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EPHESIANS - Chapter 2 - Verse 3

Verse 3. We all had our conversion. See Barnes "2 Co 1:12".

Comp. 1 Pe 4:3.

In the lusts of our flesh. Living to gratify the flesh, or the propensities of a corrupt nature. It is observable here, that the apostle changes the form of the address from "ye" to "we," thus including himself with others, and saying that this was true of all before their conversion. He means undoubtedly to say, that whatever might have been the place of their birth, or the differences of religion under which they had been trained, they were substantially alike by nature. It was a characteristic of all that they lived to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The design of the apostle in thus grouping himself with them was, to show that he did not claim to be any better by nature than they were, and that all which any of them had of value was to be traced to the grace of God. There is much delicacy here on the part of the apostle. His object was to remind them of the former grossness of their life, and their exposure to the wrath of God. Yet he does not do it harshly. He includes himself in their number. He says that what he affirms of them was substantially true of himself —of all—that they were under condemnation, and exposed to the Divine wrath.

Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Marg. as in Greek, wills. Complying with the wishes of a depraved nature. The "will of the flesh" is that to which the flesh, or the unrenewed nature of man, prompts; and Paul says that all had been engaged in fulfilling those fleshly propensities. This was clearly true of the heathen, and it was no less true of the unconverted Jew that he lived for himself, and sought to gratify the purposes of a depraved nature, though it might manifest itself in a way different from the heathen. The "will of the mind" referred to here relates to the wicked thoughts and purposes of the unrenewed nature—the sins which relate rather to the intellect than to the gross passions. Such, for instance, are the sins of pride, envy, ambition, covetousness, etc.; and Paul means to say, that before conversion they lived to gratify these propensities, and to accomplish these desires of the soul.

And were by nature, fusei. By birth, or before we were converted. By conversion and adoption they became the children of God; before that, they were all the children of wrath. This is, I think, the fair meaning of this important declaration. It does not affirm when they began to be such, or that they were such as soon as they were born, or that they were such before they became moral agents, or that they became such in virtue of theft connexion with Adam—whatever may be the truth on these points; but it affirms that before they were renewed, they were the children of wrath. So far as this text is concerned, this might have been true at their very birth; but it does not directly and certainly prove that. It proves that at no time before their conversion were they the children of God, but that their whole condition before that was one of exposure to wrath. Comp. Ro 2:14,27; 1 Co 11:14; Ga 2:15. Some men are born Jews, and some heathen; some free, and some slaves; some white, and some black; some are born to poverty, and some to wealth; some are the children of kings, and some of beggars; but, whatever their rank or condition, they are born exposed to wrath, or in a situation which would render them liable to wrath. But why this is the apostle does not say. Whether for their own sins, or for the sins of another; whether by a corrupted soul, or by imputed guilt; whether they act as moral agents as soon as born, or at a certain period of childhood, Paul does not say.

The children of wrath. Exposed to wrath, or liable to wrath. They did not by nature inherit holiness; they inherited that which would subject them to wrath. The meaning has been well expressed by Doddridge, who refers it "to the original apostasy and corruption, in consequence of which men do, according to the course of nature, fall early into personal guilt, and so become obnoxious to the Divine displeasure." Many modern expositors have supposed that this has no reference to any original tendency of our fallen nature to sin, or to native corruption, but that it refers to the habit of sin, or to the fact of their having been the slaves of appetite and passion. I admit that the direct and immediate sense of the passage is, that they were, when without the gospel, and before they were renewed, the children of wrath; but still the fair interpretation is, that they were born to that state, and that that condition was the regular result of their native depravity; and I do not know a more strong or positive declaration that can be made to show that men are by nature destitute of holiness, and exposed to perdition.

Even as others. That is, "do not suppose that you stand alone, or that you are the worst of the species. You are indeed, by nature, the children of wrath; but not you alone. All others were the same. You have a common inheritance with them. I do not mean to charge you with being the worst of sinners, or as being alone transgressors. It is the common lot of man—the sad, gloomy inheritance to which we all are born." The Greek is, oi loipoi— "the remainder, or the others," —including all. See Barnes "Ro 5:1".

This doctrine, that men without the gospel are the children of wrath, Paul had fully defended in Romans, chapters 1-3. No truth, perhaps, is more frequently stated in the Bible; none is more fearful and awful in its character. What a declaration, that we "are by nature the children of wrath!" Who should not inquire what it means? Who should not make an effort to escape from the wrath to come, and become a child of glory and an heir of life?

{a} "all had" 1 Pe 4:3 {*} "lusts" "desires" {1} "desires" "wills"

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