By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:2 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.
When we were spiritually dead, we still walked. The place where we walked was in the sphere where trespasses and sins are in complete control. Paul uses the word translated walked seven times in Ephesians. Five of them speak of where we are to walk as believers (in good works; worthy of our calling; in love; as children of light; as wise). Unbelievers are said to walk in the futility of their mind. We all walk somewhere. Unbelievers walk in the futility of their mind. They do not have the benefit of the Holy Spirit. Believers have an opportunity. We all walked according to the course of this world in the past but sometimes we stray back into that walk. I fear I am straying away from this verse and into the second half of the book which tells us how to live as believers, so I will get back to the verse at hand.
Paul further defines what it means to walk in trespasses and sins with the words according to the course of this world. Paul wants us to understand where we all started. Let’s face it, some of us got more deeply involved in the world than others but every one of us was there at one time. This is the place from which God rescued us. The phrase can also be translated according to the age of this world. We are living in an age that contrasts sharply with the age that is to come. The time in which we live is the time ruled by the ethical and moral values and activities of the world. These values are continually in flux and are now changing so rapidly that we can barely keep up. These are the values of the world and are decidedly different from the values of the age to come. We all walked there in the past. God rescued us from that walk.
Paul now further explains the world with the words according to the prince of the power of the air, or perhaps according to the ruler of the realm where evil spirits dwell. Paul will later describe this ruler as the devil (4:26; 6:11) and the evil one (6:16). The world system that Paul describes here is the sphere where Satan rules (I use the words ‘world system here’ because we must never forget the words of Jesus All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18). We all walked under the rule of the evil one in the past. God has rescued us from that rule.
One more descriptive phrase, as Paul tells us a little more about what is happening within us now when he writes the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. It is possible that the spirit modifies the ruler of the preceding clause but it is also possible that it gives a little more insight into the world system. This would mean that it is man’s or woman’s own unregenerate spirit within that is at work in unbelievers described as the sons of disobedience. This spirit is the old man that is our old unregenerate nature that is responsible for choosing to rebel against God and submit to the ruler of this world system. Disobedience is a choice just as believing is a choice. We all walked according to our own unregenerate nature in the past. God has given us a new spirit within us.
Simply stated, as if that is ever possible, in the past we walked in step with the world that is controlled by the evil one who strongly affects the unregenerate spirit within us. Paul is painting the picture of our past that we might understand the riches of our transformation from sinner to saint. We must live like the saints we are rather than the sinners we were.