By Stan Brown
Ephesians 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
As Paul concludes these three verses regarding the sinfulness in which all of us once walked, he changes from the second person pronoun you to the first person pronoun we, adding himself to the mix. Some suggest that the difference is between Jews and Gentiles but it is more likely that Paul is personalizing this as he identifies himself with his readers. He is saying ‘I was as deeply involved in the depths of trespasses and sins as you were’. Just as you walked in that sphere, I lived there with you. As Paul talks of our transformation from saints to sinners, he stresses that every single person (excepting our Savior) lived there before we also believed (1:13).
We all lived in the clutches of immorality. The one who lives in the flesh is the one who walks completely opposed to the character of God. This is the one who lives in the works of the flesh. Paul describes the deeds of the flesh in Gal. 6:19-21 as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. It has been said that depravity means that folks are not necessarily as bad as they could be but rather as bad off as they could be before God. Sin is sin and although I feel as if I did not engage in all these things, there is a piece of me that could be described by each of them. Paul says that we all lived in the clutches of immorality.
We were not only living in the sphere of the lusts of the flesh we were also doing them (desires of the flesh) and thinking them (desires of the mind). The patterns of thought are likely more destructive than the deeds that grow out of them. Even when we do not act on them, they consume our minds in sinful and unhealthy ways. Our thoughts and our deeds were consumed by the sphere of the lusts of the flesh. Let’s face it we are still, even as believers, fighting against the deeds of the flesh yet we remain transformed (but that comes later in Ephesians).
As we lived in the lusts of the flesh we were children of wrath. In the previous verse Paul used the description sons (and daughters) of disobedience with the word son stressing that we were old enough to decide. The sons (and daughters) of disobedience choose disobedience. The phrase by nature children of wrath emphasizes ancestry. We were both born into trespasses and sins and chose to walk in trespasses and sins. God offers transformation of both our nature and our choices. Paul finishes with the phrase even as the rest. Everyone who has ever lived or ever will live is described by the words of Eph. 2:1-3. Paul paints an extremely dark picture of humanity, perhaps darker than most of us would paint but Paul paints God’s portrayal. If Paul’s portrayal is correct and it is, the only possible solution is the transforming work of God which Paul will now describe.
We begin to get the picture. As Paul now moves to our transformation into saints, he first wants us to realize the place from which we started. He doesn’t want us to dwell on it. We need to dwell on the place to which Jesus has brought us. No matter how pretty we try to paint the picture of what we once were it falls completely short when held up against the character of God. Praise God. He has transformed us and makes that transformation available to all.