“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 of 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.
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).
The fallen world culture believes that natural man is basically good. The Scriptures teach the exact opposite. In other words, the Bible teaches that natural man is basically sinful, wicked and evil. Who is telling the truth, or which proposition corresponds to reality?
Ephesians 2:3 says, “…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.”
“Among whom we all once lived. The Apostle Paul presents a pretty condemning portrait of the natural man. It should be noted that he included himself in this evaluation. In spite of all his so-called spiritual accomplishments prior to receiving Christ as his Lord and Savior, Paul assessed the truth of his inherent sinfulness (Philippians 3:1-9). The word lived (ἀναστρέφω; anastrepho) means to conduct oneself, one’s behavior, and to live in a certain way (cf. 2 Cor. 1:12; 1Tim. 3:15; Heb. 10:33; 13:18; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Peter 2:18).
How does the unconverted individual conduct themselves? Today’s text says, “…in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” The word passions (ἐπιθυμία; epithymia) refers to covetousness, evil desires, and lust. These cravings are united with the fallen individual’s sinful nature. Consequently, these lusts are actively carried out (ποιέω; poieo), performed and practiced. These actions are not only by one’s physical body in what a person does, but also by the mind in what a person thinks.
The natural man is not forced to do his sin, he does it naturally. The word nature (φύσις; physis) means the character, or make up of something, as a natural result or condition (cf. Rom. 1:26; 11:21, 24; 1 Cor. 11:14; Gal. 4:8; 2 Peter 1:4). The natural man is by nature a child of wrath. Unbelievers have a close relationship, not with the Lord, but rather with His wrath. Disobedience and unbelief result in the wrath of God (cf. Rom. 1:18–2:29; John 3:36).
All of fallen mankind exists in this spiritually lost condition. One look at the daily and evening news broadcasts evidence this truth. This is also evidenced by even those who present the so-called evening news.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “Ephesians 2:1–3 presents a hopeless picture of an unregenerate person who deserves nothing but God’s wrath. The wrath of God, however, is not the entire story. Its dark background contrasts with the glorious exhibition of God’s grace toward the unregenerate. Verses 4–10 set forth the grace of God which works on some unbelievers and gives them life (vv. 4–5), raises them (v. 6a), and seats them in heavenly realms with Christ (vv. 6b–10).”
We will begin to examine the glorious exhibition of God’s grace in Ephesians 2:4 when next we meet.
Soli deo Gloria!