How Could They Be Dead? (Ephesians 2:1)

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Paul now switches his attention away from talking about Christ’s authority to how He has used this position of power for the benefit of the Ephesians (and all Christians, as well). But before getting to the details he quickly digresses, as he is sometimes prone to do. In verses 1 to 3 Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus of what their lives were like before they met Jesus.

The word “quickened” isn’t in the original text until verse 5, so we’ll get to it then. What is the first thing Paul mentions about their previous state without Christ? They were dead. Logic would dictate that he isn’t talking about bodily death, so what does he mean? The Bible mentions two kinds of death, physical and spiritual. The first happens when the soul is separated from the body. The second is separation from God. Going back to Adam and Eve for a second, God warned that the moment they ate the forbidden fruit they would die. But when they disobeyed, they didn’t keel over dead, did they? Their physical death took time, but spiritually, they died instantly. Their relationship with God was broken. How do we know this? Because the first thing they did was hide from His presence (Gen 2:16-19, 3:1-10).

The Bible clearly states that death only made its ugly appearance on earth as the result of sin. Paul echoes this truth here. The little word “in” indicates a linkage between death and sin. They are connected to each other. But what is sin exactly? Paul uses two words to help us understand it more precisely. “Trespass” means “to fall beside or near something.” It implies straying from the right path, so in this sense, sin is anything that deviates from truth or morality. In other words, it’s anything that isn’t perfectly true or good. The second word means “to miss the mark.”  It paints the picture of shooting at a target and missing, regardless of whether it’s by a millimeter or by a mile. What is the objective? God’s will. We all fall short of obeying it in its entirety and at all times.

Now that we understand these two words better, it helps us to see how much bigger the problem of sin is than we realize. Too often, I have dismissed some action as a “little sin” that doesn’t matter! (for example, speeding – but not by too much, mind you!). We use the term “white lies” to try to indicate that some lies are okay. What we fail to remember is that all of these sins, big or small, lead to death! Let’s think about the first sin for a second. I mean, what did Adam and Eve do? They ate some fruit! Wouldn’t we today dismiss that as some kind of minor sin of no consequence? Probably. Did God? That “little sin” is the cause of all that is wrong in our world!

The good news is that the story doesn’t end here. God has provided a way for us to avoid death, which we will get to later. For now, it’s important to realize never to take any sin lightly!

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