“You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience3 (Eph. 2:1-3, WEB).”
The apostle Paul starts here with a spiritual paradox. You were made alive when you were dead. How can one be made alive if they are dead? The answer is the gospel–the good news that God saves sinners, which turns this contradiction into a reality. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the answer to this glorious truth.
Jesus made it clear to his disciples in John 11:25-26 when he exclaimed: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Although our sin leads to death (Rom. 6:23), the sacrifice of Christ imputes a righteousness that makes us alive in Him. The curse of death has no authority and power since the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus of Nazareth is now living in those who repent and trust in the atonement of the Lord.
Furthermore, Paul is reminding the people of God in Ephesus that their former life–living in sin and walking according to the course of this world, has been disrupted by the power of the gospel. The Greek word for walking, περιεπατήσατε, means that in their carnal past, sin treaded all around them. They were completely immersed into following the lusts of the world and the prince of the power of the air–Satan.
While this same spirit is working in the sons of disobedience, it is no longer possessing or controlling the believer in Christ. 1 John 4:4 makes this clear when addressing believers: “You are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.” In other words, the Holy Spirit that dwells among the Saints is like a wall of fire, protecting the believer from the spiritual arrows and attacks of the devil.
“We also all once lived among them in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 (Eph. 2:4-6).”
Scripture validates this unfortunate truth that all humans have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is no one who does good, not even one (Rom 3:10-12). The entire Bible confirms this. In Genesis, the Triune God declared that the intention of man’s heart is evil from their youth (Gen. 8:21). The Psalmist proclaimed that He was brought forth in iniquity (Ps. 51:5). Titus mentions all of us were once foolish, disobedient, and led astray by evil passions (Titus 3:3).
However, Paul shifts his tone with the conjunction, “But God.” It’s because of God’s rich mercy that we are able to walk by the spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). It is because of God’s great love with which he loved us, that we are able to put off the old self, put on the mind of Christ (Eph. 4:22); preventing sin to reign over our mortal bodies and making us obey it’s passions (Rom. 6:12).
The Word of God pronounces that even when we were dead through our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ, and it is by grace the faithful have been saved. This notion of grace is undeserved favor and mercy–and it is the sole reason we have been saved.
Furthermore, the Greek word for salvation is σεσῳσμένοι, and it expresses healing, preserving, delivering, and protecting. But I think one of the strongest ways to describe our salvation is through the term rescue. Why is that?
Rescue conveys saving someone from a dangerous situation. The danger is the deceitfulness of sin, which absolutely destroys every fabric of our being. The consequences of sin is not only physical death, but an eternal separation from God in Hell.
Jesus said at the end of time his angels will be sent throughout all the world, gathering all of those who practice iniquity, and thrusting them into the furnace of fire–where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:40-43). This alarming reality should beckon us to plead with God for mercy and grace, allowing Him to rescue us from this terrible plight.
“And raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; 8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, that no one would boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:7-10).”
The Greek word for raised, συνήγειρεν, indicates this idea of being revived or roused. When one is baptized into Christ, they are expressing a death to their former life by being buried in the water of judgement, and when they come out of the water, they are being raised to life. Romans 6:4-5 states, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
What does it mean we are seated with him in heavenly places? Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr. states it best:
“All three Pauline texts above (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1) are in the aorist tense and indicative mood. So, the time aspect does come into play in these verses – past time. What Paul is saying is that the events of being “glorified” (Rom. 8:30), “raised up” (Col. 3:1), and “seated” with Christ (Eph. 2:6) are absolutely certain for the believer! Why? Because from the standpoint of God’s eternal decree, they have already happened – past time.”
As believers, when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption. So while we are not currently in heaven, the spiritual reality of it exists since God’s Spirit lives within us. We can be confident that nothing will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ (Rom 8:31).
Furthermore, Paul elaborates on what it means to be saved by grace through faith. Salvation is a free gift; it is not earned by one’s good deeds or futile attempts to follow God’s law. In fact, all of us have sinned–we have missed the mark, and are not worthy to be accepted by the Father through our own accomplishments. This is why the sacrifice of Jesus is the only sufficient act that God will accept for us to be received into the beloved.
“Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “uncircumcision” by that which is called “circumcision” (in the flesh, made by hands), 12 that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:11-13).”
The Apostle Paul, reaching out to both Jews and Gentiles, reiterates to the Gentile people that they were once separate from God, alienated from the community of Israel, and classified as uncircumcised pagans cut off from the promises of God, without any hope or favor. However, then Paul quickly focuses on the good news that the atonement of Christ reconciled all people to the Everlasting Father. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).”
“For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in his flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility through it (Eph. 2:14-16).”
The Lord is our peace, who broke down the middle wall of separation. What does this mean? This partition was a real wall that prohibited Gentiles from entering into the temple courts. It was called the “soreg,” and it was a low wall surrounding the Temple in Jerusalem. The soreg featured signs that warned unauthorized people against entering the area of the Holy Temple.
But now that Jesus is our High Priest and perfect sacrifice, we can now come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). This wall has been abolished now because we can enter into the Holy of holies by the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. As Paul clearly shows here that the incarnate God reconciled us through the cross, having put to death the hostility through this ultimate sacrifice.
“He came and preached peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, 20 being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom the whole building, fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:17-22).”
Jesus preached peace. He is the Prince of Peace. Scripture tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt. 5:9). There is coming a time when war and conflict will cease and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Praise be to God.
Moreover, Jesus is the chief cornerstone. He is the rock on which we stand. He is the foundation of the church which keeps the whole building, along with the apostles, prophets, and believers, on the right trajectory. The Lord is building a habitation, κατοικητήριον, a dwelling place, where holiness and truth will reign forevermore.
The World English Bible (WEB) version was used in this commentary. It is a public domain modern English translation of the Holy Bible and is freely distributed like the gospel of salvation in Christ. Praise be to God!
Commentary by Chad A. Damitz (M.Div)