I am sort of in love with this next bit of scripture. Ephesians 2:1-10 tell the story of transformation, our transformation, from spiritually dead to eternity with Jesus. Pay attention to Paul’s uses of you and we. As before, it is mostly likely that he is differentiating between the Gentile believers (you) and the Jewish believers (we).
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power of the air,
of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh,
indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,
and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Dead in your trespasses and sins
Paul begins by laying out the truth that before our salvation we were spiritually dead. Everyone who has not yet come to faith in Jesus is spiritually dead. According to Strong’s Concordance to be spiritually dead is to be destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God. John writes in his first letter that “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (1 John 5:12) Paul writes to the Romans that the “wages of sin is death.” That is to say that all who remain in their sin will be remain dead.
The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says that to be spiritually dead is to be “without the gracious presence of God’s spirit in the soul” and that causes one to be “unable to think, will, or do, [anything] that is holy.”
John MacArthur writes in his commentary that “they are not dead because of sinful acts that have been committed but because of their sinful nature.” Basically, we are born into sin. King Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Paul agreed what he wrote that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Jesus himself said that there is “no one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
walked according to the course of this world
The reason we were spiritually dead is because we lived and conducted ourselves according to the customs, values, and standards of the world and not the ways of God.
prince of the power of the air
This is reference to Satan, the devil, deceiver, etc. Apparently back in Paul’s days the people believed that Satan and the evil spirits he commands inhabited the space between the earth and the sky but below the heavens. This was interesting to learn since the popular depiction of hell is down, not up.
So not only are the spiritually dead living according the customs, values, and standards of the world they also live according to the ways of the devil and the evil spirits that are alive in all those who do not believe and obey the Gospel.
lusts...desires of the flesh and of the mind
Paul switches to we here, referring to Jewish believers but the use of the word too means that what follows applies to the Gentile believers also.
What he is saying is that we, the saints, once lived to indulge our ungodly desires. Our flesh is our human nature that is apart from God’s influence and is prone to sin and opposition to God. We once craved and longed after sinful desires.
children of wrath
Because of our sinful natures we are born as children of wrath, meaning that we are born to God’s wrath. As Jesus teaches, “he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36) As People’s New Testament puts it, “before we were converted by the gospel, we were dwelling in sins.”
This leads me to believe that sin is not only specific actions that we take, but a state a being that we reside in before coming to faith in Jesus.
We were all spiritually dead once; destitute of a life that know God. We were all once wanders from the Truth and righteousness. We once lived in disobedience to God’s ways. The good news is that we don’t have to stay that way.
But God, being rich in mercy,
because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
made us alive together with Christ
(by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up with Him,
and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come He might show
the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness
toward us in Christ Jesus.
rich in mercy
Simply put, mercy is compassion. Think of how you feel when you hear a tragic story about a child or a dog. That feeling you get is compassion. That is what God feels for us only in a much great capacity.
Mercy is also God’s leniency, His forgiveness, that provides and offers us salvation. Paul says here that He is rich in mercy. Rich or plousios means abounding or abundantly supplied. His mercy, his compassion, his forgiveness is abounding. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations that “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
To be raised up means to be raised from spiritual death to a new life dedicated to God. This is what it means to be born again, to be a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
If you are a faithful follower of Jesus, you are no longer dead.
ages to come
This bit really excites me because I didn’t know it before. I love learning something new. The word ages is translated from the Greek word aion which means forever, perpetual, eternity. So check this, God because of His mercy and love made us alive so that He might show His grace and kindness, forever. This is an unending deal. Inexhaustible. You will never see the end. You will never reach the bottom. How awesome is that?
For by grace you have been saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
I purposefully skipped over talking about grace and what it means to be saved in the previous verses because I wanted to cover it here.
by grace you have been saved
Grace and mercy are two sides of the same coin. They are so closely related that it is almost impossible to separate the. It is via mercy that we escape our punishment due to us because of our sins. Grace is unmerited favor. Basically mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We deserve eternal punishment we don’t deserve salvation.
Salvation is what we’re talking about here. Scofield Reference Notes says that “salvation is the great inclusive word of the Gospel, gathering into itself all the redemptive acts and processes: as justification, redemption, grace, propitiation, imputation, forgiveness, sanctification, and glorification.”
We don’t deserve forgiveness. We don’t deserve redemption. We don’t deserve eternity with Jesus. But we get it. Why? Because of faith, our faith that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things and the bestower of salvation through Jesus who is the Messiah. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is believing without seeing; without proof.
That is all we need for salvation.
not as a result of works
There is absolutely nothing that we can do to earn salvation. It is a free gift. Romans 11:6 says that if grace depended on our works then grace would not be grace.
Isaiah 64:6 compares good deeds to filthy rags. This is most certainly true in the light of God. Even if we could work for salvation, all of our deeds would be tainted with selfishness because we would be working for our own selfish desire to be saved. How then could good deeds be good?
Gill’s Expositions says that even our faith is a gift of God. Salvation begins and ends with God. That is not to say that good works don’t have their place.
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
created...for good works
I don’t know how it could be stated more plainly. We are created for good works, but not as a mean for attaining righteousness but because we are declared righteous. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown says it nicely when it says that “works do not justify but the justified man works.” Gill’s exposition also says that “the intention is not that they should be saved by them [good works], but that they should walk in them.”
James is in agreement here. He writes that “just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) Good works are the result of a living faith and the natural outcome of it. As faithful followers of Jesus, good works should naturally flow out of your life. That is how we were created.
That is the salvation story. Once we were dead in our sins, then we come to faith in Jesus and are saved, we are created anew for good works.