"(1) And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (2) in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (3) Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Ephesians 2:1–3, NASB95)
This is the time of year when many parents and other adults go out to purchase costumes for Halloween. Many of the costumes for little kids are quite cute while others for adults often reflect a much darker side. This includes a fascination for death, which has shown itself in zombies or the living dead growing in popularity. In fact today in Medford, Oregon (a short distance from our Grants Pass) the Southern Oregon Good Will is sponsoring its second “The Running Dead 5K.”
Believing in the living dead may be one thing, but many who don’t really believe it do party in the concept. Here in Ephesians chapter 2 the apostle Paul writes that though we might all seem alive to all who see us, there is/was something about us that carries the stench of death. While we may not see it or be able to recognize it, God certainly does. Writing to those who were made alive in Christ, Paul reminds them that they weren’t always that way. At some time in the past they “were dead in your [their, our] trespasses and sins.” He was reminding them and us that the life they had and we have in Christ is not something we are born with, but something that required that we be re-born in or born again to.
The roots of this death go back to the Garden of Eden where man and woman (Adam and Eve) were placed by God to have a relationship with God unbroken by anything between them. They were sinless and enjoyed a union with God which man has not known since. When God placed Adam in the garden He gave him a very simple instruction which was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” (Genesis 2:15–17, NASB95) Man was created to know the perfect goodness of God and God gave him one prohibition which as not to eat of the tree that would introduce him to evil. But this did not last. At some time after this event and after Eve was given to man, Eve was deceived by the serpent Satan and she ate and she gave the fruit of the tree to Adam who was with her and he ate also (Genesis 3). Immediately upon eating they knew something changed. When God came to them to walk in the garden they were ashamed of their nakedness, which they had not observed in that way before, and they covered and hid themselves. God called out to then and the blame game started.
After speaking with them God responded by passing judgment on all involved. Speaking to Adam last, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”” (Genesis 3:17–19, NASB95) Man who was created without sin or the knowledge of death was to know harshness in life and the judgment of death.
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22–24, NASB95) Adam and Eve did not die that day, but they were removed from their place of enjoying God’s presence and made spiritually dead. And reading through Scripture we find that this was not just the condition of Adam and Eve with their children being restored to create their own separation, but it became the enduring condition of all of their children for all generations. It became the nature of man.
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, NASB95) Expanding on this on Romans chapter 5 we read, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.” (Romans 5:12–15, NASB95)
And looking forward to verses 2 and 3 which we will explore next we might ask and answer the question as to whether or not this was fair to be judged for what someone before us did. Paul goes on to say that this sin that Adam and Eve experienced is something that we all experience and for which we all stand guilty. Tony Evans in his book, “Theology You Can Count On” wrote (p. 711), “We never have to teach our children how to sin. No child ever needed a class on how to be selfish or disobedient. No, we have to teach children how to love, to share, to be kind to one another, to stop fighting. The bad stuff is automatic. The capacity for sin is present when a child is developing in the womb.”
This is what came with having our eyes opened to the knowledge of good and evil. Knowing evil is a part of who we are, and the consequence of evil is spiritual death leading to physical death and continued separation from God. But the incredible truth that we don’t want to miss in this first verse of chapter 2 is that Paul used the word “were.” This is a past tense word. It is a condition from which we have been removed and one which is not to surface again. It is gone. We are no longer dead in our trespasses and sins. We have been made spiritually alive in Christ and brought into a forever relationship with God. This is the glorious truth leading to praising God and giving Him all of the glory. This is the second half of 1 Corinthians 15:22, “so also in Christ all will be made alive.”