A Walk of Unbelief: Ephesians 2:1-3

Tony Arsenal

A Walk of Unbelief: Ephesians 2:1-3

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – Laozi

Every story has a beginning. In many stories, the protagonist lives an idyllic –albeit plain– existence until some exogenous influence disrupts their life. The central figure of the story must then rise to the occasion to overcome this adversity, ultimately becoming the true hero which, we all knew he was inside.

This hero’s journey could not be further from the story which frames the life of every believer. Rather than facing some external threat which knocks us out of our peaceful slumber, we are beset by the corruption which comes from within the very core of our nature and identity.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul orients us to three realities which marks the beginning of our story. Like most stories, if we do not properly understand the beginning, we cannot possibly understand the end.

The Walking Dead

A common analogy which is used to explain the state of a person apart from Christ is that of illness. To be fair to our Arminian interlocutors, there is some biblical warrant for using this language (Jeremiah 17:9 for example). However, according to Paul the situation is far graver.

The patient is not terminal… the patient is dead. Like Lazarus in the tomb, we must all recognize that from the first breath that we take, the odor of sin and death already permeates our lives. This death is not merely a cessation of life but is instead an active dying. We “were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” Our life, if it can even be called life, was characterized by the transgression of God’s law. We stand condemned, suffering not only the want of original righteousness, but also the corruption and guilt which Adam obtained on our behalf in the fall. From this putrid and decaying state, we add our own personal transgressions and seal our status as enemies of God.

Follow the Leader

As dead men walking, we do not simply wander aimlessly. The rebellion we participate in has a leader, and his rebellion predates even Adam’s. Instead of serving the King of the Universe, we follow “the prince of the power of the air” who is “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

Satan is not a force or an idea. Satan is the personal leader of a vast demonic rebellion. Those who are apart from Christ, even though they are not all demons, are all opposing Christ in a shared demonic conspiracy. This agenda is to tear down and corrupt every good and gracious gift which comes from above.

Those who are in Christ were once part of this opposition party. We “all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind.” The good and godly desires which God created for humanity to enjoy, have been turned inward. We no longer seek to enjoy God’s creation for his glory, but we seek to satisfy our own lusts.

Born This Way

The final point that we need to understand, is that we did not become this way. There is no Semi-Pelagian island of righteousness that man can tap into. All of us “were by nature children of wrath.” And we were not alone, but rather were “like the rest of mankind.” To quote one famous Baptist theologian, every one of us started out as “vipers in diapers.”

Just as we inherit our eye color from our father, or the shape of our nose from our mother, we have each inherited something far more fundamental from our first father.

When Adam sinned, in him we all sinned, and along with him we all fell. We start our story not from a place of innocence, but as those who are under the curse and wrath of God. We begin our lives without communion with God, and thus deserve every misery which God throws at us in this life. Furthermore, even death is the just outcome of a life opposed to the Lord, and after death comes the eternal punishment of hell.

Not the End of the Story

I will leave the rest of this story for another time, but I would not be a faithful expositor of the Scripture if I did not call to mind a few glorious words in this dark passage that hint at the Gospel to come.

For those who are in Christ, this description is past tense. We were dead in the trespasses and sins. We once walked, following Satan. We once lived among the sons of disobedience. We were by nature children of wrath.

But not anymore.

Tony Arsenal Tony Arsenal is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he obtained Master of Arts degrees in Church History and Systematic Theology. Tony is the co-host of the Reformed Brotherhood Podcast and one of the founders of the Society of Reformed Podcasters. He worships at New Hope Community Church in rural New Hampshire where he serves as Deacon and occasional pulpit supply. He is also the treasurer of the Northeast Region of the Evangelical Theological Society where he has presented multiple papers on the topics of Theology Proper, Christology, and Patristic Theology.  


Tony Arsenal