Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and we were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Paul continues to write about the life of the believers in Ephesus before they met Christ. The words “among whom” refer back to those who are disobedient (mentioned in verse two). The term “conversation” in this context means “to conduct oneself, to order one’s behavior.” So Paul is basically saying that in the past, the Ephesians were just as rebellious as anybody. They lived in defiance to God.
What did this disobedience entail? Paul gives us a clue. He describes a person who is controlled by the flesh. Now, it’s important to understand this word correctly. It doesn’t mean our physical body, nor does it stand for our bodily needs and desires. The Greek word is referring to our sinful nature, our inborn tendency to sin. For example, it’s that part of me that rises up in anger when someone tries to cut in front of me.
This inward propensity to sin shows up very early in life, doesn’t it? You don’t need to teach a child to be selfish or disobedient. I’m sure all parents would agree that raising a child, to a large degree, entails teaching it to control its less noble tendencies. I know my mom and dad had their hands full with me!
Why do we have this sinful nature in the first place? If we go back to creation, God made Adam and Eve without sin. But Satan deceived them into rebelling. In encouraging Eve to disobey, he made it sound as if they would only be gaining the knowledge of good and evil. He left out the crucial detail that this evil would control them (and their descendents). He knew full well that they would have no power to resist. Unfortunately, we’ve been suffering the consequences of their disobedience ever since.
Getting back to our verse, Paul describes the Ephesians as having been under the complete control of this sinful nature. Their purpose was to fulfill its every whim. Since the Greek word “mind” is in the plural, it means “thoughts.” In this context, these would be evil thoughts. Both our flesh and our mind cooperate to keep us under the domination of sin. The difference between them is that the first is our natural reaction and inclination (the first thing that pops into our head), while the second is what we chose to think about and focus our thoughts on.
What is the result of this sorry state of affairs? Paul writes that they were “by nature children of wrath.” By using the word “children” he is emphasizing that the consequence is connected with birth. They were born with it. The terms “by nature” point to the fact that it’s inherent or innate. So what is he talking about exactly? He is saying that they were under God’s wrath. The word “wrath” in general means “anger,” but when applied to God it refers to His indignation, hate, or repulsion to anything connected with sin and evil. Paul is saying that the Ephesians, and the whole human race (“even as others”), were born into a state of being under God’s displeasure because of sin, resulting in estrangement and punishment.
I’m sure that’s exactly what Satan had in mind when he deceived Eve. But he didn’t realize that God had a plan to undo the damage that was done! The good news is that the Ephesian believers didn’t stay in such a state. There is a way out! We’ll learn more about that next time.