Ephesians 2:1-3

I apologize for it taking so long to post this. This blog is going to be fairly academic in nature, and I was trying to find a way to communicate the appropriate emotion behind it so that it wouldn’t seem so matter-of-fact as it’s such an important text. Then over time, I just forgot about it. Over the past few weeks, though, through the course of conversations with some people, I really became pressed with how much we love our sin. This realization drove me back to this text, and I decided that I needed to go ahead and post this as is, and hope that the heart behind it comes across.

If you’re new to the blog, or just need a refresher, it may help to review what we’ve already covered in the Ephesians series (scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the first post).

Alright, we left off in the previous blog stating that Paul, at a high level, compares our salvation to Christ’s resurrection to communicate the drastic change that took effect at our salvation. GOD MADE US ALIVE! We were spiritually dead because of sin and God breathed life into our very soul. He resurrected us from our spiritually dead state and made us alive in Christ Jesus. So not only will we be resurrected physically as Jesus was, but we have already been resurrected spiritually.

Here, Paul expounds on that concept at a lower level, by explaining how we were spiritually dead, just as Jesus was physically dead.

Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV

[1] 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.

Alright, Paul says several things in this text that from my experience is either avoided or drastically misunderstood by some of the churches I’ve attended. Many of the misconceptions come from a misunderstanding of the Greek text, and for most of the words we’ll be looking at, I’ll be using The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Red-Letter Edition) for guidance.

I do generally try to be less academic in my blogs, but I feel that with this one we must move past the basic explanations to fully understand what Paul is communicating.

1) dead in our trespasses

The first misconception is the meaning of the word “dead”. In most circles, this is viewed as “separation from God”. This is indeed true, but does not cover the extent of the Greek word used here.

The Strong’s shows that the word “dead” in the Greek is nĕkrŏs (nek-ros), #3498. The meaning of this word is:

(1) the death of the body, cf Jas 2:26, its most frequent sense. (2) the actual spiritual condition of unsaved men, Mt 8:22; Jn 5:25; Eph 2:1, 5; 5:14; Phil 3:11; Col 2:13; cf Lk 15:24, (3) the ideal spiritual condition of believers in regard to sin, Rom 6:11.

There are a few other meanings, but are not applicable to man’s physical or spiritual state, so I’m leaving those off to try and keep this as brief as possible.

Alright, so, we see Paul very clearly using the same word to describe our spiritual state as he would a dead body in a grave. This does not mean that our spirits are, in fact, dormant (as we will see in a moment), but rather that in addition to being separate from God, we are dead to God. In other words, we are unable to see, hear, accept, or respond in any way to the truth of who God is. We do not and cannot seek Him out, we are in that sense, motionless and powerless. Paul also uses this word in Romans 6:11 when he tells us that “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Paul isn’t saying that we are to consider ourselves spiritually dormant here, but rather that we should consider ourselves “dead to” or unable to respond to the calling of our sin nature. Likewise, here, he is saying that we are unable to respond to the calling of God through the gospel in and of ourselves.

2) following the course of this world

I say that we were not spiritually dormant because we were indeed spiritually active. We were following the course of this world and the prince of the power of the air.

First, we need to understand what “this world” means.

Strong’s mentions a couple key things.
The word kŏsmŏs (2889) came to mean anyone not of the ekklasia (1577), or “the church”. In other words, we can equate “this world” to “the enemies of God”.

Now, the word “course” is aiŏn (ahee-ohn, 165) which means “an age or era”, or more appropriately for this usage “a period of time marked by spiritual or moral characteristics”. Additionally, this word has also been translated as “ways” in the NIV.

So we are following the ways, or moral characteristics of the enemies of God, and these ways, or course, have a destination: Hell.

3) following the prince of the power of the air

In addition to following the course of the enemies of God, we also followed Satan himself. True, we may not have been sacrificing chickens to appease false gods, or sacrificing our firstborn child in attempts to appease Satan himself, but when we follow the lie instead of the Truth by worshiping creation over creator, we are every bit following Satan just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.

4) we were among the sons of disobedience

The ESV Study Bible notes tell us that the “sons of disobedience” is a Hebrew-inspired phrase like “sons of this world” in contrast to “sons of light” (Luke 16:8). They belong to the family of those who rebel against the holy and true God.

The text also tells us that it is Satan, the prince of the power of the air, who leads those who rebel against God. Big surprise there…

5) we all lived in the passions of our flesh

The word “lived” anastrĕphō (an-as-tref’-o, #390) is translated really accurately, with similar meanings of “abide, to busy oneself, to converse with”.

“Passions” is derived from the Greek word ĕpithumia (ep-ee-thoo-mee’-ah, #1939) and means:

This word stresses the lust, craving, longing, or desire for what is usually forbidden. It refers to the whole world of active lusts and desires – to all that the seat of the natural appetites impels (the flesh).

So, this text tells us that, apart from Christ, we are busy with, or focused on, fulfilling lustful desires. This is important because it shows the extent to which sin reigns in us. Sin is not something we do every once in a while, or only when we feel bad about having done something. Sin is the never ending quest we set out on to fulfill desires for that which is forbidden from the moment we are born. Sinning is something we LOVE to do because it’s who we are naturally.

6) we carried out the desires of our body and mind

This phrase is key because it shows that not only were we following the lusts of our flesh, but that we also desired these things in our mind as well. The word “mind” here is from the Greek word dianŏia, (dee-an’-oy-ah), and literally means the “faculty of our understanding”. So, we not only sinned because our flesh, or desires, pushed us to, but also because our understanding was so corrupted by sin that we thought it was a good idea, and possibly even the “right” thing to do.

7) we were by nature children of wrath

The word “wrath” here is ŏrgē (or-gay’, #3709), which literally means “God’s purposes in judgment”.

So we are by our nature, (phusis, foo’-sis, #5449), all the way down to the core of who we are, by our very birth (Ps. 51:5), children under God’s judgment of wrath

Alright, so why go into all the Greek meanings and make this a harder to read through? Because we live in an age and culture that is a blend of modern and postmodern thinking. Part of what this means is that we have a blend of people saying that we are either innately good at the core and we simply have to “find ourselves” to discover our goodness within, or that we are intrinsically bad and we are hopeless because of this. It’s true, we are intrinsically bad. We are inherently sinful, and we love it (Eph. 2:3, John 3:19). It is our desire to sin, because it feels natural and is easier than not sinning at the least. The idea that we are somehow only partially corrupted by sin and that we actually seek God has pervaded much of the church. This concept is based out of pride and ignorance, not the Bible, and denies the full work accomplished by the death and resurrection of Christ. We are spiritually dead and hopeless people in and of ourselves. Yet there is Hope.

5 responses to “Ephesians 2:1-3

  1. Don, this is excellent!!! I know you are planning a vocation of working with computers, but are you sure God is not calling you to be a Bible professor??? I mean that seriously. I love your thoroughness, and this article is really great. Keep up the good work!!! See you in the morning. I love you, Moopy

    • Haha, I’m not planning a vocation of working with computers at all. Computers drive me nuts now. That said, I’ve gotta do something to position myself to do what I actually want to do…which is kind of TBD at this point.

  2. That was really good, Don.

    Especially when I look at that connected to Ephesians 1 where God says, “I did it all!” and then it says, “and by the way, you were dead to who I am before I saved you so you couldn’t have participated at all.”

    It’s intense. It’s hard to swallow. But it’s also very very good.

  3. Pingback: Questioning Your Salvation?: The Effects of Sin | TransformingWords

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