Ephesians 2:3
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 were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKJTLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Among whom also we all . . .—Up to this point St. Paul had addressed himself especially to the Ephesians as Gentiles: now he extends the description of alienation to “all,” Jews and Gentiles alike, as formerly reckoned among the children of disobedience. It is indeed the great object of this chapter to bring out the equality and unity of both Jews and Gentiles in the Church of Christ; and this truth is naturally introduced by a statement of their former equality in alienation and sin.

In the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.—The parallelism of these two clauses illustrates very clearly the extended sense in which the word “flesh” is used by St. Paul, as may indeed be seen by the catalogue of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20. For here “the flesh,” in the first clause, includes both “the flesh and the mind” (or, more properly, the thoughts) of the second; that is, it includes both the appetites and the passions of our fleshly nature, and also the “thoughts” of the mind itself, so far as it is devoted to this visible world of sense, alienated from God, and therefore under the influence of the powers of evil. In fact, in scriptural use the sins of “the flesh,” “the world,” and “the devil” are not different classes of sins, but different aspects of sin, and any one of the three great enemies is made at times to represent all.

And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (or rather, the others—that is, the heathen).—From this passage the phrase “children of wrath” has passed into Christian theology as an almost technical description of the unregenerate state. Hence it needs careful examination. (1) Now the phrase “children of wrath” (corresponding almost exactly to “children of a curse,” in 2Peter 2:14) seems borrowed from the Hebrew use in the Old Testament, by which (as in 1Samuel 20:30; 2Samuel 12:5) a “son of death” is one under sentence of death, and in Isaiah 57:4 (the Greek translation) “children of destruction” are those doomed to perish. In this sense we have, in John 17:12, “the son of perdition;” and in Matthew 23:15, “the son of hell.” It differs, therefore, considerably from the phrase “children of disobedience” (begotten, as it were, of disobedience) above. But it is notable that the word for “children” here used is a term expressing endearment and love, and is accordingly properly, and almost invariably, applied to our relation to God. When, therefore, it is used as in this passage, or, still more strikingly, in 1John 3:10, “children of the devil” (comp. John 8:44), there is clearly an intention to arrest the attention by a startling and paradoxical expression. “We were children,” not of God, not of His love, but “of wrath”—that is, His wrath against sin; “born (see Galatians 3:10-22; Galatians 4:4) under the law,” and therefore “shut up under sin,” and “under the curse.” (2) Next, we have the phrase “by nature,” which, in the true reading of the original, is interposed, as a kind of limitation or definition, between “children” and “of wrath.” In the first instance it was probably suggested by the reference to Israel, who were by covenant, not by nature, the chosen people of God. Now the word “nature,” applied to humanity, indicates what is common to all, as opposed to what is individual, or what is inborn, as opposed to what is acquired. But whether it refers to humanity as it was created by God, or to humanity as it has become by “fault and corruption of nature,” must always be determined by the context. Here the reference is clearly to the latter. “Nature” is opposed to “grace”—that is, the nature of man as alienated from God, to the nature of man as restored to his original birthright, the “image of God,” in Jesus Christ. (See Romans 5:12-21.) The existence of an inborn sinfulness needs no revelation to make it evident to those who have eyes to see. It needs a revelation—and such a revelation the gospel gives—to declare to us that it is not man’s true nature, and that what is really original is not sin, but righteousness. (3) The whole passage, therefore, describes the state of men before their call to union with Christ, as naturally “under wrath,” and is well illustrated by the full description, in Romans 1:18; Romans 2:16, of those on whom “the wrath of God is revealed.” There man’s state is depicted as having still some knowledge of God (Romans 1:19-21), as having “the work of the law written on the heart” (Romans 2:14-15), and accordingly as being still under a probation before God (Romans 2:6-11). Elsewhere we learn that Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” died for all, even “the ungodly” (Romans 5:6-8; Revelation 13:1); and that none are wholly excluded from His atonement but those who “tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing” (Hebrews 10:29). Hence that state is not absolutely lost or hopeless. But yet, when the comparison, as here, is with the salvation of the gospel, they are declared “children of wrath” who are “strangers to the new covenant of promise,” with its two supernatural gifts of justification by faith and sanctification in the Spirit, and their condition is described, comparatively but not absolutely, as “having no hope, and without God in the world.”

Ephesians 2:3. Among whom also we — Jews, as well as you Gentiles; had our conversation — That is, our course of life; in times past — At least in some degree, whatever our education or religious profession might have been. Here the apostle speaks in the name of the generality of the converted Jews, as his changing the expression from ye Ephesians to we, plainly declares; including himself and all other Christians, whose former character and state he affirms to have been the same with respect to sin and misery, with the character and state of the children of disobedience: and it is so professedly the design of the beginning of his epistle to the Romans, to prove that the Jews had not, in point of justification, any advantage above the Gentiles, (Romans 3:9,) that it is surprising any men of learning and knowledge should contend for the contrary. In the lusts of our flesh — To the base appetites of which we were enslaved, so as to forget the true dignity and happiness of rational and immortal spirits: fulfilling the desires of the flesh — Yielding to, and suffering ourselves to be governed by those corrupt appetites, inclinations, and passions, which had their seat in our fallen body, or in our evil nature; and of the mind — The earthly and devilish mind, that is, the desires, lusts, and passions, which were inherent in our still more corrupted souls. Observe, reader, the desires or lusts of the flesh, lead men to gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, adultery, and other gross, brutal sins: and the inclinations or desires of the mind, or imaginations, (as διανοιων may be rendered,) prompt them to ambition, revenge, covetousness, and whatever other earthly and diabolical wickedness can have place in the fallen spirit of man. And were by nature — That is, in our natural state, or by reason of our natural inclination to all sorts of evil, and this even from our birth; children of wrath — Having the wrath of God abiding on us; even as others — As well as the Gentiles. This expression, by nature, occurs also Galatians 4:8; Romans 2:14; and thrice in chap. 11. But in none of those places does it signify by custom, or practice, or customary practice, as some affirm. Nor can it mean so here. For this would make the apostle guilty of gross tautology, their customary sinning having been expressed already in the former part of the verse. But all these passages agree in expressing what belongs to the nature of the persons spoken of.2:1-10 Sin is the death of the soul. A man dead in trespasses and sins has no desire for spiritual pleasures. When we look upon a corpse, it gives an awful feeling. A never-dying spirit is now fled, and has left nothing but the ruins of a man. But if we viewed things aright, we should be far more affected by the thought of a dead soul, a lost, fallen spirit. A state of sin is a state of conformity to this world. Wicked men are slaves to Satan. Satan is the author of that proud, carnal disposition which there is in ungodly men; he rules in the hearts of men. From Scripture it is clear, that whether men have been most prone to sensual or to spiritual wickedness, all men, being naturally children of disobedience, are also by nature children of wrath. What reason have sinners, then, to seek earnestly for that grace which will make them, of children of wrath, children of God and heirs of glory! God's eternal love or good-will toward his creatures, is the fountain whence all his mercies flow to us; and that love of God is great love, and that mercy is rich mercy. And every converted sinner is a saved sinner; delivered from sin and wrath. The grace that saves is the free, undeserved goodness and favour of God; and he saves, not by the works of the law, but through faith in Christ Jesus. Grace in the soul is a new life in the soul. A regenerated sinner becomes a living soul; he lives a life of holiness, being born of God: he lives, being delivered from the guilt of sin, by pardoning and justifying grace. Sinners roll themselves in the dust; sanctified souls sit in heavenly places, are raised above this world, by Christ's grace. The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners heretofore, encourages others in after-time, to hope in his grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by any thing done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out. All is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by his power. It was his purpose, to which he prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of his will, and his Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our good conversation, and perseverance in holiness. None can from Scripture abuse this doctrine, or accuse it of any tendency to evil. All who do so, are without excuse.We all had our conversation - see the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:12; compare 1 Peter 4:3.

In the lusts of our flesh - Living to gratify the flesh, or the propensities of a corrupt nature. It is observable here that the apostle changes the form of the address from "ye" to "we," thus including himself with others, and saying that this was true of "all" before their conversion. He means undoubtedly to say, that whatever might have been the place of their birth, or the differences of religion under which they had been trained, they were substantially alike by nature. It was a characteristic of all that they lived to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The "design" of the apostle in thus grouping himself with them was, to show that he did not claim to be any better by nature than they were, and that all which any of them had of value was to be traced to the grace of God. There is much delicacy here on the part of the apostle. His object was to remind them of the former grossness of their life, and their exposure to the wrath of God. Yet he does not do it harshly. He includes himself in their number. He says that what he affirms of them was substantially true of himself - of all - that they were under condemnation, and exposed to the divine wrath.

Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind - Margin, as in Greek, "wills." Complying with the wishes of a depraved nature. The "will of the flesh" is that to which the flesh, or the unrenewed nature of man, prompts; and Paul says that all had been engaged in fulfilling those fleshly propensities. This was clearly true of the pagan, and it was no less true of the unconverted Jew that he lived for himself, and sought to gratify the purposes of a depraved nature, though it might manifest itself in a way different from the pagan. The "will of the mind" referred to here relates to the wicked "thoughts and purposes" of the unrenewed nature - the sins which relate rather to the "intellect" than to the gross passions. Such, for instance, are the sins of pride, envy, ambition, covetousness, etc.; and Paul means to say, that before conversion they lived to gratify these propensities, and to accomplish these desires of the soul.

And were by nature - Φύσει Fusei. By birth, or before we were converted By conversion and adoption they became the children of God; before that, they were all the children of wrath. This is, I think, the fair meaning of this important declaration. It does not affirm "when" they began to be such, or that they were such as soon as they were born, or that they were such before they became moral agents, or that they became such in virtue of their connection with Adam - whatever may be the truth on these points; but it affirms that before they were renewed, they were the children of wrath. So far as This text is concerned, this might have been true at their very birth; but it does not directly and certainly prove that. It proves that at no time before their conversion were they the children of God, but that their whole condition before that was one of exposure to wrath; compare Romans 2:14, Romans 2:27; 1 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 2:15. Some people are born Jews, and some pagan; some free, and some slaves; some white, and some black; some are born to poverty, and some to wealth; some are the children of kings, and some of beggars; but, whatever their rank or condition, they are born exposed to wrath, or in a situation which would render them liable to wrath. But why this is, the apostle does not say. Whether for their own sins or for the sins of another; whether by a corrupted soul, or by imputed guilt; whether they act as moral agents as soon as born, or at a certain period of childhood, Paul does not say.

The children of wrath - Exposed to wrath, or liable to wrath. They did not by nature inherit holiness; they inherited that which would subject; them to wrath. The meaning has been well expressed by Doddridge, who refers it "to the original apostasy and corruption, in consequence of which people do, according to the course of nature, fall early into personal guilt, and so become obnoxious to the divine displeasure." Many modern expositors have supposed that this has no reference to any original tendency of our fallen nature to sin, or to native corruption, but that it refers to the "habit" of sin, or to the fact of their having been the slaves of appetite and passion. I admit that the direct and immediate sense of the passage is that they were, when without the gospel, and before they were renewed, the children of wrath; but still the fair interpretation is, that they were born to that state, and that that condition was the regular result of their native depravity; and I do not know a more strong or positive declaration that can be made to show that people are by nature destitute of holiness, and exposed to perdition.

Even as others - That is, "do not suppose that you stand alone, or that you are the worst of the species. You are indeed, by nature, the children of wrath; but not you alone. All others were the same. You have a common inheritance with them. I do not mean to charge you with being the worst of sinners, or as being alone transgressors. It is the common lot of man - the sad, gloomy inheritance to which we all are born." The Greek is, οἱ λοιποί hoi loipoi "the remainder, or the others," - including all; compare the notes at Romans 5:19. This doctrine that people without the gospel are the children of wrath, Paul had fully defended in Romans 1-3. Perhaps no truth is more frequently stated in the Bible; none is more fearful and awful in its character. What a declaration, that we "are by nature the children of wrath!" Who should not inquire what it means? Who should not make an effort to escape from the wrath to come, and become a child of glory and an heir of life?

3. also we—that is, we also. Paul here joins himself in the same category with them, passing from the second person (Eph 2:1, 2) to the first person here.

all—Jews and Gentiles.

our conversation—"our way of life" (2Co 1:12; 1Pe 1:18). This expression implies an outwardly more decorous course, than the open "walk" in gross sins on the part of the majority of Ephesians in times past, the Gentile portion of whom may be specially referred to in Eph 2:2. Paul and his Jewish countrymen, though outwardly more seemly than the Gentiles (Ac 26:4, 5, 18), had been essentially like them in living to the unrenewed flesh, without the Spirit of God.

fulfilling—Greek, doing.

mind—Greek, "our thoughts." Mental suggestions and purposes (independent of God), as distinguished from the blind impulses of "the flesh."

and were by nature—He intentionally breaks off the construction, substituting "and we were" for "and being," to mark emphatically his and their past state by nature, as contrasted with their present state by grace. Not merely is it, we had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires, and so being children of wrath; but we were by nature originally "children of wrath," and so consequently had our way of life fulfilling our fleshly desires. "Nature," in Greek, implies that which has grown in us as the peculiarity of our being, growing with our growth, and strengthening with our strength, as distinguished from that which has been wrought on us by mere external influences: what is inherent, not acquired (Job 14:4; Ps 51:5). An incidental proof of the doctrine of original sin.

children of wrath—not merely "sons," as in the Greek, "sons of disobedience" (Eph 2:2), but "children" by generation; not merely by adoption, as "sons" might be. The Greek order more emphatically marks this innate corruption: "Those who in their (very) nature are children of wrath"; Eph 2:5, "grace" is opposed to "nature" here; and salvation (implied in Eph 2:5, 8, "saved") to "wrath." Compare Article IX, Church of England Common Prayer Book. "Original sin (birth-sin), standeth not in the following of Adam, but is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, naturally engendered of Adam [Christ was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin], whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Paul shows that even the Jews, who boasted of their birth from Abraham, were by natural birth equally children of wrath as the Gentiles, whom the Jews despised on account of their birth from idolaters (Ro 3:9; 5:12-14). "Wrath abideth" on all who disobey the Gospel in faith and practice (Joh 3:36). The phrase, "children of wrath," is a Hebraism, that is, objects of God's wrath from childhood, in our natural state, as being born in the sin which God hates. So "son of death" (2Sa 12:5, Margin); "son of perdition" (Joh 17:12; 2Th 2:3).

as others—Greek, "as the rest" of mankind are (1Th 4:13).

Among whom also we all; we apostles and believers of the Jews. Either Paul by a coenosis reckons himself among them, though not guilty with them; or rather, though he were not an idolater as the Ephesians, yet he had been a blasphemer, and a persecutor, 1 Timothy 1:13; and though he were blameless as to the righteousness of the law, Philippians 3:6, yet that was only as to his outward conversation, and still he might fulfil the desires of a fleshly mind.

Had our conversation; walked in the same way after the course of the world, &c.

In the lusts of our flesh: flesh is here taken more generally for depraved natures, the whole principle of corruption in man.

Fulfilling the desires of the flesh; the inferior and sensitive faculties of the soul, as appears by the opposition of the flesh to the mind.

And of the mind; the superior and rational powers, to denote the depravation of the whole man even in his best part, and which seems to have rectitude left in it: to the former belongs the filthiness of the flesh, to the latter that of the spirit, 2 Corinthians 7:1: see Romans 8:7 Galatians 5:19-21.

And were by nature; not merely by custom or imitation, but by nature as now constituted since the fall.

The children of wrath, by a Hebraism, for obnoxious to wrath; as sons of death, 1 Samuel 26:16, for worthy of or liable to death. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past,.... What the apostle says of the Gentile Ephesians before conversion, he says of himself and other Jews; and this he does, partly to show that it was not from ill will, or with a design to upbraid the Gentiles, that he said what he did; and partly to beat down the pride of the Jews, who thought themselves better than the sinners of the Gentiles; as well as to magnify the grace of God in the conversion of them both: the sense is, that the apostle and other Jews in the time of their unregeneracy, had their conversation according to the customs of the world, and to the prince of the air, and among unbelievers, as well as the Gentiles; and that they were equally sinners, and lived a like sinful course of life:

in the lusts of our flesh; by "flesh" is meant, the corruption of nature; so called, because it is propagated by natural generation; and is opposed to the Spirit, or principle of grace; and has for its object fleshly things; and discovers itself mostly in the body, the flesh; and it makes persons carnal or fleshly: and this is called "our", because it belongs to human nature, and is inherent in it, and inseparable from it in this life: and the "lusts" of it, are the inward motions of it, in a contrariety to the law and will of God; and are various, and are sometimes called fleshly and worldly lusts, and the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life: and persons may be said to have their conversations in these, when these are the ground of their conversation, when they are solicitous about them, and make provision for the fulfilling of them, and constantly employ themselves in obedience to them, as follows:

fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and of the mind: or the wills of them; what they incline to, will, and crave after: various are the degrees of sin, and its several motions; and universal is the corruption of human nature; not only the body, and the several members of it, are defiled with sin, and disposed to it, but all the powers and faculties of the soul; even the more noble and governing ones, the mind, understanding, and will, as well as the affections; and great is the power and influence which lust has over them:

and were by nature children of wrath, even as others: by which is meant, not only that they were wrathful persons, living in malice, hateful, and hating one another; but that they were deserving of the wrath of God, which comes upon the children of disobedience, among whom they had their conversation; and which is revealed from heaven against such sins as they were guilty of, though they were not appointed to it: and they were such "by nature"; really, and not in opinion, and by and from their first birth: so a Jewish commentator (s) on these words, "thy first father hath sinned", Isaiah 43:27 has this note;

"how canst thou say thou hast not sinned? and behold thy first father hath sinned, and he is the first man, for man , "is naturally in sin";''

or by nature a sinner, or sin is naturally impressed in him; and hence being by nature a sinner, he is by nature deserving of the wrath of God, as were the persons spoken of:

even as others; as the rest of the world, Jews as well as Gentiles; and Gentiles are especially designed, in distinction from the Jews, the apostle is speaking of; and who are particularly called in the Jewish dialect "others"; See Gill on Luke 18:11.

(s) Kimchi in loc.

{6} Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our {d} flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and {7} were by nature the {e} children of wrath, even as {f} others.

(6) After he has separately condemned the Gentiles, he confesses that the Jews (among whom he numbers himself) are not the least bit better.

(d) By the name of flesh in the first place, he means the whole man, which he divides into two parts: into the flesh, which is the part that the philosophers consider to be without reason, and into the thought, which they call reasonable. And so he leaves nothing in man half dead, but concludes that the whole man is by nature the son of wrath.

(7) The conclusion: all men are born subject to the wrath and curse of God.

(e) Men are said to be the children of wrath passively, that is to say, guilty of everlasting death by the judgment of God, who is angry with them.

(f) Profane people who did not know God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Ephesians 2:3. After the apostle has just depicted the pre-Christian corruption of the readers, who were Gentile-Christians, the sinful corruptness of all—this basis for his enthusiastic certainty of the universality of the redemption (Romans 1:18Romans 2:24, Romans 3:19; Romans 3:23, Romans 11:32; Galatians 2:15-16; Galatians 3:22, al.)—presents itself at the same time with such vividness before his mind, that he now also includes with the others the whole body of the Jewish-Christians (καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες) in the same state of corruption, and accordingly, on the resumption of the argument at Ephesians 2:4, he cannot again employ the second person introduced in Ephesians 2:1, but must change this into ἡμᾶς. Inasmuch as καὶ ἡμεῖς, we also, must necessarily denote the class falling to be added to ὑμᾶς, Ephesians 2:1, we cannot understand by it the Christians generally (Estius, Koppe, and others); but, since the ὑμεῖς are Gentile-Christians, we must take it to mean the Jewish-Christians. The general moral description which follows is not opposed to this view (as de Wette objects), since it was the very object of the apostle to delineate the essential equality in the moral condition of both.[132] Comp. Romans 1:2-3. De Wette explains it quite arbitrarily: “we also, who have been already a considerable time Christians.”

ἐν οἷς] is not to be referred to τοῖς παραπτώματι, Ephesians 2:1 (Peshito, Jerome, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, Baumgarten, Koppe, Rosenmüller), for that reference is not to be supported by Colossians 3:7, but, on the contrary, is impossible with the reading ὑμῶν after ἁμαρτ., Ephesians 2:1, and is, moreover, to be rejected, because Paul has not again written ἐν αἷς, and because the reference to the nearest subject is altogether suitable; for the Jewish-Christians also all walked once among the disobedient, as belonging to the ethical category of the same, inasmuch as they likewise before their conversion were through their immoral walk disobedient towards God (Romans 2:17 ff.; Romans 2:2; Romans 3:9 ff.).

ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμ. τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμ.] more precise definition to what has just been said ἐν οἷςἀνεστράφημεν ποτέ, denoting the immoral domain of the pre-Christian state (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Peter 2:18; comp. Xen. Ages. ix. 4; Plat. Legg. ix. p. 865 E; Polyb. ix. 21. 5), in which this walk took place, namely, in the desires of our corporeo-psychical human nature, whose impulses, adverse to God, had not yet experienced the overcoming influence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 7:14 ff; Romans 8:7; Galatians 5:17; Romans 8:2, al.), and hence rendered ineffectual the moral volition directed towards the divine law (Romans 7:17-20). The opposite is: πνεύματι περιπατεῖν καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς μὴ τελεῖν, Galatians 5:16; comp. Romans 8:13.

ποιοῦντες κ.τ.λ.] so that we, etc., now specifies the way and manner of this walk, wherein the prefixed ποιοῦντες has the emphasis, in that it predicates what they did, as afterwards ἦμεν, what they were. The θελήματα (comp. on the plural, Acts 13:22; Jeremiah 23:26; 2Ma 1:3) are here in reality not different from the ἐπιθυμίαι, which, however, are conceived of as activities of the will, that take place on the part of the σάρξ and the διάνοιαι (both conceived of under a personified aspect as the power ruling the ego of the unconverted man). As regards τῶν διανοιῶν, which stands related to τῆς σαρκός as the special to the general, the bad connotation is not implied in the plural, as Harless conjectures (who finds therein “fluctuating, changing opinions”), but in the context, which makes us think of the unholy thoughts,[133] whose volitions were directed to evil, in the state of disobedience. Comp. Numbers 15:39 : μνησθήσεσθε πασῶν τῶν ἐντολῶν κυρίου καὶ ποιήσετε αὐτάς· καὶ οὐ διαστραφήσεσθε ὀπίσω τῶν διανοιῶν ὑμῶν; also Jeremiah 23:26; Isaiah 55:9 (τὰ διανοήματα), where likewise the prejudicial connotation lies not in the plural, but in the connection.

καὶ ἦμεν τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς] Instead of continuing the construction in uniformity with ποιοῦντες by καὶ ὄντες, the apostle passes over, as at Ephesians 1:20 (see on that passage), emphatically into the oratio finita, depicting, after the immoral mode of action, the unhappy condition in which withal we found ourselves. The fact that on this account ἦμεν is prefixed has been left unnoticed, and hence καὶ ἦμεν has been either tacitly (so usually) or expressly (as by Fritzsche, Conject. p. 45, who takes ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμ. τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν ποιοῦντες κ.τ.λ. together as one clause) connected with ἐν οἷςἀνεστρ. Harless regards the words as only a supplemental and more exact definition and modification of the thought expressed immediately before; but in that case an isolation of the words is needlessly assumed, and likewise the correlation of the prefixed verbs ποιοῦντες and ἦμεν is overlooked.

τέκνα ὀργῆς are children of wrath (comp. on Ephesians 2:2), that is, however, not merely those worthy of wrath (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Castalio, Calvin, Grotius, and others), which relation of dependence is not in keeping with the context, but, as νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτ. shows, Ephesians 2:1, subject to wrath, irae dbnoxii, standing under wrath (comp. Ephesians 5:8; Matthew 23:15; John 17:12). So most expositors rightly take it. To whose wrath they were subject, Paul does not indicate (for he does not write τῆς ὀργῆς, comp. Romans 12:19), but (comp. Romans 4:15) he leaves it to the reader to say for himself that it is God’s wrath he has to think of (see Ephesians 2:4). As to the wrath of God,—which here, too, is not to be understood merely of that of the future judgment (Ritschl, de ira Dei, p. 17),—the holy emotion of absolute displeasure at evil, which is necessarily posited by absolute love to the good, and is thus the necessary principle of temporal and eternal punishment on the part of God (not the punishment itself), comp. on Romans 1:18.

φύσει] dative of the more precise mode (= κατὰ φύσιν), may either attach itself merely to τέκνα (not to ἦμεν), so that the idea expressed is: nature-children, τέκνα φυσικὰ ὀργῆς (see on such datives joined on to nouns, Lobeck, ad Phryn p. 688; Heind. ad Cratyl. p. 131); or it may more precisely define the whole notion τέκνα ὀργῆς, thus: wrath-children by nature, τέκνα ὀργῆς φυσικά; so that the τέκνα ὀργ., like υἱοὶ τ. ἀπειθείας, Ephesians 2:2Ephesians 2:3. ἐν οἷς καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἀνεστράφημέν ποτε: among whom also we all had our life and walk aforetime. The AV gives “also we all”; Tynd., Cov., Gen., “we also had”; Bish., “we all had”; RV, “we also all”. The ἐν οἷς cannot mean “in which trespasses” (so Syr., Jer., Beng., etc.); for the ὑμῶν of Ephesians 2:1 is against that, and the form would have been ἐν αἷς as ruled by the nearest noun ἁμαρτίαις. It can only refer to the υἱοὶ τῆς ἀπειθείας. The καὶ ἡμεῖς πάντες is in contrast with the καὶ ὑμᾶς of Ephesians 2:1 and the περιεπατήσατε of Ephesians 2:2. Paul had begun by speaking of the moral condition of these Gentiles before their conversion. He now adds that these Gentiles were in no exceptional position in that respect, but that all, Jews as well as Greeks, Jewish-Christians like himself no less than Gentile Christians like his readers, had been among those who once lived in obstinate disobedience to God. Paul seldom misses the opportunity of declaring the universal sinfulness of men, the dire level of corruptness on which all, however they differed in race or privilege, stood. So here the ἡμεῖς πάντες is best taken in its utmost breadth—not merely “all the Jewish-Christians” (Mey.), but = the whole body of us Christians, Jewish and Gentile alike included. For the περιεπατήσατε of Ephesians 2:2 we have now ἀνεστράφημεν, “had our conversation” (AV), “conversed” (Rhem.), “lived” (RV). Like the Heb. חָלַךְ it denotes one’s walk, his active, open life, his way of conducting himself.—ἐν ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν: in the lusts of our flesh. Definition of the domain or element in which their life once was spent. It kept within the confines of the appetites and impulses proper to fallen human nature or springing from it. The noun ἐπιθυμία has its usual sense of craving, the craving in particular of what is forbidden; σάρξ in like manner has its large, theological sense, human nature as such, in its physical, mental and moral entirety, considered as apart from God and under the dominion of sin.—ποιοῦντες τὰ θελήματα τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν: doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts. The ποιοῦντες is sufficiently represented by the “doing” of Wycl., Cov., Rhem., RV. The AV and other Versions give “fulfilling”. The word θέλημα is of very rare occurrence, except in biblical and ecclesiastical Greek. It denotes properly the thing willed, but is used also of the Divine purpose (e.g., Ephesians 1:9), or command (e.g., Ephesians 5:17), etc. Here, as also in John 1:13, it denotes inclination or desire. The pl. διανοιῶν is best rendered “thoughts,” with Wycl., Cov., Rhem. and RV margin; RV text, following the AV and other Versions, gives “mind”. In the LXX the singular represents the OT לֵב, and denotes the mind in the large sense, inclusive of understanding, feeling and desiring. It is only the context that gives it the sense of wicked thoughts. Two sources of evil desire and impulse, therefore, are indicated here, viz., our fallen nature in general and the laboratory of perverted thoughts, impressions, imaginations, volitions, in particular.—καὶ ἦμεν τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς: and were children by nature of wrath. “Children,” rather than “the children,” as it is given by AV and all the other old English Versions (except Wycl., who has “the sons”). From what he and his fellow-Christians did in their pre-Christian life, Paul turns now to what they were then. The statement is so constructed as to throw the chief emphasis on the ἧμεν and the ὀργῆς. For ἦμεν the better attested form is ἤμεθα. Some good MSS. and Versions ([133] [134] [135] [136] [137], Syr.-Harcl., Vulg.) read φύσει τέκνα, and that order is accepted by Lachmann, while a place is given it in the margin by Tregelles. The order τέκνα φύσει, however, which is that of [138] [139] [140], Chrys., etc., and both the TR and the RV, is to be preferred. The ἧμεν makes it clear that it is no longer doing (ποιοῦντες) simply that is in view, but being, condition. The τέκνα is the same kind of idiomatic phrase as the former υἱοί, only, if possible, stronger and more significant. It describes those in view as not only worthy of the ὀργή, but actually subject to it, definitely under it. But what is this ὀργή itself? It is not to be identified with punitive righteousness (τιμωρία), punishment (κόλασις), future judgment, or the effect of God’s present judgment of men, but denotes the quality or affectus of wrath. But is it man’s wrath or God’s? The word is certainly used of the passion of wrath in us (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; Jam 1:19, etc.), and so the whole phrase is understood by some to mean nothing more than that those referred to were given to violent anger or ungovernable impulse (e.g., Maurice, Unity, p. 538). But this would add little or nothing to what was said of the lusts of the flesh and thoughts, and would strip the whole statement of its point, its solemnity, and its universality. It is the Divine wrath that is in view here; as it is, indeed, in thirteen out of twenty occurrences in the Pauline writings, and that, too, whether with or without the definite article or the defining Θεοῦ (cf. Moule, in loc). This holy displeasure of God with sin is not inconsistent with His love, but is the reaction of that love against the denial of its sovereign rights of responsive love. The term φύσις, though it may occasionally be applied to what is habitual or to character as developed, means properly what is innate, implanted, in one by nature, and this with different shades of meaning (cf., e.g., Romans 2:14; Galatians 2:15; Galatians 4:8, etc.). The clause means, therefore, that in their pre-Christian life those meant by the ἡμεῖς πάντες were in the condition of subjection to the Divine wrath; and that they were so not by deed merely, nor by circumstance, nor by passing into it, but by nature. Their universal sin has been already affirmed. This universal sin is now described as sin by nature. Beyond this Paul does not go in the present passage. But the one is the explanation of the other. Universal sin implies a law of sinning, a sin that is of the nature; and this, again, is the explanation of the fact that all are under the Divine wrath. For the Divine wrath operates only where sin is. Here is the essential meaning of the doctrine of original sin. That it finds any justification here is denied, indeed, by some; even by Meyer, who admits, however, that elsewhere (e.g., in Romans 6) Paul teaches that there is a principle of sin in man by nature, and that man sins actually because of that innate principle. But he argues that it is in virtue not of the principle itself, but of the acts of sin by which that principle expresses itself, that we are in a state of subjection to the Divine wrath. This, however, is to make a nature which originates sinful acts and which does that in the case of all men without exception, itself a neutral thing.

[133] Codex Alexandrinus (sæc. v.), at the British Museum, published in photographic facsimile by Sir E. M. Thompson (1879).

[134] Codex Claromontanus (sæc. vi.), a Græco-Latin MS. at Paris, edited by Tischendorf in 1852.

[135] Codex Boernerianus (sæc. ix.), a Græco-Latin MS., at Dresden, edited by Matthæi in 1791. Written by an Irish scribe, it once formed part of the same volume as Codex Sangallensis (δ) of the Gospels. The Latin text, g, is based on the O.L. translation.

[136] Codex Angelicus (sæc. ix.), at Rome, collated by Tischendorf and others.

[137] Codex Porphyrianus (sæc. ix.), at St. Petersburg, collated by Tischendorf. Its text is deficient for chap. Ephesians 2:13-16.

[138] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[139] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[140] Codex Mosquensis (sæc. ix.), edited by Matthæi in 1782.3. also we all] Better we also all, the “also” emphasizing the “we.”—“We all:”—all present Christians, whether Jews or heathens by origin. St Paul often insists on this one level of fallen nature, wholly unaffected by external privilege. Cp. Romans 3:9; Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22. It is met by the glorious antithesis of equal grace. Cp. just below, and Romans 1:16; Romans 3:29, Romans 10:12, &c.—Observe the emphatic statement that man as (fallen) man, whether within or without the pale of revelation, begins as a “child of disobedience.”—Observe too the change of person, from the second (Ephesians 2:2) to the first. The Apostle willingly, and truly, identifies his own experience with that of his converts.

had our conversation] Lit., moved up and down; engaged in the activities of life. Conversatio in Latin, like the Gr. word here, means precisely this; the goings in and out of human intercourse; not specially the exchange of speech, to which the word “conversation” is now restricted.—In Php 3:20 the Gr. original is different.

the lusts of our flesh] Better, the desires. “Lusts” is narrowed in modern usage to a special class of sensual appetites, but the older English knew no such fixed restriction; see e.g. Psalm 34:12, in the Prayer Book (Cranmer’s) Version; “what man is he that lusteth to live?” and Galatians 5:17, where the Spirit, as well as the flesh, “lusteth.”—Sinful “lusts” are thus all desires, whether gross or fine in themselves, which are against the will of God.

Our flesh:”—this important word, wherever it occurs in N.T. in connexion with the doctrine of sin, means human nature as conditioned by the Fall, or, to word it otherwise, either the state of the unregenerate being, in which state the sinful principle dominates, or the state of that element of the regenerate being in which the principle, dislodged, as it were, from the centre, still lingers and is felt; not dominant in the being, but present. (For its permanence, till death, in the regenerate, see the implied statements of e.g. Galatians 5:16; Php 3:3.) We may account for the use of the word flesh as a symbol for this phenomenon by the fact that sin works so largely under conditions of bodily, fleshly, life in the literal sense of those words. See further, note on Romans 8:4 in this Series.

fulfilling the desires] Lit., doing the wishes. This (see last note) does not mean that “we” were loose livers, in the common sense; we might or might not have been such. But we followed the bent of the unregenerate Ego, whatever on the whole it was.

of the mind] Lit., of the thoughts; in the sense generally of reflection and impression. The word is used (in the singular) e.g. Matthew 22:37; “with all thy mind,” representing the Heb. “heart” in Deuteronomy 6:5; and 1 John 5:20; “He hath given us an understanding.” Here probably the distinction is between sin in imagination and sin in positive action (“of the flesh”); one of the many warnings of Scripture that moral evil lies as deep as possible in the texture and motion of the fallen nature. Cp. Matthew 15:19; 2 Corinthians 7:1, and see Proverbs 24:9.

by nature the children of wrath] On the phrase “children of wrath” see last note on Ephesians 2:2. “By nature we were connected with, we essentially were exposed to, wrath, the wrath of God.” It has been suggested that “children of wrath” may mean no more than “beings prone to violent anger,” or even to “ungoverned impulse” generally. But the word “wrath” is frequent with St Paul, and in 13 out of the 20 places it unmistakably means the Divine wrath, even where “of God” is not added, and where the definite article is absent. See for passages specially in point Romans 4:15; Romans 5:9; Romans 9:22; below, ch. Ephesians 5:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:9. Add to this that this passage deals with the deepest and most general facts, and it is thus unlikely that any one special phase of sin would be instanced.—N. T. usage gives no support to the suggested explanation “ungoverned impulse” mentioned above. The word must mean “wrath,” whether of man or of God.—Translate, certainly, with A. V. and R. V.—On the truth that the fallen being, as such, lies under Divine “wrath,” see John 3:36, where “the wrath of God remaineth against” the soul which does not submit to the Son. Not to “possess eternal life” is to have that “wrath” for certain still impending.

And what is the Divine wrath? No arbitrary or untempered passion in the Eternal, but the antagonism of the eternal Holiness to sin; only—the antagonism of an Eternal Person. Von Gerlach, quoted by Monod on this verse, writes: “The forgetfulness at the present day of the doctrine of the wrath of God has exercised a baneful influence on the various relations in which man holds the place of God, and in particular on the government of the family and the state.” The antithesis to the truth about it is the dictum of the “Absolute Religion,” that “there is nothing in God to fear;” words in complete discord with great lines of revelation.

By nature:”—i.e., by our unregenerate state in itself, not only by circumstances. For illustration see Galatians 2:15, (“Jews by nature”) and Ephesians 4:8, (“by nature no Gods”). Such was our state antecedent to the new process, ab extra, of regeneration. We have here the doctrine of “Original or Birth Sin,” as given in Art ix. of the Church of England. “That which provokes the wrath of God is not only in the individual, but in the race and in the nature” (Monod). A greater mystery we could not state; but neither could we name a surer fact “Original sin is, fundamentally, simply universal sin. That is the fact which is at once the evidence and the substance of it … Universal sin must receive the same interpretation that any other universal does, namely that it implies a law, in consequence of which it is universal. Nobody supposes that anything takes place universally by chance … we know there must be some law working in the case … What we call the law is a secondary question. The great thing is to see that there is a law. If all the individuals who come under the head of a certain nature have sin in them, then one mode of expressing this law is to say that it belongs to the nature, the nature being the common property and ground in which all meet” (J. B. Mozley, Lectures, ix. pp. 136, &c.). See further, Appendix B.

even as others] Lit, as also the rest; the unregenerate world at large.

C. ORIGINAL SIN. (Ch. Ephesians 2:3.)

The theological literature, ancient and modern, of this great subject (the title of which we owe to St Augustine), is very extensive. The English reader will find information in Commentaries on the XXXIX Articles, such as those of Bps Beveridge and E. H. Browne. Art. ix deals expressly with the subject, and its statements underlie those of several following Articles, especially x, xi, xiii, xv, xvii. Among English discussions of the subject we specially recommend three of the late Prof. Mozley’s Lectures (one of which is quoted in the notes); “Christ alone without Sin,” “Original Sin,” and “Original Sin asserted by Philosophers and Poets.” To the quotations given in this last Essay we may add the lines of Mr Browning:

“I still, to suppose it” [the Christian faith] “true, for my part,

See reasons and reasons; this, to begin;

’Tis the faith that launched point-blank her dart

At the head of a lie—taught Original Sin,

The Corruption of Man’s Heart.”

Gold Hair; a story of Pornic.

See, for some admirable pages on Original Sin, Prof. Shedd’s Sermons to the Natural Man, especially Sermons v. and xiv. On the Pelagian Controversy, see Hagenbach’s Dogmengeschichte, or English Translation (History of Doctrines), and Period, B., i. 2; Shedd’s Hist. of Christian Doctrine, Book iv. ch. 4; Cunningham’s Historical Theology, Vol. i. ch. 11. A popular but able account of the controversy is given in Milner’s History of the Ch. of Christ, Cent. 5, cch. 3, 4.Ephesians 2:3. Καὶ ἡμεῖς) we also, viz. Jews. In the last times of the Old Testament sin had greatly prevailed, even among the Jews, in order that grace might more abound; Romans 5:6; Romans 5:20; Titus 3:3; Luke 1:17; Luke 1:79; Matthew 4:16.—ἀνεστράφημεν, we were conversant [had our conversation or way of life]) This is somewhat more specious[22] [outwardly decorous] than to walk, Ephesians 2:2. τῆς σαρκὸς, of the flesh) without the Spirit of God.—τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ τῶν διανοιῶν, of the flesh and of the thoughts) The thoughts imply the more subtle and practised purpose of sinning; the flesh rushes on with a blind impetuosity [impulse].—φύσει, by nature) Nature denotes the state of man without the grace of God in Christ. We owe this to our nature [although we have been Jews, Isaiah 1:13.—V. g.], that we are the children of wrath.—ὀργῆς, of wrath) whilst we all the time thought that we were the children of God. The antithesis is in Ephesians 2:4.—οἱ λοιποὶ) 1 Thessalonians 4:13 : the others, who do not believe, or at least not yet.

[22] The Gentiles (ye) openly walked in sins. The Jews (we also., in the way of life and inward character, though not openly walking in the grosser sins of the former, were essentially like them in living to the flesh.—ED.Verse 3. - Among whom we also all once spent our life in the lusts of our flesh. The apostle here brings Jews and Gentiles together. "We also," as well as you - we were all in the same condemnation, all in a miserable plight, not merely occasionally dipping into sin, but spending our very lives in the lusts or desires of our flesh, living fro' no noble ends, but in an element of carnal desire, as if there were nothing higher than to please the carnal nature. Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Desires of the flesh, the grosser and more animal propensities (the flesh, in Scripture, has often a wider sense; see Galatians 5:19-21); and of the mind or thoughts, διανοιῶν, the objects that we thought about, whatever they might be, - the waywardness of our thoughts seems to be denoted, the random roaming of the mind hither and thither, towards this pleasure and that, sometimes serious, sometimes frivolous, but all marked by the absence of any controlling regard to the will of God. The life indicated is a life of indulgence in whatever natural feelings may arise in us-be they right or be they wrong. And we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. This is a substantive clause, standing on its own basis, a separate fact, not merely an inference from the previous statements. The life described would have exposed us to wrath; but beyond and before this we were by nature children of wrath. "By nature" denotes something in our constitution, in our very being; and "even as the rest" denotes that this was universal, not a peculiarity affecting some, but a general feature applicable to all. "Children of wrath" denotes that we belonged to a race which had incurred the wrath of God; our individuality was so far absorbed by the social body that we shared the lot under which it had come. If there be something in this that seems contrary to justice, that seems to condemn men for the sins of others, we remark

(1) that in actual life we constantly find individuals suffering for the sin of the corporation, domestic, social, or national, with which they are identified;

(2) that apart from this altogether, our individual offenses would expose us to God's wrath; and

(3) that the moral and legal relations of the individual to the corporation is a subject of difficulty, and in this case makes a strong demand on our faith. We should accept the teaching of the Word of God upon it, and leave our righteous Judge to vindicate himself. "Wrath," as applied to God, must be regarded as essentially different from the same word when used of man. In the latter case it usually indicates a disorderly, excited, passionate feeling, as of one who has lost self-control; when used of God, it denotes the holy, calm, deep opposition of his nature to sin, compelling him to inflict the appropriate punishment. Had our conversation (ἀνεστράφημεν)

See on the kindred noun conversation, 1 Peter 1:15. Rev., more simply, lived.

Fulfilling (ποιοῦντες)

Rev., doing. The verb implies carrying out or accomplishing, so that the A.V. is more nearly correct. See on Romans 7:15; see on John 3:21.

Desires (θελήματα)

Lit., willings. See on Colossians 3:12.

Mind (διανοιῶν)

More strictly, thoughts. See on Mark 12:30; see on Luke 1:51.

By nature children of wrath

See on Ephesians 2:2. Children (τέκνα) emphasizes the connection by birth; see on John 1:12. Wrath (ὀργῆς) is God's holy hatred of sin; His essential, necessary antagonism to everything evil, Romans 1:18. By nature (φύσει) accords with children, implying what; is innate. That man is born with a sinful nature, and that God and sin are essentially antagonistic, are conceded on all hands: but that unconscious human beings come into the world under the blaze of God's indignation, hardly consists with Christ's assertion that to little children belongs the kingdom of heaven. It is true that there is a birth-principle of evil, which, if suffered to develop, will bring upon itself the wrath of God. Whether Paul means more than this I do not know.

Others (οἱ λοιποί)

Rev., correctly, the rest.

Links
Ephesians 2:3 Interlinear
Ephesians 2:3 Parallel Texts


Ephesians 2:3 NIV
Ephesians 2:3 NLT
Ephesians 2:3 ESV
Ephesians 2:3 NASB
Ephesians 2:3 KJV

Ephesians 2:3 Bible Apps
Ephesians 2:3 Parallel
Ephesians 2:3 Biblia Paralela
Ephesians 2:3 Chinese Bible
Ephesians 2:3 French Bible
Ephesians 2:3 German Bible

Bible Hub






Ephesians 2:2
Top of Page
Top of Page