“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.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Ephesians 2:1-10 is one the pinnacle chapters in the New Testament. Within these ten verses we witness the biblical truths of spiritual death, sin, condemnation, new life, grace, faith, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and that each believer in Christ is God’s workmanship.
Dr. John Walvoord explains, “At the outset it should be noted that the grammatical subject of this long sentence (vv. 1–7) in Greek is “God” (v. 4) and the three main verbs are “made … alive with” (v. 5), “raised … up with” (v. 6), and “seated … with” (v. 6). The object of each of these verbs is “us,” that is, believers (vv. 5–6). Thus the main assertion in verses 1–7 is that God has made believers alive, raised them up, and seated them with Christ. All the other clauses in these verses are subordinate to this main assertion.”
The Apostle Paul begins in vv. 1-3 with the assertion that all unbelievers exist in a natural state, or condition, of sin. In other words, the unbeliever is dead to God but alive to sin. In fact, the unbeliever revels in their sin and wickedness (Romans 1:18-32).
Paul begins with this statement: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…” Let us unpack this verse word for word.
“And you were.” In the immediate aftermath of the apostle’s prayer on behalf of the Ephesian believers (1:19-23), Paul reminds them of their spiritual condition prior to their conversion. These three words describe a state of being. They do not describe what the Ephesians did, but rather what and who they were. What they were was evidenced by what they did.
What was the spiritual condition of the Ephesians before their conversion, and the universal condition of all the unconverted? It is spiritual death.
Paul writes, ““And you were dead.” The word dead (νεκρός; nekros) means to be unable, worthless, powerless. It refers, within the context, to the natural state of all unbelievers before God.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “This is a sobering reminder of the total sinfulness and lostness from which believers have been redeemed. This is the realm or sphere in which unregenerate sinners exist. They are not dead because of sinful acts that have been committed but because of their sinful nature (cf. Matt. 12:35; 15:18–19).”
Natural man’s spiritual dead condition before God is evidenced their trespasses and sins. Trespasses (παράπτωμα; paraptoma) is sin and transgressions. The unbeliever is surrounded and consumed with sin. Sins (ἁμαρτία; hamartia) is wrongdoing, evil and guilt. These two words are synonymous.
Dr. Walvoord adds, “Unregenerate persons are dead in … transgressions (cf. v. 5) and sins (Col. 2:13). This death is spiritual, not physical, for unsaved people are very much alive physically. Death signifies absence of communication with the living. One who is dead spiritually has no communication with God; he is separated from God. The phrase “in your transgressions and sins” shows the sphere of the death, suggesting that sin has killed people (Rom. 5:12; 7:10; Col. 2:13) and they remain in that spiritually dead state. “Transgressions” (paraptōmasin, “false steps”; cf. Eph. 1:7; 2:5) and “sins” (hamartia is, “acts of missing the mark”), though slightly different in their root meanings, are basically synonymous. Both suggest deliberate acts against God and His righteousness and thus failure to live as one should. The plural of these two nouns signifies people’s repetitious involvement in sin and hence their state of un-regeneration.”
When next we meet, we will examine the unregenerate individual’s state of subjection; not only to Satan but also to their own corrupt affections and desires. My prayer is that God has delivered you from your natural state of sin.
Soli deo Gloria!