Summary: The hopeless condition of man in sin
There were two brothers, well known around town for their crooked business dealings and underworld connections. They were a mean and cold-blooded as you could imagine. One day one of the brothers died, and the surviving brother wanted to give his dead brother a funeral fit for a king. He called the funeral home and made all the arrangements, then he called the town’s minister and made him an offer, as they say, he couldn’t refuse. He said, "I’ll give you $10,000 to put that new roof on the church if, in eulogizing my brother, you call him a saint."
The minister agreed. The whole town turned out for the funeral, and the minister began: "The man you see in the coffin was a vile and debauched individual. He was a liar, a thief, a deceiver, a manipulator, a reprobate, and a hedonist. He destroyed the fortunes, careers, and lives of countless people in this city, some of whom are here today. This man did every dirty, rotten thing you can think of. But compared to his brother, he was a saint" (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, 759).
In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul is writing to the saints in Ephesus reminding them of their condition before they trusted in Jesus Christ. He gives them and us THREE SOBERING FACTS CONCERNING EVERY PERSON WITHOUT CHRIST.
I. HE IS DEAD (v. 1).
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins."
Lehman Strauss writes, "The clearer the picture of our destitute condition before we were saved, the greater is our appreciation of what God has undertaken to do for us" (Galatians and Ephesians, 136).
A. The person without Christ is alive physically but dead spiritually.
There are three kinds of death:
1. PHYSICAL, the separation of the spirit from the body;
2. SPIRITUAL, the separation of the spirit from God;
3. ETERNAL, the everlasting banishment from the presence of God in hell.
Spiritual death is the past condition of believers and the present condition for everyone else.
When Paul counseled Timothy about widows in the church, he said of those who were ungodly, "She that liveth in pleasure is DEAD WHILE SHE LIVETH" (1 Timothy 5:6). Dead while they live is the sad state of every unsaved person.
In His high priestly prayer, Jesus said, "THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Life is to know God. What is death? The opposite of that.
Paul describes the Ephesian believers as being "WITHOUT GOD" before they were saved (Ephesians 2:12).
The verse says that the unsaved are dead "in TRESPASSES and SINS."
To TRESPASS means to GO IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.
Illustration: "No Trespassing" sign
To SIN means to MISS THE MARK or to FALL SHORT.
"ALL HAVE SINNED, AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD" (Romans 3:23).
Illustration: Jumping over the Miramichi River. All would come short.
You cannot understand the doctrine of salvation unless you understand the doctrine of sin.
You cannot understand the doctrine of the incarnation unless you understand the doctrine of sin.
You cannot understand the death of our Lord unless you understand the doctrine of sin.
You cannot understand life as it is in this world unless you understand the doctrine of sin.
B. The person without Christ is spiritually dead, not because he sins, but because he is a sinner.
"THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH" (Romans 6:23).
God warned Adam, "In the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE" (Genesis 2:17).
". . . by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and SO DEATH PASSED UPON ALL MEN, FOR THAT ALL HAVE SINNED" (Romans 5:12).
David declared, "Behold, I WAS SHAPEN IN INIQUITY; and IN SIN DID MY MOTHER CONCEIVE ME" (Psalm 51:5). In other words, "I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (NIV).
We are not born neutral with the possibility of going either this way or that way. We are born sinners.
A person does not become a liar when he tells a lie; he tells a lie because he already is a liar. He does not become a thief when he steals; he steals because he already is a thief. And so with every other sin. Committing sinful acts does not make a person a sinner; we commit sinful acts because he IS a sinner.
Jesus confirmed this when He said, "Those things which proceed out of the mouth COME FORTH FROM THE HEART; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies" (Matthew 15:18-19).
Verse 2 describes the unsaved as "THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE."
God said, "The imagination of man’s heart is evil FROM HIS YOUTH [childhood]" (Genesis 8:21).