Ever felt Ephesians 2:1-10? You’ve probably read it, maybe multiple times. But ever felt it? Ever drunk it? Steeped in it? Had it knock you over?

Ephesians 2:1-3 is just brutal. Paul pulls no punches. How bad are we? Really, really, really, ridiculously bad. According to those three short verses we are, apart from Christ, dead. Dead, Paul says. Like, you know, dead-dead.

“But wait,” we think, “I sure didn’t feel dead. I could do stuff.” Oh, you mean like obeying your appetites (v.3), following the way of the world (v.2), and worshiping Satan (v.2)? Good job there.

It doesn’t get worse than this. We are dead, belly-ruled, world-following, devil worshipers. The curse we both suffer and embrace has us hemmed in on all sides. There is no escaping. We are much, much worse than we think we are.

Oh! But verse 4! Two sweet words start the reversal of our will and fate. Two words. Not “be still” but with the same effect — the ten-hutting of a storm. Two words that part the sea, roll back the darkness with violent force, like the jolting, snapping up of window shades. Two little words like wings of a seraph, breaking through our tomb with a bright ray of light and lifting us up and through the spiritual aether, seating us in the heavenlies (v.6).

“But God.”

Two words: the crash cart, the smelling salts, the sweet manna, the dagger in the devil’s neckbone.

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 . . .

You feel that? Not if you didn’t feel verses one through three, you didn’t. “Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet,” Thomas Watson tells us.

The curse is four fathoms deep and un-swim-uppable. But “but God” signals the divine retrieval, our Spiritual surfacing, our deliverance. “But God” barrels in, carrying us out in two strong arms. “But God” heralds the arrival of God’s glory, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and in its wake trails the train of all the blessings Christ has purchased for us with himself.

If you understand those two words — “but God” — they will save your soul.
James Montgomery Boice

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5 thoughts on “The Fourfold Curse and The Tide’s Turning on Two Words”

  1. Paul Walton says:

    God loves to show mercy to us who don't deserve it!

  2. Jeph Maags says:

    As someone in ministry, I agree whole heartedly with Thomas Watson. It's also one of my biggest frustrations because I want sin to be bitter to people, I want to convince them of it, but I can't force them to think that way. Even the greatest sermon cannot force it. "But God"… he can. Thanks Jared

  3. Hainesy says:

    Yes! I love those two words so much, I titled an album with them. But you put it all so much better than I could. Thanks for caring about words. When you write like you do, it captivates attention and stirs emotion. Your craft helps us to feel something of what we ought to feel in light of the glorious truths being celebrated.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whenever I read that quote, I want to put it in reverse. I think it should read, "Till Christ be sweet, sin will not be bitter."A quote like Watson's was why I was spiritually broken for many years. As a young Christian I said to myself, "Of course I want Christ sweet in my life. I suppose I need to work on making my sin bitter." So I worked. And worked. Prayed. Cried. Fasted. Repented over and over. But sin still was not bitter in my life.Sure I despised my sin. Hated what it did. Hated who I was. But the fact that I returned to it again and again was proof I did not hate it enough. It was not bitter enough for me to stop drinking it.I lived without the sweetness of Christ for many years because I believed that I couldn't have Him until I hated my sin.I don't think we CAN hate our sin. We love it to death. It's not until we love Christ more that we will hate our sin. That is why I think the quote is backward.I believe the Lord pulls us into Him. He makes Christ sweet in our lives first, and then by regeneration and sanctification sin is made bitter to us. Because it was only when the real grace of God came into my life that I had the ability to turn away from my sins. Now those same sins are infinitely bitter to me. I cannot believe I once loved them so much.I'm no theology major, so maybe I'm wrong and Thomas Watson was right. But I know my story and how it happened for me, and it definitely was the other way around.

  5. Joanna says:

    Dear "Anonymous", I love your comment. As human beings, we think so linearly. So "cause and effect". I think the sweetness of Christ and the bitterness of sin hit us by their contrast. Is there really a "First, then"? Sin is only bitter when contrasted with the sweetness of Christ, as you say. But someone so steeped in sin may not be looking for Christ at all to begin with, only running away from Him. I don't disagree with you, but I don't disagree with the original quote either. Rather, I think it is proper to acknowledge that both parts do not express their full bouquet without the other. The Law was given to show the lengths man has removed himself from God. Grace was given to show the lengths God has extended Himself toward man. One last thought….it is dangerous to include as a caveat in any story "…but such was my experience…." Whole denominations have been built around a felt-experience with God that cannot be substantiated or supported or previously recorded in Scripture. That's not a comment on your relationship with God or your beliefs, because you have found Christ and are making pursuit of Him your goal, based on what you have previously said. I'm just throwing it out there for anyone reading this who doesn't understand that Christian faith is based on the reality of Christ's person, his sacrifice, and our requirement to trust him as savior, regardless of how it makes us feel.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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