What We Were: Under Wrath, Ephesians 2:3

During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.

“And were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3)

The opposite of God’s wrath is not God’s love, but God's apathy, and God cannot be apathetic. His wrath flows from His love, for He hates what sin does to people He loves. He cannot abide with sin. As Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him" (John 3:36).

Everything we were before Christ — dead in sin and followers of the world, devil, and flesh (see Ephesians 2:1-2) — put us under wrath. Our seated position was one of God’s eternal and righteous judgment. Eternally, all will sing, “true and just are your judgments” (Revelation 16:7). Before placing your faith in Christ, this position of judgment was yours. We were, as Paul wrote, “by nature children of wrath.”

So, in the first few versions of Ephesians 2, Paul built a case for what humankind is before Christ comes into their lives. These truths were personal for Paul. Before his conversion, he would never have described himself in these terms. He did not see himself as dead in trespasses and sins; he instead thought himself as approved in God’s sight, a good man with good desires living a good life. He did not see himself as a follower of anything or anyone but God. He did not yet realize all he followed in his Pharisaism was of the world, of the devil, and of his own sinful flesh. He also did not see himself as under God’s judgment; he instead thought himself righteous and better than his fellow man. In his mind, he had earned these distinctions through a life of good works. But when Christ came flooding in on that road to Damascus, Paul’s heart of darkness received light. He realized he had fallen short of the glory of God. He saw His depravity. He realized he was a man in need of God’s rescue.

One might be tempted to take offense at all Paul has written in Ephesians 2:1-3. The temptation might proceed into a desire to water down the force of Paul’s statements. Surely we weren’t spiritually dead to the degree he says, we might think. We weren’t followers of that nature. We weren’t actually under God’s wrath. But to believe so would be to believe lies.

Remember, there is likely a direct correlation between the intensity of our belief in these statements and the intensity of our passion for God. If we believe Paul’s statements lightly, we will thank God lightly, for what danger has He rescued us from? But if we believe we were as dead as Paul says, following as blindly as he describes, and under wrath with all of mankind, we will become intensely grateful for God’s great rescue of our souls. These doctrines are good doctrines. Paul knows it. In his mind is the gospel-resurrection-saving-power of God, and to demonstrate that power he knew he had to write about the state from which God has saved His people. Indeed, we could not save ourselves.

God-Hearted #12 — Want What God Wants (1 Samuel 26)

Theme: It is a mark of maturity and a work of the Spirit when a person internally wants what God wants. David, through the repetitive work of the Spirit, came to want what God wanted.
    - 1 I Trust God With My Life
    - 2 I Strive For A Clear Conscience
    - 3 I Want To Be Where God Is
    - 4 I Want God’s Grace (Not People’s Payback)

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What We Were — Followers — Ephesians 2:2-3

During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.

“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 — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind…” (Ephesians 2:2-3)

Perhaps, when thinking of that old life of spiritual deadness, believers might remember themselves as brimming with originality. But it would be wrong to think this way, for our past life was not a self-willed one. Instead, Paul shows us we were all followers. Again, Christ has made a way of escape, and believers have experienced that rescue. We are no longer spiritually dead, and we are no longer hopeless followers. But what had we followed?

First, he tells us we were followers of the course of this world.

In our old life, we lived exactly like the rest of the present age. Paul does not mean that we followed the people of the earth, but an organized system that is against God. This world system hates and opposes all that is of the true God, taking shape in ideologies or philosophies where He is pushed to the side. The age will promote views and politics and agendas and philosophies which compete with one another, but their commonality is that they push God and His gospel to the side. This godless wave of a system is seen first at the tower of Babel, again at Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, and finally at the final judgment of Christ. It longs for humanity to be one, but without God and His Christ. There is no room for dissent in this system. Believers and their gospel must be pushed to the side.

Second, we were followers of the prince of the power of the air, Satan himself.

For some, this means a knowing and direct allegiance to Satan, but for most this points to unrealized obedience to his plans and desires. The whole world lies under his power (1 John 5:19). He has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4). He shapes the atmosphere humanity lives within, and believers used to swim in the current he influenced.

Third, we were followers of the passions of our flesh, the desires of the body and mind.

In our old life, we were at the mercy of our sinful desires. Sin always takes God-given desires and perverts them, eventually enslaving us to the perversion. Sin takes our hunger for food and makes us gluttonous or greedy or consumed with self-consciousness which would restrict us. Sin takes our desire for rest and makes us lazy or unwilling to work or sleepless and marginless, pridefully believing ourselves stronger than the weaklings who need rest. Sin takes our desire for sex and takes it out of marriage and into reckless passion or ashamed fear. Sin takes God-given, natural desires and twists them until all that is left is a slavemaster driving humanity further into depravity, for we are all born under sin (Romans 3:9).

So Paul makes it abundantly clear: we were followers, and could only exist as followers before Christ's glorious gospel came to us via the love of God. We are to be followers of the age, Satan, and passions no longer. Christ has set us free to follow Him.

United To Life — What We Were- Spiritually Dead — Ephesians 2:1-2

During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked…” (Ephesians 2:1-2)

Paul had prayed for the Ephesian church — and us — to know three things. He longed for us to know the hope of our calling, the riches of our inheritance, and the immeasurable power of God toward us who believe. It was his third prayer, an understanding of God’s power toward us, Paul felt most strongly. He expanded upon the concept of God's power by telling of the resurrection power God released upon His Son, followed by the influential position Christ currently holds as the head of His church. He wants to fill all things, and He wants to use His church to do so. The power of God is a necessity in the church’s mission to fill all things with Christ.

Paul aims to get us to understand the power of God. He made us into new creations, His workmanship now dedicated to a life of good works (Ephesians 2:10). God majestically brought us into that state of newness. But for us to appreciate the change is us, Paul must go back and show us our former depths of despair, our previous depravity. For him to show us our new unity to life, he must show us our old unity to death.

We were a spiritually dead people, dead in trespasses and sins in which we walked. To trespass is to willingly cross the line, to willingly disobey. To sin is to miss the mark of God’s perfection. Sometimes willingly, sometimes because of our limitations, we were dead in sin. It killed us, so sin is a kind of suicide. Sin kills our innocence, our reservations, and our will, making us subservient to its desires.

Here, however, Paul is focused not on servitude, but death. Before Christ comes into our hearts, we are spiritually dead. God had told Adam death would be introduced if he ate the fruit. And eat he did, introducing three levels of death into the human race. We most often think of the second type of death — physical death. But we forget spiritual death precedes physical death — and eternal death follows physical death. Mankind walks around the planet physically alive, but spiritually dead. Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead,” a statement which affirms the idea of spiritually dead people walking around in physically alive bodies (Luke 9:60).

This spiritual death is not the only way the Bible describes lost humanity. We are made in the image of God, so even after dying spiritually, there is a shadow of God's image in us. We should expect to see kindness and innovation and care flow from humanity, but before Christ, the dominant state of a person is spiritual death. And, like physical death, over time our spiritual death leads to decay. If a people are not awakened to Christ and His gospel, the sins of their society will erode and enslave, growing into dominance. Only Christ can stop this downward cycle, bringing life through the new birth. His salvation snatches us from the clutches of sin’s slavery, but also sin’s death.