Ephesians 2:1-8 Lexham English Bible
And you, although you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5 and we being dead in trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), 6 and raised us together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that he might show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
This is a powerful section of Scripture.
It is the story of God’s love summed up in eight verses. It is a reminder to us about our condition before being saved by God and it explains how God saves us.
It is because of his love for us, the worldwide Church, the body of Christ that makes it so powerful.
Ephesians is a fantastic book, and it is my favorite, along with Romans, both written by Paul.
The Apostle Paul, who was exhaustively trained in Scripture and was a Pharisee, wrote a lot of the New Testament.
He called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees. He knew the Tanakh, that is what the Old Testament is called in Hebrew, inside and out. So, he knew what he was talking about when he wrote Ephesians.
I read and watch a lot of biblical stuff to stay sharp in my interpretation and application of Scripture. I learn a lot on YouTube actually. I watch a ton of different things, though. I like to watch outdoors stuff online too.
I was watching a camping and bush-craft channel on YouTube the other day. I watch this guy all the time; he puts out videos once or twice a week or every so often. In this video, he had spent the day building and setting up his camp and getting his fire going.
After a long day, he was going to cook his dinner.
So, what he usually does is cook a big steak or bacon or some big chunk of meat.
This time he brought salmon.
I love salmon. I was excited to see how he was going to cook it since I love camping and salmon. It couldn’t get any better than this.
The problem was that the fish was getting warm, it had thawed out over the course of the day and got rotten in a few spots. He said, “ew… it has that fishy smell.” You know when fish gets that nasty fishy smell; it is terrible and has gone bad.
In fact, the rotten fish had gotten his other food wet with fish juice and permeated through his whole bag ruining his other food.
So, he didn’t cook it.
He did have some packaged energy bars though that he could eat that were sealed. He went foraging and found some roots and wild celery and carrots and stuff and made a little meal. He replaced everything he was going to eat that was nasty and slimy and wet for a nice fresh meal that was enough and was available from nature and his energy bars.
Now, you see, humanity is the rotten and stinky fish.
We mess up our own lives…
We get our stinky fish juice on other people…
On the world…
The problem is that we do not like knowing that we are in sin, the stinky fish ruining the world and making a mess but aren’t willing to do anything about it.
I mean, who wants to be the stinky fish of the world?
Do any of us want to be dead, rotten, and infectious? Well that is what Ephesians 2:1-8 says:
is that we are spiritually dead. We were born in sin following the prince of the power of the air, that is Satan, and we were among the sons of disobedience.
Paul does not have kind words to describe us either. But, he reminds us continually throughout his letters that he is writing to Christians.
He is writing to people who need some correction in their beliefs, and their lifestyles, and their faith.
So, when he says harsh things about Christians, it is in love for his fellow believers so that they will see things how they are, and not deceive themselves.
The Apostle Paul calls us rotten slimy fish. The passage goes like this:
- And you, ⌊although you were dead⌋* in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were.
The first three verses are pretty harsh and tell us like it is. We are dead, like rotting bones in a graveyard. And this is the way everyone is, Christian or not, as they start their lives.
This is the Apostle Paul talking about himself, everybody he knows, and everybody ever, so don’t think he’s picking on anybody in particular.
I believe what he is doing is showing that nobody is really alive to begin with.
When I read this passage, I immediately think of the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel. It’s in the Old Testament, the part of the book that the Jews call the Bible. Ezekiel is a messenger of God’s truth and speaks to the people on behalf of God.
In the story of the dry bones, Ezekiel is brought to a valley by the Spirit of God.
And the valley is full of bones.
They aren’t like fresh dead bodies, but very old, dried out bones that must have been there for a while.
(Ezekiel 37 LEB)
- 37 The hand of Yahweh was upon me, and he brought me by the Spirit of Yahweh, and he ⌊let me rest⌋ in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. 2 And he led me ⌊all around⌋ over them, and look, very many on the surface of the valley, and look, very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I said, “Lord Yahweh, you know.” 4 And he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and you must say to them, to the dry bones, ‘Hear the word of Yahweh! 5 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to these bones: “Look! I am bringing into you breath, and you will live! 6 And I will lay on you sinews, and I will let flesh come upon you, and I will cover you over with skin, and I will put breath into you, and you will live, and you will know that I am Yahweh.” ’ ”
Ezekiel sees people as dead rotting bones in the valley. And without the Word of God, those dead people can’t come to life. The bones will just waste away and rot until the Word of God breathes into them and brings them to new life.
That is exactly how the Apostle Paul describes the human condition. Every one of us, before we are made alive in Christ, are like dead men. We are the rotten fish I was talking about earlier. We’re just dead bones rotting away in the valley.
There are a few things that Paul says that I want to dive right into that describes the extent of our death. The language is very descriptive and shows the necessity for us to receive the gift of salvation.
Ephesians 2:1 LEB
- And you, ⌊although you were dead⌋* in your trespasses and sins.
There is so much going on here that Paul is packing together to explain the extent of our death. But the point of the first three verses is to demonstrate the depth of humanity’s sin, their depraved nature, and how they are…
Dead in Sin
First, we are dead. The Greek word here is NEKROS. This is what we get our word necrotic from. That is a medical word for when your flesh is infected, rotting, and spreading because the dead tissue is toxic and rotting away at the flesh around it.
It’s pretty gross. This happens with gangrene and when you get bit by some spiders and particularly what’s called narcotizing fasciitis.
This is the extent of our death. Paul teaches that we are rotten, infectious, and killing things around us. We are infecting everything and causing death everywhere we go.
Our sin and death consume us, those around us, and the world.
The word NEKROS in Greek carries with it a few meanings, all of it not good for the unbeliever. The first is obviously that we are in a loss of the state of life, literally and spiritually dead.
Before you were saved, you were so morally and spiritually deficient that you were in effect, dead. And further, it’s as if you were never alive to begin with.
We were lifeless; A spiritual corpse.
The Bible says that everybody is this way without God. Paul quotes the Psalms from the Old Testament when he writes Romans 3:10-18
(Romans 3:10-18 LEB)
- “There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned aside together; they have become worthless;
There is no one who practices kindness;
there is not even one.
13 Their throat is an opened grave;
they deceive with their tongues;
the venom of asps is under their lips,
14 whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 destruction and distress are in their paths,
17 and they have not known the way of peace.
18 The fear of God is not before their eyes.
It’s no wonder we are dead in our trespasses and sin. We can’t help it; it is our nature. The rot and decay of our flesh—that is, our desires and our sinful nature—comes from our spiritual death.
Paul goes on to tell us that before we were saved by God from our death, before the dry bones came to life…
…we followed Satan.
- And you…walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience, (Eph 2:1-2 LEB)
There is a world and age going on right now. And there are ages past. And there is an age to come. The ruler and authority of this world and this age is Satan or the Devil. He has been given power by God over the world.
This is where many people see the tension of living in Christ and living in the world, since we are under the authority of Christ as redeemed people, but live simultaneously in a world ruled by Satan.
There is the kingdom of God, and a kingdom of this world.
So, back to Satan…Many people hear this verse and think, “But, I don’t follow Satan, I don’t worship Satan.”
Following Satan isn’t always directly worshiping him; it’s most often following or worshiping yourself, because Satan would love for you to do anything, except worship Jesus.
This is what the authors of the Bible and God often refer to as ‘the flesh’ or ‘following the ways of the world.’
Those that follow the way of the world, according to the ideas and desires of the flesh and Satan, are referred to in the passage as the sons of disobedience.
So, you are either sons of God, or sons of disobedience, and you are part of one of the kingdoms, God’s Kingdom or the Kingdom of the World.
There is another Apostle named John who wrote about this too.
(1 John 5:19 LEB)
- 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
John tells us that the Church comes from God and that the people of the world who are apart from God are under the dominion of Satan.
He is working and very real.
Satan works in the hearts of those who haven’t received the gift of God’s grace. And both Paul and John tell us that everyone is guilty, nobody is left out.
The Lexham English Bible Chapter 2
we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of them were. (v. 3)
And since all people begin life that way, we should not inherit the riches of the kingdom of God and the blessings of Christ, but we should…
Every person in the world receives an inheritance, so to speak. You either receive the inheritance of Christ, or you receive the inheritance of Satan, which is the wrath of God.
This is what awaits those who aren’t part of Christ’s kingdom. Everyone who isn’t saved from God’s wrath will inherit the wrath of God at the final judgment will be sent to hell for eternal torment. That sounds harsh, but the Bible teaches us that everybody gets what they want here:
- …you either want to follow God…
…or you want to follow something else.
Paul says that the Christians who once willingly followed their selfish desires, just the same as people who never have faith in Christ. So, they will inherit what they deserve.
And in reality, we all deserve that inheritance. That’s Paul’s point.
The late Pastor R.C. Sproul was once asked a question about the punishment of God and his wrath on sinners. The question was,
- “since God is slow to anger and patient, then why when man first sinned, was his wrath and punishment so severe and long-lasting?”
The answer was basically humanity was instructed to follow God’s rules or we would die. We were tempted and gave in to the temptation of Satan. We defied the everlasting God. But instead of dying immediately, we received the inheritance of sin and curse. And we live on physically but following the prince of the power of the air and inherit the wrath of God due to us.
The most severe punishment for sin that any human has ever received came from a curse placed on the seed of the woman, the God-man Jesus Christ, who received an inheritance of God’s wrath for the sin you and I committed. Jesus took God’s wrath, so we don’t have to experience it.
God warned Adam that in the day he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die (Gen. 2:17). When Adam and Eve ate of that fruit, the entire human race plunged into spiritual death (Rom. 5:12-21). As we saw in (Eph. 2:3), by nature we all are born under God’s wrath because of sin. Those who are spiritually dead cannot seek God (Rom. 3:10-18), understand spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14), or believe the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). It’s foolishness to them (1 Cor. 1:18). It seems as though Paul wants us to feel the helplessness and hopelessness of our spiritual past so that we will look towards Christ. We were dead in our sins.
That leads us out of verses 1 to 3 and into 4 through 8. The second half is the description of what only God could do and did do through Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, I would insist that Paul makes the most powerful statement in all of Scripture, and actually in all of time.
He writes in verse 4:
BUT GOD!!! Despite our human condition, God had a plan.
You were dead in your sins, BUT GOD!
You formerly walked according to the world, BUT GOD!
You followed the prince of this world, Satan, BUT GOD!
You were a son or daughter of disobedience, BUT GOD!
You use to live according to the passions and desires of your human flesh, BUT GOD!
You were a child under the wrath of God, BUT GOD!
Despite our sin and allegiance to Satan and the wrath we have inherited, God stepped in. God planned your future in Christ.
- (Ephesians 2:4–8 LEB) But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, and we being dead in trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), and raised us together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that he might show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;
of grace and faith. Despite our human condition, Paul says that God is rich in mercy. Rich actually means rich like we use it today. He has so much mercy that he abounds in mercy. And because of his abounding mercy and love for his people, He sent his Son Jesus.
- (John 3:16 LEB) For in this way God loved the world, so that he gave his one and only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but will have eternal life.
We are born spiritually dead since we are from Adam. We were supposed to perish in Hell, But God stepped in. His free gift of grace is eternal life in Christ’s Kingdom, today and forever, into eternity. Paul not only speaks about the future aspect of eternity in Christ but precisely here he is referencing our present reality. This is the reality of being in Christ. We are presently and spiritually made…
Alive in Christ
In Christ, we are made alive. God does this despite our human condition of sin. It is a gift of the Father appointed to us before creation.
The merciful, loving, almighty, powerful God who created everything and has created us, makes us alive. The way that he does that is through Jesus Christ, the Son.
The result of God’s mercy and love is that he has “made us alive with Christ.”
Remember that nasty rotting fish? God takes us, rotting and stinking and sinful, and he puts Christ in our place to accept the wrath we are due. So then, because he died for us, we get to be alive in Him. And since he rose from the dead, we are made alive with him.
But we aren’t just brought back to life. This is our very first experience with spiritual life. Prior to our conversion, we were not alive. We are born spiritually dead, and that is why we must be born again.
So when we are with Christ, we become something new, which Paul calls a ‘new creation.’ Paul wrote in
- (2 Corinthians 5:17 LEB) Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
We are a new thing. True, believing Christians who are faithful are a new creation, no longer dead, but made alive together with Christ, which is why…
…is so important.
God followed through with his salvation plan because of his great love for us. His love led him to give us life. So, our response is to follow him.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
- (Ephesians 2:8 LEB) For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God;
Salvation is by grace through faith. Grace and Faith are the gifts God gives us so that we inherit salvation and our position in and with Jesus.
The grace here is an undeserved favor. God’s loving-kindness towards those who he has saved. Grace is God’s completely generous act towards sinners so that they can come to faith.
The form that God shows his grace is his sending Christ to die on the cross. He died so we didn’t have to. He died so that the wrath of God for mankind’s sin would be satisfied. His death is what is called a penal substitution.
Saved means that we have been rescued from the inheritance that we get from following sinful desires, Satan, and anything else but Jesus. Saved means we instead inherit the free gift of Grace from God and are raised up with Jesus.
Faith is a fundamental theme in the Bible.
We are saved by the grace of God through our faith, which means that we have pledged allegiance to Jesus Christ. Our faithfulness to Christ alone is what matters here, since pledging my allegiance to anything else but the one true God does not result in salvation. He is looking for complete allegiance, not a partial siding with him. Jesus himself said, ““No one is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Complete faithfulness and allegiance to Jesus is what is required for salvation.
And finally, because of our salvation in Jesus, the sinner…
We will be glorified with Jesus when sin is finally removed from us and we are pure, clothed by the blood of Christ.
- (Ephesians 2:6 LEB) [By grace you have been saved] and [God] raised us together and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Our inheritance is with Christ. We are raised to sonship with God through the covering of Jesus blood. So, we receive the same “firstborn heir” status that Jesus has with the Father.
Now, this verse may be troubling to some people, since it says that we, as human beings, are already seated with Christ and share in his victory over death. It is a future thing, but it is also a present reality. We have already partially received the inheritance.
As Christians, we are part of the kingdom of God and with Christ as our covering and co-heir, He is reigning now with us on Earth. We are made in his image to represent him here and now. And we are remade spiritually in his image to live eternally in his presence.
Our inheritance isn’t just in a future heaven that awaits us. While that may be true, we already have some of our inheritance.
We are being made more and more like Jesus, a process we often call sanctification. Notice how Paul says our sanctification should play out.
- (Colossians 3:1-4 LEB) Therefore, if you have been raised together with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
In eternity in the presence of God, we will be perfect like Jesus and glorified with Him. But now we are awaiting that glorification and reigning with him here.
Paul says, however, that while we are still here, we are to seek the things above, that is, the things of God.
This is part of the already-but-not-yet idea of being saved, but not yet glorified. Lots of things happen like this in Scripture, and in life. We have the Kingdom, yet we are to live our lives seeking the Kingdom. The kingdom of God has been inaugurated, but not yet consummated. We seek God’s Kingdom until it’s consummation, until the end. If you haven’t already, grab the next step card we mentioned before the message.
If you plan on seeking the kingdom and want to follow Jesus as your next step, now’s the time, God is calling you. If you are already part of the kingdom and wish to continue to seek it but don’t know how to go about doing that, make seeking the kingdom part of your daily life.
Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and the inheritance will be yours.
And so we await our ultimate inheritance, the presence of the Lord physically, spiritually, and eternally.
- (Philippians 3:20-21 LEB) For our commonwealth exists in heaven, from which also we eagerly await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our humble body to be conformed to his glorious body, in accordance with the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
We are not meant to be stained by sin, to be aligned with the devil, and we definitely were not meant to inherit the wrath of God. Our inheritance was a perfect existence with the one and true God in paradise. To quote a song by Switchfoot, “We were meant to live for so much more.”
- (Ephesians 2.4-5 LEB – paraphrase) But God, … made us alive together with Christ.
Because of the grace of God, we have been…
Being made alive is being made new so we can live in that paradise in perfect communion with God. His mercy, overflowing from his love for us, is what accomplished that on the cross.
The plan all along was for Christ to die on the cross and pay the penalty for the sins of the world.
We who are saved in Christ get to experience paradise and the kingdom of God as a gift that God had planned in eternity, because God as made us alive together with Christ.
- (Titus 3:3–7 LEB) For we also were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, enslaved to various desires and pleasures, spending our lives in wickedness and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the kindness and love for mankind of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not by deeds of righteousness that we have done, but because of his mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Even though we—and Paul here is referring to everybody including himself—were foolish, disobedient, led astray, enslaved to our sinful desires and pleasure, wickedness and envy, despicable, and hating each other, God stepped in according to his plan and sent Jesus Christ to die on cross even though he lived a perfect sinless life. That is the greatest gift ever given.
Make note of the significance of the mention of salvation in Christ, the inheritance with Christ being a gift in much of the Bible…
- “not by deeds of righteousness we have done.”
“this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
“Now to each one of us was given this grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
“but if by grace, it is no longer by works, for otherwise, grace would no longer be grace”
God is adamant that salvation is his work alone, it is accomplished by Christ alone, and we are saved by faith alone. We are not saved by our own good works, lest we all perish in hell.
If you have accepted Christ and somehow think that you need to work for your salvation, then let me tell you that you can rest. You can find peace in Christ and can stop trying to earn your salvation.
Listen, the only part you play in your salvation is making it necessary because you’re a sinner. Your works are trash without Christ.
But if you are in Christ you don’t need to work for it, it’s the free gift of God. Your works are part of seeking the kingdom of God. Your works are an outpouring of the love of God and how the kingdom is being manifested today.
If you haven’t accepted the gift of God, today I ask that you hear the message that he challenging you to. I pray you recognize that you are indeed sinful, that you are indeed aligned with Satan, and you will indeed inherit the wrath of God in hell if you don’t accept the free offer of grace in Jesus Christ perfect sacrifice. He did for you, so he could raise you from the dead, so that the dry rotten and stinking filth of bones could be raised and made into a new creation.
You were meant to live for so much more!
In Christ you no, longer are dead, but made alive and will live forever in paradise with him. Your inheritance will not be the seeds of destruction sown for the devil and his angels, but the new creation in Christ.
We were meant to live for so much more, so that God would show in the coming ages the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness up us in Christ Jesus.
God transforms us from a stinking rotting fish into a new creation in Christ.
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