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“The Christian’s Past,” Ephesians 2:1-3
In order to answer the question we must go back to what a Christian was before he became
These first three verses of this chapter reveal the spiritual state of the Ephesians before
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 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: 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.” Ephesians 2:1-3.
This is the spiritual state of us all by nature. This is the state we were in when we were born
and in which we will remain unless we experience the saving grace of God through the Lord
Here is a very important doctrine. Our eternal salvation depends upon our receiving this
I. THE EPHESIANS WERE IN A STATE OF SIN WHEN PAUL CAME TO THE
1. The double term used by Paul refers to sin within and without. They were
“dead in trespasses and sins.” This is a reference both to the root and the fruit of sin
within us. We trespass because of the sinful nature that we have. There are trespasses in our
lives because there is sin in our hearts. We must deal with the heart if we are to see a change
in our lives! Mere religious activities cannot do that no more than washing can cure cancer!
2. The degree of their sinfulness. How spiritually diseased are we? There is no life —
we are dead in sins. There are three deaths in the New Testament which illustrate this
doctrine. Luke 8:51-55. “For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she
lay a dying,” verse 42. This is a 12-year old girl who has just died.
Then in Luke 7:11-12 we read: “And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city
called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came
nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his
mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.” This is a young
male adult that is dead and on the way to the grave yard.
Again, in John 11:39-44 we read of Lazarus who was dead for three days and already in the
All were dead but there was a differing degree of corruption. All men are equally dead in sin
but some more subject to its corruption than others.
3. Sin within produces death without. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth
forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death, James 1:15. The death within
brings forth the harvest of death in our lives. The human heart can only bring forth this
fruit. That is why we need a new heart. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit
will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give
you an heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26. This is the ‘New Birth’ of which the Bible speaks. This
is the ‘quickening’ which Paul says the Ephesians had experienced. “And you hath he
quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins,” Ephesians 2:1.
That is the need of every one of us today. The Lord Jesus said that “Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3:3. There is no heaven without that
‘quickening’ which the Ephesians to whom Paul is writing experienced.
II. Being dead in sin, meant that the Ephesians were, before conversion, slaves
Listen to how Paul describes their former state. “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: 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,” Ephesians 2:2-3.
There are a few terms there that need a little explaining.
1. The unconverted man walks in step with the world. Its habits, its pleasures, its
appetites and lustings. Drug use is universal today yet but a few years ago most had never
heard of those substances which are commonly used today! It is so universal that even
school children indulge in this craze. The unconverted man walks in step with the world and
not with God or His law!
Paul says: “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.” the word conversation there means
‘the lifestyle we adopted!’ WE WERE ALL engaged in such behaviour, even Paul before his
conversion. He said of himself: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me,
for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer,
and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ
Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the
world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” 1 Timothy 1:12-15. Without the saving grace of
God this how we all behave!
2. But please note also that the unconverted man’s walk is not only sinful but
he walks ‘according to the prince of the power of the air.’ No person likes to hear
this. They may accept that they sin ‘a little’ but they will object to being told that they are
under the power and influence of the devil! But that is the teaching of the Bible.
Furthermore it is demonstrated daily before our eyes! The devil is called by the Lord Jesus “a
murderer . . . . and a liar,” John 8:44. He is the father of both. There are very few who do
not support murder in one form or another. From political murders to the abortion of the
unborn there are multitudes who have given support to such. What of lies? We see the
evidence of the influence of the devil all around us in every sphere of society! That was the
state of the members of the Ephesian Church before they were rescued by the grace of
3. But look again, and there is something much more alarming stated here by
the apostle. Paul says that while the Ephesians were in this state of sin they
“were by nature the children of wrath,” verse 3. That means they were subject to
the wrath of God, walking under its deep shadow continually! Few give any thought to this,
chiefly because the judgment of God has all but been erased from the pulpit. It is not
fashionable to tell men and women that there is a hell and it is to that dreadful place sinners
who reject Christ and His gospel are going for all eternity!
But no matter how unpopular and unfashionable it is today to preach such a doctrine Paul
preached. It And, it must be said, so did the Saviour Himself ! Here are some of His words
on the matter. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into
Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes,
being in torments,” Luke 16:22-23.
Dare any deny what Christ so plainly taught?
III. IT WAS A STATE OF CONDEMNATION
Being “children of disobedience” we became “children of wrath.”
1. Note that we are by nature children of wrath. The phrase means “by birth.” We
were born sinners under the wrath of God. This is the result of Adam’s transgression. We
have inherited his sinful nature and the condemnation under which his fall brought all his
2. A right understanding of this truth will cause the sinner to see his need of
Christ. Christ is not an accessory without which we can get along very successfully. No,
being under God’s wrath we need a Redeemer Who can deliver us from that wrath.
3. It explains why Christ suffered at the cross. He endured what His people
deserved to endure. The sufferings of Christ were more than that which was visible to man.
He bore the wrath of God for His people. Reject Him and you will bear that wrath