In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul explains three things: (1) The natural state of humans, ever since Adam’s fall into sin (2) What God has done to address humanity’s problem (3) God should get the glory in salvation! I cover the second and third aspects of this passage in other blog posts, but this post will focus on the first aspect: the natural state of humans, ever since Adam’s fall into sin.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Christians in a city called Ephesus. He tells them that they “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which [they] once walked…” So, from birth, before God’s gracious intervention in their lives, the Ephesian Christians were dead in trespasses and sins. Of course, they weren’t physically, biologically dead. Rather, they were spiritually dead. As they went about their daily lives, they were not living for God’s glory, not trusting in Christ, not seeking Christ, not hungering for Christ, not walking in “good works” (cf. Ephesians 2:10). Rather, they were “following the course of this world,” (Eph. 2:2) doing what everyone else does, and operating according to the world’s way of doing things. They were “following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), which means that, whether they were conscious of it or not, they were doing Satan’s desire: continuing in an attitude of defiance and rebellion toward God. By nature, before their conversion, the Ephesian Christians were also living “in the passions of [their] flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3). In other words, one of the symptoms of their spiritual deadness was doing what was right in their own eyes, whatever that may be. They were acting as if they were lords of their own lives, instead of submitting to God. This was the condition of the Ephesian Christians “by nature” (Eph. 2:3); that is, before their conversion. And in this state, they were deserving of God’s “wrath” (Eph. 2:3). This is what it means that the Ephesian Christians were dead in trespasses and sins.
And we must notice that Paul says that while in this state, the Ephesian Christians were “like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). So it is not just the Ephesian Christians who were dead in trespasses and sins “by nature” (Eph. 2:3), but all people are dead in trespasses and sins “by nature” (Eph. 2:3). All people are spiritually dead by nature. No one naturally lives for God’s glory, trusts in Christ, seeks Christ, hungers for Christ, nor walks in “good works” (cf. Eph. 2:10, Romans 3:9ff). Rather, everyone, by nature, follows the course of this world, follows the prince of the power of the air, lives in the passions of the flesh, carries out the desires of the body and the mind, and deserve God’s wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). This is the natural state of humankind, ever since Adam first rebelled against God so long ago (cf. Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:1-19). Adam disobeyed, and we all died spiritually. By nature, all people are dead in trespasses and sins.