And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 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— 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).
Paul here contrasts the life of the Ephesian believers when they were unbelievers with their lives when they became believers.
Dead In Sin
Prior to conversion, the Ephesians were dead in sin. They were unregenerated, unbelievers and sinners born in sin. This is not only true of the believers in Ephesus. It is true of everyone today who is a believer. Previously, you were dead in sin and naturally couldn’t obey God. This is also the current state of every unbeliever. You are a sinner dead in sin who needs life from God: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”(v1).
Under Satan’s Control
Because the Ephesians were dead in sin prior to conversion, they were by nature under Satan’s dominion. They live to do the bidding of the “prince of the power of the air”(v2). This was not only true of the Ephesian believers. It was true also of the apostle Paul who wrote the letter. See how he uses inclusive language: “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”(v3).
Further, this is equally true of any one who has not tasted of the salvation of God. You are in bondage to Satan. You are a child of disobedience. You are under the wrath of God and if you don’t repent, God’s full wrath would be poured on you one day: “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”(Rom 2:5).
From vv 1-3, we see the hopeless state of every sinner. He is dead in sin. That is, he has not got the ability in himself to respond to God: “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). In fact, if left on her own, the sinner would not come to God. She needs help from outside herself. To be dead in sin is comparable to a corpse. A corpse cannot give life to itself can it?
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved” (vv4-5).
“But God”. This juxtaposes God’s ability with our inability: what we couldn’t do with what God did in our regeneration. Out of our despondent, desperate, hopeless situation as sinners, hope sprung from God. From v4 onwards, we see the love and mercy of God at display towards the sinner
A New Life
When God intervenes in our deadness, He gives us eternal life. Not only life in this world, but in the world to come. The sinner who once had no hope is now given hope in this life because he is now united with Christ and reconciled to God: “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”(v5). We are seated in the heavenly places. We are citizens of heaven. We have hope now and hope in the life to come. God has purposed to show us “in the coming ages…the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(v7).
All of Grace
This new life is not a result of anything good or meritorious work in us. It is a new life that springs from the love, mercy and grace–unmerited favour– of God :”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (v8-9).
Would you lay hold of this new life by Faith in Christ? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).