The Church as the Sum Total of Men Saved by Grace.
The natural condition of man:
v. 1. And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
v. 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;
v. 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.
This is really only a part of a long and involved period, the verb having been supplied by the translators from the next section; but the thought is clear and may be followed without difficulty. Addressing himself principally to the Gentiles, or speaking of his readers from the standpoint of the majority, Paul writes: And you, when you were dead by reason of your trespasses and sins (God has made alive with Christ). The Ephesians, like all men by nature, had been in a state or condition of death. All attempts to weaken the force of the statement by translating "dying," or "mortal," or "condemned to death," or by assuming that Paul meant to say that his readers had earned eternal death by their sins, come to naught in view of the uncompromising plainness of the text. They were spiritually dead, they had nothing of the life in and with Christ. See chap. 5:4; Joh_5:25; Rom_6:13; Rev_3:1. They were in this state of spiritual death through, by reason of, their trespasses and sins. The natural proneness to sin, in itself under the sentence of condemnation, found its expression in evil works of the flesh. The death in sins gives evidences of its power in the various and manifold trespasses and sins. Natural man, dead as he is to everything that is morally good, performs only that which is evil, such deeds as result in guilt.
This state of spiritual death is further described: In which formerly you walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now operative in the children of unbelief. At one time, formerly, the Ephesians were actively engaged in sins and trespasses; that was their occupation before their conversion, to serve sin, to commit trespasses against God's holy Law. In this they followed the way of the world, the fallen, apostate humanity. In this world, men in the state of opposition to God impress their stamp upon everything, determining the character, view, and mode of life; and all men before their conversion are engaged with them in this opposition to God. Therefore their conduct is also in accordance with the will of the ruler of the domain of power of the atmosphere, namely, of the spirit which is now active in the children of disobedience. That is the devil's sphere of activity, that is his domain: the mind of sinful man. The atmosphere of the spirit which actuates the unbelievers is created by the devil as a spirit of disobedience. Men by nature refuse to heed and obey the will of God, the Law which is written into their heart and conscience by nature. The spirit of evil, the principle of opposition, is governing their lives; that is the atmosphere in which they live, and move, and have their being: sin, disobedience, unrighteousness. It is an atmosphere created by Satan for his purposes, full of poison and the fumes of hell. Thus natural man is under the influence, in the power of the devil, bound to oppose God in everything that He does.
But the moral depravity of the Jews was just as bad as that of the Gentiles by nature: In the midst of whom we also all had our life and walk formerly, in the desires of our flesh, performing the wishes of the flesh and of the thoughts. Paul includes himself and all Jewish Christians in the category of the children of disobedience by nature. Their whole conduct and behavior, whatever they turned to, whatever they were engaged in, was concerned with the lusts and desires of the flesh, of the old Adam. And thus they performed the wishes, the expressions of the will of the flesh and also of the intellectual faculties. Natural man, whether Gentile or Jew, is not only inclined to the low, sensual impulses, indecency, lewdness, immorality, but his spiritual, intellectual abilities and powers are corrupt and at variance with God's will. Thousands of books and articles in our days, most of them showing the use of a high grade of intellect, are charged with sentiments opposed to God and to His holy will and Word. Therefore it is true of all classes of people that are included in the category of natural man: We were by nature children of wrath, just as also the others. By nature, by birth, by reason of the fact that we are flesh born of flesh, we are subject to the condemning wrath of God; our inherited evil nature has made us children of wrath. Inherited sin is a fact, and it is a fact which makes us subject to wrath and damnation. We know from the Scriptures "that this hereditary evil is a guilt, that we all, on account of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, are under God's displeasure and children of wrath by nature. " And this fact, that we all have this deep, evil, terrible, indescribable, inexpressible, unspeakable vileness in ourselves by nature, serves all the more to set forth before us the boundless mercy of God toward man.