Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 2:2b “. . .according to the course of this world,. . .”
The lost are spiritually “dead” (2:1b). Their spirits separated from God, they exist in the sphere of “trespasses” and “sins” (2:1c), deviating from the path prescribed by God, and moving toward the wrong target. This incorrect heading is a “walk” (2:2a), habitual action done all the time. A lost person’s whole life is nothing but sin.
Lost people walk “according to the course of this world.” “According to” means after the leading of, in conformity to. “Course” refers to all the opinions, maxims, aspirations, and desires at any time current in a society. “This world” is human society organized for its own pleasure and profit without thought of God as He truly is.
A lost person governs his life-style by following the world’s standards and conforming to its values. Society formed without reference to God produces a mind-set, a mentality, an outlook which determines the way most people live their lives.
The lost are willing, albeit often unwitting, slaves to the customs, fashions, and value system of the world around them. They take their standards from magazines, novels, popular books, radio personalities, television soap operas, and spend more time with Donahue and Ophra than with Peter and Paul.
Whatever the spirit of the times acknowledges is deemed of value and significance. The latest public opinion poll is all-important. The lost are more concerned about hearing from George Gallup than from God. “Everyone is doing it” is their motto.
Before their conversions, believers felt perfectly at home in this environment. When careless, we are still in danger of being influenced by its subtle temptations. Worldly wisdom, like an old shoe, is comfortable, easy to “walk” in. We must ever fight against returning to the thought patterns of our past.
The believer seeks to please God in every detail of life. The world leaves God out, and sets self and its desires at the center.
A Christian abides by the dictates of God. Certain things are always right, other things always wrong. The worldling lives in a nebulous fog, trying to abide by the world’s shifting standards of right and wrong.
The believer is a Biblicist. He looks to Scripture for all matters of faith and practice. The lost man says we should always be open-minded. The only thing I know of that stays open all the time is a sewer. This is the very reason we are in a moral cesspool on the issue of abortion. The Bible teaches that life belongs to God the Father. The world claims life in the womb belongs to Woman the Mother. I do not know of an avid supporter of abortion on demand who uses the Bible to bolster his position. The abortionist supports his position with human reasoning.
The standards of the Church and the world differ vastly. Christ says forgive, the world says avenge–“Don’t get mad, get even.” Jesus commands us to love our enemies, the world says crush them. The Bible calls us to serve, society tells us to rule. Our Lord taught us to sacrifice, the world says indulge. A worldling “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” This is why they cannot understand a missionary who will leave wealth and ease to endure poverty and discomfort.
Let the Church beware! At all cost avoid “the course of this world.”
Eph. 2:2c “According to the prince,. . .”
“The course of this world” is universal, and universally wrong. The world presents a common voice of error, not by chance, but because it is under one leader. Even as the Church has one Head, so does the world. To belong to the world is to belong to the kingdom of Satan.
The Devil originated evil, and thus is the personification of rebellion against God. He masterminds mutiny, and leads insurrection. Thus, when one casts off God, he is immediately, by definition, in Satan’s realm.
Satan is “the prince” of evil. This Greek word “archon” refers to the first of an order of persons or things. Michael, as archangel, is first in the armies of good. His counterpart, Lucifer, is first in the armies of evil.
Satan is number one in the diabolical kingdom of the cosmos. He is “the prince of demons” (MT 9:34b). Jesus called him “the prince of this world” (JN 12:31). Paul described him with the blood-curdling phrase, “the god of this world” (2 C 4:4). He is a villainous General who has at his disposal many equally sinister lieutenants.
Eph. 2:2d “. . .of the power. . .”
“Power” (same word in 1:21) is singular, referring to the legions of apostate angels as one unit. Under their one chief, Lucifer, the demons form a cluster, one cohesive, compact, crackerjack, close-knit army. The evil forces arrayed against us are organized in marshal array, and move as one at the beck and call of their commander.
Eph. 2:2e “. . .of the air,. . .”
This little phrase is rich in information. It succinctly tells us at least three vital truths about our satanic enemies.
First, “of the air” marks the evil forces as immaterial. They are spiritual, not physical. They have no material bodies, but exist and live and move. Without any perceptible noise, without waking the slightest suspicion of their presence, they carry out their diabolical schemes.
Second, “of the air” denotes immanence. Satan’s cohorts are universally distributed, and thus near every human being. Our own atmosphere is the primary realm of Satan’s operations, the haunt of evil forces.
“Paul recognized that the air is full of the Devil” (Parker). Since we are slow to grasp the pervasive presence of evil, Paul pictured the whole atmosphere as filled with evil spirits. We are so close to them that if we had spiritual ears we could hear the quietest whisper of Lucifer himself.
“The air” surrounds us, and is the region of stimuli to our senses. As a result, evil forces have ready access to us, and can at any given moment suggest thoughts and kindle desires in our minds. They are ever at hand to tempt man, and to do much damage throughout the world.
Third, “of the air” pictures evil forces as an impediment, an obstruction between God and man. Do not miss this poignant picture. God is in Heaven, man on Earth, evil spirits are between, in “the air,” trying to keep the two apart. In His parable of the sower, our Lord used “birds of the sky” (LK 8:5,12) as the figure of the tempter. The devil and his demons come and take away the good seed out of men’s hearts.
During the great “war in heaven” (RV 12:7-9), Michael and his angels fought the dragon and his angels. As a result, Satan “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Lucifer was thrown down from the higher levels of the stratosphere.
“The air,” the lower atmosphere, became the seat of Satan’s kingdom. By God’s decree, Satan was granted permission to operate in the lowest regions of the atmosphere.
In this realm, God placed our race to test our loyalty to Himself. We chose to cast off God. The Lord responded with a severe, yet appropriate, punishment–He let us have what we wanted. We chose to be like the devil in the devil’s world, and this has been our lot since Eden. What a terrible fate! “What is Satan but God’s executioner to punish man’s ingratitude?” (Calvin). Lucifer and his aids are the impediment between man and God.
“Executioner” is a good word to describe the devil. He rules in “the air” and the sway of his scepter is as ruthless as it is universal.
“Christian, seek not yet repose;
Cast thy dreams of ease away!”
Christians pine for ease, and long for a life without strife and struggle, but it will not happen in this world. Powers of evil are everywhere in “the air.” As a doomed, condemned, race, they attack believers with the ferocity of a caged animal, with the reckless abandon of a kamikaze pilot, and with the frequency of beings consumed with malice. Satan hates us and grants no place in our environment to avoid his attacks of temptation.
Remember, we are fighting against one who had the brazen audacity to confront the Son of God Himself. All the patriarchs and great believers of the Old Testament fell before him time after time.
Satan is absolute in his own kingdom. Demons obey, worldlings submit. Such a thought leaves us quivering, “Is there no place to flee? Have we no respite?” Take heart, trembling heart. We cannot escape Lucifer’s attacks, but there is a place where the power of his advances is shattered.
Within the family of God, Satan’s power is broken. He is absolute in “the air,” but he can at worst harass and tempt all who dwell in “heavenly places.” There is a place to flee–into the kingdom of God. Men can escape the devil’s tyranny, thus when they do not do so they are without excuse.
Never underestimate the devil. At the same time, never overestimate him. Some believers spend too much time dwelling on him. He is a foe you cannot defeat, but he is a foe God’s power in you can crush.
The God who saves us keeps us. Without Him we cannot stand one minute. With Him we are invincible.