What is the real condition of the unregenerate person? Is he basically good, just lacking the right environment or education? Paul speaks with absolute authority on the desperate condition of the lost man.
Dead in Sins!
Intro: If you are a genuine follower of Christ, this passage teaches you what used to be true of you. Notice the word “formerly” in 2:2,3. If you are not yet a genuine follower of Christ, this passage teaches what is true of you right now. I’ll sum it up at the very beginning: this passage teaches us we were dead in sin, controlled by the world, the devil, and the flesh, and under the wrath of God. We were in desperate need of sovereign grace!
Now, we are not going to find out these truths about ourselves in the Sacramento Bee, on talk radio, or in Time or Newsweek magazine. Almost no one believes 1) apart from Christ all men are dead in sin and incapable of any spiritual good; 2) apart from Christ all men are blind and enslaved to the devil; and 3) apart from Christ all men are under the wrath of God and headed for eternal torment in hell. But why don’t they believe these things? Because these things are devastating to our pride, and they must be learned from God, not man. If man is ever to be saved, there must be a Divine revelation (1:17). God must reveal these truths or we perish. We can’t discover them through radio, TV, or psychology. We must learn the truth about ourselves from the Bible. So, what does the Bible teach was our spiritual condition before our conversion? We were dominated by 3 enemies working in concert together: the World, the Flesh, the Devil. Because these things controlled us, we were spiritually dead and under the wrath of God.
1. We Were Dead in our Trespasses and Sins:
A. What doesn’t Paul mean by “dead in sins”? Obviously they were not physically, socially, mentally, emotionally or religiously dead. Neither were they dead to sin, or the world or the devil.
B. What does he mean? The death that he is speaking of here is on a whole other plane. They were spiritually dead. We were alive on every level except for 1 – we were dead to God. They were separate from Christ, having no hope and without God in the world (2:12). Someone who is dead has no power. He is helpless and his case is hopeless. You can yell at a corpse for hours, but he will never hear you. You can command him to open his eyes, speak to you, or stand up, but nothing will ever happen. It doesn’t matter if you kick him or put a gun to his head, he won’t respond. He is unable to respond. He has no power to respond. So too the lost man is unable to do certain things:
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He cannot see the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” He cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God.
John 8:43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” He cannot hear Jesus’ word.
John 14:17 “that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” He cannot receive the Holy Spirit.
John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” He cannot come to Jesus.
Romans 8:8 “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” He cannot please God.
So what does Paul mean by being dead in sins? He means that he is dead to God. He means there are things which he has absolutely no power to do. He cannot see the kingdom of God, hear the word of Christ, receive the H.S., come to Christ, or please God.
C. What do people today believe about the lost man’s condition?
He Is Spiritually Healthy: This is the predominant view of most modern people. They believe man is basically good. Yes, no one is perfect. He may slip and make mistakes, but he is basically a good person at the root. This view was taught by Pelagius in the 5th century taught “Man has the absolute equal ability at every moment to do good or evil.” He taught that all men are born into this world in exactly the same condition that Adam was in before he fell. In other words, the Fall has not affected us at all except by giving us a bad example. Pelagius’ slogan was “whatever I ought to do, I can do.”
He Is Spiritually Sick: others are not willing to go along with Pelagius’ views. They don’t believe men are spiritually healthy, but they don’t believe they are spiritually dead either. They don’t believe the Fall has stripped man of all his ability. These people came to be known as semi-Pelagians, and then later as Arminians. This person believes that man is fallen, and is desperately sick spiritually, but he still retains free will (defined by them as the ability to receive the grace of God, repent and believe on Christ). They believe the case is likened to a man who is drowning at sea. He has become very weak, and will go under any second, but a life rope is thrown to him. He has the ability to choose to reach out and cling to the rope or refuse and die.
He Is Spiritually Dead: This was the view espoused by Augustine. He debated Pelagius’ views and dogmatically asserted that man is not spiritually healthy. He is not even spiritually sick. He is spiritually dead. To use the same analogy, man is not just drowning, he has drowned and has been lying at the bottom of the ocean for days. He doesn’t need to stir up his free will to cling to the life rope. He needs Christ to dive down to the bottom of the ocean, bring him up to land, and breath life back into him. Not only was this the view of Augustine; it was also the view of the Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin. It was also the view of the Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Charles Spurgeon. This is the Biblical view of the lost man!
2. We Walked According to the Course of this World: “The World”
A. What is “this world”? It refers to the world of men alienated from God. It is is anti-God and anti-Christ. It promotes the values of living for self and pleasure; in short, living as though God doesn’t exist.
B. What does the word “course” imply? It is the path the world walks in. It is the rut that the covered wagon travels down. It is the opinions, values, and attitudes of the people of this world alienated from God. Formerly, we walked the world’s path. The world squeezed us into its mold. We thought like it did, acted like it did, and shared its values, aspirations, hopes and opinions. The world system dominated our lives. We were brainwashed by its propaganda. We imbibed its philosophies. We were not aliens and strangers to this world; we were natives. We felt at home here. We were in harmony with its ideas and values.
3. We Walked According to the Prince of the Power of the Air. “The Devil”
A. Who is the prince of the power of the air? The word “Prince” means ruler. Jesus called Satan the ruler of this world (Jn.12:31), and Paul referred to him as the god of this world (2Cor.4:4). Satan is a Prince, because he rules over the kingdom of darkness.
B. Who does he rule over? The power of the air. “Power” probably refers to evil spirits (compare 1:21and 6:12). Air refers to earth’s atmosphere. Evil spirits are not earthy, but aerial. They do not possess bodies. They are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Satan is the 5-star commanding general. Of the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience: “the spirit” refers to the “power” or an evil spirits. In other words, Satan rules over all evil spirits. They in turn rule over all unregenerate men. All men are not indwelt by demons; but knowingly or unknowingly they are subject to his influence. Just as God works in believers; demons work in unbelievers. They respond naturally to his leading. His influence was imperceptible to us but it was very real. He tempts to sin, snatches away the Word of God, blinds the minds of the unbelieving, and holds men captive to do his will. He controls the world!
4. We Lived in the Lusts of our Flesh: “The Flesh”
A. What is meant by “flesh”? Fallen corrupt nature.
B. How does the flesh express itself? In 2 ways 1) Externally: indulging the desires of the flesh (illicit sex, gluttony, drunkenness) 2) Internally: indulging the desires of the mind (pornography, materialism, pride, envy).
C. What was our relationship to flesh? We lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging… We live in lusts like a fish lives in water, and a bird lives in the air. Sin was the element in which we lived. In fact, before becoming a Christian all we ever did was sin! You think that is an exaggeration? Gen.6:5. How can this be said? Something may look good in the eyes of men, but be evil in the eyes of God. Man can do many fine things in relation to his fellow man, but all these things can be sin in the eyes of God. If he does not do what he does out of faith in God, in obedience to God, from love of God, it is sin. Let’s say a doctor on a U.S. navy ship leads crew of men in mutiny. They become pirates roaming the seas. Eventually a U.S. destroyer comes after the ship, and a great gun battle ensues. Some of the men on the doctor’s ship are wounded. The doctor gives unstintingly and heroically of his time and energy, going without sleep and food for days on end, caring for the wounded men. But finally his ship is captured. Will the President of the U.S. give him a medal for his selfless service? No, they will execute him! All the good he did, was done in rebellion. His very goodness was evil.
5. We Were by Nature Children of Wrath:
A. What is Meant by “nature”? that which is innate rather than that which is acquired. By birth we were children of wrath. We did not become the children of wrath, we were born the children of wrath. Babies are not born into this world innocent or neutral. They are under the wrath of God, just like adults. All are born with a sinful nature and guilty of Original Sin.
B. Whose Wrath? Eph.5:5-6. The wrath of Almighty God!
C. What is a child of wrath? One under God’s holy righteous indignation against sin. As long as we remain sons of disobedience we remain children of wrath. Must become child of light – 5:8. The only way to escape the wrath of God is to cease being a son of disobedience. A son of disobedience is a son whose life is characterized by disobedience; in other words a sinner by nature. We must have our natures changed so that we become children of Light (5:8).
D. Why Does God Manifest Wrath Against Sin? Because He is Righteous. God would be unrighteous if He looked with indifference upon our sin, because our sin dishonors him so much. For God to act righteously, He must passionately embrace that which glorifies Himself, and passionately come against that which belittles Himself. Sin belittles God. The only Right thing God can do in response to sin is our out His wrath.
How Does All This Apply To Us?
Stonebridge Church: we must never compromise the Biblical teaching of the condition of lost men! Once we go down that road, we are on the slippery slope to making shipwreck of our faith. We must preach and teach the depravity of man and his total inability. Too often the gospel is portrayed as “God has done everything He can do for you. Now it’s all up to you to accept Christ.” This leaves the sinner in the driver’s seat. No wonder, people think they can be saved if, when, and how they please. This preaching doesn’t bring them to despair of self. Instead it points them to themselves as the critical contributor to salvation. If God left us 1 leg to stand on, we would stand on it! This is a humbling truth, especially for a generation reared on self-esteem, self-love, and self-worth. The sinner must despair of trusting in himself, so he will trust in Christ. What do we tell him? Tell him he is absolutely dependant on God to give him life. Not only to provide salvation, but to receive salvation. Yes, he is responsible to repent and believe, but because of his wicked heart, he is unable to, and needs God to open his heart!
Believers: worship! This description was you! That’s Paul’s whole point “even as the rest” 2:3. We were dead in sin, controlled by the world, flesh and devil, and were under God’s holy wrath ready to sink into eternal hell! If God had not made us alive together with Christ, we would still be dead in sins, with no hope and without God in this world. Our situation was humanly hopeless. God had to take the initiative in our salvation, because we couldn’t! Jesus didn’t come to make good people better. He came to give dead sinners life. A man in a coma has a chance of coming out of it. But we were beyond all hope. Our only hope was if God did something for us. Conversion is a miracle. Never lose the wonder of that truth.
Non-Believers: this is your condition right now. You are not free. You are a slave. A slave of sin, Satan, and the world system. You are unable to break free on your own. God is angry with you, and if you die in that condition, will face His holy anger for all eternity. You have no hope in yourself. Your only hope is in God. Go to Him! Cry to Him! Humble yourself before Him! Keep on seeking Him until you know He has given you life!
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Brian Anderson. © Stonebridge Ministries. Website: www.stonebridgeministries.net