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.