Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:1-3 Introduction
In Ephesians 1 Paul stretched our understanding of God’s dealings with His people. We pondered the protracted length of God’s predestination–“before the foundation of the world” (1:4), the extensive breadth of Christ’s domain–“all things under His feet” (1:22), the lofty height of Christ’s exaltation–to God’s “own right hand” (1:20).
Chapter 2 introduces a fourth dimension, the chasmic depth of God’s operations. God has to stoop amazingly low to fathom the abyss into which man has sunk. To appreciate salvation, one has to consider the full horror of lostness. To value a cure, one must realize how critical the illness is.
The first three verses of Ephesians 2 may be Scripture’s clearest statement on the sinfulness of man. They paint a picture which is unpleasant, but help increase our adoring sense of wonder. By viewing how low we had fallen, we will more readily revel in how high we have been lifted.
Eph. 2:1a “And you hath he quickened,. . .”
In our King James Version of the Bible, “hath he quickened” is in italics. This means the words are not in the original Greek, and have been added by the translators to make the text more easily read. The verb does eventually come (v. 5), but the translators inserted it here to keep the reader from being in suspense a long time. By omitting the verb here, Paul postponed his full exposition of the grace of God until after presenting the desperate sinfulness of man.
Eph. 2:1b “. . .who were dead. . .”
Life before conversion is death. When used of people, “death” never means annihilation. Every living soul will exist forever. Death is not extermination. It is rather separation. Physical death separates one’s self from a body. Mental death divides one from his intellectual faculties. Eternal death is everlasting separation from the presence of God. Our text (2:1) refers to spiritual death, the separation of one’s spirit from God.
Every lost individual is “dead”–not almost dead, not critically ill, not in danger of death–DEAD! The most disgusting thing most people can imagine, death, is the very image Paul uses to describe the lost man’s condition before God. Until the life of Jesus is planted within, men, women, boys, and girls are all dead–dead now, dead this very moment.
My dear missionary friend, Harold Renfrow, chides me a bit about my favorite Bible verse. He says, “John, the most important verse in the Bible is not John 3:16, but John 3:18, “He that believeth not is condemned already.”” Dr. Renfrow believes the realization of this truth would drive us to more fervent efforts for evangelism. Lostness is terrible now, not only in the future. To be lost is to be “dead” now.
In a way, Earth is a huge cemetery, and could rightfully be named Death Valley. Of its 5.3 billion residents, only 1 billion make any claim at all to be followers of Jesus. This means at least 4.3 billion of Earth’s citizens are “dead.” They move through their daily activities, but “it is a case of death walking” (John Eadie). They are zombies, the walking dead. The body moves around, but death is attached. Lostness is a living death.
In the last fatal duel fought near Edinburgh, a bullet struck the spine of the challenger. He lived only a few hours, the whole time paralyzed from the neck down. When asked how he felt, he replied, “I feel exactly what I am–a man with a living head and a dead body mysteriously joined together.”
Thus it is with a lost person, life and death are conjoined in a strange, unnatural mixture: the body alive, the spirit dead. The thought is staggering, 4.3 billion dead!
If we could see the lost with spiritual eyes, as God sees them, the sight would be unpleasant and offensive. Nothing is more solemn than the sight of a dead body.
It hurts to think the beloved’s limbs we now coddle will someday be a “carnival for worms” (Spurgeon). In and out of eye sockets, loathsomeness will eventually crawl. The body you hold and love will someday be cold and hard, and shall soon thereafter begin to become nauseous.
Even of those you love most dearly, you will inevitably say, as Abraham did of his beloved Sarah, “Bury my dead out of my sight” (GN 23:4). The look of decaying flesh is offensive. We have to turn away from it.
We also flee the noxious odor of a reeking corpse. Nothing compares to the smell of death. We hold our breath while quickly removing rotting meat from our refrigerators and garbage cans. When a mouse dies in the wall of a house and cannot be reached for removal, the dwelling becomes almost uninhabitable due to the odor.
There is no beauty in death, and thus no beauty in lostness. The latter is a terrible affront to God. It confronts His eyes with ugliness and assaults His nostrils with an offensive odor.
Despite this, Jesus came to dwell among us. He could see our rottenness and sense our corruption, but came to walk with us anyway. This is the message of Christmas. Jesus left Paradise to dwell among putrefaction, He left Glory for a graveyard, He left angels for zombies.
Eph. 2:1c-2a “. . .in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye
walked. . .”
These words describe the sphere in which the spiritually dead exist. They are in “trespasses,” a word which means to deviate, to go in the wrong direction, to stray from the straight and narrow path prescribed by God.
“Sins” is a term taken from archery. The word meant to miss the mark or target. It came to be used in reference to falling short of any goal or standard or purpose. Mankind’s original target was to bring glory to God, but all fail at this. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (RM 3:23).
“Walked” is a Hebrew expression for habitual action. Lost people take step after step in evil. Everything the lost man does is done in the realm of sin.
The lost man is in “trespasses,” he has crossed the boundary and left the right road. He is in “sins,” heading toward the wrong goal. His incorrect heading is a “walk,” something he does all the time. A lost person’s whole life is wrong. A person on the wrong road can do absolutely nothing on the right road.
Everything an unbeliever does is done in the realm of sin. His whole life is nothing but sin. All is wrong. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. . . .The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the Lord. . . .The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord” (PR 15:8a,9a,26a). “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (PR 28:9).
Do you think of your lost friends and family members this way? Do you realize the horror of their lostness? The difference between being saved and being lost is not a pinch of morality or a dash of decency. The difference is as stark as life and death. God raised Jesus from the dead, and had to resurrect believers, also, from death.
Divine regeneration is every lost person’s only hope. They do not require help, education, or encouragement; they require life. They are dead, walking in trespasses and sins. Their spirit is lifeless, motionless toward God. The possibility of spiritual growth is totally lacking within them. “You cannot live a life for God until you receive life from God” (Anon.).
A dead person cannot inherit an estate; a dead soul cannot inherit the kingdom. A dead person’s only hope is for Jesus to give life. Fortunately, this is no problem for Him. He has ample power to make the dead live. He desires to implant His own life within the believer.