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.