The word “but” occurs twenty-five times in the Epistle to the Ephesians. It is interesting and instructive to read the significance of each occurrence. Let us study several of these “buts”.
Ephesians 2:4 and 5:
“BUT” God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).”
In verses one to three of this chapter we read of the miserable condition of the unsaved sinner, his black record, his dark past, his helpless and pitiable, ruined state. He is everything he ought not to be by nature. He is dead. Religion could not benefit such a man. There is nothing within to offer any hope. Forms and ceremonies prove futile. Any attempt to remedy the disease or get rid of death by trying to do something for God will result in absolute failure.
“But God.” Now something worth while may happen. The sinner is powerless and dead. The living God is omnipotent. With Him all things are possible. He created the heavens and the earth. He delivered Israel from Egypt and led them dry-shod across the sea. He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him far above in the highest heavenlies. Surely the supernatural God, with such supernatural power, can do something for the natural sinner who will allow Him to. God is rich in mercy and great in love. Note what He did for those poor, lost, ruined, condemned, dead sinners. “Quickened (made alive) with Christ . . . hath raised us up together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:5 and 6. “By grace are ye saved.”
These redeemed sinners, together with you and me, if we are saved by God’s grace, are going to be put on exhibition as sinners saved by grace in the ages to come, all to the glory of the person and work of the Son of God’s love. Ephesians 2:7.
In, verses eleven and twelve, lest we should forget what we were before we became God’s workmanship, God reminds us again that we were Christless, Godless and hopeless.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ:’ Ephesians 2:13.
Then follows the second “but”.
This is how the great transforming work is done. “But now”. Emphasize the “now”. What a change! What a difference! “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” “Far off;” the past. “‘Nigh;” the present. How? By the once-for-all suffering and sacrifice of Christ. By Him we were brought to God. I Peter 3:18. The two factors in the believer’s salvation are God’s grace and the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the sinner’s saving faith is the gift of God. So salvation is, from beginning to end, all by grace; and nothing but grace.
Let us read the third “But” in Ephesians 5:8. Here we have another “but now”.
“For ye were sometimes darkness, BUT now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”
To the redeemed sinner God here says, “ye were” “ye are”. You have heard that testimony of one of God’s faithful saints, “I am not what I ought to be: I am not what I hope to be: but, by the grace of God, I am not what I once was.” “Ye were darkness.” “But now”. “But now ye are light in the Lord.” Think of it! Christ is the light of the world! The believer is in Christ. In Christ he is light. There is no real spiritual light or life outside of Christ. There is no place of Divine blessing outside of Christ.
How should those who have light in Christ walk? “Walk as children of light.” And what else? Read the “buts” in Ephesians 5:3 and Ephesians 4:20.
We give three other “buts”. Ephesians 4:15:
“BUT speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ.”
“BUT unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”
“And be not drunk with wine, BUT be filled with the Spirit.”
From these verses we learn that we are expected not only to abstain from worldly habits, ungodly practices, from yielding to former lusts, but to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, and to give forth a clear positive, uncompromising, unmixed testimony concerning God’s message for saint and sinner in this day of grace “speaking the truth in love”. For this life of peace and victory, for this worship and service, every member of the Body is given grace. Moreover, to do all that God desires of His children, His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God hath before ordained for us, the believer must be filled with the Holy Spirit. As we walk in the Spirit, we shall fulfill the righteousness of the law, we shall manifest the fruit of the Spirit. But in order to walk well pleasing unto the Lord and worthy of the calling wherewith we are called, we must faithfully, diligently, spiritually and prayerfully study the Word of truth, rightly divided, so we shall know our calling and not walk in the path the Lord marked out for Israel.
Study the other “buts” in Ephesians.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.