After all the rich, spiritual blessings talked about in chapter 1, Paul reminds his readers that before all this lavish grace was heaped on them, they were spiritually dead. They were part of the world that followed Satan (see also 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this age”). Satan is described here as the prince of the power of the air and the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. We were once among them. All we knew was our sin; it was how we knew to live. We were dead and saw nothing wrong with the world or our lifestyle. Paul switches from ‘you’ to ‘we’, indicating that he also was once dead, just like they were. All we knew were the passions of our flesh, our earthly desires, what made us feel good. We lived for our desires – both physical and mental (“the body and the mind”). Our very nature was children of wrath. God’s wrath was against us in our sins for His holiness cannot tolerate sin. “like the rest of mankind” tells us that the whole world is in this state, passionate about their own desires and eager to live for self. We don’t have to look very far around us to see this played out in our world. Man is self-centered and is his own god.
This chapter brings out the whole “death to life” idea. “Before this, now this” compares the past with the present. Paul is reminding his readers of what they once were and what they now are. We appreciate the grace of God so much more when we understand how totally depraved and dead we were in our sins. This chapter contains some of the most well-known verses explaining the gospel, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (verses 8-9). The early verses in the chapter explain why we could not attain this on our own for we “were dead in our trespasses and sins”. A dead person has no life, no ability on their own to accept God. Once again in this chapter we see the phrase “in Christ”, a reminder that all this is because of Jesus Christ and not ourselves.
The “before and after” concept is seen in the “were dead” and “made alive” along with the “far off” and “brought near” found in verse 13. Comparing and contrasting is one of the things we look for when studying a passage. The idea of being separated and alienated is talked about, followed up with peace and being made one. Read through chapter 2 and write down all the contrasts that are given.
Next week we’ll continue our look at chapter 2 of Ephesians.