipt of custom, one of a whole body famed for their extortion; and I look into the world, and I see the mammon hunters of the day, and feel myself privileged to press upon them also the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; because I see that for the extorting Matthew there was converting grace, there was God's rich mercy.
2. On this verse, then, we may speak of the mercy of God being rich; but you will perceive the apostle speaks also of the love of God, of the "great love" of God. And why should not that epithet be used, when we remember that it is the love of a great God to great sinners?
II. But we must pass on to inquire, in the second place, HOW THIS LOVE IS MANIFESTED. And keeping to the text before me, I read that it is by quickening us, by giving us of His spiritual life — "God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, hath quickened us" — hath given us spiritual life. But this is connected, indeed, with the next expression in the text, which speaks of God having "raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Here, of course, reference is made to the resurrection and the glorified state, when there shall be rest from our labours, when there shall be eternal pleasure, and when we shall enter into the joy of our Lord. But notice, in the next place, when this mercy was manifested. The Scripture describes the manifestation of this mercy to have been "when we were dead," when we were dead in our sins.
(M. Villiers, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,