“2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience,
3 among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, dong the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of [them] were.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love [with] which he loved us,
5 and we being dead in trespasses, he made [us] alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved), 6 and raised [us] together and seated [us] together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus,” LEB
“in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world”
Before we come to Christ, we walk in sin. To be “dead in sin” is to walk in sin. Furthermore, we walk according to the course, or the system of this world. Sin and this world go hand in hand. Paul is reminding the Ephesian Christians of the kind of life they used to live. There is a certain lifestyle that accompanies the unregenerate, and there is a certain lifestyle that accompanies the born-again Christian.
Those who claim to be a Christian, but walk according to the course of this world, are deceiving themselves. Either they were never truly saved to begin with, or they have strayed from true faith. When someone comes to true faith in Christ, it’s with the understanding that they’re making a life-changing decision to follow Christ as Lord and King. Everyone who receives Christ as Savior, receives Him as Lord of their lives. Therefore, at least for a time, those who are genuinely converted will live faithfully for Jesus.
When we turn to Christ in faith, we are given a new heart. We are born into the family of God with a new nature that is now able to commune with God spiritually. Our eyes of understanding are open to the things of God. We’re now able to understand truth. We have a new hunger for God, a new hunger to grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. If these things are absent with those who profess Christ, then they need to evaluate their heart. They need to evaluate if what they have is true faith or not. For real faith will always be characterized by a sincere desire to walk with God, to walk in obedience to His will.
The Ephesian Christians had a testimony of true faith. Their lives matched their profession. They lived to serve Christ. He was the center of their lives. No longer did they have a heart for the things of this world. They no longer found value in the ways and pursuits and pleasures that belong to this world’s system. They now had a heart for God, and for the things of God. They discovered that true and lasting value is in following Christ. They forsook the temporary things they couldn’t keep, in order to pursue the things they couldn’t lose.
Those who belong to the world, will live according to the world. Conformity to the world is normal for those who are “dead in their sins.” But it’s not normal for the Christian. Here is what Paul says is the norm for the Christian:
“1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers, through the mercies of God, to present your bodies [as] a living sacrifice, holy [and] pleasing to God, [which is] your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may approve what [is] the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.” LEB (Ro 12:1,2)
Our lives are to be a living sacrifice, where we set aside our own will in order to purse the will of God in holiness, with the purpose of pleasing God in all things. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ. We become conformed to the things that we give ourselves to. If we give our hearts and lives to following the world, we will become like the world. However, if we give our hearts and lives to following Christ, we will become like Him.
Conformity occurs within the mind first, then it results in a life that matches it. Therefore, if we are to be conformed to Christ, we must allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds. That comes through the Word of God. God’s Word purifies. It shapes our way of thinking. As our way of thinking changes, our lives will change right along with it. In order for our faith to endure, and in order to live in harmony with God, we must saturate our minds with His Word.
Sadly, so many professing Christians spend little time in the Word of God, and spend much time watching television and movies, reading junk on the internet, and spending a lot of time hanging out with the wrong crowd. This type of imbalance can only result in one thing, and that is a way of thinking that is not in conformity to the mind of God, but in conformity to the viewpoint of those who are opposed to God and opposed to the truth of Christianity.
It’s amazing to me that professing Christians want to live for the same things as those who reject the Christ they say they have embraced. How can a person be in a right relationship with God when they value the same things as those who want nothing to do with Him?
“according to the ruler of the authority of the air”
There is no doubt that Paul is referring to Satan here. No one else fits the description. Here is what Jesus said to Paul when he met Him on the road to Damascus:
“17 rescuing you from the people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you,
18 to open their eyes [so that they] may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, [so that] they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” LEB (Acts 26:17,18)
At conversion, we are transferred from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13). Satan is the “ruler” or “prince” of the sphere of this world’s system. Paul talks more about this later in this book (Eph 6:11,12).
“the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience”
Satan and his demonic fallen angels, are evil spirits in this world. The anti-Christian ways of this world are being shaped by them. These evil spirits, and the demonic spirit that pervades this world’s system, is “at work in the sons of disobedience.” That phrase “sons of disobedience” is not a reference to those who profess Christ, but are not living for Him. That phrase is what describes those who are without Christ. If someone professes to be a Christian, but has no real desire to live the Christian life as taught in the Bible, they cannot be saved.
Those who believe and teach the OSAS (once saved always saved) position, insist that we can “get saved,” and then live any kind of life we want to. They say that once we “get saved,” living a life of disobedience to God has no bearing on our salvation. But that’s simply a lie. It’s not according to truth. The “sons of disobedience” is most certainly a reference to those without Christ. Paul refers to them as such because a life of disobedience to God is what characterizes the unsaved. If that’s the kind of life being lived by someone who professes Christ as their Savior, they’re deceived in thinking that they’re secure in their salvation. True faith is characterized by faithfulness.
Paul tells us in chapter five that “the sons of disobedience” have “no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Instead, what they will experience is “the wrath of God.” (Eph 5:3-6)
If Satan is at the center of this world’s evil, Christ rejecting system, and is working in those who are described as “sons of disobedience,” how can one be walking in true faith and salvation if he is setting his heart on the same things as those who don’t profess Christ?
“3 among whom also we all formerly lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the mind, and we were children of wrath by nature, as also the rest of [them] were.
All of us as Christians once lived as “sons of disobedience,” living according to the desires and passions of the flesh (body) and of the mind. But once a person comes to true faith in Christ, we leave those things behind us. Where once we were “children of wrath,” subject to the wrath of God, we are now children of God.
“4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love [with] which he loves us,”
5 and we being dead in trespasses, he made [us] alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),”
While “dead in trespasses and sins” (vs. 1), God in His mercy and love, came to our rescue by providing the remedy for our sins (Ro 5:8). When we turn to Christ in faith, God makes us alive together with Him. Paul said in Romans 6:13, that we “have been brought from death to life.” We have died with Christ, and we have been raised to new life in Christ (Ro 6:7,8; Col 3:1). We are now new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). The old life is in the past, and a brand new life has begun. If this new life doesn’t match our profession, then we are looking at a false faith. Either it was a false conversion to begin with, or the faith we used to have has been overtaken by the “deceitfulness of sin” (He 3:13).
We are saved by God’s grace. Salvation is all of Him. At some point He chose to save mankind from their sins. He chose a plan to save us, and that plan has His Son, Jesus, at the center of that plan. He chose to save anyone who would come to Him through faith in His Son. Since we are “dead in our sins,” there is nothing we can do of ourselves to obtain salvation. Sin is the issue, and so no matter what we may try to do to gain favor with God, it simply won’t work, because anything that is done to try to merit favor with God, is done in sin. Sin is the issue, so sin needs to be dealt with. Only Christ is able to do that. Only through Christ is there forgiveness of sin. Only through Christ can we be brought into a right relationship with God.
“6 and raised [us] together and seated [us] together in the heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus.”
See commentary on Ephesians 1:20.