And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
You were dead. To be dead in sins is to be alive without Christ (Eph. 2:5). It is being separated from the zoe-life of God (Eph 4:18). Once upon a time we were living on death row, then we put our faith in Christ and crossed over from death to life (John 5:24). “When you were dead in your transgressions… he made you alive together with him” (Col. 2:13). Once upon a time I live apart from Christ, but now I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20).
in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Disobedience. The original word (apeitheia) means disbelief and derives from a word (peitho) that means to convince, win over, or persuade. Since faith is being persuaded or convinced that God loves you (Acts 28:24), disobedience in the new covenant is refusing to be persuaded. It has nothing to do with rule-keeping and everything to do with refusing to trust Jesus. This word is translated as unbelief in some Bibles.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
(a) We too all formerly lived. Once upon a time, when we were unacquainted with the love of God, we walked in the ways of the world (Eph. 2:2).
(b) The lusts of our flesh… the desires of the flesh. The desire to get your own way, get everything for yourself, and to appear important (see entry for 1 John 2:16).
(c) Children of wrath. For as long as we rejected God, we were under self-inflicted condemnation (John 3:18). Walking in the flesh, we were incapable of pleasing God (Rom. 8:8).
Why does Paul single out children? It’s a figure of speech. We were children of disobedience; now we are children of God. We used to have one kind of nature; now we have another. Paul is not saying that babes and children are under the wrath of God.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
(a) But God. Surely this is one of the Bible’s greatest phrases. “We were dead in our trespasses and sins… but God….” “The Savior was crucified and laid in a tomb… but God…” (Acts 13:30). “Joseph’s brothers plotted evil against him, but God…” (Gen. 50:20). “Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker was sick to the point of death, but God…” (Php. 2:27). For the believer, God always has the last word. No matter how bad things get, he is still the great hope we cling to. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).
(b) Rich in mercy. God is both rich in grace (Eph. 1:7, 2:7), and mercy.
(c) Because of his great love. Some people have trouble accepting grace because it sounds too good to be true. “Why is God good to me? Why did he send his Son to rescue me? How can he accept me given the things I have done?” Paul answers those questions. “Because of his great love with which he loved us.”
The original word for love means to be well pleased or fond of or contented with. This word describes the unconditional love God the Father has for his Son (John 3:35, 15:9, 17:26), and for his children (1 John 3:1). God is indiscriminate with his love. Even if you are the worst sinner in the world, he loves you with the same sort of love he has for Jesus (see entry for John 17:23).
(d) Great love. Because of his great love, God has great mercy (Luke 1:58, 1 Pet. 1:3) and great grace (Jas. 4:6).
At some point we need to accept that God loves us, not on account of anything we have done, but because of his great love. God is not mad at you, he’s mad about you. He rejoices over you with singing (Zech. 3:17).
For too long religion has prostituted the love of God by telling us we must do stuff before our Father will love us. Surely this is the greatest crime ever inflicted on the human race. It has left us orphaned, messed up, and in the pigpen. Manmade religion says God is angry and must be appeased. But Jesus shows us that God’s face is shining on us with love and grace.
See also the entry for Love of God.
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
(a) When we were dead in our transgressions. No one can ever say, “God accepted me because of the good things I did.” You were dead in your sins and without any redeeming qualities, when God raised you.
(b) Made us alive. To be made alive by the Spirit of God (Col. 2:13) is to be born again (John 3:3) or born of God (John 1:13) or born of the Spirit (John 3:8). This rebirth happens when we put our faith in the Son of God (John 3:15). The moment we turn to Jesus in faith, we cross over from death to life (John 5:24, 1 John 3:14) and we receive the Spirit of God (Acts 2:38, Rom. 8:9). We leave Adam’s family and are adopted into the family of God.
(c) Made us alive together with Christ. God didn’t just lift you out of the grave, he placed you in Christ and made you a partaker of his divine life. See the entry for Eph. 1:7.
(d) By grace you have been saved. The word grace is synonymous with Jesus. You have been saved by grace (Eph. 2:5) and saved by Jesus (2 Tim. 1:9). We are justified by grace (Rom 3:24) and justified by Jesus (Rom 4:25). The gospel of grace (Acts 20:24) is really the gospel of Jesus (2 Th. 1:8).
Further reading: “Is grace a person?”
and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
(a) Raised us up. This verse is key to understanding your authority in Christ. Jesus sits at the right hand of God and so do we who are in him (see the entry for Eph. 1:7). We are not grovelling at his feet like paupers or standing at a distance like doorkeepers. Once you were a slave, but Jesus has made you a king (see the entry for Rev. 1:6). When you see this, it changes the way you pray. You’ll no longer pray like a beggar but a commander knowing that God has blessed you with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3).
The Good News Bible translates this verse: “In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.” You were created to rule and reign with Christ. We have far more say in what goes on than we give ourselves credit for.
Further reading: “You are a king (so act like one)”
(b) With Him… with Him. The believer has been crucified with him, buried with him, raised with him in order to live with him and reign with him (Rom. 6:4-8, 2 Cor. 13:4, Col. 2:12-13, 2 Tim. 2:11-12). The believer’s life cannot be understood in isolation from Christ. Only in him do we live and move and have our being.
(c) In Christ Jesus. We are alive to God and have eternal life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11, 23). The grace and kindness of God are found in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4, Eph. 2:7) and his forgiveness is found in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1), we are justified in Christ (Gal. 2:17), and our salvation is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:10). Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). We have freedom and are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 2:4). We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). The peace, faith and love of God are found in Christ Jesus (Php. 4:7, 1 Tim. 1:14). In Christ we are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We are complete in Christ (Col. 1:28) and blessed with every blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). All the glory goes to God because it is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30). See the entry for Union.
so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
(a) The ages to come means now and forever more. Grace is not something God revealed one time at Calvary. His plan is to show off or demonstrate his grace for all eternity.
(b) The surpassing riches of His grace. Earlier Paul spoke about the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7). God is very rich in grace. But here he adds the adjective surpassing (huperballo) as if to say, “I didn’t give you the correct impression before. God’s grace is even bigger than I led you to believe.” The surpassing riches of his grace (2 Cor. 9:14) is comparable to the surpassing greatness of his power (Eph. 1:19). God is as gracious as he is powerful.
Other translations refer to the “full wealth,” “extraordinary greatness,” and the “immeasurable (limitless) riches” of God’s grace. His grace is surpassing and incomparable meaning “it can’t be compared with anything else” (NIrV). See also the entry for Rom. 5:20.
(c) The kindness or goodness of God was demonstrated on the cross (Tit. 3:4), but here we are exhorted to look forward into the coming ages. It’s as if Paul is saying, “God has not even begun to demonstrate his goodness and kindness to you” (1 Cor. 2:9). Grace is not just for your salvation (past). Grace is for today and all your tomorrows.
(d) In Christ Jesus: The kindness and grace of God are revealed to us and come to us through Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4).
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
(a) By grace you have been saved. We are not forgiven, saved, or made right on account of anything we have done (Rom. 11:6, 2 Tim: 1:9); we are saved because our heavenly Father loves us and out of the goodness of his heart he has rescued us from our captivity to sin.
Salvation is all God’s doing, not ours (Tit. 3:5). We merely respond in faith to what he has done on our behalf. See entry for Salvation.
(b) Through faith. Grace comes not to the proud and the self-righteous, but to those who humble themselves and acknowledge their need for it (Jas. 4:6, 1 Pet. 5:5).
The grace of God is freely offered to all, but only those who receive grace by faith get to enjoy it (Rom. 5:2). Name any of God’s blessings, from forgiveness to healing, and chances are there is a scripture linking that blessing with faith. We receive forgiveness of sins by faith (Acts 10:43), adoption by faith (John 1:12, Gal. 3:26), and the Spirit by faith (Gal. 3:14). We are saved by faith (Luke 8:12, Acts 16:31, Rom. 1:16, 10:9-10, 1 Cor. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:15, 1 Pet. 1:5, 9), sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18), and are justified and made righteous by faith (Rom. 3:22, 28, 4:5, 5:1, 9:30, 10:6, Php. 3:9). We are born of God by faith (1 John 5:1) and raised up by faith (Col. 2:12). We have our hearts cleansed by faith (Acts 15:9) and gain access to God by faith (Eph. 3:12). We are healed by faith (Matt. 9:22, 29, 15:28, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Acts 3:16), shielded by faith (Eph. 6:16), and we overcome by faith (1 John 5:4-5). We experience the surpassing greatness of God’s power by faith (Eph. 1:19), and we receive eternal life by faith (John 3:15, 16, 18, 36, 5:24, 6:40, 47, 1 Tim. 1:16, 1 John 5:13).
All of God’s blessings come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows.
(c) It is the gift of God. Grace is a gift from God (Eph. 3:7) and so is the faith we need to receive it.
Every one of us is born with a trusting nature. We are inclined to believe that God is good and that he wants to be good to us. It takes years of hardening our hearts to the beauty and goodness that surround us to extinguish our faith. See entry for Faith.
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—
(a) You, the Gentiles in the flesh. You were not born Jews.
(b) Called “Uncircumcision.” To the Jews, you were known as uncircumcised Gentiles.
(c) By the so-called “Circumcision.” The circumcised Jews.
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(a) Formerly far off. You were born far from God and nothing you did could ever close that gap.
But Jesus became our propitiation, bringing us reconciliation with God (1 John 2:2). By shedding his blood, Jesus secured our pardons from death row (Heb. 9:22). Forgiveness is not something we have earned. It is a divine gift, paid for with blood. All your sins – past, present and future – were forgiven at the cross (Col. 2:13).
(b) Brought near. Intimacy is not something we ever need long for. (He is already with us.) We don’t have to beg God to rend the heavens and come down. (He already did.) And we never have to fear that he might abandon us as orphans. (He promised he wouldn’t.) The good news declares that now and forever more, you are in intimate union with the Lord (John 14:20). See entry for Union.
by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,
(a) In His flesh. In Christ’s body.
(b) The Law of commandments is the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.
(c) Contained in ordinances, or the ceremonial rules and rituals of the Jewish religion. The fine print and the footnotes of the law, to quote the Message Bible. Some use this verse in isolation to say that Christians remain under the Ten Commandments, but not under the lessor dietary laws of the Jews. But the law is a composite unity, an all or nothing proposition (Jas. 2:10). Just as the Pharisees were misguided for thinking they could pick and choose which laws to obey, so too are those who insist we must keep some of the laws but not others. We are not under law but grace. See entry for Rom. 6:14.
(d) One new man. See entry for 2 Cor. 6:16.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,
(a) Fellow citizens with the saints. Those who have been born again are brand new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15), members of a new family and a new race and citizens of another kingdom (Php. 3:20).
(b) God’s household. In the New Testament, believers are often referred to as the family or household of God (Matt. 12:50, Mark 3:35, John 11:52, 2 Cor. 6:18, Gal. 3:26, 6:10, 1 Pet. 4:17).
in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,
A holy temple. Collectively Christians are known as a holy priesthood and a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). The church is both God’s holy temple (1 Cor. 3:16-17), and the Lord’s radiant and holy bride (Eph. 5:27).
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