This special meditation has been prepared by PRC home missionary, Rev. Aud Spriensma.
Our Dark Past - What We Were
Meditation on Ephesians 2:1-3
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 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.
There really is no subject or predicate in these verses. The words, “hath he quickened” are supplied. The subject of this sentence is finally in verse 4, and the predicate in verse 5. We have in these three verses what the Ephesian Christians were and what all Christians were by nature: totally depraved. This is important to know and realize. How can we have a true conception and appreciation of the greatness of God’s power in salvation? The answer is that we measure it by the depth of sin from which we have been saved. The greatness of salvation is seen and understood only on the backdrop of the depth of sin and death that we were in by nature. We have here an example of how to tell the story with the greatest effect.
Your little boy runs in and says, “Our team won the game, even though key members were sick. It was a close game; the other team was ahead the whole game, etc. etc.” Or your little boy comes in and tells you of the disadvantages, difficulties, hardships, and only then when he had painted the bleak, bleak picture, he finally announces the startling fact, “But our team won!”
The Apostle Paul , by the Holy Spirit, instructs the Ephesian believers in the wonder and power of God in their salvation by painting the dread dark picture, “and you being dead by your trespasses and sins.” This spoke of the whole congregation in Ephesus. Each and every one of them had been dead. But not only they, but we also: all Christians who read this letter. This was all the churches in Asia Minor and is the church today!
We were “dead in trespasses and sins”. The word “trespasses” emphasizes that one has stepped over the boundaries of God’s law. The other term emphasizes that we have “missed the mark.” It is not that we almost made it, but we have missed it. There is not a lot of difference in the two terms, but both terms emphasize our actual sins. We were dead, as is evident from our trespasses and sins. Here we have the very heart, awfulness, and hopelessness of our state and condition, apart from the grace of God. Each and every one of us performed sinful acts, not in ignorance but willingly, knowingly, defiantly, and in rebellion against God.
Dead in sin does not mean that we were inactive. Sinful man is very active. It means that we were not only separated from God but also stand in opposition against God. Sin bears more sin. It is endless. This was true of Abel as well as Cain. It was true of each of us. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “I am carnal, sold under sin. I find in my flesh no good thing. Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death” (Rom. 7:14-24)? Our death was revealed in that we walked and lived in these sins. This puts away any self-righteousness, pretended goodness and virtue, hypocrisy, and Phariseeism! Do you know this of yourself? This is not very flattering, is it?
The standard of our life and walk is found in the course of this evil world and the prince of this world. In other words, we were no different from all others who are sold under sin. It is so easy to speak of the fallen human race, but you and I are part of that human race by nature. Apart from the grace of God, we too would have developed in sin and rebellion. The ruler of this world is Satan, an opponent to God and a liar who always lies. Satan is a ruler or leader of a host of demons who live in the air. These demons all seek the same thing, namely, the downfall of the church. Satan and demons work in the sons of disobedience. It is not the case that man is basically good. Mankind is sinful, opposed to God. We had our walk among them. We lived like them. What a horrible walk! It is a death walk! Do you see yourself there? By nature, we are children of wrath. God’s wrath is expressed in punishment: death!
You ask how this is possibly true of Christians. The answer is that, by nature, Adam’s fall and disobedience were imputed to us. We were children of wrath. By our actual sins we give evidence of this. What an awful picture! We were “even as others” (vs.3), dead in trespasses and sins.
I cannot end this meditation on this hopeless condition. Paul goes from the past tense in these verses to the present tense. We were dead, once walked in sin, and were by nature children of wrath. “But God…hath quickened us together with Christ” (verses 4 and 5). This is the gospel! This truth of our depravity must humble us and make us extremely thankful that God did not leave us in our sins. In my next meditation, I plan to speak more about this phrase, “But God…”
Rev. Audred Spriensma (Wife: Alva)
Ordained: January 1981
Pastorates: Atwood, MI CRC - 1981; Bethany, S.Holland, IL CRC - 1984; Grandville, MI - 1992; Missionary to the Philippines - 2002; Kalamazoo, MI - 2007; Byron Center, MI - 2010; Home missionary (Byron Center PRC), 2017Website: www.prca.org/missions/domestic
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