In chapter 1, the Apostle Paul begins with a b'rakhah, which was a common Hebrew form of blessing or praise to Yahweh:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, Ephesians 1:3 NASB
He unfolds those blessings by showing that the Father chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world (1:4-6). The Son redeemed them through His blood and made known to them the mystery of His will for the ages; the summing up of all things in Christ (1:7-12). And Yahweh sealed them with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13-14). Lest we think that this is all about us, three times in this text Paul says, "...to the praise of the glory of His grace." God has redeemed us for His glory.
Then (1:15-23) Paul shares his constant prayer for the Ephesians, that God might grant them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. The very heart of Paul's prayer for these saints is, "...that you may know Yahweh better." Paul prays that his readers might grasp more fully the hope into which God has brought them by His call. He prays that they might understand that those who trust in Christ are the glorious inheritance of Yahweh! And then he prays that we might understand what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Paul is praying, "O, Yahweh, may these Christians know the tremendous power that is theirs in You." He wants us to understand this power. It is the power that raised Yeshua from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all authority and power.
Ephesians 1:19-23 takes us to the heights in exploring the power and authority of the risen and ascended Christ, and Ephesians 2:1-3 takes us to the very depths, as Paul expounds the powerless, hopeless, lifeless condition of fallen men, enslaved by their own fleshly desires, and dominated by the world around them.
Though verse 23 ends chapter 1, we must remember that these chapter and verse divisions were added to the letter much later, so we must be careful to look at the context of the words that Paul wrote. Paul goes on to tell us how God's great power has worked in Christ for our benefit, and how we partake in that power.
Was Christ resurrected? God made us alive together with Him. Was Christ exalted? God raised us up with Him. Was Christ seated next to the Father to rule? God has seated us with Him in the heavenlies. The power that was exerted in Christ affects us directly. We are beneficiaries of God's power and love for the Son.
The first seven verses of chapter 2 are form one sentence in the Greek. This morning we want to just look at the first three verses. They paint a very dark and depressing picture of what all of us were like before Yahweh made us alive:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 NASB
I memorized this verse in the King James Version, which adds the phrase "hath he quickened" after "and you." If you have the KJV you'll notice that this phrase is in italics, indicating this phrase is not found in the original manuscripts. The phrase "hath quickened us," however, is found in Ephesians 2:5, and we'll look at it there.
In our text Paul begins by describing the past sinfulness of the Gentile believers as indicated by "you." Most see this "you" as referring to the Gentiles, but we must understand that the "you" here is universal in scope. Everybody who ever lived, except for Adam and Eve, was born dead in trespasses and sins.
"You were dead..."—in the next verse he says they were, "walking in the course of the world," so they were dead men walking. The phrase "dead man walking" was used by correctional officers in American prisons when the wardens would lead a man on Death Row down the hall to his execution, declaring, "Dead man walking!" This phrase was looked upon as cruel and unusual and therefore "outlawed" by the civil rights activists.
As an idiom, "Dead man walking" was broadened somewhat to other types of doom, even benign "doom" such as losing a job. Or to mean: " Your Days Are Numbered." But in our text it is much more serious. Paul is saying that they, and all men, are spiritually dead while physically alive. They were up and moving around, but they were dead. Yeshua made this distinction in:
But Yeshua said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead." Matthew 8:22 NASB
Now obviously physically dead people can't bury other physically dead people. He was saying: Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead.
When Paul says they were "dead," he means dead! Do you understand? He means the cessation of life. It is an absolute statement, he doesn't simply mean in the danger of death. To be dead is to be lifeless. To be dead is to be unable to help oneself. To be dead is to be absolutely powerless. To be dead is to be beyond hope, apart from the supernatural. As John Calvin said, "This is a state of real and present death."
Those who deny God's sovereignty in our salvation have to redefine what it means to be spiritually dead. Above all else, they want to avoid the conclusion that it implies inability, because if sinners are spiritually unable to believe the Gospel, then salvation must be totally of God and not at all due to man's free choice to believe. So they argue that spiritual death only means being separated from God. It does not imply the inability to respond in faith and repentance to the Gospel.
Physical death is an inability to respond, no matter what the stimulus is. Physical death means you can't react. You've been to enough funerals, and so have I, to know what physical death is. It doesn't matter what the stimulus is, no physically dead individual ever reacts to any stimulus.
Spiritual death is an inability to respond to things of the spirit. The very picture of being dead and the need for God to impart new life strongly implies a lack of ability on the part of the dead sinner to do anything to effect his own resurrection. When Yeshua, standing by the grave of his beloved disciple, cried out (John 11:43), "Lazarus, come forth," Lazarus didn't exercise his free will to come back from the dead! He arose because Yeshua imparted life to him. That miracle was a picture of what Yeshua had said earlier of spiritual life:
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. John 5:21 NASB
Yeshua goes on to say:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:24-25 NASB
Spiritual resurrection is the only solution to spiritual death. By saying that we were spiritually "dead," he means the kind of deadness that requires a resurrection. So when he says "dead," he means dead, and not just weak or sick. There was no superficial solution. It really took a spiritual resurrection to save us from our state of sin. If you have any spiritual life within you, you owe it to the sovereign voice of the Savior.
Notice what Paul is NOT saying, he is not saying that we were handicapped. He did not say that we were sick. He did not say that we're misguided by our social surroundings. He says we were dead! We were without any spiritual life at all.
There are many analogies that people use to depict man's sin that are not biblical: Mortally ill man must take the medicine of the Gospel to live. They say man must make the choice, he must take the medicine. The problem with that analogy is that the Bible doesn't speak of mortally ill man. It speaks of dead man. I guess you understand the difference between being mortally ill and dead. The Scriptures clearly teach that we are dead in sin:
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44 NASB
Yeshua repeats this:
And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father." John 6:65 NASB
The words, "No one can," in those two verses means that they are unable to come, apart from God's powerful intervention. They are spiritually dead until God imparts new life.
In John 8:43, while contending with the obstinate Jews, Yeshua said:
"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. John 8:43 NASB
Obviously, they could hear Yeshua's voice. They weren't physically deaf. But their spiritual deafness meant that they were incapable of hearing Yeshua's words in the sense of responding favorably to them.
So spiritual death includes being separated from the holy God because of our sin, but it also includes being spiritually incapable of responding favorably to the truth of the Gospel unless God raises us from spiritual death to spiritual life.
In Ezekiel 37:1-3, we see this famous passage imaging forth the deadness of Israel in their sins:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." Ezekiel 37:1-3 NASB
This was us. We were dead bones, dry, having no life. And when we see ourselves as such dry bones, we too should be asking, "Can these bones live?" No, not apart from a supernatural resurrection.
Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.' "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Ezekiel 37:10-12 NASB
God is talking to physical Israel through the prophet Ezekiel; they say their bones are dried up and their hope is gone. They weren't saying they were physically dead, they were separated from Yahweh, they were out of the land. According to the rabbinic writings, any time Israel was out of the land they were dead. Life is in the land where God dwells. Yahweh said He was going to open their graves, these weren't physical graves, because they weren't physically dead. This is a spiritual resurrection.
So the unsaved are compared to dead men, or even to dry bones in their entire helplessness. In this they are all alike. Yahweh's choice of some to eternal life is as sovereign as if Christ were to pass through a graveyard and call one here and another there to come forth, the reason for restoring one to life and leaving another in his grave could be found only in His good pleasure, and not in the dead themselves.
Believers, please understand this: As far as salvation is concerned we bring nothing to the table. We don't even bring ourselves—we are dead. If we are to be saved, it is all of God, who overcomes our deadness through the power of resurrection.
"...In your trespasses and sins..."—This is what in Greek is called a locative of sphere. It is talking about the sphere in which they lived. It is not, "because of your sins," it is a location, a position. The opposite of being in Christ is being in trespasses and sins.
The word "trespasses" is from paraptema, which means: "to slip or fall or stumble, or go the wrong direction, to step over the line." The word "sins" is hamartia. It's a hunter's word, it means: "to miss the target, to miss the mark. A man shoots his arrow and misses the target."
God uses two words to describe fallen man, and both of them are in the plural to show the totality of sinfulness that is the result of deadness.
Paul now describes the character of the pre-Christian life from three different perspectives—the world (verse 2), the devil (verse 2), and the flesh (verse 3):
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. Ephesians 2:2 NASB
"...In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world..."—the word "course" here is aion, which means: "age." And the word "world" here is kosmos, which means: "the system"; here it means the customs of society. So Paul recognizes that sin is cultural. How many examples are there in the Torah of a corrupt society leading to increased sinfulness. And it seems that Paul is saying that we can look at culture and see it leading us to sin. You can see this all through our culture—the teaming up of individual moral corruption with the promoters and supporters of that corruption, which make escape from that corruption harder and harder.
"Religion is the opiate of the people." That statement is not simply classic Marxism, it is classic American materialism. We know from the book of Acts that Paul's audience lived in an idolatrous culture, and so do we.
Well they weren't only being influenced by the culture, but "According to the prince of the power of the air..."— Among the Greeks and Jews it was the current opinion of that age that our atmosphere, the air, was the special abode of spirits. The word "prince" is from the Greek word archone, which means: "first in rank or power, ruler, chief." This no doubt refers to Satan. He is called the "Ba`al-Zibbul"—"the ruler of the demons" in Matthew 12:24. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul calls him:
They do not come to trust because the god of the `olam hazeh has blinded their minds, in order to prevent them from seeing the light shining from the Good News about the glory of the Messiah, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 CJB
Yeshua calls him the "ruler of this kosmos" three times (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).
We see that he influences men to sin in:
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? Acts 5:3 NASB
In other words, Satan worked in the sons of disobedience not only by blinding them to the glory of the Gospel, but also by filling their hearts with extraordinary desires for evil:
And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. Luke 22:3-4 NASB
Satan entered Judas and conferred with the chief priests and captains how he might betray Yeshua.
Satan is further characterized as "The spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience"—the word "working" here is from the Greek word energeo, which always denotes: "supernatural power" in the New Testament. It has already been used of God in 1:11 and 20.
Notice that the text says, "...that is now working..."— this now is not our now, it was now of the first century. When you think of the Charismatic movement, you think of speaking in tongues, or Benny Hinn knocking people down, and things like that. But there are some underlying things in the Charismatic world-view that are really very, very terrifying. They have a preoccupation with Satan and demons.
A common myth is that Satan is the source of all our trials, problems, and difficulties. Back in the late 60's and early 70's, Flip Wilson had a saying: "The devil made me do it." And more recently Andrea Yates, the mother that killed her five children, said the same thing. She said that the devil made her do it. Is the devil the cause of all our problems?
What does the New Testament teach about dealing with demons today? Nothing! Does it tell us to call the exorcist? No! Are we told to plead the blood? No! Don't reduce Christianity to a bunch of hocus pocus. The New Testament teaches very clearly that the devil and his demons have been defeated and destroyed by Christ:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 NASB
One of the aspects of Christ's earthly mission was to destroy the devil. The Greek word for destroy is katargeo, which means: "to be entirely idle (useless), lit. or fig.:—abolish, cease, destroy, do away, make of no effect, bring to nought." Was Christ a failure in this mission? Most Christians act like He was; they're still all worried about the devil. I think we want him to still be around so we have someone to blame for our sin.
the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 NASB
The Greek word for "destroy" is luo, which means: "to loosen, destroy, dissolve, put off." Christ is said to have destroyed the devil and his works. Do you believe the Bible?:
When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Colossians 2:15 NASB
According to my Bible, Satan is a defeated foe. Yeshua has conquered the devil. The Lord Yeshua accomplished what He came to do, and the Book of Revelation is the story of this accomplishment. Satan is no longer the "god of the age." Yeshua now has the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:18). In Chap 12 the devil stands before the woman to devour her son when he is born, but he is caught up to heaven to the throne of God. There is a war in heaven which Satan loses, and he is thrown down to the earth. He knows that his time is short, so persecutes the woman and her seed. I believe this chapter sums up the great events of the generation of Yeshua and His apostles.
We must understand that the destruction of Satan and the coming of Christ are concurrent events. Satan is destroyed at the Second Coming of Christ:
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. Revelation 20:10-11 NASB
The devil is destroyed, and heaven and earth pass away at the Second Coming of Christ.
"Sons of disobedience"—the Greek word that was translated "disobedience" here is apeitheia. This word was also translated: "unbelief." Therefore, this is not denoting anyone who ever disobeys. It is specifying the unbeliever—those who have not put their faith in Christ for salvation.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:3 NASB
In verses 1 and 2, the pronoun "you" is employed, but in verse 3 Paul changes to "we." The "you" refers to the Gentiles; the "we" refers to the Jews. It's interesting that it is here that Paul chooses to unite the Jews and the Gentiles in the common condition of sin and death. It is one thing for Paul to have said these words concerning the Gentiles. No Jew would disagree with him on that point. But Paul says these things about the Jews. The Jews thought that they were born "special," that they were, because of their physical descent from Abraham, better than the Gentiles:
"We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; Galatians 2:15 NASB
This self-righteous claim of the Jews, is not only challenged, but reversed by Paul, when he writes, "Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."
"Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh..."—If we want to get to the root of why we sin, we need to look to what Paul says is a third cause of our deadness. Not the world. Not Satan. People often ask, If Satan is defeated why is there still evil in the world? Where does evil come from?:
The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Isaiah 45:7 NASB
The word translated here as "calamity" is the Hebrew word ra and is better translated as "evil." Now, when you say that Yahweh causes evil, most Christians go into paroxysms. Yet, the whole Bible is filled with this idea. Evil is something that most Christians would associate with Satan, not God.
If you examine every instance of "ra" in the Hebrew text, you will notice that "ra'" in Genesis 6:5 and in a number of other places is translated: "wickedness." In fact, "ra'" is translated: "wickedness" some 50 times in the Tanakh. Toward the end of Genesis "ra'" refers to an alleged thief, many sins from which the angel had redeemed Jacob, and three times the brother's sin against Joseph. You can study the whole Tanakh for yourself, and you will see that "ra'" often means: "sin as distinct from its punishment."
If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it? Amos 3:6 NASB
God is in absolute control of everything that happens, both good and evil. God is sovereign. Now you might be asking: "Why did God decree sin?":
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? Romans 9:22 NASB
He focuses on the great patience of God, who keeps back His wrath from those who deserve judgment. Paul's argument emphasizes that the only thing that is not fair or just is that God has acted in mercy.
To demonstrate His wrath and; "make His power known..."—How does God make His power known? By the judgment of sin. Sin provides a means for God to be glorified.
People think that we need a devil for men to sin, but James put it this way:
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. James 1:14 NASB
James says that sin comes from our own lust. It is my opinion that sin is part of the human constitution. This is what Paul goes on to tell us, "...and were by nature children of wrath"—the word "nature" here from the Greek phusis. This word is only used 11 times in the New Testament and has the idea of: "by birth," as seen in:
"We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; Galatians 2:15 NASB
Nature here is phusis. They were born Jews, and all men are born children of wrath. Notice what Paul says in:
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14 NASB
This is a very mis-interpreted verse. Many see this verse as saying that God has written on the heart of every man a basic moral code. That code is similar to the things contained in the Ten Commandments. This universal moral code consists of things like "Do not steal," "Do not cheat," "Tell the truth," "Honor your parents," "Keep your word," "Help the poor," "Do not kill," and so on.
One commentator writes, "He has written His moral standards into the human DNA so that even remote tribal groups understand something of God's Law." Is that true? Do all men know God's Law? I sure don't see this. From what I understand, this verse in Romans is the proof verse for this teaching. Many take this verse to mean that the Gentiles "by nature" do some things the Law requires. They take it to mean that there is something inside the heart of man that compels him to keep the moral standards that God laid down in the Ten Commandments.
The key to understanding this verse is translation. All the major translations have missed it here, and their mistake has led to a faulty view of the innate knowledge of God. The phrase "by nature" goes with the possession of the Law, not with the doing of the Law. Those who do not have the Law by nature, or by birth, are Gentiles. These Gentiles who do not have the Torah, yet do the Torah, are Christian Gentiles.
Most Christians believe that personal sins come from indwelling sin, or man's sinful nature that he inherited from Adam. I don't believe that man inherited a sin nature from the fall. I think that men are sinful because they are human. Because of the fall all men are born in condemnation, which means under the wrath of God, in a state of spiritual death. The condemnation that we received from Adam was removed in Christ:
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NASB
Through our union with Christ we are no longer under condemnation, the wrath of God. There is no more spiritual death, we are now alive in Christ. But we still sin because we are still human. But thank God because we are in Christ, we are no longer under the law of sin and death. Adam's sin brought all men under condemnation, but it did not make them sinners. Why did Adam and Eve sin? It is in the human constitution to rebel against God.
If you want to know the root of your sin, don't look to the world; don't look to Satan; look to yourself. There you will find all of the corruption and rottenness that you see in everyone else.
"By nature" means that we didn't have to develop to become children of wrath. "By nature" denies any process of development. We are by nature, by birth, children of wrath.
Paul says we were, "Children of wrath"—this Hebrew expression means that they are characterized by being under God's holy wrath against sin. While modern man scoffs at the notion of God's wrath, it is a concept that occurs hundreds of times in both the Tanakh and New Testaments, especially in the final book of the Bible.
We talked last week about Paul's prayer for these saints, that was, "that you may know Yahweh better." Today it is because churchanity does not know God if they think He is not a God of wrath. If you read the book of Ezekiel, you will see that God is a God of wrath. Ezekiel is a prophet to the Jews who had been deported from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. He is prophesying about the destruction of Jerusalem:
"The inhabited cities will be laid waste and the land will be a desolation. So you will know that I am the LORD."'" Ezekiel 12:20 NASB
"I, the LORD, have spoken; it is coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I will judge you," declares the Lord GOD.'" Ezekiel 24:14 NASB
"Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, prophesy against her and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, And I will be glorified in your midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments in her, And I will manifest My holiness in her. Ezekiel 28:21-22 NASB
Sixty-three times in this book Yahweh says that they "will know that I am Yahweh." They will know Him by His wrath. His wrath reveals His character. And those who have not trusted in Yeshua are under His wrath:
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36 NASB
Our text for this morning in Ephesians is not a very encouraging text, but it accurately portrays man apart for Yahweh. The good news comes next week. We see the contrast to these verses when Paul says, "But God...made us alive."
|Continue the Series|