Review: No Backup Plan
Last week we wrapped up Paul's message in what we today call Chapter One of Ephesians. We ended last week with Paul's analogy that Jesus is the Head and the Church is the body. We as the Church are literally his body to deliver the cure. We are the hands to do the work of Jesus on earth; we are the feet to run his errands; and the voice to speak his words.
As the heavenly fable indicated from last week, Jesus says, "There is no backup plan. I am counting on Christians to get the word spread to every man on earth, about what I did for them and how much I love them."
Today's Lesson: The Past, Present and Future of Christians
Now, in Chapter Two, let's review what Paul was focused on at the end of Chapter One, because he did not take a week off between what we studied last week and what we will look at today. He was sitting in his house in Rome dictating to his scribe. When he finished the words we looked at last week, he continued with this week's words.
I ran across another thought that could help you follow Paul's rambling thoughts here. Paul was not an English teacher. He did not restrict himself to rules of grammar and structure. Remember, he is talking out loud, dictating to a scribe. He is laying out what I like to call a "verbal stream of consciousness." The thoughts are just rolling out of his mind and off his tongue. He starts sentences and never finishes them; he starts one structure and in the middle of it rolls on to another. This is far more a lyric of love to and about God and Jesus than it is a religious treatise.
Someone said, the song of the nightingale is not to be analyzed by the laws of music composition. The Lark sings for the joy of singing. That is what Paul is doing here. He is pouring out his heart and the claims of grammar must give way to the wonder of God.
Remember that when Paul wrote the letter, he did not have chapter breaks. These were not added until the 13th or 14th century. Some are pretty good, some are obviously misplaced. So when you study your Bible, make yourself ignore the chapter and verse breaks. Read right on through them as if they were not there, so they do not mislead you about what the text is saying. He also did not have verse breaks, as we discussed.
So As we start Chapter two today, there is no break in Paul's thoughts between last week and this week. The first word in chapter two is and. You do not start a new thought with and. This is clearly a continuation of the thought in the previous text.
We ended last week with Paul's description of the awesome power of God, a power so great that he raised Jesus from death and sat him at his right hand in Heaven.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins . . . --Ephesians 2:1
What does "dead" mean? The Greek word here is nekros, which means dead, both literally or figuratively. There is not a lot of error in translation or question about this one. We have the word necrophilia, having to do with the dead. So it means without life. Lifeless.
I wondered how and why this picture of physical death is used by Paul to explain the spiritual death of non-believers. I think it is effective, but I wondered why he chose it.
The concept of death of one of separation. Physical death is the separation of the body from the soul at physical death.
James is using the separation of soul or spirit from the body as the event or definition of physical death. But there is also spiritual death, when our spirit or soul is separated from God.
The unbeliever is not sick, he is spiritually dead. He does not need resuscitation; he needs resurrection.
The scriptures speak several times of the second death, far more serious than the first death. The first death is the physical death. The second death is the permanent separation of a man's spirit from God, spending eternity separated from God.
In a certain way you can envision the unique advantage of believers. We have reversed the order. We conquered the second death before we face the first one. The reason that the first death is not one of fear for the believer is that the second one was conquered on a cross close to 2000 years ago. There is no danger lurking after the first death.
Just to carry that analogy a little further -- a corpse does not overhear a conversation in the funeral parlor, does he? In the same way, an unbeliever does not have any capacity to hear or comprehend spiritual things except if the Holy Spirit opens his ears and heart.
Back to Paul's text:
So what are trespasses and what are sins?
The Greek word is paraptoma, which means a side slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (willful) transgression. It relates to walking along a path and making a misstep, slipping off the path. The definition allows the possibility that it was by accident or on purpose. Some uses of this word relate to a trespass as failing to follow known law. Jews have the law of conduct which they call the halachah which is a wording relating to walking. It is related to what man should do to walk with God. That would be the case when we do what we know we should not or we do not do what we know we should. But it also includes failing to do what we should do even by accident or out of ignorance. The point here is that Paul says, prior to our accepting Jesus, we were slipping up, we were messing up. But keep in mind, after our salvation we still paraptoma, we still slip up, but now we are no longer dead, we can hear Jesus.
How about sin, as compared to trespasses? What is sin? The Greek word is hamartia, which means sin. Pretty straight forward again, at least on the surface. But if you go to the root behind this word, it is a hunting or archery term, which means to "miss the target". To miss the mark.
In the most basic sense, sin is falling short of God's perfection. To miss the mark that has in mind for us. There are a lot of pretty grizzly dimensions to sin, but basically sin is being short of God's perfection.
Trespasses are different from sin; they are a violation of known law. Failing to stay on the path. Of course we are guilty of both, sins and trespasses. We neither match God's perfection nor do we stay on the path he has set for us.
On to verse two:
Paul, and his intended audience for this letter, and each of us, were under the power of the prince of the air. Who is the Prince of the power of the air? Satan.
It is interesting to see how the idioms of the New Testament support each other. Matters of the air generally relate to Satan. In Matthew 13, we have the parable of the sower. He sowed some seeds along the road and the birds [of the air] came up and ate them. Then Jesus tells them who the birds were:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not
understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown
in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. --Matthew 13:19.
Of course the evil one is Satan.
Remember in Revelation, we have the series of 7 seals, then 7 trumpets and then 7 bowls. The climatic events of the end times. The climatic bowl of the 7 bowls was poured out. Do you remember what it was poured out on?
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air,
and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, "It is done." --Revelation 16:17
It was poured out on the dominion of Satan. That was when Jesus said time is up for Satan.
This concept of the air being filled with spirits was widespread at the time Paul was writing, but which we do not find so compelling. At that time, people strongly believed in spirits and demons. They believed that the air was so crowded with demons, that it was impossible to insert a pinpoint between them. Pythagoras (remember he is the mathematician that invented the Pythagorean Theorem, and was from Ephesus), said "The whole air is full of Spirits." Philo said, "There are spirits flying everywhere through the air."
They believed that not all of the spirits were bad, but most were. Most were out to propagate evil, to frustrate the purpose of God and to ruin the souls of men. They believed that any man who was under their dominion had taken the side against God and with Satan.
So when you see an analogy using air, be sensitive to the probability that the analogy is to Satan or Satan's demons.
So Paul says that unbelievers conduct them selves according to the world's rules and are controlled by Satan.
If we think of man as one of the animal species, without God, you would expect them to behave like an animal, as the worse behavior. But man has continued to act more depraved even than the animals.
Remember that Jesus said:
If you were teaching this verse even a couple hundred years ago, you would have had to use real imagination to envision a scenario where no one would survive. But today, we realize how real that possibility is.
Even animals won't do anything to wipe their species out, intentionally. The only way to reconcile what man will do today, if allowed to do it, is to realize that Satan is guiding them; that the Prince of the air is in charge in their lives.
Unbelievers are dead; they are spiritually separated from God. They are under the power of the Prince of the air.
The Bible divides all people in two distinct groups; the saved and the unsaved. What does John 3:16 say?
What did Jesus also say just 2 verses later?
Because they have not believed, they are dead. Paul is not the only one to say that, so did Jesus. What Paul is dealing with in the first part of chapter 2 is what our condition was, each of us, before we accepted Jesus. This is the past condition of the Christian.
For the next two weeks, Pat and I will be out of town on vacation with our older son and his family.
On the 21st we will continue with Chapter 2, dealing with the Present Condition of Christians.