One of the common forms of making a statement is that which consists of two clauses. Often that first clause can raise feelings of excitement or maybe distress. However, the next clause begins with the word “but.” To a large extent, that one three letter word negates or places conditions on the first phrase which greatly affects the entire thought. In a nut shell, what comes after the “but” is of most importance.
There are approximately four thousand examples in Scripture of this format for expression. One such statement is God’s instructions to Adam concerning the trees in the Garden. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:15-17 NASB). That admonition was disobeyed and spiritual death entered into the human race. If man remained in that condition, the human race would forever be alienated from God.
However, God had anticipated the sin of Adam and Eve and the first presentation of the Gospel was given by the pre-incarnate Christ who would take upon Himself humanity and redeem mankind from the penalty of spiritual death. They responded by faith to the message of a coming Savior … “And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Gen 3:21 NASB). Those physical garments had great meaning for an innocent animal had been slain to portray a future death on a Cross. They were now covered with the Righteousness of God, their status of spiritual death had been removed and the man and woman possessed a new eternal standing, that of spiritual life.
Thousands of years later, the Apostle Paul would write from a historical perspective that which was first promised in the Garden. The incarnation had occurred, and God had entered into human history. The Cross had been the fulfillment of that first portrayal of the Innocent One dying for the guilty … “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6 NASB). What a description of man’s spiritual condition, helpless and ungodly. However, the apostle continued with that three letter word … “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8 NASB).
God’s remedy for man’s helpless spiritual condition was the Savior. Now, by a simple act of the will in directing faith toward the finished work of Christ on the Cross, mankind could possess eternal life … “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins: (Col 1:13-14 NASB). That offer of forgiveness first made in the Garden had been extended to the entire human race. No one would dare assume that humanity deserved God’s goodness and grace … “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23 NASB).
In his letter to the churches in the region of Ephesus, Paul reveals the Divine thinking that brought salvation to mankind … “But God, being rich in mercy , because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-7 NASB). It behooves all of us to heed those clauses that begin with “but” for they have eternal consequences.