Ephesians:2:1-3,  “The Condition Of Men Apart From Jesus Christ”


Jim Bomkamp

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1.     INTRO:


1.1.                     In our last study, we looked at verses 15-23 of chapter 1 and Paul’s incredible prayer for the Ephesian believers.


1.1.1.  We saw that the prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians was a representative prayer that corresponded to the greatest spiritual needs of God’s people of all times.  Thus, we needed to study this prayer carefully to see how it applied our life.


1.1.2.  The prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians was that they might understand for themselves and for their own lives the things that Paul had explained to them earlier in the chapter, things that are part of the inheritance which all believers receive in Christ, and that they might wrap their hope around these great promises for them.


1.1.3.  The prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians was mostly a prayer that they should come to know the Lord more intimately, that they would know Him.  It was not just head knowledge but rather heart knowledge that he desired for them.


1.2.                     In our study today, we are going to look at the first three verses of chapter 2 in which Paul begins to describe the life of a non-believer, that life which each person is born into and which is only transformed and regenerated through receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.


1.2.1.  Paul will describe for us in the most graphic and compelling of terms the condition of sinful men apart from Jesus Christ.


1.2.2.  We will see how that understanding the condition of men apart from Christ should encourage us to reach out and to share the gospel with people whenever and wherever we are able to do so.


2.     VS 1:1-2  - “1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 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.” -  Paul tells the Ephesians that they were dead in their trespasses and sins


2.1.                     In our previous studies in this book of Ephesians we have seen that the apostle Paul has been teaching the Ephesians primarily about the great riches that are their inheritance “in Christ  This phrase “in Christ” we have seen appears all throughout this book and is used to explain that the things that believers have because of their salvation have come to them not because of any goodness or righteousness of their own, not because they have arranged some sort of special deal or relationship with God on their own, not because of their special achievements or desire to serve and honor the Lord, not because of any of their self efforts, but simply because of their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Being adopted children of God through saving faith in Jesus Christ all people become joint-heirs with Jesus Christ of all that He has.


2.2.                     The list of things that belong to Christians listed in chapter one is an incredible list.  These things all which are “from the grace of God” shown to us in Jesus Christ reveal to us both “how greatly rich we are as Christians” and also “the fact that Christ is our sufficiency” in every need and situation in life that we may find ourselves in.  In fact, we have seen that in his letters Paul always begins to speak ecstatically whenever he mentions God’s grace, and this is because he realized that “God’s grace to us in Christ is infinite” in its ability to provide all that we need.


2.3.                     We saw that God’s grace has not been given to us in a miserly way but rather “God has lavished His grace upon us” and we have received grace upon grace.  Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know “the riches of His grace 


2.4.                     Finally, we saw that “everything that we have or are has come to us from the grace of God


2.5.                     Having enumerated and expounded upon the great treasures that belong to every single Christian simply because of their being “in Christ,” Paul now takes a diversion and begins to talk about the condition of those who are lost in this world, those who are not in Christ, the ones who are without God, without spiritual life, and without hope in this life.


2.6.                     One thing that we all need to consider as we begin this study is that we need to set aside our own philosophical ideas and opinions and look carefully at what the scriptures themselves tell us about man.  What we are going to study is what the scriptures tell us about man and what they reveal goes against what the vast majority of people in this world believe.  The prevailing philosophies about the nature of man which we see in movies, on television, in novels, in newspapers, internet web sites, etc. are really in opposition to what the scriptures clearly tell us about the nature of man.  The prevalent philosophies of men today consist of the following.


2.6.1.  Man in his basic nature is good, this is the basis of “humanism  Given the right circumstances, environment, opportunities, and education men and women will choose to do good and right and utopian societies will always pop up.  For example, I think of the Star Trek television series portrayals of life hundreds of years in the future where mankind has finally chosen that which is good and right and harmony exists throughout.  Mankind is now living contentedly, having set aside all selfishness and self-centeredness, and is pursuing great altruistic goals of benefiting mankind.      Just watching one television news broadcast or reading one daily newspaper ought to be enough to blow away the concept that the character of men is getting any better.  Mankind is no better today than during its early history when men are considered to have been uncivilized.


2.6.2.  Though men and women may sin that these offenses committed are atypical of mankind and not representative of the real or true nature of men and women since man’s nature is basically good.


2.6.3.  If there is a hell that only the very worst of people will eventually end up there because God must surely realize that most people are basically good and do good and therefore deserve to go to heaven. 


2.6.4.  Because God is a loving God He could never condemn or judge anyone (except perhaps the most wicked), and because God is loving He could never be a God of wrath or exact vengeance.      Those who would hold to this view today would see the traditional views of the Bible concerning the nature of God as being outdated and rooted in the cultural biases of less civilized people living hundreds and thousands of years ago.


2.6.5.  Though men and women occasionally may slip up and commit a sin here or a sin there that they can have a relationship with God that is not dependent upon Jesus Christ and the sacrificial work that He performed at the cross of Calvary paying for mankind’s sins.


2.6.6.  Men and women have in their own will power and desire the ability to lift themselves up by their boot straps, change their life and do anything that they want to do with their life, that they can do good and be righteous before God if they truly choose and desire to do so.


2.7.                     Let me say now that if you simply study the Bible you will find from cover to cover the fact that regardless of today’s prevailing philosophies that the scriptures do not paint a good picture of mankind apart from Jesus Christ.  This is not my opinion which I am stating here, this is a fact and can only be obvious to anyone who simply and honestly studies the scriptures.


2.8.                     The first thing that Paul tells the Ephesians about mankind, and themselves, is ‘you were dead 


2.8.1.  Note that Paul doesn’t say that “some” of them had at one time been dead.  He states that before coming to Jesus Christ for salvation they “all” were dead.


2.8.2.  The word ‘dead’ here does not refer to “physical death,” it refers to “spiritual death  The Ephesians had been spiritually ‘dead      There can be no more graphic picture portrayed concerning the nature of man than that he was ‘dead      What does the concept of death imply?           One who is dead does not move and is not able to move for rigor mortis has set in.           He does not feel or sense anything, does not even think.           After death decay begins to occur.           There is finality in death.


2.8.3.  In 1968, a low budget movie was released called “The Night Of The Living Dead  It was a movie in which seven people who are mostly strangers are trapped in a remote farmhouse when the bodies of those who had recently died began coming back to life.  These “zombies” (this word is defined as a dead person who walks around) continue to multiply and soon begin to surround the farmhouse.  The intention of the “zombies” is the eating of human flesh.  When the people in the farmhouse try to escape to flee to the next town they soon fall into grave trouble.  Well, Paul tells us here that the people of this world apart from Jesus Christ are really “the walking dead  Non-believers are “zombies


2.8.4.  Being spiritually dead, non-believers are not capable of searching after God or having a spiritual sensitivity to the Lord.  They are lifeless and spiritual rigor mortis has set it.  The decay non-believers experience is “moral decay” and what occurs in their life is at a minimum a gradual downward spiral of self-destruction and dehumanization, which for some becomes a much quicker spiritual towards spiritual rock bottom.      Paul wrote about the condition of people in this world in Romans 3:10-17 and that passage supports the truth about people in this world being spiritually dead, “10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one13 “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; 14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 16 Destruction and misery are in their paths, 17 And the path of peace they have not known.””


2.8.5.  Since all people are spiritually dead and incapable of seeking God, if anyone does come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior it is only because the Lord has miraculously given them the ability to respond to Him and then spiritually resurrected and regenerated them to new life. 


2.9.                     Notice in this description of mankind apart from Jesus Christ in these first verses of chapter two that Paul does not refer to the state of Jews or Gentiles.  He tells the Ephesians that everyone of them originally were in this state before they came to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and that being a descendant of Abraham or trying to live under the Old Covenant made no distinction in regards to this.  I wonder if the Jews in the congregations in Asia Minor who received this letter were shocked and perhaps even offended at first upon reading these things about themselves having once been dead in trespasses and sins?


2.10.                Paul writes that we were all dead ‘in trespasses and sins 


2.10.1.                     The Greek word translated ‘trespasses’ is “paroptoma,” and is found 23 times in the New Testament.  It means “to push away or deviate from truth and righteousness The people in this world in their natural state apart from Jesus Christ tend to push away or deviate from the truth and the commandments of God. Though people in this world may believe in the concept of sin, they usually tend to generalize the concept of sin and ignore or gloss over the Ten Commandments.  Doing this they really redefine right and wrong and thus become in effect their own god.  They tend to believe that if there is a God that He really isn’t so interested in the specifics of keeping His commandments, the commandments are sort of looked at as being optional.


2.10.2.                     The Greek word translated ‘sins’ is “hamartia,” a word that is found 172 times in the New Testament.  It was a word originally used in archery for “missing the mark or target” and was adopted by the early church to refer to sin, which is the “missing of the mark” of God’s righteousness. By using this word, Paul is inferring that there is a standard of righteousness by which God judges mankind, and that when men, women, and children miss this mark they have committed a sinful offense against a holy God.


2.10.3.                     So, this was the state of all people before coming to Christ, they were ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ men, women, children, Jews, and Gentiles.  All were dead spiritually, unreceptive to God and incapable of doing good or seeking God, and, they were living in this world committing trespasses and sins against God.


2.11.                Paul tells the Ephesians that they were dead in their trespasses and sins, ‘in which you formerly walked  This ‘walked’ indicates the manner in which they lived their lives.  They were doing certain things and exhibiting a certain kind of behavior. 


2.12.                The doctrine of “Original Sin” is revealed in these descriptions by Paul of the Ephesians.  This is the doctrine that teaches that all of us as human beings have inherited a sinful nature from Adam who is our federal head and that when he sinned we were in him and thus sinned also.  Therefore, we aren’t sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners.  Sin is in our very nature, it is a fallen nature.


2.12.1.                     Note that Paul doesn’t tell the Ephesians that it was only after a certain age that they began to be dead or began to walk in this sort of way.  From the moment of conception the Ephesians, as well as every person who ever lived, were the walking dead, spiritually speaking, and they lived their life in trespasses and sins.  King David had a remarkable insight into this when he wrote Psalm 51:5, “5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me


2.12.2.                     We will see in a moment that Paul will begin to speak of the “nature” of the Ephesians, and this “nature” is the sinful nature which they inherited from Adam.


2.13.                Paul tells the Ephesians that being sinners with an inherited sinful nature in which they are dead in trespasses and sins, that they have been walking according to two different influences in their life:  


2.13.1.                     The ‘course of this world The Greek word translated ‘world’ here is “kosmos,” from which we get our English word “cosmology,” and it refers not to the cosmos as such but rather to the world that is presently in rebellion against the Lord.  There is a world system here that is in rebellion against the Lord, for there is a prevailing ungodly philosophy that we discussed earlier in this study. This ‘world’ is promoting a lifestyle that is in rebellion against the Lord and His Laws and righteousness, and we see this underlying principle and force operating in every secular movie, television show, music CD, sporting event, civic club or membership, election of government officials, etc. We as Christians are warned in several places in scripture to beware of the influence of this world in our life.  In 1 John 2:15-17, the apostle John wrote the following warning about not getting caught up in worldliness and the things and philosophy of this world that is in rebellion against the Lord, “15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever This world in rebellion against the Lord has been inspired by the Devil and his angels and set in place in order to cause people to stumble spiritually and fall into temptations and sin.


2.13.2.                     The ‘prince of the power of the air There is an animating spiritual principle that is at work in the lives of all people who do not know the Lord.  People may think that they are free to do whatever they want to do and that they make all of their own choices however the scriptures tell us that mankind is blinded to the truth and that their wills are in bondage to the wicked spirits that are in high places.  Apart from Christ people cannot choose to do good even if they wanted to do so.      In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 Paul wrote about how the Devil has blinded the minds of all of those who do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, “3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God When people rebel against the Lord and walk in sin they are being compelled to do so by wicked spirits in the spiritual realm, and yet they have no idea that they are really being incited and controlled to do these things. Though Satan can do nothing without the Lord’s permission, the scriptures tell us that it is the case that this evil world in rebellion against God is in the control of the Devil as 1 John 5:19, for instance, tells us, “19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one  When our judicial system votes making abortion on demand legal, outlaws prayer in schools, outlaws the displaying of the Ten Commandments at our courthouses, etc., we know that Satan is pulling the strings. To say that Satan is the prince of the ‘power of the air’ refers the realm of his influence in this world.  The world is where he has his influence over mankind.  Perhaps this phrase should be translated, “power of the age


2.14.                Paul writes here, ‘the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience’ and I want to point a couple of things that this phrase indicates:


2.14.1.                     Paul indicates the fact that the Devil is working in the lives of the unbelieving.


2.14.2.                     Notice what Paul calls all of those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior:  ‘sons of disobedience 


3.     VS 2:3  - ‘3 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.’ -  Paul tells the Ephesians that all of us once lived this sort of life he has described so far in this chapter, and we have lived in and indulged the lusts of the flesh and of the mind


3.1.                     I point out to you what is very important for you to realize here, namely, that Paul is saying that we ‘all’ were like the men he has just described in the first two verses.  Then, as if to make his point absolutely clear he adds at the end of this verse, ‘even as the rest  Every man, woman, and child were once dead in our trespasses and sins and walking according to this evil world in rebellion against God, being inspired and led by the evil principle of wicked spirits and their influence.


3.2.                     Paul uses this Greek word “sarx” which is translated ‘flesh’ here, and as Lloyd-Jones points out, in the New Testament this word can refer to “our whole person,” “that which covers our bones,” as well as “the sinful nature within us with all of its desires and lusts  The word used in this later case refers to that part of every person that desires to rebel against the Lord and His will for our lives.  The word is used 151 times in the New Testament and the context of the word in the text tells us which of these three possibilities it means. 


3.3.                     There are two types of lusts that Paul states that the people of this world living apart from Jesus Christ indulge:


3.3.1.  The ‘lusts of the flesh      When Paul speaks of the ‘lusts of our flesh’ here he is referring to this evil sinful nature within us.  He is saying that in every person’s life there once was a time when he was giving in to this sinful nature and its desires in his life.  The one who is a non-believer lives every single day of his/her life being dominated by the flesh.  They might try to cover this fact up and make themselves look good on the outside, however they are doing this.      The word ‘lust’ means “desire  In the Old Testament one of the Ten Commandments was, “Thou shalt not covet  This word “covet” means to desire things that are outside of God’s will for your life.  This is what the ‘lusts’ that Paul is speaking of refers to.  As people we all have desires.  These desires are the result of living in this body.  However, when we harbor desires for things that are outside of God’s will for our lives this is to sin the sin of coveting.  This is a ‘lust of the flesh  Desire for food is neutral in and of itself however if you do let that desire rule your life and not be controlled by the Lord it is a sin.  It is a ‘lust of the flesh  Desire for sex is a natural desire arising from the bodies we have however if you allow your self to harbor a desire for sex that is outside of God’s will for your life, that is outside of monogamous marriage, this is a sin.  It is a ‘lust of the flesh      In the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul describes both the life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit as well as the life lived in the ‘flesh,” and in Gal. 5:16-20 Paul describes the life of a person when he/she is allowing the ‘flesh’ to dominate, “19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”    


3.3.2.  The ‘lusts of the mind       Paul also writes here that the people in this world have their lives also dominated by the lusts of ‘the mind,’ and I believe that this refers to sins that affect in particular our thought life and heart attitudes.  Pride, jealousy, envy, hatred, anger, greed, hypocrisy, for instance, are sins that originate in ‘the mind      Many times in the church sins of the flesh such as immorality, adultery, stealing, etc. are looked at as being horrible and yet there is a tolerance for sins of ‘the mind      The Pharisees in Jesus’ day tried to keep the Law of Moses to the letter however their observance of the Law was all on the external while internally they were filled with all of these sins of ‘the mind,’ and worst of all they didn’t seem to be bothered that they were allowing these things to take up residence in their life.  They saw themselves as the leaders of the blind, spiritual guides of the people.  However, to the Lord the Pharisees were white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.


3.4.                     Paul speaks of all men here and says that at one time they were ‘by nature’ this way he has described.  Again, we see the sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve in view, or Original Sin.  It was the very ‘nature’ of the people that was the problem to the apostle Paul, it was not individual acts of sin committed by them that was the issue.  Every person by their very ‘nature’ was condemned by the Lord and they were “at enmity” with the Lord even from birth.


3.5.                     Finally, Paul calls them (that is all people apart from Jesus Christ) ‘children of wrath  Every single person before coming to Christ was under the ‘wrath’ of God because of their very ‘nature’ and the sinful acts that they were continually committing. 


3.6.                     People today don’t want to hear that God is a God of ‘wrath Many today say that God cannot be a God of love if He also is wrathful therefore that those who say that the Lord is God of ‘wrath’ are old fashioned in their thinking.  However, I would point out to you several things concerning God’s ‘wrath’ and the scriptures:


3.6.1.  God’s ‘wrath’ is seen all throughout the scriptures, Old Testament and New Testament.      Old Testament instances:           Early in the book of Genesis the Lord destroyed all but eight people in the flood because of His ‘wrath’ against rebellious mankind.           The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah next were destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their sinfulness and rebellious hearts.           Both the northern and southern nations of Israel were taken into captivity because of the ‘wrath’ of God against them because of their rebelliousness.           All of the Old Testament prophets prophesied and pronounced judgment after judgment against all of the nations because of their rebellion against the Lord, and the Lord powerfully judged all of those nations.      New Testament instances (Many today say that the Old Testament God is different than the New Testament God and that in the Old Testament that men misunderstood God and saw Him like the other tribal gods of the nations, however the real God is revealed in the New Testament and that He is not a God of wrath but rather of love and mercy only.)  :           Then, in the New Testament John the Baptist preached a message of repentance to escape the wrath that is to come (see Matt. 3:7 and Luke 3:7 for instance).           Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven, and even in that verse that people always speak about because of its mention of the love of God, John 3:16, Jesus mentioned that you must believe in Jesus or you will perish, “16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”           Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness           Romans 4:15, “15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation           Romans 5:9, “9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him           1 Thessalonians 1:10, “10 and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come           The book of Revelation is a book that describes judgment after judgment that is going to come upon the nations during the seven year Tribulation period, and also of the Great White Throne judgment of condemnation for non-believers (see Rev. 19-20).           Revelation 6:16, “16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb”           Etc., etc., etc.


3.6.2.  God’s wrath is not like the wrath of man.  Man’s wrath arises quickly and is often unjust and carried out rashly.  However, God’s wrath is constant, controlled, and gradually growing against all of those who are living their lives in rebellion against Him.  God’s wrath is always a justified wrath, a righteous anger.


3.6.3.  You cannot understand the gospel, much less God’s love, grace, and mercy, unless you understand first His wrath.  The fact that God is a God of justice and wrath and that sin has to be judged has to be the background for understanding how incredible His love is to then be willing to send His only begotten Son to come to earth and suffer the horrors of crucifixion in order to pay the price for our sins which each of us deserved to pay.  Without understanding God’s wrath Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary was a horrible injustice and completely unnecessary.


3.6.4.  Many people say that they believe in God, however they deny the existence of His wrath and justice.  They in effect have created their own god, and their god is a mere figment of their imagination.  Either you believe the scriptures or you do not, and it is abundantly clear to all who are willing to take an honest look that God is a God of justice and wrath, as well as a God of love. 




4.1.                     Time does not permit us to continue our study at this point, however we have seen in these first three verses that Paul has described man’s condition apart from Jesus Christ.  We will see in our next study how the gospel is introduced as Paul after this incredible description of sinful man says, “But God  Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that this phrase is the gospel in a nutshell.  In it, Paul introduces the fact that in spite of man’s condition of being dead in trespasses and sins, of walking according to this sinful world in rebellion against God, and of being influenced by demonic spirits into further wickedness, that God in His love, mercy, and grace reached out to mankind and provided the way that they could come to salvation.  Again, the God the Father sent His only begotten Son to take away our offenses, to pay the sin debt men owed to God, and provided for the means that men could be resurrected and regenerated to new life.


4.2.                     As we have considered previously the incredible inheritance that all of us as believers in Christ have as our inheritance “in Christ,” and now having seen the horrible, pathetic, and hopeless condition of men apart from Jesus Christ, we Christians ought to be moved to share the good news of the salvation and new life that is available to every man, woman, and child through the cross of Calvary.  How could we not be filled with compassion for those who do not have a clue about the great hope and treasures that we know and experience in Christ?


4.3.                     Until 1885, the dreaded disease, rabies, was unchecked by man. But that year an experiment by Louis Pasteur gave to the world the rabies vaccination.  Pasteur began in 1882 to study the disease, a disease that destroys the nerve cells of part of the brain. He had worked many hours in the laboratory seeking a vaccine to prevent the disease. His long hours in the laboratory were slowly wearing down his health, yet he labored on.  Then in July 1885, a peasant boy, Joseph Meister, was bitten by a mad dog. The boy was brought to Pasteur by his parents. They begged Pasteur to save their son. Pasteur hesitated to use his new vaccine on the boy because it had never been used on a human. Finally, he gave in. And then after several weeks of treatment, the vaccine proved successful and the boy’s life was saved.  You and I as Christians have a vaccination available to us which we can share with others who are dying all around us every single day.  Since I began sharing this message with you this morning almost 9,000 people in our world have died and passed out of this life, most of these people did  not know the Lord and will spend eternity in hell.  This vaccination we have is the gospel message of Jesus Christ and if people will receive Him into their life as Lord and Savior they will never die but spend eternity with God in heaven.  Plus, here in this life they will be saved from their sins and begin to experience the glorious regeneration of new birth through the Holy Spirit.  How can we hold back from sharing that which will save someone for eternity?

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