The State of a Man Apart from Christ
That we may rightly rejoice in our salvation, that we may know just how gracious our Lord is, we must be reminded who we were before our regeneration, before we came to saving faith in Christ Jesus. Paul does us this favor in these three short verses.
2:1: “And you were dead in trespasses and sins.” “The wages of sin is death,” Paul writes in another place (Romans 6:23). Sin kills. Sin destroys. It is a law of the universe which God created, and that law reflects his holy and righteous nature. Contemporary pagans say that truth is a creation of man, that we all live in our own preferred narratives with which we strive to subdue the other. They reject that there is such a thing as a moral universe in which a righteous God sits enthroned at the top who will one day judge men for their sins. “What sins?” they demand to know. Those thoughts, words, and deeds which reject His sovereignty, His will, His way, and what He decrees as right. And to do these things is to earn death and receive it regardless of one’s objections. Before rebirth by the Holy Spirit, we are dead, spiritually dead, in trespasses and sins whether we realize it or not.
2:2: “in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” And this is how unregenerate man walks—according to the ways of the world, according to the dictates of Satan. God sees only two ways, two kingdoms, two peoples. Those born of the Spirit follow him and shun the world; those born of the flesh follow Satan and embrace the world. There is no third way.
2:3: “among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” In other words, this is the way man is born. Born of the flesh, we live by the desires of the flesh, which desires carry us away in one direction and then another (hence, “passions”—cravings of the flesh which cause us so much suffering). And so born, we are by nature children of wrath; that is, abiding under the just wrath of God. We are sinners both by nature and by choice and are thus rendered guilty before God’s tribunal. We have no defense for ourselves and will have nothing to add when God renders judgment; we will each simply have to go to his assigned destination. And this is why we need a Savior; this is why we need an Advocate; this is why we need the God-man, Jesus Christ.