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.