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 ESV)
Up until this point in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he has explained God’s plan for the human race. And he reminded us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is now living inside every true believer in the form of the Holy Spirit. This becomes very important for what Paul writes next.
The world tells us that the human race is merely “ill” and we can be cured of our illnesses – e.g. greed, hate, etc – with counseling or medications or through political solutions. But that is not what God says. God says we are “dead”. When something is dead it cannot cure itself. It can not help itself in any way. It is dead. This is the spiritual state of every human being at birth.
Just like God breathed physical life into Jesus after He lay dead in a grave for three days, God gives spiritual life to those who believe. The only way Jesus could come back from the dead was through the power of God that Paul just referenced [Ephesians 1:19-20]. And the only way that anyone can achieve spiritual life is by the same power of God. There is no other way.
Those who are dead are living (“walking”) in such a way as to keep themselves dead. The Greek words for “trespasses” and “sins” are παραπτομα (pronounced: par-ap’-to-mah) and ηαμαρτια (pronounced: ham-ar-tee’-ah). The former means “to cross a line” while the latter means “to fall short of a standard” which in God’s case is perfection. “Trespass” speaks of man as a rebel. “Sin” speaks of man as a failure.
The believers in Ephesus used to be like this. Certainly believers (then and now) still sin. But they are no longer “walking” in sin. The word picture here is of someone who continually practices sinful behavior without knowing it or, if they do know it, not caring about it.
Notice that Paul tells the believers in Ephesus (and thereby believers today) that they “were” dead. This verb is in the past tense which means they are no longer spiritually dead. If they are not dead then they must be alive.
By implication this also tells us that anyone who is not a child of God by believing in Jesus Christ [John 1:12] is currently spiritually dead. Man puts all kinds of labels on each other. We label people by skin color, gender, sexual orientation, age, political party and myriad other categories.
But God only sees two kinds of people: those who are spiritually dead and those who He has made spiritually alive.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.