“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.” (Ephesians 2:1-3).
The past condition of the Gentile Christians (you) of enmity with God and alienation from Him had resulted from following the direction of the world, the course which was determined by Satan and which was still characteristic of the “sons of disobedience.” Jewish believers (we) had done the same things as the sons of disobedience by fulfilling lusts and doing whatever they desired. They had been “by nature,” (by habitual practice), “children of wrath, just as the others;” (other sons of disobedience, Gentile sinners). Indeed, Satan is an equal-opportunity employer! It makes no difference to him what one’s social, ethnic, national or religious background or affiliation may be, he takes and destroys all!
The condition of both Jews and Gentiles as they “walked” or conducted themselves was “death,” or spiritual separation. They were separated from God by reason of having transgressed His law. Since His law is but a manifestation of His character, and man is made in His image, made to possess the same character as God, any transgression of God’s law is a violation of or a separation from man’s own true nature as well. Man was not made to sin, but to reflect God’s glory.
Since this course of action was directed toward the end of fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, we see it as being essentially selfish, motivated not by love for God and for others, but desire for sensual and egotistical gratification, it results in separation from one’s self, from God and from others as well. Truly, the way of sin is the way of death, for it results in separation from every vital and good thing in life.
Husbands become estranged from wives, parents from children, friends from friends, business partners, brothers and sisters in Christ – people in all walks of life and in every kind of human association become alienated – often irreconcilably – from others because of sin. All kinds of anguish, trauma, sorrow, disappointment and feelings of loss and loneliness come from sin. Wounds that will never heal and hurts that will never be eased come from the same source.
If this were the end of the story, there would only be hopelessness and despair. But this is not by any means the full story. The “rest of the story” more than balances the bleakness of that depicted in the first three verses of this chapter.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9).
Into this condition of alienation and death God intervened with mercy and love and “made us alive together with Christ.” Paul then adds in a parenthetical word of explanation, “by grace you have been saved.” This making alive or salvation resulted in all being “raised …up together” and being “made… to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This God did “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
We see in these verses stress being laid on what God has done, the basis on which He did it and the reason(s) for which He did what He did. What He did was make those who were dead in sin alive together with Christ. This associates back with the power of God toward us (Ephesians 1:19) as evidenced in His raising Christ up from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). He also made us to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus as He seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places. The basis on which He did these things was His mercy and love, both of which are expressions of His essential, immutable nature or character. The manifestation of these qualities which resulted in the salvation of these Jews and Gentiles together was “charis” or grace, i.e., a gift.
If God makes alive, raises up and makes to sit as a gift, then none of these things are done by man. A dead man cannot bring himself back to life and one dead in sin cannot will or win himself out of sin. If he is to be resurrected, he cannot decide to climb out of the grave, pit or abyss in which he has been buried by his sin, but must accept the gift of God which is freely offered. If man were able to do any of these things then he would have reason for pride in his accomplishment and for boasting to God of what he had done.
If their salvation was a matter of grace, then their having been made to sit together was also a matter of grace. Their unity – their being joined together was a great gift, a wonderful blessing, for it meant that both groups were in the same relationship with God as a result of what God had done equally for both, and could in that relationship be a living proclamation of God’s kindness and mercy throughout the ages. Here, being brought into relationship with God and with others who are likewise saved, we begin to establish relationships that were lost and heal wounds that were received while in sin. These relationships are formed on the basis of a common faith and wounds are healed on the basis of trust that comes with a transformed character as we are all changed into the image of God.