Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Like Paul’s prayer and praise in Ephesians 1, 2:1–10 is also one long sentence in the original Greek text. Paul was thinking in unbroken sentences as he plunged into the depths of God’s grace and mercy, and the salvation He brought to humankind. In 1:15–23, the apostle prays that the believers would know the incomparable power of God that raised Jesus from the dead and elevated him. Here, Paul shows how God uses the same power in the believers. They too will be raised from the dead and elevated.
Paul begins by describing the past state of the believers. You were “dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), he tells them. Transgressions break God’s law, while sin is falling short of God’s ideal. As Bible teacher John Stott notes, “Before God we are both rebels and failures.” Instead of being in Christ, in whom are found all spiritual blessings, the Ephesians were in their sins and spiritually dead. There were three things that acted against them:
First, the world. The “ways of this world” (v. 2) led them astray from God and deeper into sinful bondage.
Second, Satan. He is described as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” and the “spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (v. 2). Satan is the pretender to the throne who will be defeated by the King of kings. For the moment he is at work in unbelievers, just as God is at work in believers (Ephesians 3:20; Philippians 1:6, 2:13). It is chilling to know that Satan once had free control in us, and still tries to destabilise our lives.
Third, the sinful flesh. Paul reminds the believers that they once gratified the “cravings” and “desires and thoughts” of their “flesh”(Ephesians 2:3). Our fallen human nature colludes with Satan and the world to trap us in a terrible and debilitating bondage.
As a result, we were once “deserving of wrath” (v. 3). We were condemned to face the full brunt of God’s wrath because of our sin and disobedience.
Paul reminds the believers of their previous desperate condition. New Testament scholar and theologian C. F. D. Moule reflects: “They must be led to look down again into the pit, into the grave, from which grace called them out and set them free.” It is good to remember our past, lest we forget and take our salvation for granted.
Read John 17:14–19. How did Jesus pray for protection for His disciples against the world and Satan, and for their sanctification (victory over their sinful nature)? What implications are there for you?
Why is it helpful to look into the pit from which we have been saved? How will it help us to worship God and take discipleship seriously?