The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 3, 2012


1) Ephesians 2:1-5 (Tom Edwards)


Ephesians 2:1-5
by Tom Edwards

In speaking of their lives prior to becoming Christians, Paul tells the Ephesians, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).  This, of course, pertains to a spiritual death that they had incurred through the iniquities they committed, as this verse shows.  The very first instance of this type of death goes all the way back to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  God had warned them that "the day that you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil]  you will surely die" (Gen. 2:16,17).  They did so (Gen. 3:6).  For having been deceived by the serpent (Satan), Eve ate of the forbidden fruit (2 Cor. 11:3); but Adam sinned willfully -- though he later blamed it on the woman who gave him the fruit (Gen. 3:12).  So even after disobeying God, Adam and Eve continued to live.  The Lord made clothes for them.  They had children, and life went on -- but their lives would now be with some difficulties. There would be an increase in pain in childbirth (v. 16); and with the earth now bearing thorns and thistles, farming would be more challenging for the man (vv. 17-19).  In addition, Adam and Eve were expelled from the beautiful garden of Eden and shut off from the tree of life (vv. 23,24).  So, obviously, God's warning that they would "die" on the day they took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil pertains to a "spiritual" death -- and not a physical one.  

Sin, of course, has always resulted in spiritual death: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).  Paul does not say that "the wages of sin is SOMETIMES death"; but, rather, that it IS death!  "Death" has been defined as a "separation."  So in spiritual death, one is separated from God, which corresponds with Isaiah 59:1,2: "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."  Consider also these following passages in connection with sin and spiritual death:

Romans 6:16: "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?"

James 1:13-15: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

1 Timothy 5:6: "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives."  

To the church in Sardis, Jesus declares, "...'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead'" (Rev. 3:1).  To others, the church in Sardis appeared very much alive; but from God's perspective, who knows the hearts of all men, they were greatly lacking and had need of repentance.   

In Ephesians 2:1, we also note a keyword when thinking about this sin the Ephesians had been guilty of.  How does Paul refer to it?  Is it Adam's sin?  Their parents' sin?  Their neighbors' sin?  No,  Paul says it is "YOUR trespasses and sins."  They, therefore, could blame only themselves -- not society, not their parents, not Adam and Eve, not anyone else.  For in the great judgment day, we will each give an account of only ourselves and what we have done (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10).  

The Bible makes it clear that sin is not something a person is born with.  For it isn't passed on to a child from the parents' genes or chromosomes.  Therefore, children are not born totally depraved, as many people believe and teach.  Rather, infants are pure in God's sight; and this is also indicated in the fact that we must become like them (in innocence) if we want to be saved.  As the Lord declares, "...`...unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven'" (Matt. 18:3).  He also proclaims concerning these children that "...the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).  Furthermore, David, during the Old Testament period, knew that his deceased infant son had gone to heaven; and though that son wouldn't be coming back to earth, yet David knew he could live his life in such a way that he would be able to go where his son was. David states, "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (2 Sam. 12:23).  God says, "Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die" (Ezek 18:4).  "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself" (Ezek. 8:20).  Though the penalty of sin cannot be transmitted by birth from one person to the next, still there can be some consequences of others' sins that the innocent might suffer by.  For instance, think of a young family with an alcoholic, abusive father.  His sin might lead to the injury -- and even physical death -- of an innocent family member.  Similarly, though we do not die spiritually because of Adam's sin, we do die physically because of it (cf. 1 Cor. 15:21).

One of the best definitions of sin in the Bible is found in 1 John 3:4: "...sin is the transgression of the law" (KJV).  Sin is "lawlessness" (NASB), "disobedience" (ISV).  So sin is not something one is born with; but, rather, something one does.  It is a violation of God's law.  

In the KJV, the phrase "hath he quickened" is added in Ephesians 2:1 for clarification by the translators.  Some other versions also include this, or something similar -- such as, "has made you alive."  But you'll probably see this in italics, indicating that it isn't in the original.  Even so, however, Ephesians 2:5 makes it clear that these who had been dead in sin have been made alive in Christ.   

We note, too, the past tense that Paul uses: "you WERE dead in your trespasses and sins"; and then he goes on to say, "in which you FORMERLY walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2, emphasis mine).  So there had been a change in these Ephesians.  For those old sinful ways were how they had "formerly walked"; but they were  now no longer living that way.  For the gospel has the power to change people's lives.  We can especially see this with some of the Corinthians who had formerly been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; but then he states in verse 11, "Such WERE some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (emphasis mine).  Though some of the Corinthians had been guilty of these sins, they were now no longer engaging in those iniquities.  They had truly been transformed by the gospel.  

Paul refers to that former way of iniquity as being "according to the course of this world..." (Eph. 2:2), which is, therefore, implied as being a contrast to the will of God. For to live according to the course of this world is to be led, as one writer put it, to regard "...only the passions, appetites and ambitions of egocentric self" (James Coffman).   This is why we cannot use the world as our standard for what is right or wrong.  And, sad to say, it appears that the world continues to wander farther and farther away from those things that are right in God's sight.  We can also say that the person living according to the course of this world is living for only the physical and the temporary -- rather than living for the spiritual and eternal things of God.  

Another influence toward evil that Paul mentions is "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) and is shown as "the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience."  Who is this "prince of the power of the air"?  It is Satan.  He is also referred to as "the god of this world" (Gal. 4:4), and Paul makes mention of Satan's harmful influence in that passage: "And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (vv. 3,4).  In John 16:11, Jesus calls Satan "the ruler of this world" (NASB).  Various Bible versions render it either that way or the "prince of this world" (ASV).  

We saw recently, when considering different ways the phrase "heavenly places" is used in the Ephesian letter that sometimes it is referring to the atmosphere where the birds fly.  This part of the atmosphere, which is said to be inhabited by wickedness, is also seen in Ephesians 6:11,12: "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Those who are led by Satan's influence are referred to as the "sons of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2).  This is a Hebrew phrase that simply refers to these individuals as living lives that are characterized by disobedience.  As J.W. Shepherd writes, "Sons of disobedience are those to whom disobedience is their very nature and essential character, who belong wholly to it."   Notice also, for example, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name "Barnabas," which means the "Son of Encouragement" (Acts 4:36); and James and John, to whom the Lord gave the name "Boanerges," which means "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17), and the sons of Eli who are referred to as the "sons of Belial" (1 Sam. 2:12, KJV, which is rendered as "worthless men" in the NASB).

Throughout this epistle, we can read of the importance and blessings of being "in Christ."  That is the key.  Note now what Paul shows that God had done for these Ephesians who had formerly been spiritually dead because of their sins: "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, so 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).  

What was the Lord's motivation for this?  As Ephesians 2:4 shows, the richness of His "mercy" and the greatness of His "love" for us. Of all things to be abounding in, man's greatest need is not material things; but simply the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God -- and the Lord can give that abundantly to those who meet His conditions.  

In speaking of God's great concern for us, John points out, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn. 4:10).  Therefore, God's love for us and sending His Son was not based on our love for Him (for He did this while we were His enemies, according to Romans 5:10), nor whether we deserved that love (for we did not), nor whether we were lovable (for we were wretched sinners); rather, the Lord was prompted by His own love for us.  For that is the way God is: He is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

Sometimes just a very small word can express a great deal.  For example, consider the "so" in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."  "So" means "in this manner," "to the extent or degree indicated," or "very greatly."  Of all the supreme acts of love the world has ever known, never has there been one as great as in God giving His Son.  One of the songs we have sung, written by J.G. Dailey, answers the questions, "Why did my Savior come to earth and to the humble go?  Why did he choose a lowly birth?  Because He loved me so!  Why did he drink the bitter cup of sorrow, pain, and woe?  Why on the cross be lifted up?  Because He loved me so!"  Let us be very thankful for God's love and never take it for granted!

In thinking of how extensive the Lord's mercy is, Paul cited himself as an example of that: "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.  And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life" (1 Tim. 1:15,16).  

Paul says, "even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ..." (Eph. 2:5).  Paul also expressed a similar thing to the Colossians: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions" (Col. 2:13).  This is beautifully brought out in Romans 5:6-10: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."

Paul also parenthetically states that "(by grace you have been saved)" (Eph. 2:5).  A misconception that many denominational people have today is that a person who has been saved is saved from not only all past sins, but also all future sins before they are even committed.  But that, however, is not what the Bible teaches.  For instance: "For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his FORMER  sins" (2 Pet. 1:9, emphasis mine).

In addition, the Bible shows what the Christian needs to do who falls into sin: Simon, for example, who had just recently become a Christian, along with many other Samaritans, was told to repent and pray when he soon fell into sin (Acts 8:22,23).  The apostle John, who was writing to Christians (1 Jn. 3:2), exhorts them not to sin (1 Jn. 2:1); but notice what he instructs the one who would fall into transgression: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9).  Could you imagine someone praying the following prayer?  "Lord, please forgive us for this bank we are about to rob."  Being baptized for the remission of sins, won't automatically take care of all the future sins that one might commit.  Rather,  sin must always be turned from through repentance; and God's conditions must then be met for pardon.  For though the Christian is forgiven of past sins, there is a need to maintain a right relationship with God by "walking in the light" in order to "have fellowship with one another" and the blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from every sin (1 Jn. 1:7).  May we each, therefore, ever strive to live in that manner (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36), so that we, too, will attain to the goal of everlasting life in that wonderful place called heaven!

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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