Ephesians 2:1-3

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,

in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

and you (v.1) — referring back to chapter 1 and the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead

made alive (v.1) = to cause to live, to give life, to quicken — Interesting note: In Greek, the main verb doesn’t appear until v.5.

dead (v.1) —spiritually dead, separated from God and His life

Only the Son of God could speak life to the daughter of Jairus, to the young man of Nain, and to Lazarus. So we were dead, every one of us, we who are now saved. Some were deeply corrupted because of sin, others perhaps did not know so much of its vileness and corruption, but all alike were dead before God and needed new and divine life. — Ironside, page 101.

trespasses (v.1) = stepping out of line

sins (v.1) = missing the mark

Note the difference between the two expressions. Sinning is missing the mark. Trespass is the violation of a definite law. We see the sign, “No trespassing,” and know that that means that we cannot pass a certain boundary without being guilty of transgressing. You and I are guilty on both counts. We are sinners, for we have taken our own way; and we are trespassers, because we have actually transgressed what we know to be the revealed will of God; and so we are dead to God in our natural condition. — Ironside, page 101

It was not physical death, although that is caused in the last analysis by sin. This state of death was linked with trespasses and sins in that it had to do with the moral and ethical part of the individual, his reason, will and emotions. He was living in a state of separation from God and His life in that the latter did not energize and control the reason, will and emotions of the person. These were very active, but were energized by the totally depraved nature. The word “trespasses” is the translation of paraptoma from parapipto, “to fall beside a person or thing, to slip aside, hence, to deviate from the right path, to turn aside, to wander.” Thus, in the word paraptoma, sin is looked upon as a lapse or deviation from truth or uprightness, a trespass, a misdeed. “Sins” is the rendering of hamartia from hamartano, “to miss the mark.” It was used in the Greek classics of a spearman missing the target at which he aimed the spear. It was used in the ethical terminology of the Greeks to mean “to fail of one’s purpose, to go wrong.” In the N.T., it speaks of sin as the act of a person failing to obey the Word of God, failing to measure up in his life to the will of God. Its use is excellently illustrated in Romans 3:28, “All have sinned (missed the mark), and at present come short of the glory of God.” The mark or target is the glory of God. Man was created to glorify God. His attempt, where the attempt is made, to live a life pleasing to God, falls short of the target, like a spear thrown by an athlete, falls short of the target at which it is thrown. — Wuest, page 60.

Verses 2 and 3 are an interruption of the thought in v.1 that is continued in v.4.

In which (v.2) — referring back to trespasses and sins

walked (v.2) = walked around, made one’s way, progressed, conducted one’s self. The tense indicates an overall view — the whole life of an unsaved person is nothing but sin — The unsaved order their behavior, regulate their lives within the sphere of trespasses and sins. (Wuest, page 61).

according to (v.2) = dominated by or controlled by

course of this world (v.2) — “Course” is aion, all that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitutes a most real and effective power, being the moral or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale.

To distinguish the words, one could say that kosmos gives the over-all picture of mankind alienated from God during all history, and aion represents any distinct age or period of human history as marked out from another by particular characteristics. — Wuest, page 61

prince (v.2) = first in an order of persons or things

power (v.2) = authority — Wuest says this refers to demons. I’m not sure.

air (v.2) = the lower level of the atmosphere, the one in which we live

spirit (v.2) = one’s way of thinking and acting — (here) our evil tendency, the characteristic of the unsaved

now works (v.2) = to be operative

sons (v.2) — Huios, “sons” is a Hebrew idiom in which one calls a person having a peculiar quality, or subject to a peculiar evil, a son of that quality. The unsaved are called sons of disobedience in the sense that they have the character of being disobedient. — Wuest, page 63.

disobedience (v.2) = impersuadable, uncompliant

The Greek construction of verse 2 indicates that Satan is the leader of the authority of the lower atmosphere and the leader of the spirit that works in the unsaved.

among whom (v.3) — referring to the sons of disobedience in v.2 — not “in the midst of” but “numbered among whom”

conducted (v.3) = behaved — had our conversation (KJV)

lusts (v.3) = passionate longings, cravings

flesh (v.3) — our totally depraved old nature

mind (v.3) = the faculty of understanding, feeling and desiring — when plural, as here = the thoughts — evil thoughts

fulfilling (v.3) = to do, perform, accomplish — tense indicates habitual behavior

desires (v.3) = desires that come from the emotions rather than the reason

were (v.3) = continuous action or state of being

by nature (v.3) = innate, implanted by nature

children (v.3) = to give birth to — so we were sinners from birth

wrath (v.3) = God’s holy hatred of sin

By nature accords with children, implying what is innate. Wrath is God’s holy hatred of sin; His essential antagonism to everything evil (Romans 1:18). This holy displeasure of God with sin is not inconsistent with His love, but is the reaction of that love against the denial of its sovereign rights of responsive love. The term phusis (nature), though it may occasionally be applied to what is habitual or to character as developed, means properly what is innate, implanted in one by nature, and this with different shades of meaning (compare Romans 2:14; Galatians 2:15; Galatians 4:8). The clause means, therefore, that in their pre-Christian life those meant by the hemeis pantes (we all) were in the condition of subjection to the divine wrath; and that they were so not by deed merely , nor by circumstance, nor by passing into it, but by nature. Their universal sin has already been affirmed. This universal sin is now described as sin by nature. Beyond this, Paul does not go in this present passage. But the one is the explanation of the other. Universal sin implies a law of sinning, a sin that is of the nature; and this, again, is the explanation of the fact that all are under the divine wrath, for the divine wrath operates only where sin is. Here is the essential meaning of the doctrine of original sin. — Wuest, pages 64-65.

This doctrine has suffered from many misconceptions, for the average person would define total depravity by saying that it means that man is as bad as he can be. However, if we adopt that as an acceptable definition, immediately our theology is brought into question because we know men who are not as bad as they can be. We know many men who are good men, kind men, generous men, moral men, men who contribute much in the home and in the community.

Rather, the doctrine of depravity says that man is as bad off as he can be. There is a vast difference between being as bad as he can be and being as bad off as he can be. The doctrine of depravity has to do, not with man’s estimation of man, but rather with God’s estimation of man … When we measure men by man, we can always find someone who is lower than we are on the moral or ethical scale, and the comparison gives us feeling of self-satisfaction. But the Scriptures do not measure men by man; they measure men by God who has created them. The creature is measured by the Creator and is found to be wanting. — Sadler, pages 90-91

Just a random thought I had while doing this study.We live in an age when it is enough to intend to achieve an outcome. We don’t have to actually achieve it to feel good about ourselves. For example, to enact laws “intended” to help the poor is honorable, regardless of whether any poor are actually helped.  On any issue, it is enough to sympathize with, to march in parade for, to agree with or to protest for. As long as we’re seen to be on the side of some issue, we matter. Or we think we do.

I think that’s why so many people have a hard time with God. They want to be good. They do good things. They espouse causes that they believe are good. They think that should be good enough. They think that what they feel ought to count with God.

But God says that nothing we do is good enough. None of our sympathies or efforts match His standards. We all fall short. We are incapable of achieving the outcome of being saved by anything we do, say or think. And and that makes people angry. They think God isn’t playing by the rules. But they forget that man has made those rules. The only rules that count are God’s rules and His rules say we fail.

Only Christ has kept God’s rules and it is only in Christ that we can meet God’s standards.

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