In this series on the sinfulness of man, I've previously posted about Genesis 6:5-8, Jeremiah 17:9, and Romans 3:10-18. Why blog on this topic? The reason is simple. When we accurately understand how dreadful sin is and how corrupt we are, Christ's substitutionary death on the cross takes on even greater beauty.
Ephesians 2:1-3 makes one of the clearest cases for the absolutely corrupt nature of mankind. In these verses, Paul writes, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, 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, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (To read Ephesians 2:1-10, click here.)
The fourth word in this passage is critical. The word is "dead." In the original language, Paul uses the word "nekrous," which means dead. Based on the context of this passage, it is clear that Paul is talking about spiritual death.
As we read the above passage, it is also important to point out what Paul did not say. He did not say that we are "dying." The apostle clearly states that the death has already occurred. We are not in the middle of it; it is rather a past event.
The picture gets uglier and scarier as we look at Paul's description of this spiritual death. Paul describes us all, prior to salvation, as being followers of Satan. Ouch. When Paul writes, "the prince of the power of the air," he is referring to Satan himself. We followed Satan is the course of this world. It is clear that we ran after what this world has to offer. We were not seeking God, but were instead enjoying earthly pleasures.
Paul continues by writing that, "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind." Instead of being motivated by the things of God, we were driven by lust. This may have been mental and/or physical. Regardless of the specific nature of the sin, they key is that our desires were focused on the things of this world and not on God.
Finally, Paul says that we, "were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Due to the corrupt nature of our hearts and minds, which manifested itself in sinful behavior, we deserved the wrath of God. Since sin is an eternal affront to an infinitely good and holy God, all who sin deserve the pure wrath of the God of heaven.
The key to Ephesians 2:1-3, as I stated above, is the word "dead." The reason for its importance is that stresses the permanence of our situation unless saved by another. We, as sinful people, could do nothing about our problem because we were dead. A dead person cannot respond when someone else simply calls out offering help. A dead person needs someone else to take the initiative to rescue him. As dead person cannot even help with the rescue.
Once brought back to life, a dead person ought to respond one way: with great gratitude. In the case of spiritual rebirth, a gracious response should be accompanied by worship and adoration of God.
Ephesians 2:1-3 accurately portrays our wretched state in the eyes of God before salvation. When we contemplate this, it should cause us to both shudder at the horror of it and also bow in awe to the One God who would save us from this state.