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  • Writer's pictureThomas R. Schreiner

Five Pieces of Bad News (Ephesians 2:1-3)

[And] you were dead in the trespasses and sins ²in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— ³among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. —Ephesians 2:1-3

I see five truths in these verses.

First, we were dead in our sins. We should attend carefully to what Paul says here. He does not merely say that sin made us a little bit sick or even that it made us very sick. No, we were dead because of our trespasses and sins. As sons and daughters of Adam we are born into the world with no spiritual inclination, no desire to seek God.

Second, we see that sin has a sociological dimension. The world refers here to the environment in which we live—human society with all its influence upon us. The culture and environment that we are raised in has a great influence upon us. What Paul speaks of here can be identified as peer pressure. We all have a desire to be liked and admired by our peers. So, we are shaped and influenced by our culture which is also opposed to God.

Third, sin has a spiritual dimension. What I have in mind by spiritual dimension here is the reference to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. This is clearly a reference to Satan. The evil in human hearts is not only explained in terms of the power of the world and its pressure on us. We also learn that there are spiritual forces that we cannot see, which rule over us.

Fourth, sin has a psychological dimension. We have already seen that as sinners we were under the control of the world and the devil. Now we see that we were also enslaved to the flesh. When Paul refers to the flesh, he is not speaking only of bodily sins like gluttony, drunkenness, or sexual sin. The flesh represents who we were in Adam. The flesh represents the old person that dominates who we were before we came to know Jesus Christ. We should also see that the world, flesh, and the devil work together to keep us in bondage to sin. They are not separated into neat little compartments.

Sin reigns over unbelievers sociologically, spiritually, and psychologically. Another way to put it is that we sin because of our environment, because of an outside power, and because of our inward desires.

Fifth, we are sinners from our birth. This is clear from Ephesians 2:3. When Paul says by nature, he refers to what we were from birth, the way we were when we were born into the world. All human beings enter the world as children of wrath, as those deserving God’s wrath because they are sinners. What we need then is a miracle. We need someone to rescue us from ourselves. We need someone to raise us from the dead, and only God in Jesus Christ can do this for us.


For Reflection

  1. What are the five truths about human beings in these verses?

  2. Are people born into this world with goodness in their hearts?

  3. What is the solution for spiritual death?

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