Ephesians 2: The chapter begins, “You who WERE DEAD in trespasses and sins.” What does dead mean? Simply a sentence of death? God told Adam that he would die IN THE DAY that he ate of the tree. Did God mean what He said? Notice what the death is – not you WILL be dead BECAUSE OF your sins, but you WERE dead IN trespasses and sins. This is speaking of a spiritual REALITY, not simply a physical picture. Just as verse 6 tells us that we ARE sitting in heavenly places WITH Christ – not simply a future promise, but a present spiritual reality, even though it is not yet physical (that will be in the ages to come!).
What is the fruit of this deadness IN sin, i.e. spiritual death?
Verse 2 – “ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Walking according to the world is not what CAUSES that death (as you are trying to make it say), but the result of the death that we were already partakers of. BECAUSE we were dead in sin, we walked according to the way of life of the world system. We walked according to the devil, BECAUSE of who we already were – dead in sin. We already were children of disobedience – we had no desire to do that which is truly pleasing to God (don’t confuse morality/conscience with true spirituality).
Verse 3 – “we all had our [behavior] in times past in the lusts of our flesh” – that is, whatever our flesh wanted, in which, according to Paul, dwells NO good thing “”fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;” – “desires” could be translated “will”. In other words, our will was bent toward the flesh and our understanding, which is devoid of any spiritual understanding prior to regeneration. That’s the problem with our will – yes, it is free to do whatever is in our nature. And it did – not that which is pleasing to God, but that which is according to the world, the devil, and our own flesh.
“and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” – our NATURE (inborn quality, not just a “habit” that we grown into) was children of wrath. The word “children” used here emphasizes natural birth. That is we were born into wrath; it is our nature, what we deserve. That paints a bleak picture. We can’t escape that wrath ourselves, by any good we try to do, or by any decision we make, because we don’t desire those good decisions to begin with.
“But God” – what wonderful words! “who is rich in mercy” – mercy is not just “withholding the punishment I deserve”, which is the definition commonly given, but is something active which God bestows which we are unworthy of. Most of the OT uses of the word “mercy” are a word which is translated in the ESV “steadfast love”. From my study of the word, that’s a beautiful translation, and very apt for the word. NT usage is not precisely the same, but very similar in many ways. Notice that, even here, the mercy is connected with His love: “for His great love wherewith He loved us” – A side note here: who is “us”? It is a pronoun used often throughout the epistles, and very important!
What did that great love cause Him to do? “Even when we were DEAD in sins” – nothing we could do about it, not even “belief” would change that condition, just as Lazarus could not raise himself from the dead!
“hath quickened us together with Christ AND hath raised us up together” – What is quickening? Is it merely the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us? No. That may be involved, but that’s really a different aspect of salvation, directly connected to justification. Yes, they’re related topics, but mixing them up only leads to confusion (look at how the Roman Catholics have made such a mess of salvation by mixing up justification and sanctification – which are also related, but must be properly understood!).
The phrase, “hath quickened us together with” is actually one word in the Greek. A clear reference is being made here to the resurrection of Christ. What was Christ resurrected from? The DEAD! Was He merely under a sentence of death? Did He merely swoon in the grave and had to be made alive? That’s nonsense! The clear meaning of the word is that LIFE was imparted to something that was DEAD! We were quickened and raised up “together with” Christ! This is not a death sentence that was torn up and nailed to the cross (although yes, that also happened according to Colossians 2!) – this is a dead corpse having life breathed into it! As a result of this life that has been given, we are now SEATED WITH Christ in the heavenlies – that’s not just a promise of what is to come, but a present spiritual reality (just as spiritual death was a reality before quickening), as proof that in the ages to come we will experience the exceeding riches of his grace that has been extended to US (there’s that pronoun again!).
A very apt OT illustration of this truth is found in Ezekiel 37. It is argued that this has nothing to do with salvation, and is only dealing with a physical restoration of Israel to the land. What nonsense. If that is the explanation of OT prophecy, it is very shallow. Note verses 12-14 of that chapter: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your GRAVES, and CAUSE you to come up OUT of your GRAVES, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have OPENED your GRAVES, O MY PEOPLE, and brought you up out of your GRAVES, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live…” That’s far deeper than simple restoration to a physical land. That’s a spiritual reality! If you read Ezekiel without seeing Christ in the book, it will be very dry and meaningless. If you read this book without NT interpretation, you will completely misunderstand the book! It is an illustration of God breathing His spirit into dead bones, causing them to live! That is exactly what He did for me.
Praise His holy name! His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts – this is an impossible work without a supernatural Saviour!