This post officially begins our Bible Study series exploring the Gospel. Ephesians 2:1-10 builds an excellent framework for explaining what the Gospel entails. Today let’s consider why we need Good News in the first place. As always, please check everything I write against Scripture.
Typically people explain the Gospel by teaching from Paul’s letter to the Romans, and I considered that approach for this study. But Ephesians 2:1-10 supplies the same information in a much more manageable format. Therefore, ladies, we’ll be working through that passage. I want to post the whole passage now in order to orient us to the idea Paul wants to convey.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in 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— 3 among 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
Paul, as he usually does in his letters, gives us some extremely rich theology to sort through, and it will take a few weeks to properly examine this passage. Today we’ll start with the first three verses. These introductory verses prepare us for the Good News by first reminding us of exactly why we need good news in the first place. Much like Romans 1:18-32, they describe the human condition in decidedly unflattering terms. In order to understand Paul’s indictment on unredeemed humanity, we must look at the various charges he makes.
Very bluntly, Paul declares in verse 1 that unbelievers are dead in their trespasses and sins. That word “dead” comes from the Greek word nekros, which derives from nekus–the word for corpse. According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Paul uses the word in Ephesians 2:1 as a metaphor of a state “in opposition to the life of the Gospel.” In short, non-Christians, being corpses, lack any ability to respond to God.
Sin caused our spiritual deadness (see Genesis 3:1-24, 1 Corinthians 15:22 and Romans 5:12-17). It makes sense, then, that unregenerate people would be completely incapable of responding to the Lord. Additionally, we understandably lack both the ability and the motivation to “make ourselves right” before a holy God.
Verses 2 and 3 of our passage elaborate on the human condition apart from Christ. Although I lack the time and energy to look at each clause Paul uses to illustrate the state of the unredeemed, let me draw your attention to a few key points.
Paul tells us, in verse 2, that we followed “the course of this world,” meaning that we conformed to ideas and practices that originate from man’s mind (and possibly demonic influences) rather than from the Lord. I see many self-professed Christians today embracing worldly values as they forget that cozying up to the world shows their hostility to God (James 4:4). Apart from Christ, therefore, our alignment with the world exposes us as God’s enemies.
Need I expound on what Paul means by “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience?” Didn’t think so. Not a very affirming picture of the human spirit, but we need to face the truth of our natural inclination to follow Satan (look at Jesus’ own words in John 8:39-47).
Paul’s indictment of humanity continues in verse 3, particularly as he describes us as “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind.” The New American Standard Bible renders that phrase, “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” which suggests that our servitude to sin is quite voluntary.
Paul concludes his portrait of the human race by proclaiming that we are “by nature children of wrath.” None of us like seeing that our sin rightfully deserves God’s wrath, but we absolutely must accept that horrible truth. As we come to terms with the bad news of our innate captivity to sin, we recognize the incredibly good news that Jesus died on the cross to accept the punishment for our sin!
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~~Romans 5:8 (ESV)