Lesson 19: Death and Life
And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (2) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (3) among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as others.
Have you ever walked into a dark room out of bright sunlight? Or perhaps you have been in a dark room and suddenly someone comes in and turns on a bright light? Well, if so, you can catch the essence of the passage we come in today’s study.
The first half of Ephesians chapter 2 is a study in contrasts – a “before and after” picture of the Christian. Remember that chapter two is divided into 3 parts: An Assessment of the past in verses 1 through 3: An Appraisal of the present in verses 4 through 10, and An Affirmation of the Purposes of God in verses 11 & 12.
In our last study we began looking at that “assessment of the past,” and we saw that we had a very large problem. We saw the scope of the problem: that it reaches even you and me. You know, when our neighbor or friend has a problem, we may sympathize with them, but it is hard to really understand how serious it is unless it begins to actually affect us. Someone has said that if your neighbor gets laid off from his job, it signals a recession, but if you lose your job it becomes a depression. Or, in the same vein, minor surgery is the surgery your friend is going to have, but major surgery is the surgery you are going to have.
But verses 1b through 3 go on to show us the seriousness of the problem – so serious that it is described in terms of “death.” . . . “Dead in trespasses and sin.” Now obviously, that is not physical death, but what we might call “spiritual death.” But that separation from God has all of the characteristics spiritually that physical death has in relation to human beings. And even though some people are not as sinful as others, Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We might say that some people only barely come short of the glory of God, while others miss it by a mile.” But the bottom line is that no one is good enough in and of himself to measure up to the perfect righteousness of God. If there were an endurance contest see how many people could swim across the Pacific Ocean, there might be a few who could make it as much as a few miles, but no one would finish the race.
But the seriousness of the problem is demonstrated in another way, too. In verses 2 and 3 it is described as domination.
In which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience (3) Among whom we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature the children of wrath, just as the others.
Every one of us think that we are “free moral agents” – that we can do anything we want to do, especially in the western world, where our form of government is based on “freedom” and “liberty.” But theses verses tell us that, while this may be true to a certain extent, the truth is that we are being dominated by a power that is far superior to us. And that power takes several forms. First, verse 2 tells us that we are dominated by the peer group. Look at the phrase there in verse 2, “according to the course of this world.” This term “world” is used often in the New Testament to describe those who have not put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and been born again spiritually, This is actually describing what in today’s world we would describe as “the peer group,” or “keeping up with the Joneses;” or “climbing the corporate ladder,” or “the spirit of the age.” People who are in that category do whatever they feel like doing without even thinking about what God might say about it.
As we saw in our previous study, this is a powerful force even in the lives of Christians. It is difficult to live in that kind of society without some of it “rubbing off” on us. Someone has described it as boiling a frog. If you put a frog in a pan of boiling water he will immediately jump right out of it. But if you place the frog in a pan of cool water and then gradually turn up the heat, he will sit in that water until he boils to death because it happened so slowly.
But a second factor in this “domination” of the unsaved is the prince of the power of the air.
According to verse 2.
In which you once walked according to the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience.
His description is given clearly here by means of this title. The word “power” is a translation of the Greek word “exoosia,” which means “authority.” (As opposed to “dynamite”) And the word “air” is a word which refers to the atmospheric heavens – the sky. When we put all of these terms together we will realize that we are talking about Satan; the devil. And when we get to chapter 6 we will see more important information about about Satan. Ephesians 6:12 refers to “wicked spirits in the heavenlies” using this same word. And it goes on to say that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood” (or we might say “only against flesh and blood.”) Flesh and blood are bad enough, but our struggle is against flesh and blood, as well as Satan and his demonic forces. So when we put all this together, what these verses are saying is that Satan is a “prince” with authority over a group of wicked spirits in the atmosphere around us. There is much more information about Satan in the scripture, but it is beyond the scope of this lesson.
For example, a careful study of Daniel chapters 7 and 10 along with Ephesians chapter 6 will show that he assigns his demons to nations and to leaders within nations, as well as ordinary individuals. So again, the problem of spiritual death is an extremely serious one in terms of ever having a relationship with God and getting into heaven.
But verse 2 not only gives us “his description,” but his domain as well. He is:
. . . the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, (3) among whom we all once conducted ourselves, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.
Notice that phrase, “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” This is Satan’s domain: the human mind! Make no mistake about it. Satan is not in hell ruling over a bunch of rebels who never accepted Christ. He does have the ability to shuttle back and forth between heaven and hell, but his major activities at this point in human history are involved in seeing to it that as many people as possible never find out about salvation through faith in Christ. And other scriptures give us other details about his domain. For example, in Galatians 5:19-21 we have a description of the human spirit, which the New Testament refers to as “the flesh.”
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (21) murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like, of which I tell you beforehand just as I also told you in times past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
This list contains all of the obvious sins – murder, drunkenness, adultery, etc. So again, the situation for the unbeliever is a hopeless one. But look also at all the negative attitudes in this list: sins of the heart – uncleanness, hatred, contentions jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, and so forth. The Bible doesn’t mention this word, but one of Satan’s activities which has become well known in recent years is the “community organizer,” whose main responsibility is to infiltrate neighborhoods where crime and poverty are rampant and just constantly remind the residents of how bad things and how unfairly they are being treated.
Then in 2 Corinthians 4:4 we find a reference to the way Satan works on the minds of unbelievers.
Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, lest the light of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them.
The word “blinded” here and in several other places in 2nd Corinthians, is the translation of a Greek word which means “smokescreen.” And this is a perfect description of how Satan works – “clouding the issue” about whatever the issue is. He does this by getting unbelievers to concentrate on the hypocrisy of Christians, the pleasures of sin, (but never the consequences of it.)
A summary of this information is that the unsaved do just whatever they “want” to do without regard to what God thinks about it.
But thankfully, the story doesn’t end here, because back in verse one we have the solution to the problem.
Look at the little phrase, and you he made alive.
Think of all the contrasts between life and death. That is what salvation is all about spiritually. This is exactly what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3
Jesus answered and said to him most assuredly I say to you that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Now we have to remember that Nicodemus had never heard this story before. It was totally new to him, just as it may be with you. So Nicodemus said just what you may be saying or thinking. In verse 4 he said, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter into his mother’s womb and be born? So in verse 5 Jesus begins to clarify His answer. He said,
“Most assuredly I say to you that unless one is born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”(6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit (7) do not marvel that I said to you “you must be born again.”
Do you see what Jesus is saying? It is very simple. “He was saying, “Nicodemus, you were born the first time physically, which Jesus referred to as being “born of water,” probably a reference to the “water” that is involved in pregnancy and birth.” But in order to “see the kingdom of heaven” you have to be born a second time; this time spiritually.
Jesus continues the conversation a little longer until He comes to the well known verse 16, which says:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
And this seems like the perfect time to ask: “Have you ever “believed” in Jesus Christ? To believe in Him means to believe that the things He said are true and the things that the Bible records him are true. And one of the many things that Jesus said is:
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me”
If you have never done so before will you pray a prayer like this” “Jesus, I believe that you are the Son of God, and that you came to take the punishment for the sins I have committed.” Today I put my faith and trust in you to be my Savior. I claim the promise today that I have been born again spiritually and will have eternal life in heaven.”
If you have prayed this prayer, as soon as you can, you need to find a church where the Bible is taught and that will help you learn more about being a child of God.