The Expository Files.


Dead Men Walking, Made Alive! 

Ephesians 2:1-5



"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)," (Eph. 2:1-5, NKJV).

I believe any study of this passage needs to begin back in Ephesians chapter one, the last paragraph in particular. In that context Paul writes about God's power as exercised in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and His exaltation to the right hand of God. It will do us spiritual good to reverently consider "... what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places," (Eph. 1:19,20, NKJV). This paves the way for the affirmations in chapter two. There are really TWO RESURRECTIONS in this context: (1) the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead, and (2) the spiritual resurrection of the dead sinner to life in Christ. Behind both resurrections there is the same power: God!

"And you He made alive,
who were dead
in trespasses and sins."


Trespasses (paraptomasin) are deviations from the line of moral truth. The word originally implied stumbling aside, making a false step, or getting into territory where one does not belong. It came to refer to a transgression, fault, or offense. When one wanders aside or lapses into misdeeds, he falls away from the true path of righteousness. He goes onto spiritual property where he does not belong. He takes the wrong road whether by deliberate decision, by misreading the signs, or by inattention.

Sins (hamartiais) are failures to hit the target at which life is aimed. To sin is to commit error. One misses his mark by failing to fulfill his purposes in life. Our purposes in life are to act, think, and speak like God who created us, thus glorify ing him. When one sins, he does not imitate his maker and he does not obey the directives of his master. The glory of God is the target at which our lives are aimed. When we miss or when we fall short, we sin (Rom. 3:23). Too many of us measure ourselves by a short sin list (murder, adultery, theft, etc.), or by others who, in our opinions, do not live as well as we do. We must instead strive to measure ourselves by God's word. We should attempt to be all we can be in God's service by accom modating our lives exactly to his will." {Truth Commentaries, Ephesians, Colly Caldwell, p.#69}

Paul is writing to the members of the church in Ephesus, described in the opening of the epistle as the "faithful in Christ Jesus." These are people who had obeyed the gospel (Acts 19); they had been baptized into Christ (the "one baptism," Eph. 4:5), and that act of obedience is described here as God making dead people alive! Before their response to the gospel they had been "dead in trespasses and sins." When these sinners heard, believed and obeyed the gospel - they were raised from the death of sin, and "made alive" by the power of God (see also, Rom. 6:1-4).

"... in which you once walked
according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power
of the air, the spirit who now works
in the sons of disobedience."


Before responding to the gospel, these dead people had been walking "according to the course of this world," and "according to the prince of the power of the air." They just did what everybody else was doing, conforming to the fashions, practices and sinful habits of the society they lived in. They were, at that time, obeying the devil instead of God; and the devil's influence is described here as "the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." This is why, though walking, they were dead. If you just live the way everybody else lives; if you walking according to the course of this world, and follow the impulses of the flesh, YOU ARE DEAD SPIRITUALLY.

And it is noteworthy, they became spiritually dead by their own choice and practice of sin! They were not born in this condition. Genesis 8:21 says that "man's heart is evil from his youth," not from his birth. Ecclesiastes 8:11 explains that "the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," and Ezekiel 18 demonstrates that sin is a matter of choice, not genetics or inheritance. Likewise, here in Ephesians two, it is apparent: they became spiritually dead by their own choice and practice of sin. The American Standard reads: "when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins." They were dead until their faith caused them to obey the gospel, which is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16,17).

"...among whom also we all once
conducted ourselves in the lusts
of our flesh, fulfilling the desires
of the flesh and of the mind,
and were by nature children
of wrath, just as the others."


The Ephesians were not the only ones who had followed the path of sin. So it says here: "among whom also WE ALL once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." As Paul said in another place: "All have sinned, and do fall short of the glory of God," (Rom. 3:23). In talking about their previous life of sin and the resulting spiritual death, Paul broadens the indictment to include "all."

In verse three, there are further descriptions of one's condition before obeying the gospel:

"THE LUSTS OF OUR FLESH"
Before obeying the gospel, this is what our lives are about: living without divine restraint, therefore engaging in "the lusts of our flesh." This is why Paul taught: "Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh," (Gal. 5:16).

"FULFILLING THE DESIRES OF THE FLESH AND OF THE MIND"
In other words, at that time, they did whatever they wanted to do; and this life-style or conduct caused their spiritual death.

"AND WERE BY NATURE CHILDREN OF WRATH"
Those with a theological tradition that involves the influence of Calvinism may try to see in this the tenet of TOTAL HEREDITARY DEPRAVITY; that babies are born in sin. "Nature" doesn't necessarily mean - something you receive through birth. After years of practice, we drive cars naturally but we were not born driving. Likewise, people commit sin and after years of practice - that's what they do by nature. "The Calvinist sees too much in this verse when he insists that 'nature' always refers to the natural state at birth and that man is born totally depraved by heredity. In another place Paul argued that the Gentiles did 'by nature' that which was good (Rom. 2:14). How could they do by heredity that which is good if man is born totally depraved?" (Truth Commentaries, Ephesians, Colly Caldwell, p.#73).

This is the bad news about sin: You "were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others." This is the awful condition we put ourselves in through the choice and continued practice of sin.

"But God, who is rich in mercy,
because of His great love with
which He loved us, even when
we were dead in trespasses,
made us alive together with
Christ (by grace you have been
saved), and raised us up together,
and made us sit together in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus."


For the lost sinner, there is no such thing as a DO-IT-YOURSELF PLAN OF SALVATION! If you are dead in trespasses and sins, there just isn't any way you can raise yourself from that death. It takes the exceeding mighty power of God (that Paul described in the last part of Ephesians one). The power of God that raised Christ from the dead; that's the power it takes to raise sinners from spiritual death. It is God's power to saves, through His plan, the gospel (Rom. 1:16,17). So forget about doing this on your own!

Why did God express this power in the gospel? He is rich in mercy and great in love! Verse 4 assigns two reasons why God exercised His power to raise sinners from spiritual death. Why was the gospel given, that contains the power of God to save us? Because God is rich in mercy and great in love!

This means the bottom line is: "by grace you have been saved!" I cannot do it myself. But I can hear, believe and obey the gospel, which is the power of God to save. Dead men and women who walk according to the course of this world can be saved. Jesus made that possible, and God offers to raise us; to make us alive. When does that happen?

Read this, and answer to God: "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4, NKJV).

 By Warren E. Berkley 
 From Expository Files 3.6; June 1996

 

 

http://www.bible.ca/