Ephesians, Chapter Two

CHAPTER TWO:

 

Ephesians 2:1

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

* And you hath he quickened, *

D.M. Stanley (Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 23, 1961, pp. 37, 38) has drawn attention to the resemblances between Ephesians 2 and the parable of the two sons in Luke 15:11-32 (cf. Eph 2:4 = Luke 15:20; Eph 2:1 = Luke 15:24, 32; Eph 2:13 = Luke 15:15; Eph 2:19 = Luke 15:22; Eph 2:14-16 = Luke 15:28-32)” [Zondervan].

Concerning “hath he quickened,”

“The verb for did he quicken does not occur till Eph 2:5 and then with hemas (us) instead of humas (you)” [Robertson].

“The words ‘hath he quickened,’ or ‘made to live,’ are supplied, but not improperly, by our translators” [Barnes].

The overwhelming majority of translations that I have at my disposal do not include the phrase “hath he quickened” because the King James translators have supplied it.  However, in my opinion it isn’t needed here.  Rather, Paul is first establishing the truth that we were spiritually dead as a result of our sins (Eph 2:1-3), and then he presents that God, as a result of His mercy and His love for us, “quickened us” (Eph 2:4-5).

Paul was praying for the Ephesian believers (Eph 1:16), asking God to give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17) so that they could understand what great things God has in store for them (Eph 1:18), and understand the great power of God that is directed towards us who believe (Eph 1:19).  It’s the very same power God utilized when He raised Christ from the dead (Eph 1:20).  In the first five verses of this Chapter the Apostle is telling us that God’s power has “quickened” us (Eph 2:5) “who were dead” spiritually (current verse).  Just as the crucified Christ was dead physically, and was then made physically alive when He was “quickened,” or resurrected, we were dead spiritually and were then “quickened,” or made spiritually alive.  In each case “the exceeding greatness of his power” (Eph 1:19) was brought to bear.

* who were dead in trespasses and sins; *

Other translators render it,

“were dead in your transgressions and sins” [NIV; NASV].

“were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins” [NLT].

“were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins” [TEV].

“when you were dead (slain) by [your] trespasses and sins” [AMP].

“were dead because you sinned and fought against God” [CEV].

“were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins” [GNB].

being dead in deviations and sins” [LITV].

Regarding “were dead,”

“A living corpse: without the gracious presence of God’s Spirit in the soul, and so unable to think, will, or do aught that is holy” [JFB].

“Not only diseased, but dead; absolutely void of all spiritual life; and as incapable of quickening yourselves, as persons literally dead” [Wesley].

“Paul is not speaking about physical death nor only about the sinner’s ultimate fate in the second death. Nor again is the expression merely figurative. As Calvin insisted (in loc.), what is meant is ‘a real and present death.’ The most vital part of man’s personality–the spirit–is dead to the most important factor in life—God” [Zondervan].

Concerning “in trespasses and sins,”

“in them, as the element in which the unbeliever is, and through which he is dead to the true life. Sin is the death of the soul” [JFB].

 Why does the Apostle use both “trespasses” and “sins” in this verse?

In regards to “trespasses,”

a side slip (lapse or deviation), that is, (unintentional) error or (wilful) transgression[Strong’s].

In regards to “sins,”

“1b) to miss the mark” [Thayer].

Regarding why both “trespasses and sins” are mentioned,

“BENGEL, refers ‘trespasses’ to the Jews who had the law, and yet revolted from it; ‘sins,’ to the Gentiles who know not God” [JFB].

Again, why does the Apostle use both “trespasses” and “sins” in this verse?  Paul tells his readers in Rome, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).  Sin, or the state of sin, or the fallen state of mankind as a result of sin, and the subsequent consequence of death, or the state of death, has passed unto all mankind through Adam.  However, “sin is not imputed when there is no law(Rom 5:13).  Sin, in the absence of a commandment, is not recorded in the sense that a law has been broken.  Why? Because the one who sins has “not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Rom 5:14).  In other words, “trespasses” (current verse) involve, or a “transgression” (above verse) involves the breaking of a law, or a commandment.  Sin is simply “to miss the mark” (above quote), or to live outside of the perfection man was initially created in, or to “come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  With this in mind, I tend to agree with Bengel’s point of view mentioned in the above quote by JFB.

Paul, in the early chapters of his Roman Epistle, goes to great length to demonstrate this very truth: “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law” (Rom 2:12)There isn’t one single Jew or Gentile who is, in any way, righteous by virtue of his conduct (Rom 3:9-18).  Nature itself condemns the Gentile (Rom 1:19-20) and the law condemns the Jew (Rom 3:19-20).  We are all sinners who stand in need of “the righteousness of God without the law” (Rom 3:21), that “righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Rom 3:22).  Until we placed our faith in the Lord Jesus we “were dead in trespasses and sins” (current verse), but now “we have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14), having been called “out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet 2:9).

 

(Verse One of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

And you, who lived in the sphere of spiritual death as a result of your transgressions and the state of sin in which you lived, 

 

Ephesians 2:2

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

* Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, *

Regarding “Wherein in time past ye walked,” which, in the NIV, is rendered, “in which you used to live,”

To ‘live’ (peripateo) is literally ‘to walk about.’ It is the customary word in LXX for manner of life, particularly in the Psalms. The usage is carried over into the NT and is prominent in Paul’s writings. It recurs in this letter in 2:10, 4:17, 5:2” [Zondevan].

Concerning “the course of this world,”

“the career (literally, ‘the age,’ compare Gal_1:4), or present system of this world (1 Cor 2:6, 1 Cor 2:12; 1 Cor 3:18-19, as opposed to ‘the world to come’)” [JFB].

Christian Jews used to live in the realm of spiritual death as a result of their “trespasses,” or, their transgressions against the Law of Moses (Eph 2:1); and Christian Gentiles used to live in the realm of spiritual death as a result of Adam’s sin, which resulted in sin and death becoming the way of life for all of mankind (Eph 2:1; Rom 5:12).  Consequently, Christian Jew and Christian Gentile alike, as a result of that spiritual death, had previously lived their lives in accordance with the accepted practices of mankind in the age in which they lived, no matter how sinful those practices were.

Those who have not found life in Christ will tend to follow the accepted practices of whatever society they might live in.  Those of us who have found that life in Christ accept the teachings of Scripture as the final authority on issues of morality.   

* according to the prince of the power of the air, *

In regards to “prince,”

“a first (in rank or power)” [Strong’s].

a ruler, commander, chief, leader” [Thayer].

Regarding “power,”

“From G1832 (in the sense of ability); privilege, that is, (subjectively) force, capacity, competency, freedom, or (objectively) mastery (concretely magistrate, superhuman, potentate, token of control), delegated influence[Strong’s].

Thayer’s long definition of “power” includes,

 “2a) the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises; 4) the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed); 4a1) authority over mankind; 4c2b) the leading and more powerful among created beings superior to man, spiritual potentates” [Thayer].

The devil, unfortunately, greatly influences our society today.  It is his influence that causes men to “call evil good, and good evil;” and to “put darkness for light, and light for darkness;” and to “put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20).  It is his influence that causes men to see the murder of the unborn (evil) as a woman’s right (good), to see homosexuality (evil) as an accepted alternative life style (good), and to see the removal of God from the public forum (evil) as protecting the rights of the atheist (good).  In each case they call “evil good”!  Isaiah said “Woe unto them” (Isaiah 5:20)!

He who Paul refers to as “the prince of the power of the air” (current verse) Jesus referred to as “the prince of this world” (John 16:11).  Satan is in charge of a highly organized demonic force that not only influences the world of the unsaved, but also “wrestles” against the redeemed (Eph 6:10-18).  We Christians “resist” him “stedfast in the faith” (1 Peter 8-9) and he flees from us (James 4:7).  However, before we were born again we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (current verse).   

Concerning “air,”

“The air is regarded as the region of the demons’ might.” [Vincent].

In regards to the “the prince of the power of the air,”

“who lies underneath guiding ‘the course of this world’ (2 Cor 4:4); ranging through the air around us: compare Mark 4:4, ‘fowls of the air’ (Greek, ‘heaven’) that is, (Eph 2:15), ‘Satan’ and his demons” [JFB].

Satan’s demonic force, which Jesus compared to the “fowls of the air,” seems to operate in the atmosphere around us.   

* the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: *

Regarding “spirit,”

“a current of air, that is, breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit, that is, (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, daemon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy spirit[Strong’s].

Concerning “the spirit that now worketh,”

“That still lives, and whose energy for evil is still seen and felt among the wicked. Paul here means undoubtedly to teach that there was such a spirit, and that he was still active in controlling people” [Barnes].

The devil, that “prince of the power of the air,” is a “current of air,” a very disturbing “breeze.”  In spite of the attempt of the so-called intellectuals to convince us otherwise, the Apostle wants us to realize that the devil is a real adversary who is working out his will through the lives of all those who haven’t placed their faith in the Lord Jesus.  The secularists of our day promote so many things that are contrary to the teachings of Scripture; abortion, gay marriage, the prohibition of Christian thought in the public marketplace, silencing the free speech of preachers who use the Bible to identify sin (homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, etc.), to name a few.  Why?  Why would they promote those things that our founding fathers would have never agreed to?  For the first two centuries of our country’s existence abortion was illegal, marriage was considered to be the union of a man and a woman, the country considered Christian thought to be an extremely relevant part of the public debate, and the teachings of the Bible played an important part in our determining, as a society, what was right and what was wrong.  Why, then, does the secularist of today struggle so hard to altar those things that have been a cherished part of our country’s heritage?  Paul answers that question for us: it’s because the devil is working out his will in America through those who are “the children of disobedience.” 

Think about this: those who are secular in their ideology share very little with the Christian regarding what’s morally right and wrong.  Why?  The devil actively opposes all that God approves, and he works in the lives of those who Paul describes in this verse to carry out his wishes.     

(Verse Two of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

When, in time past, you walked in step with the accepted practices of this (unregenerate) world, under the influence of the one who controls the air (the devil), that spirit who works out his will (for this world) through those who live in disobedience:  

 

Ephesians 2:3

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

* Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, *

Concerning “among whom,”

“In the Greek prepositional phrase ‘among whom,’ the relative pronoun seems to be masculine, so the meaning would be (as RSV translates) ‘among these (people)’; Robinson, however, takes it to be neuter ‘among which’ (the two forms in Greek are identical), referring to ‘the transgressions’ in verse 1. This seems a bit forced” [UBS].

Regarding “had our conversation,”

“Second aorist passive indicative of anastrefoo (NT:390), an old verb, to turn back and forth, to live” [Robertson].

And in regards to “flesh,”

“The flesh (sarx) is not merely the body but ‘the whole man orientated away from God and towards its own selfish concerns’ (Houlden, p. 282)” [Zondervan].

Also,

“So far Paul has been depicting the former state of the Gentile Christians. Now he admits that the Jewish believers were in no better case for they too once lived an earth-bound life in the grip of sin. Nor does he exclude himself from this general indictment (‘all of us’) [Zondervan].

If Zondervan is correct, and many commentators agree with him (for example: Henry; Gill; Geneva Bible Translation Notes; Clark; Wesley; Robertson), then the Apostle is doing here (Eph 2:1-3) what he does in his Roman Epistle (Rom 1:14-3:19), demonstrating to his Jewish readers that prior to their salvation they were as helplessly lost as were his Gentile readers. 

Rather he is drawing that comparison here, or not, he is certainly informing his readers that they all, as well as he himself, were lost in their pre-conversion state.  All of unregenerate mankind lives their lives under the influence of the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). 

* fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; *

Regarding “desires,”

“From the prolonged form of G2309; a determination (properly the thing), that is, (actively) choice (specifically purpose, decree; abstractly volition) or (passively) inclination[Strong’s].

Of the 64 times this Greek word appears in the New Testament it is translated, in the King James Version, “will” 62 times.  We find it in verses such as: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Mat 6:10); “but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mat 7:21); “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luk 22:42); “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom 12:2); “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (2 Cor 1:1); and “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (Eph 1:5).

Concerning “desires of the flesh,”

“A late and rare word except in the Septuagint and the New Testament, from theloo (NT:2309), to will, to wish. Plural here ‘the wishes,’ ‘the wills’ of the flesh like tais (NT:3588) epithumiais (NT:1939) tees (NT:3588) sarkos (NT:4561) just before. Gentiles had no monopoly of such sinful impulses” [Robertson].

Paul talked about the “sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:17, 20) and “the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23).  As a result of Adam’s sin, and the subsequent fall of the human family, sin now dwells in our “members,” or our “flesh.” 

Regardng “mind,”

“More strictly, thoughts[Vincent].

Prior to our coming to saving faith in Christ we lived lives that were submissive to the impulses of our “flesh”/fallen nature and our “mind”/thought life.  Our wishes were the wishes of the “flesh,” which are contrary to the wishes of the Spirit (Gal 5:17).  As a result, the subsequent actions we took, thoughts we thought, and words we spoke were among those “works of the flesh” Paul wrote about (Gal 5:19-21).  Put plainly, we acted out, thought, and spoke those things that our unredeemed “flesh” desired, and those things that our unredeemed “mind” thought of.

* and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. *

In regards to “were by nature,”

growth (by germination or expansion), that is, (by implication) natural production (lineal descent)” [Strong’s].

‘By nature’ (GK G5882) contrasts with ‘by grace’ in vv. 5, 8. Those who prefer to stand on their own and refuse to accept what God has done for them in Christ are self-condemned” [Zondervan].

 “not merely by custom or imitation, but by nature as now constituted since the fall” [Poole].

The implication of original sin is here” [Robertson].

Regarding “were by nature the children of wrath,”

We rightfully deserved God’s wrath, and deserved it because of who we are by our heritage” [Guzik].

As King David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).  The Apostle Paul wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). In our current verse Paul tells us that we “were by nature the children of wrath.”  Combined, these Scriptures tells us that we were all born with a sin nature.  We come by sin honestly; our parents, Adam and Eve, were sinners.  The sin nature is passed on from generation to generation.  We don’t have to teach our children to lie; we have to teach them to tell the truth.  Lying comes naturally.  We didn’t become sinners because we sinned; we sinned because we were sinners!  We were born with a fallen nature, and therefore, we were “children of wrath.”

Concerning “children of wrath,”

“The Bible knows nothing of the idea that all men are ‘children of God,’ except in the sense that He is our common creator (Acts 17:28). Here Paul says that there is a ‘family’ of wrath that has its children, and Jesus called the Pharisees ‘a family of snakes’ (Matthew 3:7, 12:34, and 23:33) and said that their father was the Devil (John 8:44)” [Guzik].

“That is, those who are under wrath, whose destination is wrath, upon whom the wrath of God abides (cf. Rom 1:18; John 3:36; see also Heb 10:26-27)” [Wycliffe].

We read in the Gospel of John, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).  Until we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior we were lost and God’s wrath made its home on us.  We were hell waiting to happen.  We were born into the status of “the wrath of God” abiding on us because we were born the “children of wrath.”

Does this mean that children who die face the wrath of God and, consequently, go to Hell?

“but that unconscious human beings come into the world under the blaze of God’s indignation, hardly consists with Christ’s assertion that to little children belongs the kingdom of heaven. It is true that there is a birth-principle of evil, which, if suffered to develop, will bring upon itself the wrath of God. Whether Paul means more than this I do not know” [Vincent].

The implication of original sin is here, but not in the form that God’s wrath rests upon little children before they have committed acts of sin. The salvation of children dying before the age of responsibility is clearly involved in Rom 5:13” [Robertson].

Absolutely not! Little children who die before they reach that age where God holds them accountable go to Heaven.

Note that those who teach Divine Election point to Romans 9:22-23, and tell us that God has formed some of us to show His mercy to and some of us to show His wrath to. In other words, we Christians are saved through God’s irresistible grace, while others are, by Divine choice, denied that grace. Observe the following comments:

“Be it observed, however, that if God, as the apostle teaches, expressly ‘designed to manifest His wrath, and to make His power (in the way of wrath) known,’ it could only be by punishing some, while He pardons others; and if the choice between the two classes was not to be founded, as our apostle also teaches, on their own doings but on God’s good pleasure, the decision behooved ultimately to rest with God” [JFB].

“What if God: Again, the same principle from God’s dealing with Pharaoh is repeated. If God chooses to glorify Himself through letting people go their own way and letting them righteously receive His wrath so as to make His power known, who can oppose Him?” [Guzik].

“they are said to be vessels, and so no longer considered in the clay, in the mass and heap of creatureship, but as creatures formed and made, and brought into being; and so to be used as instruments in God’s hands, to subserve his ends and purposes, and therefore called ‘vessels’; and not only so, but ‘vessels of wrath’, fallen sinful creatures, and so deserving of the wrath of God, and objects of his vindictive justice, in whom he may righteously display his wrath and vengeance:” He goes on to comment, “what it is he can do, by the utter destruction and damnation of such persons; what man in his senses can ever find fault with such a procedure, or charge it with tyranny, cruelty, and unmercifulness?” [Gill].

Here’s my difficulty excepting their concept of God: they teach that we’re all lost, and only God’s irresistible grace can save us. Those He Divinely smiles on receive this grace, which, of course, they cannot resist, and are therefore saved. Remember, according to this doctrine the chosen and the unchosen are all in the same state of sin until God extends His irresistible grace to the chosen. Those He Divinely chooses not to smile on are judged for the very sins they cannot repent of because it takes irresistible grace to bring one to repentance, and God has chosen, according to His good pleasure, to deny that grace to them. Their concept of God is that He is a God that somehow receives pleasure by denying the only hope of the lost, irresistible grace, to the multitudes that He has Divinely chosen, before time began, to be an example to us who He has chosen to be saved, by condemning them to an eternal existence in Hell. They claim the condemnation is just because they are condemned by their own disobedience. However, the only difference between the lost and the saved, because we all lived in that state of sin, is God’s choice of some. In Gill’s notes above He concludes by asking “what man in his senses can ever find fault with such a procedure, or charge it with tyranny, cruelty, and unmercifulness?” I can! I cannot accept that the God Who loves me has chosen not to love my neighbor. I am in greater agreement with the following comments on Romans 9:22:

That is, although it was now his will, because of their obstinate unbelief, To show his wrath – Which necessarily presupposes sin. And to make his power known – This is repeated from Rom_9:17. Yet endured – As he did Pharaoh. With much longsuffering – Which should have led them to repentance. The vessels of wrath – Those who had moved his wrath by still rejecting his mercy. Fitted for           destruction – By their own wilful and final impenitence. Is there any injustice in this?” [Wesley].

“The apostle refers here to the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, and to which he applies Jeremiah’s parable of the potter, and, from them, to the then state of the Jews. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were vessels of wrath – persons deeply guilty before God; and by their obstinate refusal of his grace, and abuse of his goodness, they had fitted themselves for that destruction which the wrath, the vindictive justice of God, inflicted, after he had endured their obstinate rebellion with much long-suffering; which is a most absolute proof that the hardening of their hearts, and their ultimate punishment, were the consequences of their obstinate refusal of his grace and abuse of his goodness; as the history in Exodus sufficiently shows. As the Jews of the apostle’s time had sinned after the similitude of the Egyptians, hardening their hearts and abusing his goodness, after every display of his long-suffering kindness, being now fitted for destruction, they were ripe for punishment; and that power, which God was making known for their salvation, having been so long and so much abused and provoked, was now about to show itself in their destruction as a nation. But even in this case there is not a word of their final damnation; much less that either they or any others were, by a sovereign decree, reprobated from all eternity; and that their very sins, the proximate cause of their punishment, were the necessary effect of that decree which had from all eternity doomed them to endless torments. As such a doctrine could never come from God, so it never can be found in the words of his apostle” [Clarke].

“The unbelieving Jewish nation, so sinful before God, yet long endured, is meant. God, in the exercise of his sovereign will, has thus far deferred the exhibition of his wrath in its destruction. This verse began with a question. It implies, If God does all this, where is the fault?” [Peoples’ New Testament Notes].

I’m convinced that God inhabits, not only every square inch of space in our universe, and beyond, but also every nana-second of time itself, and every bit of eternity past and eternity future; and He does this simultaneously. In other words, God is still in the Garden with Adam while He is here with you and me. God is everywhere in time and space, and that’s just the part of God we can grasp. This God foreknows all because He is already in the future. Before time, as we know it, began, God already knew which of us would accept His grace, because He was already there watching it happen.

However, God knowing it would happen doesn’t, in any way, pre-suppose election. I’m convinced that the Scriptures that state “God so loved the world,” and “God is love” aren’t describing a God Who loves the Divine Elect and hates those He hasn’t chosen, but rather, describe a God Who loves all of His creation, and gives all an opportunity to be saved. I’m convinced that “whosoever believeth” literally means “whosoever.” I believe that the Scripture which says that God is, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” includes all of mankind, not simply the Divine Elect.

Some who believe that those verses speak of God’s love for His Divine Elect only, would argue that if God is “not willing that any should perish,” and that verse refers to all of mankind, but yet some do, then God isn’t great enough to accomplish His will on earth. I strongly disagree! I believe the will of God is to save all who come to Him, but He desires that all would. He patiently waits for others to come to His saving grace.

Some would argue that either God is in total control (meaning He, as the Sovereign One, chooses who will come to Him and who won’t) or He isn’t in control at all. They would tell us that if every thing is left to man’s choice then God isn’t in control. I had one minister, who I greatly respect, tell me that if God’s not the One making the choices then He can imagine a greater God. And that is impossible because God is greater than we can imagine. My response is that if God can only accomplish His will on earth my being in control of every choice of man, regarding salvation, then I can imagine a greater God. I imagine a God Who is so great He can accomplish His will on earth completely while giving man free choice, which I believe we have been created with.

Concerning “children of wrath,” Paul tells us that there are “vessels of wrath fitted to destruction” [Romans 9:22], and many commentators teach that Paul refers to those who God, for His “good pleasure” [JFB] has destined/selected, from eternity past, to be “vessels of wrath” so He can “make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy” [Romans 9:22]. In other words, some teach that God purposely withholds irresistible grace from some, which, according to their doctrine means salvation is impossible for this group of sinners, and God does this [in essence, choosing to damn a large percentage of this world’s population for eternity] so He can show the “riches of his glory” to the “vessels of mercy,” those fortunate ones that He decided, from eternity past, to grant His irresistible grace to.  Someone explain to me how a loving God shows His glory to us Christians by punishing, forever, the very people who He has chosen to withhold His irresistible grace from.  If I had thrown a lifeline to you yesterday when you were drowning in the ocean, and you’re standing next to me today as others are drowning around us, and you see that I’m unwilling to throw out lifelines to any of them, which is the only means of their salvation, AM I SHOWING MY GLORY TO YOU BY SELECTING TO SAVE YOU, BUT LETTING THE OTHERS DROWN?  Suppose you had cheated me in a business deal, but I chose to save you yesterday, and the ones drowning today had also been involved in your treachery when you cheated me, but I was so loving to you, and so uncaring to them, am I to suppose that you will find me more to your liking because I chose to save you, and chose not to save your fellow conspirators?  If free will is not involved then I believe God would save all of mankind.

If the “children of wrath” that Paul is referring to in our current verse of discussion in Ephesians, can be saved, and thank God we are, then why should we suppose that the “vessels of wrath” Paul refers to in Romans can’t ultimately be saved.  Again, he’s simply referring to how God uses people, by His Divine choice, to complete His will, in this life, towards Israel.  He is not suggesting that once God is through with them in this regard that they can’t choose to repent, and be saved for all eternity.

MY FINAL THOUGHT ON THIS VERSE: The doctrine of Divine Election has Christians rejoicing over their election to grace without shedding a tear for their neighbor who has not been elected to such grace. HOW CAN I REJOICE IN WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR ME AND NOT BE ANGRY THAT HE HAS REFUSED TO DO IT FOR MY NEIGHBOR, THE FELLOW I WORK WITH, MY COUSIN, MY CLOSEST FRIEND, OR MY CHILD? IF SALVATION IS TOTALLY THE WORK OF GOD, AND I AM SAVED 100% BY HIS CHOOSING, AND MY NEIGHBOR CANNOT CHOOSE THIS SALVATION FOR HIMSELF, AND GOD LEAVES HIM IN HIS SIN, HOW CAN I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THAT?

(Verse Three of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

And everyone of us used to live under that same influence, endlessly walking out the desires of our fallen nature, doing those things that our depraved nature and unregenerate mind dictated that we do.  We were, simply as a result of our being born into this world, children of wrath [those destined to face the righteous Judge without any defense] just like all those others.

 

Ephesians 2:4

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

* But God, who is rich in mercy, *

Concerning “rich,”

“metaphorically abounding, abundantly supplied” [Thayer].

“From G4149; wealthy; figuratively abounding with” [Strong’s].

“One characteristic of this blessed One is that He is rich in mercy. He shows mercy to us by not treating us the way we deserve to be treated (Psa_103:10). ‘Though it has been expended by Him for six millennia, and myriads and myriads have been partakers of it, it is still an unexhausted mine of wealth,’ as Eadie remarks” [BBC].

We were all once “children of wrath” [previous verse], “but God” [current verse]!  We were all destined to Hell, “but God”!  We were “powerless to help ourselves” [Romans 5:6; Amplified], “but God”!  We “were of no use whatever to him” [Romans 5:8; the Message], “but God”!  Thank God for “but God”!  God intervened for mankind, in spite of mankind.  We were spiritually dead, destined to Hell, and we couldn’t do a single thing about it. 

Any attempt to dismiss the Truth that we were utterly, hopelessly lost, does great damage to the beauty of grace.  IF SIN ISN’T SO BAD, THEN GRACE ISN’T SO AMAZING!  

Before God could extend His grace to us He first had to show us His mercy.  “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23a].  We legally earned spiritual death.  If God were to give us what we deserved, what we earned, He would sentence us to Hell.  HE DOESN’T GRADE ON THE CURVE!  We don’t get a passing grade because our neighbor failed the test, and we did better than him.  God demanded a perfect score, a “100.”  Any other grade was a failing grade.  We all failed the test.  We don’t get to retake it!  Even if we could, we’d fail again.  “But God”!  HE SENT HIS SON, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, TO TAKE THE TEST FOR US!!  JESUS KEPT THE LAW PERFECTLY!  HE SCORED A “100”!  Everyone who places his/her faith in Jesus get the credit for that “100”!  Jesus took the blame for our failing grade and suffered death for us.  Now God can have pity on the sinner, and can show us His mercy; and He can do so without compromising His total commitment to justice.  HOW RICH IS HIS MERCY?  HOW ABUNDANT?  He has a never-ending supply of it.  “There’s room at the cross for you.”

* for his great love wherewith he loved us, *

In regards to “his great love,”

“God’s love is great because of the price He paid. Love sent the Lord Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, to die for us in agony at Calvary. God’s love is great because of the unsearchable riches it showers on its objects” [BBC].

Notice the following notes,

the love of God to his chosen people is very great, if it be considered who it is that has loved them, God and not man; who is an infinite, unchangeable, and sovereign Being; and his love is like himself, for God is love; it has heights and depths, and lengths and breadths immeasurable” [Gill] {emphasis mine}.

God is “rich in mercy” to the “whosoever believeth” crowd, to those who choose to run to Him for their salvation, because of His limitless love for all of mankind.  He is love, and He loves us all.  He has pre-determined to save all who come to Him through the only “door” that leads to Heaven, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37] Whom does the Father give to Jesus?  Whosoever believeth in Him [John 3:16], and answers His invitation to us all, “Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light. [Matthew 11:28-30].  God initiates; we respond. Jesus invited; we come.

(Verse Four of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

BUT GOD, Who is limitlessly wealthy in mercy, and because He loves us with His immeasurable love,

 

Ephesians 2:5

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

* Even when we were dead in sins, *

 Concerning this thought,

“When we were dead: This is when God started loving us. He did not wait until we were lovable. He loved us even when we were dead in trespasses, providing nothing lovable to Him” [Guzik].

“Repeats the beginning of Eph_2:1, but he changes humas (you Gentiles) to hemas (us Jews)” [Robertson].

“Dead in our souls; dead towards God; dead in law; and exposed to death eternal” [Clarke].

“should be rendered in essentially the same way as in the corresponding expression in Eph 2:1, for example, ‘while we were, as it were, dead as far as the Spirit of God was concerned, because we refused to obey him.’” [UBS Handbook].

“This is the requirement for being saved – you have to be dead, dead to every attempt to justify yourself before God. He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me . . . has passed from death into life (John 5:24)” [Guzik].

NOTE: The expression “dead in trespasses and sins” is used earlier (verse 1 of this chapter). The word “sins” in this verse is the same Greek word rendered “trespasses” in the earlier verse. I have no idea why the translators did that. Paul differentiated between “trespasses” and “sins” in verse 1 by using two separate Greek words, then the KJV translators rendered the word Paul used for “trespasses” in verse 1 as “sin” in this verse, obscuring Paul’s purpose for using both Greek words earlier.

Regarding why both “trespasses and sins” are mentioned in verse 1, let me remind you of what Bengel said, as shared by Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s commentary,

“BENGEL, refers ‘trespasses’ to the Jews who had the law, and yet revolted from it; ‘sins,’ to the Gentiles who know not God” [JFB].

As I mentioned in my comments on verse 1, I agree with Bengel. Paul was reminding both Jew and Gentile believers that prior to their conversion to the Christian faith they were spiritually dead. The Jew, in spite of having the Law, was just as “dead” as the Gentile, and just as in need of a Savior.

In our current verse Paul changes the word “you” in verse 1 to “we.” He’s now including himself, as a fellow Jew, with all his Jewish readers. Just as they were, he too was “dead in trespasses” prior to his coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior.

* hath quickened us together with Christ, *

In regards to “hath quickened us together,”

“From G4862 and G2227; to reanimate conjointly with (figuratively)” [Strong’s].

Concerning this expression,

“God has given us as complete a resurrection from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, as the body of Christ has had from the grave” [Clarke].

“This is not the language of mysticism but of fact. The life Christians now possess is an effect of which Christ’s resurrection was the cause. Christ’s revivification was by an act of God’s power (cf. 1:19-20); the regeneration of believers is by an act of God’s ‘grace’” [Zondervan].

When we placed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we were placed “in Him.” When He perfectly kept the Law, “in Him” we kept the Law; i.e., He was keeping the Law in our stead. When He died for our sins, “in Him” we died. When He was resurrected to a new life, “in Him” we were resurrected to a new life; i.e., a new way of living, or, “the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6) [NIV]. When He ascended to the Father, “in Him” we ascended to the Father. When He sat down at the right hand of the Father, “in Him” we sat down in the Heavenlies. When He sat down far “above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” [Ephesians 1:21], the very things we wrestle against [Ephesians 6:12], “in Him” we are seated far above those very things that war/wrestle against us.

Consider:

Romans 5:12) Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Other Translations:

(CEV) Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die.

(MSG) You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in–first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death.

(TLB) When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned.

(AMP) Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned.

(In My Own Words) As a result of Adam’s sin “sin” entered into all of the human family (because we are all born of him”), and (spiritual) death was the consequential result of that sin. Because of our inherent sinful nature we’ve all sinned and are deserving of this death.

When we were born into Adam (the Hebrew word for “man”), that is, into the human family, we took on the nature of Adam; we were born sinful. Consequently, we were born spiritually dead.

1) We didn’t become sinners because we sinned; rather, we sinned because we were sinners. We became sinners because Adam sinned (Romans 5:19).

Because of God’s “great love wherewith he loved us” (Our current chapter, verse 4), He quickened us dead sinners (who have placed our faith in Him) with Christ; i.e., He made us spiritually alive. Because of that:

2) We didn’t become righteous because we did righteous things; rather, we did righteous things because we were righteous. We became righteous because Jesus did righteous things, because He was perfectly obedient (Romans 5:19).

In the flesh we were born into “Adam,” that is, the human family. In the spirit we were born into “Jesus,” that is, the “last Adam” (I Corinthians 15:45).

All who are born into Adam partake of Adam’s nature; consequently, we are all sinners.

All who are born into the last Adam (Jesus) partake of His nature (II Peter 1:4); consequently, we who are Christian are “made the righteousness of God in him” (II Corinthians 5:21).

2Corinthians 5:21) For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Other Translations:

(CEV) Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God.

(GNB) Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him share our sin in order that in union with him we might share the righteousness of God.

(GW) God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him.

(MSG) How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

* (by grace ye are saved;) *

In regards to this wonderful truth,

“We get it as a gift, not as something we earn. And it comes from One who was not compelled to give it. A. T. Pierson says: ‘It is a voluntary exercise of love for which He is under no obligation. What constituted the glory of grace is that it is an utterly unfettered, unconstrained exercise of the love of God toward poor sinners’” [BBC].

Not by works of the law, as he has shown so fully in the Galatian letter” [PNT].

This is Paul’s message in a nutshell. We needed salvation; we couldn’t save ourselves; God looked down and smiled at us, and sent His unique Son to die for us; Jesus bore our sin so we could wear His righteousness; consequently, we are now in a right relationship with God; and God did all of this being moved only by His love for us, because we had no merit by which to move His hand. IT WAS GOD’S GRACE ALONE!

NOTE: Paul digs deeper into this thought in verse 8 of this chapter. I’ll have much more to say about it in my notes on that verse.

(Verse Five of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

At that time, when we were absolutely [spiritually] dead, as a result of our living in the sphere of sin, and completely powerless to help ourselves, God quickened our [spiritually] dead selves along with Christ, Who’s physically dead body was quickened. Wow! It’s by God’s grace we have been saved!

 

Ephesians 2:6

And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:

Other Translations:

(BBE)  So that we came back from death with him, and are seated with him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus;

(CEV)  God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven.

(GNB)  In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.

(MSG)  Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

(NIV) And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

(NLT) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with him in the heavenly realms — all because we are one with Christ Jesus.

(TEV) In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.

* And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus:*

Concerning this phrase,

“Both Jews and gentiles already in spirit; and ere long our bodies too will be raised” [Wesley].

That is, we are raised from the death of sin to the life of religion, in connection with the resurrection of Jesus, and in virtue of that. So close is the connection between him and his people, that his resurrection made theirs certain” [Barnes].

Together is ambiguous. Render with Him, as Rev.” [Vincent].

In the previous chapter, verses 19-21, we are told that God, our Father, raised Christ from the dead and sat Him at His (the Father’s) own right hand in Heaven, far above the very things we wrestle against (Ephesians 6:12). In our current verse we are told that we believers sit together with Him in Heaven [in the sense that we are “in Him,” and He is seated in Heaven, we too are seated where He is seated], which means we have been seated “in Him,” “Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come,” the very things we wrestle against. Paul tells us that this experience of our sharing with Christ in His resurrection works itself out in the here and now by giving us the ability to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Colossians 3:1-3) (TLB) Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power.

2) Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here.

3) You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God.

Paul tells the Ephesian believers that the way we walk out this “newness of life” is to “seek” [KJV] heavenly things. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus. Peter had no difficulty walking on water when his eyes were on Jesus, but he began to sink when he “he saw the wind boisterous,” in other words, began looking at the waves that were beating against him (Matthew 14:23-34). Today’s Christians are usually taught that the way to overcome temptation is to “try harder,” to look at the temptation and say “No!” I believe the best way to overcome temptation is to stay away from it. If we don’t “seek those things which are above” [KJV of Colossians 3:1], or as Paul put it in another place, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” [Philippians 4:8 (MSG)].

If we spend our time thinking on the wrong things the battle is already lost. What we willingly put into our minds will find its way out through our thoughts, our actions, or our words [Matthew 15:18-19; 12:34]. The key is, as much as possible, we must fix our minds on heavenly things.

Do you remember the old Christian chorus? 

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.”

[Helen Howarth Lemmel]

<first pub­lished in Glad Songs, by the Brit­ish Na­tion­al Sun­day School Un­ion>

(Verse Six of Chapter Two in my own words.) 

And then He caused us to share in the resurrection of His Son, and caused us to sit with Christ Jesus on His throne of glory in Heaven, in the sphere of our being “in Him.”

 

Ephesians 2:7

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

* That in the ages to come *

What “ages to come”?

“The meaning may sometimes be expressed by ‘for generation after generation’ or ‘for days that never end’ or ‘for years that no one has ever yet thought of.’” [UBS].

“In all future times” [Barnes].

“Throughout the endless ages” [BBC].

“Which are successively arriving until Christ’s second coming” [Vincent].

“in all succeeding generations while the world continues” [Poole].

As you can see, some commentators believe these “ages to come” to refer to the ages of glory, while others believe them to refer to coming years on earth until Christ returns. Certainly, both are true in the purest sense, but the question is which one Paul intended when he wrote this letter. What an individual believes the remainder of this verse to mean will determine what he/she believes this phrase to mean.

* he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.*

(CEV) he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done.

(BBE) he might make clear the full wealth of his grace in his mercy to us in Christ Jesus:

(GW) in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come.

(MSG) Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

(NLT) And so God can always point to us as examples of the incredible wealth of his favor and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us through Christ Jesus.

What does this phrase mean?
  1. Does it mean that God, in the current Gospel dispensation, will continue to showcase His grace by saving the “whosoever wills” who come to Him?
  2. Does it mean that God will continue in the ages of an ageless eternity to demonstrate to the angels, and to us, the wonders of this grace?


Walk of Grace Chapel, Council Bluffs Church