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Ephesians 2:1-3

1. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

1. Et vos, quum essetis mortui delictis et peccatis vestris;

2. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

2. In quibus aliquando ambulastis secundum saeculum mundi hujus, secundum principem potestatis aeris, spiritus scilicet, qui nunc operatur in filiis inobedientiae;

3. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

3. Inter quos nos quoque omnes aliquando conversati sumus in concupiscentiis carnis nostrae, facientes quae carni libebant, et menti; et eramus natura filii irae, sicut et caeteri.

 

1. And you who were dead. This is an ἐπεξεργασία of the former statements, that is, an exposition accompanied by an illustration. 118118     “Il expose et esclarcit ce qu’il avoit dit ci-dessus.” “He explains and illustrates what he had formerly said.” To bring home more effectually to the Ephesians the general doctrine of Divine grace, he reminds them of their former condition. This application consists of two parts. “Ye were formerly lost; but now God, by his grace, has rescued you from destruction.” And here we must observe, that, in laboring to give an impressive view of both of these parts, the apostle makes a break in the style by (ὑπερβατὸν) a transposition. There is some perplexity in the language; but, if we attend carefully to what the apostle says about those two parts, the meaning is clear. As to the first, he says that they were dead; and states, at the same time, the cause of the death — trespasses and sins. 119119     Classical writers employ the same metaphor, to denote not spiritual death, with which they were unacquainted, but the absence of moral principle, or utter ignorance of right and wrong. Thus Epictetus says, νεκρὸς μὲν ὁ παιδευτὴς νεκροὶ δ ᾿ ὑμεῖς ὅτε χορτασθὢτε σήμερον, καθὢσθε κλαίοντες περὶ τὢς αὔριον πόθεν φάγητε. “The instructor is dead, and you are dead. When you are satiated to-day, you sit down and weep about to-morrow, what you shall have to eat.” — Ed. He does not mean simply that they were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which they labored. As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God, we are all born as dead men, and we live as dead men, until we are made partakers of the life of Christ, — agreeably to the words of our Lord,

“The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25)

The Papists, who are eager to seize every opportunity of undervaluing the grace of God, say, that while we are out of Christ, we are half dead. But we are not at liberty to set aside the declarations of our Lord and of the Apostle Paul, that, while we remain in Adam, we are entirely devoid of life; and that regeneration is a new life of the soul, by which it rises from the dead. Some kind of life, I acknowledge, does remain in us, while we are still at a distance from Christ; for unbelief does not altogether destroy the outward senses, or the will, or the other faculties of the soul. But what has this to do with the kingdom of God? What has it to do with a happy life, so long as every sentiment of the mind, and every act of the will, is death? Let this, then, be held as a fixed principle, that the union of our soul with God is the true and only life; and that out of Christ we are altogether dead, because sin, the cause of death, reigns in us.

2. In which for some time ye walked. From the effects or fruits, he draws a proof that sin formerly reigned in them; for, until sin displays itself in outward acts, men are not sufficiently aware of its power. When he adds, according to the course of this world, 120120     “The Greek word αἰών, and likewise the Latin word AEvum, both signify the ‘lip of man’ and from thence, by an easy figure, ‘the manner and custom’ of a person’s living; and therefore it denotes here the corrupt principles and morals, and particularly the idolatrous practices of the Heathen world, with which the Ephesians were as truly chargeable as the rest of mankind, before their conversion to the faith of Christ.” — Chandler. he intimates that the death which he had mentioned rages in the nature of man, and is a universal disease. He does not mean that course of the world which God has ordained, nor the elements, such as the heaven, and earth, and air, — but the depravity with which we are all infected; so that sin is not peculiar to a few, but pervades the whole world.

According to the prince of the power of the air. He now proceeds farther, and explains the cause of our corruption to be the dominion which the devil exercises over us. A more severe condemnation of mankind could not have been pronounced. What does he leave to us, when he declares us to be the slaves of Satan, and subject to his will, so long as we live out of the kingdom of Christ? Our condition, therefore, though many treat it with ridicule, or, at least, with little disapprobation, may well excite our horror. Where is now the free-will, the guidance of reason, the moral virtue, about which Papists babble to much? What will they find that is pure or holy under the tyranny of the devil? On this subject, indeed, they are extremely cautious, and denounce this doctrine of Paul as a grievous heresy. I maintain, on the contrary, that there is no obscurity in the apostle’s language; and that all men who live according to the world, that is, according to the inclinations of their flesh, are here declared to fight under the reign of Satan.

In accordance with the practice of the inspired writers, the Devil is mentioned in the singular number. As the children of God have one head, so have the wicked; for each of the classes forms a distinct body. By assigning to him the dominion over all wicked beings, ungodliness is represented as an unbroken mass. As to his attributing to the devil power over the air, that will be considered when we come to the sixth chapter. At present, we shall merely advert to the strange absurdity of the Manicheans, in endeavoring to prove from this passage the existence of two principles, as if Satan could do anything without the Divine permission. Paul does not allow him the highest authority, which belongs to the will of God alone, but merely a tyranny which God permits him to exercise. What is Satan but God’s executioner to punish man’s ingratitude? This is implied in Paul’s language, when he represents the success of Satan as confined to unbelievers; for the children of God are thus exempted from his power. If this be true, it follows that Satan does nothing but under the control of a superior: and that he is not (αὐτοκράτωρ) an unlimited monarch.

We may now draw from it also this inference, that ungodly men have no excuse in being driven by Satan to commit all sorts of crimes. Whence comes it that they are subject to his tyranny, but because they are rebels against God? If none are the slaves of Satan, but those who have renounced the service, and refuse to yield to the authority, of God, let them blame themselves, for having so cruel a master.

By the children of disobedience, according to a Hebrew idiom, are meant obstinate persons. Unbelief is always accompanied by disobedience; so that it is the source — the mother of all stubbornness.

3. Among whom also we all had our conversation. Lest it should be supposed that what he had now said was a slanderous reproach against the former character of the Ephesians, or that Jewish pride had led him to treat the Gentiles as an inferior race, he associates himself and his countrymen along with them in the general accusation. This is not done in hypocrisy, but in a sincere ascription of glory to God. It may excite wonder, indeed, that he should speak of himself as having walked “in the lusts of the flesh,” while, on other occasions, he boasts that his life had been throughout irreproachable.

“Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:6.)

And again,

“Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably, we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”
(1 Thessalonians 2:10)

I reply, the statement applies to all who have not been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ. However praiseworthy, in appearance, the life of some may be, because their lusts do not break out in the sight of men, there is nothing pure or holy which does not proceed from the fountain of all purity.

Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. To fulfill these desires, is to live according to the guidance of our natural disposition and of our mind. The flesh means here the disposition, or, what is called, the inclination of the nature; and the next expression (τῶν διανοιῶν) means what proceeds from the mind. Now, the mind includes reason, such as it exists in men by nature; so that lusts do not refer exclusively to the lower appetites, or what is called the sensual part of man, but extend to the whole.

And were by nature 121121     “Φύσις, ‘nature,’ in such an idiom, signifies what is essential as opposed to what is accidental, what is innate in contrast with what is acquired. This is its general sense, whatever its specific application. Thus, Φαρμάκου φύσις is the nature of a drug, its color, growth, and potency. Φύσις τοῦ Αἰγύπτου is the nature of the land of Egypt — a phrase referring to no artificial peculiarity, but to results which follow from its physical conformation.” — Eadie. children of wrath. All men without exception, whether Jews or Gentiles, (Galatians 2:15,16,) are here pronounced to be guilty, until they are redeemed by Christ; so that out of Christ there is no righteousness, no salvation, and, in short, no excellence. Children of wrath are those who are lost, and who deserve eternal death. Wrath means the judgment of God; so that the children of wrath are those who are condemned before God. Such, the apostle tells us, had been the Jews, — such had been all the excellent men that were now in the Church; and they were so by nature, that is, from their very commencement, and from their mother’s womb.

This is a remarkable passage, in opposition to the views of the Pelagians, and of all who deny original sin. What dwells naturally in all is certainly original; but Paul declares that we are all naturally liable to condemnation; therefore sin dwells naturally in us, for God does not condemn the innocent. Pelagians were wont to object, that sin spread from Adam to the whole human race, not by descent, but by imitation. But Paul affirms that we are born with sin, as serpents bring their venom from the womb. Others who think that it is not in reality sin, are not less at variance with Paul’s language; for where condemnation is, there must unquestionably be sin. It is not with blameless men, but with sin, that God is offended. Nor is it wonderful that the depravity which we inherit from our parents is reckoned as sin before God; for the seeds of sin, before they have been openly displayed, are perceived and condemned.

But one question here arises. Why does Paul represent the Jews, equally with others, as subject to wrath and curse, while they were the blessed seed? I answer, they have a common nature. Jews differ from Gentiles in nothing but this, that, through the grace of the promise, God delivers them from destruction; but that is a remedy which came after the disease. Another question is, since God is the Author of nature, how comes it that no blame attaches to God, if we are lost by nature? I answer, there is a twofold nature: the one was produced by God, and the other is the corruption of it. This condemnation therefore which Paul mentions does not proceed from God, but from a depraved nature: for we are not born such as Adam was at first created, we are not

“wholly a right seed, but are turned into the degenerate”
(Jeremiah 2:21)

offspring of a degenerate and sinful man.


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