Chapter 1 concludes with Paul’s beautiful prayer for the saints in Ephesus praying that they would know the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To know God means to have an intimate relationship with Him so that we might see Him, know Him, feel His love, discover His wisdom, draw on His strength, and rely on His power.
As we begin chapter 2 we are resting together in confidence of our salvation, in the love of the Father who saved us by grace. Then Paul uses an incomplete sentence that leaves the readers in suspense while they wait for the solution to their spiritual dilemma. “And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins…..” The readers are being reminded of their former pagan existence before they received new life in Christ. The truth revealed about the life of unbelievers is that it is marked by sin, “you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. They are under the influence of the world, ruled by Satan who continuously spawns rebellion against God and the things of God.
“And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…”
Notice the plural of these words, “transgressions” and “sins”; this indicates repetitive involvement in sin and deliberate acts of rebellion against God. Paul attributes a life marked by sin to two factors: the influence of the fallen world and the forces of Satan in our culture. Paul refers to Satan as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” and those under his influence as “the sons of disobedience”. From Genesis through Revelation we have many description of Satan and his activities. He is the one who holds the power of death, the devil; he is the one who practices sin from the beginning from the past and continuing to his present actions still in progress; he is the ancient dragon who deceives the world with his minions and he is currently energizing the sons of disobedience. Paul is clear, before we believed we, all of us, “lived our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest”.
“So put to death whatever in your nature belongs to the earth: sexual immorality, impurity, shameful passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming on the sons of disobedience. You also lived your lives in this way at one time, when you used to live among them. But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices”. Colossians 3:5-9
Remember that the letter to the Colossians was written at same time as Ephesians, it supplies a good list to explain the “sinful nature” that dominates our life before we believe. It is important to note, that we are too often focused on what is acceptable or defined as sin in light of our current cultural beliefs rather than on what God has declared about these actions. We need to be aware of the efforts and directions in our world by “the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience” that is in direct contradiction to what God has declared as sin. Often we think our opinion about what is sin and what is not sin has more value that what God has declared as sin. Paul is building his argument for our hopeless condition: we lived in sin and we lived among sinful people. This is as true today as it was in the first century; nothing has changed about the world’s path or the sons of disobedience.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!” Paul moves from our gloomy, hopeless condition of mankind to the two most welcome words in all of scripture: “but God. God could have left us spiritually dead, in rebellion against him and in bondage to our sins. But he didn’t. He did not save us because of, but rather in spite of, what he saw in us.” It is all about God, it is God that acts on our behalf because of His great love, it is God who is rich in mercy, it is God who made us alive in Christ – by grace you are saved! We have a new position, we are now “alive in God”, in contrast to the dark doom of being “dead in our transgressions”.
Now that we are “alive to God” we are “dead to sin” which means being “set free from sin”. From Romans 6:12-14 – Paul says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”