Ephesians 2:1-10 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This passage has three of the most familiar verses for any follower of Jesus, verses 8 through 10. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. As a result, whenever I hear someone referencing the second chapter of Ephesians, I immediately think of those three verses. Those verses contain amazing truth about God and what He has bestowed on us and what we are to do after he saves us. Yet, we can often get lost in those three verses and skim quickly through the previous seven. Imagine if this passage was a painting, and the Apostle Paul was painting for us a word picture; a representation of salvation. No artist throws useless details or images into a painting or a sculpture. Everything has a purpose, a reason for existing in that painting. In the same way, no writer includes useless details. The details included are for the readers benefit; for a more complete grasp of the concept. Therefore, in this painting of Ephesians 2, instead of jumping directly to verses 8-10, this morning we are going to look at the preceding seven verses in order to understand what makes verses 8-10 so glorious. Additionally, we will see the remarkable, spectacular, grandness of this word painting that Paul paints for us, in order that we do not miss or do injustice to any of the truth that God has included in this passage for us to know, through the writing of the Apostle Paul.
This exposition of Ephesians will be under three main headings, covered in three blog posts:
- What We Were
- What God Did
- Why God Did it
WHAT WE WERE
In the first 3 verses of this passage, Paul shows us four truths about the natural human condition. The Apostle Paul uses the past tense in the first three verses because he is writing to a believing Christians. These first three verses are important for believers to remember and think upon often in order to stay alert and guard ourselves against pride and self righteousness. What Paul describes and states in verses 1-3 is the original state of humanity, of every person ever born. Paul begins his expose’ on the natural human condition with the phrase you who were dead in trespasses and sins. The first truth he describes in verse 1 is the deadness all of humanity. All of humanity is dead. Believers, before they were saved by Christ, are dead.
This death that Paul writes about is not a physical but spiritual death. This spiritual death is the separation of man from God, due to the rebellion of mankind from God, and the sinful nature that all mankind possesses. The result of this spiritual death, of the separation from God due to our own sinful nature, is the inability of mankind to know God; the inability mankind to desire God, and the inability of mankind to comprehend spiritual things and respond to God on our own. Dead people cannot raise themselves to life. Dead men can do nothing but stay dead. All mankind standing before God is dead, unable to draw close to God on our own. Death has entered the world through the sinning of Adam and all mankind tastes and knows death because all mankind has sinned. No one escapes death because all have a sinful, rebellious nature.
Our sinful nature is evidenced by our natural actions and our deliberate, chosen actions. Our natural inclinations and responses and the actions we consciously, deliberately do are differentiated in the bible by different words . In verse 1, Paul says we were dead in our trespasses and sins. The word sins means our natural inclinations. The New Testament word for sin is an archery term, which means missing the mark, or imperfection. It is anything that does not hit the bulls eye perfectly. This term teaches that everything we do is marked by imperfection. Everything we do is sinful by nature. This means that everything we do is naturally opposed to God. There is no good in us. So we are dead in our very nature, the natural decisions, thoughts, desires, actions and impulses that we have are marked by imperfection, rebellion and opposition to God. Everything about us is dead, full of imperfection.
Yet, in his explanation of the dead state of humanity, Paul goes beyond the natural inclinations and intuitions of humanity and he uses an additional word: trespasses. In keeping with the archery idea, if sin is just missing the mark, trespasses are choosing to not shoot at the target, but rather choosing to shoot in the opposite direction. Trespasses are decisions we make that we know are wrong yet we do them anyway out of spite and arrogance. Trespasses are an active, conscious rebellion to God, rebellion from His Law and His Word. The situation for mankind is not looking good! In the first verse, Paul did not leave any room in anything we think and do for any form of goodness. Rather, Paul as declared us as dead, rebellious, sinners. We sin in everything we do, think, and desire, by natural or deliberate commission. Everything we are is marked by deadness and separation from God.
The natural deadness of humanity leads me to my second point. Not only are we dead toward God, unable to know or draw near to him on our own, we are also DISOBEDIENT to God. Continuing from the first verse into the second verse, Paul declares all of humanity as disobedient. Each and every person is unruly, non-compliant, obstinate, stubborn etc. The second verse reads, “in which you once walked, following…”. The term walked is referring to our lifestyle; our manner of life; our behavior is disobedient to God. We do not obey him, but rather we strive to rebel against him. This is easily observed by looking at the world. The very idea of submitting and obeying God, the God of the Bible is viewed as preposterous and laughable. No one wants to submit to God, but rather each person desires to be our own master, to do as we please, and no one can tell us any different. The picture of humanity that the Apostle Paul painted is not looking so good for us. We are dead to God, unable to know him on our own and we are disobedient, rebelling against god in all that we do in every way. On top of being dead and disobedient, we are dominated.
This is the third truth about the human condition. We are DOMINATED. Three forces dominate and control us and Paul lays them out in verses two and three. The three forces are firstly the world/society/culture. We “follow the course of this world”, verse 2. The course of the world mentioned here refers to the natural bend of the world away from God. The world is against God being in control. Everything in the world, in society, in culture, no matter the culture or society, is focused on you. The world preached that you are the most important thing in the world is you, your happiness, your pleasure, and fulfilling all that you desire. The world does not want God in control, but rather works against him, preaching and teaching all people that they should focus on doing what makes them happy, and brings pleasure to the. The world dominates us from the get go. For example, a photo was circulating on the internet and the photo was making a statement against Apple. The photo was of a college theater hall, with every seat filled by students, and the slogan of the photo was “Apple: Be different.” The kicker is that every student in the photo had a Mac laptop. Everyone was the same. We do as the world does and as the world teaches us to do. We are dominated by the world, following it, unaware that we are going to our doom.
The second force we are dominated by is Satan and his minions. Satan lives only to destroy that which God created, and Satan desires to steal and take as much of God’s deserved glory for himself. Satan is a liar and he has deceived humanity to believe we are the epitome of existence and life is all about us. We believe it and are unable to break free of Satan’s hold and deception of us, on our own. Satan rules the destructive, God-opposing world that exists today. Satan works constantly to keep humanity blind to God, blind to their condition, and keep us in subjection to his lies, In order to take as many people to hell as he can. He is wicked and Jesus called him a murderer as he brings death to all that listen to him, and believe his lies. Jesus calls Satan the father of lies, John 8:44. Satan is the root and source of every belief system and everything that opposes God, opposes the Bible, opposes the gospel, and opposes God’s people in the world. The world system that enslaves and dominates all of humanity is controlled, and influenced by Satan, to do his bidding, to blind and subjugate all of humanity in order to see them die. We are dominated by the world, and its leader, Satan. Those are the first two forces that dominate us.
The third force we are dominated by is our very own flesh. This means our desires, our thoughts, attitudes, motivations etc dominate us. We are ruled by passion, by lusts to fulfill what our bodies crave. We are dominated by outward forces in the world and Satan, but we are also dominated internally by what drives us and what makes us choose and act certain ways. This is illustrated in the way that we relate to one another. The crime rate is evidence of the selfishness of humanity and the control that our passions have over us. Our nature, our desires lead us away from God, and to our destruction. We live for ourselves, as the world and Satan teach us to live. Paul writes in Galatians 5:17and 19-21 about the desires of the flesh that plague us. We cannot control our passions naturally, but are slaves to them.
We are dominated by these three forces, willingly obeying them, blind to God, blind to truth. Dead to God, dead to truth. Disobedient to God. Disobedient to the truth. Dominated by God’s opponents. Dominated by lies and deceit. We are dead, disobedient, and dominated. We have no hope. Nothing in us is desirable. Nothing is good. Nothing is going for us. Paul does not stop at this though. He continues with the fourth truth about humanity. Humanity is dead, disobedient, dominated and doomed.
Look at the end of verse three with me, “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Children of wrath. The NIV writes this out as, “Like the rest, we were by nature, deserving of wrath.” With a nature this bad, there is only conclusion. We are DOOMED! This is the fourth truth. There is no hope for humanity, no hope for you. No hope for me, in and of ourselves; in and of humanity. Our very nature deserves wrath. Each of us are a child of wrath, born for destruction. Everything we do deserves wrath because all that we do is inherently rebellious to God, going back to verse one of this passage. We deserve this wrath! We have earned it. There is no escape from this wrath, by natural means, no escape by human means. What is this wrath? This wrath is the righteous judgment of the Holy God, that will be revealed against all unrighteousness. His wrath is separation from himself, for all of eternity in Hell. All that oppose God, all sinners by nature, are headed to hell, for eternal torment and punishment for their sin and rebellion against God. This wrath is terrible!
No one within mankind can save themselves, much less someone else. This is because of the God with which we deal. The God of the Bible, the God of the universe, that created us; he created us for more than which we naturally live. But we are so dead, so rebellious, so disobedient, so dominated and so doomed, that we do not realize the grand purpose for which God created us. This God is so much more than we can ever imagine. Yet we rebelled against God and His purpose, becoming separated from God in the Garden of Eden, dying spiritually, and now live dead, disobedient, dominated lives that are doomed to destruction for eternity. The only cry, the only prayer that any of us have is that God would have mercy on us. And have mercy on us, does he indeed. This leads to the second heading this three part series on Ephesians 2:1-10. The Second heading is What God Did, and that will be covered in the next blog post.