1 You were at one time dead in your offences and sins, 2 in which you previously walked in accordance with the world order (pertaining to) the current age and of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit currently working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of its thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest. 4But God…! [Eph2:1-4]
What Paul means by “dead”
If you have been following my posts, you will know what I believe Paul to mean by non-Christians being DEAD in their sins. It is not referring to “damnation”, which pertains to those dead in both flesh and spirit such that they are devoid of love (Jude1:12 cf. 1Jn3:12; 1Jn4:7). Rather, it relates to what the apostle had written in Rom7 regarding “the body of this death” that resulted in a conflict between the spiritual essence (“spirit”, “heart”, “inner man”) implanted by God at birth and what Paul and Peter both describe as our earthly “vessel” or “tent”, being the intellectual entity (body and brain) procreated from our parents, ultimately from fallen Adam that the soul/spirit temporarily inhabits. By nature, the instincts of the latter overpower the former, and the “dead works” that result defile the conscience. That leads to an inability rightly to relate to or serve the living God, being man’s true purpose and destiny (Heb9:14). As that verse also affirms, the only solution to the predicament is the application of the blood of Christ (earlier post).
The mind of the flesh
In reviewing the Ephesians’ former lives Paul refers to the flesh and its thoughts (v3); not as many bibles translate it “the flesh and the mind” – for διανοιῶν is plural [see parsing]. “The mind” [Greek: νόησις] would anyway be ambiguous for we have two minds, the one pertaining to the flesh that Paul is referring to here (i.e. the brain) and the mind of the spirit/inner man/heart, being that memory-retaining intellectual spiritual entity that departs the body at physical death (cf. Lk16:25). It is a point in which I am necessarily pedantic and repetitive for it is crucial to understanding Paul, especially the much misunderstood second half of Rom7. “Crucial” because it pertains to the nature and consequences of “original sin” and the very purpose of gospel salvation (cf. Rom7:24-25).
Jesus expressed the same concept more starkly (albeit metaphorically) in terms of physical dismemberment. The telling phrase in His sermon on the mount being “if your right arm/eye offends YOU, hack it off / pluck it out” (Mt5:29-30). The “you” is the true/inner/spiritual self; the offending eye and hand are the instincts of the bodily members as processed through the brain. Peter was more succinct: “Abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul” (1Pet2:11). Note the fleshly lusts oppose the soul, they are not derived from it.
Satan’s temporary domain
Paul also refers here to the current age and the world order pertaining to it. “Prince of the power of the air” is simply referring to Satan and the physical atmospheric realm (air) in which human beings subsist – as opposed to Jesus’ current locale being “the heavenly places” (previous post). The extraordinary current state of affairs, concerning which I expounded in an earlier post is that Satan rather than Jesus is “ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου” (literally, chief of the world system). Through His Passion, the Latter has already assured the former’s demise (Jn12:31), but the final solution has yet to be implemented, involving as it does not only Jesus but His people (1Thes3:13), some of whom have yet to be recruited.
Children of wrath
In terms of final judgement, we can be assured God will take account of man’s hostile, satanically influenced environment and the inherited weakness of His flesh, for it is the Son of Man who will be doing the judging (Jn5:22). The Creator is nevertheless angered and aggrieved at the sight of human self-indulgence, violence, and immorality (v3). Given that man has an immortal soul, being by nature “the children of wrath” would not appear to bode well for humanity’s eternal prospects given that proportionally few have been delivered from this predicament.
Thankfully, Paul’s extraordinary statement in Rom8:20-21 [Ref#1] indicates otherwise, presenting the Fall, its consequences, and especially its origins and purpose in a different light. Frankly, Paul’s assertion here is likely to confound many, but hopefully it should make a lot more sense after a reading of The Little Book of Providence. Paul of course was well acquainted with these matters and so is quickly able to dispel the gloom. He does so in the passage immediately following. It is introduced by two of the most propitious words in the bible: “BUT GOD….”! (v4 – next post).
Ref#1: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [Rom8:20-21NASB]
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