Summary: The analysis of the doctrine of sin in Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us several truths about sin.
Today, I am beginning a new series of eight sermons on Ephesians 2 that I am calling, “God’s Plan of Reconciliation.”
Then, in Ephesians 1:3-14, which is one, long, complex, glorious sentence in the original Greek, the Apostle Paul praised God for salvation. Paul praised the Father for planning our salvation, the Son for purchasing our salvation, and the Holy Spirit for applying that salvation to us.
In Ephesians 1:15-23, which is also one, long, complex, glorious sentence in the original Greek, the Apostle Paul prayed for the saints to grow in their understanding of, and appreciation for, the blessings of salvation.
Ephesians 2:1-10 is another single sentence in the original Greek. The theme of this sentence is God’s grace in saving sinners. Paul begins, however, in the first three verses with a devastating description of the way we were before we Christians came to receive the amazing grace of God.
Let’s read about the way we were in Ephesians 2:1-3:
1 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. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
Tony Merida tells the story about Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) who was a philosopher (among other things) and is considered the founder of utilitarianism (“the greatest happiness principle”). He was an interesting figure. In Bentham’s will, he apparently left a fortune to a London hospital. But there was one condition: Bentham was to be present at every board meeting. Reportedly, for more than one hundred years, the remains of Jeremy Bentham were wheeled into the boardroom every month and placed at the head of the table. His skeleton was dressed in seventeenth-century garb and a little hat, which sat on his wax head. In the minutes of every board meeting, a line read, “Mr. Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting.” This was a joke from his philosophy. Of course, he never voted because he had been dead since 1832.
In our text for today, Ephesians 2:1-3, the Apostle Paul was teaching essentially the same thing. Spiritually, all people without Christ are “present but not voting.” We Christians were the “walking dead,” as many commentators put it. In fact, John MacArthur says, “Men apart from God are spiritual zombies, the walking dead who do not know they are dead. They go through the motions of life, but they do not possess it.”
Before Paul explained the amazing grace of God towards sinners, he explained the way we were as sinners in the state of sin before we came to receive new life in Jesus Christ.
The analysis of the doctrine of sin in Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us several truths about sin.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. People Are in the State of Sin (2:1a)
2. Why People Are in the State of Sin (2:2b, 3a, 3b)
3. What Results in Practice Because People Are in the State of Sin (2:1b)
4. How God Views People in the State of Sin (2:3b)
I. People Are in the State of Sin (2:1a)
First, people are in the state of sin.
Paul began chapter 2 by writing in verse 1a, “And you….” To whom was he writing? He was writing to the Christians in Ephesus. In verse 3a Paul mentioned “we all.” He wanted his readers to be sure that what he was about to say was true of all Christians. He was not about to describe some people in deepest, darkest Africa or some people we might consider rude, revolting, or repugnant. No. He was talking about Christians, us, all of us who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. This is the biblical diagnosis of our state.
Paul said further in verse 1a, “And you were dead….” Dead? Yes, dead. Why? “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (2:1). The word “in” is not in the original Greek, and it may be better to translate it as “because of” or “on account of.” In other words, Paul was saying, “And you were dead in [that is, “because of” or “on account of”] the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.”
The key word is “dead.” Paul was saying, “And you were dead!” What did he mean? Clearly, Paul was talking about a spiritual condition and not a physical condition. He was describing the life of a non-Christian. Life for a non-Christian is, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones called it, a “living death.”