Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:2f “. . .the spirit. . .”
“The prince of the power of the air” is also the prince of “the spirit” which governs life among the unsaved. An evil principle determines the thought-patterns of the lost. The devil and his demons tempt and harass believers, but dominate and direct unbelievers by controlling what we commonly call the spirit of the times.
The world is wrong because it begins with a false assumption regarding independence. Society does not want to be controlled by the true, living, holy God. Donning a god-mask, society casts off God in hopes of finding independence, but absolute freedom is not a viable option for man. When God is cast off, men do not find freedom. They instead fall under the control of a different “spirit.”
Rebellion was in the universe before man arrived. A kingdom separate from God’s had already been established prior to Eden. When man was created, he had only two choices–God’s kingdom, or Satan’s. These are still the only two options. The saved are under the dominion and protection of God; the lost are subject to a “spirit” directed by Satan.
Eph. 2:2g “. . .that now worketh. . .”
“Worketh” is “energeo” (1:11,19), the root of our words energy and energetic. “Worketh” denotes energizing action, an effective, propelling force. The “spirit” ruled by Satan energizes human society, and animates the lost.
An energy failure stopped my office clock last week. Once I inserted a new battery, the clock began working fine again. The battery energizes (“worketh”) the clock, controls it, determines its life, directs its activity. Similarly, unsaved society is directed by a spirit energized by powers of evil. Satan animates and dictates worldly culture, permitting just enough decency to be mixed in to keep the naive from running in panic.
Note the present tense of “worketh.” Satan never rests. He is always at work, degenerating whatever is good into something bad. He then “worketh” on the bad to make it worse, and on the worse to make it the worst. Once he accomplishes his meanness, he rejoices over the devastation.
His gruesome handiwork is obvious everywhere. “I believe in the devil because I have to. I have to, not merely because it is here–that is enough for me–but I believe it because I cannot explain life without it” (Lloyd-Jones). To ignore Satan is to fail to understand our world.
Satan is a force to be reckoned with in this world. Never try to argue him out of existence. “Paul assumed the devil, revealed him, declared him, took him into account, lectured upon him, defied him, sometimes was rebuffed by him–“Satan hath hindered us”” (Parker). Satan is.
Why has evil always been omnipresent in our world? Satan’s pervasive presence is the only logical explanation. He has ever been at work, making evil a continuous, unbroken mass. Human history is impossible to understand without realizing Satan dominates a “spirit” which has always been at work within society.
Study history. There is uniformity and repetition in it. Man has changed very little. Human thought has remained consistent. A subtle, sinister “spirit” has always been at work.
It is futile to ponder the story of man without reckoning with the devil. Would you write a history of the now defunct Soviet Union and not refer to Lenin or Stalin? Do you think we could understand China without studying the life of Mao Tse Tung? Imagine writing a book on Cuba and never mentioning Fidel Castro. It would be equally ridiculous to analyze world history without taking into account the devil.
Lloyd-Jones tells of a Dr. Joad, who before World War II was an atheist, an unbeliever. After the war, though, he became a believer in God, and explained why. He said the second war convinced him the Bible was right in at least one thing–there is a principle of evil at work. He said he could not explain World War II any other way. It was not an accident. Devilish powers were working in concert at various corners of the globe.
Evil in the world has never been isolated or accidental. Sin has always been everywhere, and produced, spawned by a timeless, international “spirit” ruled by Satan himself. Evil is highly organized.
Eph. 2:2h “. . .in. . .”
Do not overlook this preposition. It is little in size, but big in meaning. “In” emphasizes intimacy. Working “in” this world pictures Satan as near at hand, among us. Society is his workshop. As a blacksmith works in his forge, and as a carpenter works in his shop, Satan works in the midst of men, using lost people’s body parts as tools of sin.
Eph. 2:2i “. . .the children of. . .”
“The children of disobedience” is a much stronger term than merely calling lost men “disobedient.” “Children of” is a Hebraism which denotes a vital connection, total identification. Children share the essential nature of their parents. Children of disobedience are people who “spring from disobedience as the mother who gave them birth” (Hendriksen).
Disobedience is the source and essence of a lost man’s life. Believers, never forget your true ancestry. We began with Adam’s sin, and added to it our own sins. We were heirs of original sin, and parents of actual sins.
Man is the offspring of disobedience, the descendant of defiance. Dissent is in our constitution, a part of the warp and woof of our very being. Only divine regeneration can place within man a nature strong enough to resist and overcome our native bent to disobedience.
In the central ego of every lost person abides a spirit antagonistic to the true claims of God. This disobedience is not negligible or incidental, but integral and affecting everything else. It is the lost person’s parentage, the dominant characteristic of his standing before God. This being the case, it behooves us to know for sure what this condition actually consists of. . .
Eph. 2:2j “. . .disobedience:”
The lost are ruled by a disposition of “disobedience.” The word is “apeithes,” which literally refers to a refusal to be persuaded. The word describes one who will not comply, who refuses to be convinced. It denotes people who, obstinate in error, display toward God a resistance of the will.
We often underestimate the terribleness of lostness. Every day we see lost people in whom we find nothing terribly wrong. Yet if we were to tell such ones face to face they need to repent, they would snarl. A lost man may be decent, ethical, outwardly moral, and respectable, but if we press the claim of God on his life strong enough, loud enough, and long enough, the devil in him will eventually lift its ugly head. Tell a lost man to admit every minute of his life has been wrong, and he will respond with disdain.
God “commandeth all men every where to repent” (AC 17:30). This is not an option, but the lost disobey. They refuse to be persuaded.
What caused the men of Noah’s day to perish in the flood? Their sin? No. Their sin caused the rains to fall, but had they repented and entered the ark, they would have been spared. According to I Peter 3:20, they were “disobedient,” the same Greek word as is used here in Ephesians 2:2. What destroyed them was their refusal to be persuaded of their own error.
What caused the Israelites to spend forty years in the wilderness? Their vile deeds? No. These things brought punishment upon them, but the forty years of wandering was caused by their obstinate attitude. They could not enter God’s rest because they “believed not” (HB 3:18), the same Greek word as used here. At Kadesh-barnea, they refused to be persuaded from the error of unbelief, though Moses, Joshua, and Caleb pled with them.
Why is King Agrippa in Hell? Due to his sins? No. His life was surely an ongoing debauchery, but this did not seal the condemnation of his soul. He is in Hell because he would not be persuaded, he refused to be convinced of Paul’s doctrine. He came close to salvation, but fell short by saying, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (AC 26:28). “Persuaded” is the same Greek word, minus the negative prefix, as used here.
P. P. Bliss perfectly portrayed the tragedy of this type of “disobedience” in a magnificent gospel song:
“Almost persuaded” now to believe;
“Almost persuaded” Christ to receive;
Seems now some soul to say, “Go, Spirit, go Thy way,
Some more convenient day, On Thee I’ll call.”
“Almost persuaded,” harvest is past!
“Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last!
“Almost” cannot avail; “Almost” is but to fail!
Sad, sad that bitter wail–“Almost,” but lost!
Even as a lad, when our church sang this as an invitation hymn, my heart was wrenched by the pathos in each line of the song. Fortunately, the hymn contains another verse, which extends hope to the listener:
“Almost persuaded,” come, come today,
“Almost persuaded,” turn not away;
Jesus invites you here, Angels are ling’ring near,
Pray’rs rise from hearts so dear; O wand’rer, come!