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“I don’t know everything,” said Duke Crawford, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church of Toledo, Ohio, in Wednesday morning’s first general session. “But I do know this: God mercifully saves sinners.”

Ephesians 2:1–3 contemplates the complete, utter sinfulness of human nature. It presents three problems that render humanity utterly lost and helpless:

Problem 1: Deadness. We are utterly unable to respond to God and can only follow the course of the world.  “We are the walking dead,” Crawford explains—spiritually dead, yet walking after the fallen patterns of a godless world.

Problem 2: The power of Satan.  Sinners are inescapably held in Satan’s grip. The Devil works in the hearts of unbelievers to do his will.

Problem 3: The corrupt, sinful nature.  We are “children of wrath,” hostile to God. Man is totally depraved: every part of life is affected and infected by sin.

This invites the natural question, How then can anyone be saved? Without God’s intervention, no one can. Thus, the opening two words of Ephesians 2:4 are profoundly hope filled: “But God.” “Do you want to shorten your testimony?”  Crawford asks. This can be accomplished with “two magnanimous  words: ‘But God.’ That is our testimony.”

Verses 4–10 explain how God—being rich in mercy, power, and grace—reached down and saved sinners. Crawford recalls the words of an aged John Newton: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.”

And because God has graciously saved sinners, their lives are reoriented and their purposes are readjusted from man-centeredness to God-centeredness. “The end game of all this is seeing the glory of God,” says Crawford. “Seeing it with spiritual eyes, delighting in it, and enjoying it.”