Walking in Darkness – Ephesians 2:1

This is one of the best loved passages in the Pauline letters, virtually everyone knows Ephesians 2:8-9 and is able to recite it quickly. Paul describes how far separated from God the Gentiles really were, they were dead in their sin, separate from God and his people the Jews. Gentiles were unwilling and unable to respond to God, nor were they accepted by God’s people. Like the first chapter of the letter, verses 1-7 are a single sentence, the main subject/verb is “God made us alive” (v. 5).

The first words of this long sentence (124 words!) are “and you…” The pronoun “you” is accusative and the object of the verb “made alive” in verse 5. The content between the verb and the object is the state of the Gentile believers before coming to Christ. Despite the fact were dead in our sin, God made us alive in Christ!

Paul describes a person before they come to Christ as dead in trespasses and sins. “Being dead” describes the spiritual state of the Gentiles apart from Christ. The participle is present active, indicating this was an ongoing state.

The reason for this state of death is “trespasses and sins.” These words are used as synonyms here, although Paul uses transgression for Adam’s sin in Romans 5:12-21.In verse 3 he includes himself (and all Jews) as also living by passions of the flesh. It is not that the Gentiles are evil and damned and only the Jews are saved: all have fallen short of the glory of God. Paul’s view of salvation is therefore built on the foundation of the Old Testament’s view of sin and death. Romans 5:12-21, all who are “in Adam” die, but all who are “in Christ” will live.

The Gentiles once followed the dark spiritual forces at work in the world. There are three descriptions of the spiritual forces which once held the Gentiles in bondage to sin. The “course of this world” (ESV) or the “ways of this world” (NIV) translates αἰών as a reference to the worldview of the present time (cf. Gal 1:4, this present evil age). Paul uses the preposition κατά to express “being under the control of” in several expressions, such as “walking according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:4). The sense of the phrase is “conforming to a norm.” (Arnold, Ephesians, 130).  In a Jewish context, the noun can refer to eternity or history, or an age of the world history (like an era or dispensation, “this age and the age to come,” Eph 1:21, 2:7). Paul uses the word for “this age” on several occasions (1 Cor 3:18, for example).

If this is the nuance of the word, then Paul is saying the Gentile readers thought like all the other Gentiles because that is the way the all think. They are simply following the thinking of the time they were living.

To anticipate the rest of the letter, Paul is saying that the time we now live is different because God has made the Gentiles alive in Christ and saved them into a new Body of Christ. To know this new age exists changes how we think and live out our lives.

But in a Hellenistic context, the word can refer to the Aeon, a ruler of the world in Greek mythology. The word appears in magical papyri and will be used in Gnosticism to refer to the real deity (O’Brien, Ephesians, 158). There are few who take this word as a reference to a deity, however, since Paul never refers to pagan gods in his other letters.  Paul has already mentioned the common Jewish two-age view of history (this age and the age to come) using this word. It is possible Paul used this word in order to evoke the Jewish idea of ages but also the Greek idea of a god.

The Gentile readers of Ephesians once lived in accordance with the “spirit of the age,” whether that is just the worldview dominant at the time or the god who controls the age.

What is the “spirit of the age” in which we once walked in a modern context? What is an example of a “pattern of thought” which controls the way we think before we came to Christ?

18 thoughts on “Walking in Darkness – Ephesians 2:1

  1. If we all “were dead” in some sense as found here in Ephesians, God’s warning was accurate to Adam and Eve. The serpent’s cruel technicality of “you surely will not die” is explicitly exposed by Paul as a lie. Of course the misery of human history and existence told the same story.

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  2. The whole reason we are “living in sin” is due to the initial sin of man. We were then all “deemed dead” as God states “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Then only by the death and resurrection of Christ we were set free from all our sin. As long as we “in Christ” we will live as
    “God made us alive” (v. 5). In this we are to live for God and try to worship Him in all that we do. We must learn and be able to live outside of the sin of flesh! As the title of this Blog states we need to not walk in darkness but in the light of Jesus Christ. As Jesus is the reason we are here today able to live the lives we want whether in flesh or in Christ. “Despite the fact were dead in our sin, God made us alive in Christ!” (P. Long).

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  3. The “spirit of the age of modern age” that comes to mind for me is the selfish and superficial United States culture we live in. We live in a culture that thrives on the sinful nature of man and it embodies selfishness and vanity; the patterns of thought if you will. Much like the gentiles before their rebirth through Christ, we walk around in this world with blindfolds over our eyes (Ephesians 1:13). A verse from John comes to mind in this example; “So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, ‘Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see’” (John 9:24-25). We are also separate pieces and stories that cannot be brought together until we are one in the body of Christ. Christ made the Israelites and the gentiles one and created one humanity. Jesus’ death on the cross “‘put to death’ hostility and enabled unity between the two parties (2:15-16)”(Longenecker, 244). Just as the Jews and gentiles were brought together as one in Ephesians, so can the Christian body today.

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    • Rachel Smith

      “What is an example of a “pattern of thought” which controls the way we think before we came to Christ?” (P. Long, blog-Walking in Darkness – Ephesians 2:1). One example of a ‘pattern of thought’ that controls the way we think before we come to know Christ is the thought of “I am number one! Everything in life is about me and I need to make sure I have what I want to be happy.” By the nature of our flesh, we want to focus on ourselves and our own needs and wants. The flesh says that our selves are the most important thing in the world; and we should take care of self and pander to self as such. This is contrary to what a life lived in Christ is supposed to look like. Those who live in Christ are supposed to, among other things, live in humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another in love (cf. Eph.4:2). Followers of Christ are supposed to live for His honor and glory; not for personal honor and glory. To live in Christ is to be transformed by His grace into a new creation. Paul talks about our transformed life in Christ when he writes to the Ephesians. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:22-24.

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  4. I agree with Allison… I think the patterns of our thoughts stem from the selfish world that we live in today. We live in an everyday thought of what can I do for myself today and how can I make my day the best it can be. We tend to let the things of this world take control sometimes. The media has a big influence in our lives and I believe it can be used to take control of our hearts and minds if we are not careful. I believe we can become even more selfish with the social media and posts that we make online as well. It is easy to post online because we can hide behind a screen. I think that as our world evolves we are taking away the real truth and rawness we once had before we placed ourselves in front of screens. “‘God has exalted Christ to be ‘head over everything for the church, which is his body,’ and a body that Christ is said to love, feed, and care for (1:22-23; 5:29) (Longenecker 241).

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  5. Throughout reading this blog post what comes to mind is the pattern that individuals think they must do good in order to have a relationship with Christ. People think they must be perfect, and that God does not forgive but, He has already forgiven us all. I think that individuals think that to do good is what gets you to Heaven, but it is not like that. A relationship with Jesus Christ is admitting that you need Jesus every day. That you can not do this life without His guidance each new day. To know Christ is to agree that He has won your heart, hung on a cross, and has established each day from where you are now. He loves us forever and with an everlasting love. Ephesians 2:1 reminds us that we are or were dead in sin and our trespasses, but Jesus has come to set us free. In Him we must know that we will never be perfect, but that we can love Him with our whole being and have an intimate relationship with Him. Jesus is out first love and in order to love others, we must fall in love with Jesus. Jesus makes us the best version of ourselves with the help of God and the Holy Spirit.
    Darkness can and will overcome us if we are not walking in obedience to the will of God. We are in the age where everything is becoming new. Relationships are being restored and individuals are falling more in love with Christ. Those who are lost are coming to Him and falling in awe, down on their knees. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”. The word of God is alive and well. Scripture speaks such life into the seasons we experience. Since the beginning of time starting with Adam and Eve Satan was scheming and up to no good (Gen. 3). The choses that Adam and Eve made have impacted us now, in this generation and we could say it would have been different if they did not fall to sin. God knew, He saw it all even before they were created. Even through the darkness and hard times, we must continue to trust the Lord and press in. It is His will above all else.

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    • Great post Danielle
      I agree with what your saying here I found the most important when living a life with Christ in is the relationship we have with him because he has already forgiven is not looking for the mistakes we make in our lives because no one can live that perfect life.

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  6. Sometimes people walk in darkness and they don’t know where to go or where to look or who to go to. First of all if you ever walking in darkness then the first thing you need to do is pray to God. 100% of the time he will lead to light or a least a path to light. God will never lead you astray if you choose to follow him and accept him as your true leader in life. In the article It talks about how the gentiles were unwilling to respond to God and how far separated they were from God. They were rejected by God’s people and that didn’t help them with responding to God. Later in the article it talks about how paul describes people who have not come to Christ as dead in the tresspasses. This is true because God wants all of us to praise and serve Him and accept Him as Lord and savior. It talked about how the gentiles were in a dark spiritual force. They were in bondage to sin.

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  7. Paul saying that that the Gentiles need to no longer follow the thinking of the world, but to live their lives as followers of Christ. The Gentiles had their worldly influences that lead them to worldly thinking. People are dead in their transgressions before their salvation (Eph. 2:1). Some influences of today’s world are technology, such as social media to keep up with the world’s pattern. Younger Christians have been blending in with the world today in the sense of the hipster trend with social media, casual drinking, and swearing. Trends have always been a pattern of the world. Trends in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and all the way to now. People are always trying to keep up with what the world is putting out and letting themselves be influenced by it.

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  8. I think the patterns of thought that many people have today that is leading them into the darkness is thinking that Jesus is not the only way to salvation. Catholicism comes to mind with all of the traditions that Catholics have and how seriously they take them. I respect traditions but that is all they are and I know people who believe that they MUST follow the traditions in their church in order to “make it right” with God. It is like they do not truly believe that Jesus died ONCE and for ALL, meaning one time for all people who have and ever will exist in this sinful world. Traditions and rituals and things such as these are manmade. The Bible does not say that if we do not confess our sins to another human being that we will lose our salvation or if we do not go to a designated holy day then we are doomed. If this is the case, that man-made traditions and rules are the way to salvation or KEEPING salvation then Jesus died for no reason. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” This is a pattern of thinking by so many Christians that will lead them into the dark, believing that Jesus is not the only way when in reality he is THE way, the truth, and the life. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

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  9. The spirit of the age in today’s modern context will vary depending on where you live, and what culture you are a part of. This meaning that basically whatever sins the culture we are in is promoting is what the devil is using as he advertises it as good to get us trapped into a cycle of dependence on something other than God that leads to a perpetual downward spiral from the ways of God. In America, there seems to be a sense of everyone being self-righteous. People care more about animals than other human beings and spend their time stating that they are accepting of everyone, but then go around secretly judging people. It’s a culture where we are convinced that we can do life on our own which leads to hard hearts that are unwilling to submit to God. Even though as Christians we know God has a higher calling for us and asks us to stray from sin, we do not want people to be offended by us or think we are unaccepting of them. So, rather we go around living in the pattern of the world, because we care more about what other people have to think about us than glorifying God with our lives. However, everyone was once a child of wrath, but God had mercy on us, and gave us new life in Christ which should be enough of a gift for us to at least try to put our old selves to death.

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  10. This was a very good read and I do believe that the society that we live in today has become the darkness that we live in today because of the media and how others try to portray themselves because of it. I also think many people do not have a clear understanding of what living a Christ lifelike is because some might think everything you do must be right and can’t have any mistakes in life but this is how I see it. There is sin and God died for our many sins I believe we live and learn and the best way to learn is from our mistakes not mainly sins but mistakes. Therefore anyone is able to turn there life around no matter the situation that they are currently living in for the better and living a life with Christ involved. I believe the best way to do that is growing in your faith and getting to know and grow in your relationship with Christ because I believe that is the most important when following Christ.

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  11. Reading through the Bible I often think that my struggles and the people in those times’ struggles are very different. Taking a closer look I find that our struggles are not that different after all. The struggle to fit in with the world around you is still around, the struggle to put God first in everything is still around, and the struggle against selfish desires are still taking effect as they did back then. I believe that the “spirit of the age” can be the thing that everyone is doing, a movement, a belief, a battle that all of society is taking a part of. For example, one thing that comes to my mind is the famous saying, “follow your heart.” This seems like an uplifting and innocent saying to try and encourage people to do what they want. Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can understand it?” Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemes.” The saying “follow your heart” is the belief of “I am in control of my life and I can do what I want.” But the heart can be deceived. Whatever we spend our time on whatever we pour our hearts into will affect us and control the way we live. For where our treasure is our heart is there also (Luke 12:34). If our treasure is ourselves, our heart is going to be only for ourselves and full of pride. We need to give our hearts to Jesus and allow Him to dwell and control our hearts. When we live for ourselves and follow our sinful desires we are dead, but Christ makes us alive, and a heart that is alive is the heart that makes a difference.

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  12. The “Spirit of the age”, whether it is in Paul’s day or in a modern context is simple. We all are fallen, sinful beings, and each is under the control of sin and Satan unless one comes to the saving knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ. A “spirit of the age” of today is one of atheism, perhaps more so than ever before. Those of the world think that they do not need God, that the Lord does not exist and Christians who do choose to believe and have faith in Him are “fools”. However, we who are saved are reminded in God’s word, as well as comforted, that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Before a man or woman comes to salvation, they are under the complete influence of sin, and their eyes are blind to their need for salvation (John 12:39-40). The patterns of our thoughts overflow with wickedness. How to manipulate others, cheat, lie, and steal so that we can benefit ourselves, and so on. The heart of man is deceitful beyond all things (Jeremiah 17:9). IT is only through the blood sacrifice of Jesus that we can find hope and life.

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  13. I think that the “Spirit of the Age” today would just be are cultural atmosphere which as of late is very liberal, accepting of sin, making excuses for every single thing that’s wrong and some how making it acceptable and right to please ourselves. The spirit of our age is very selfish, everyone wants the world customized to their beliefs and they want to be completely comfortable. This is the selfish pattern of thought that drives most non-believers. Before knowing Christ the only purpose people have is in pleasing themselves, but once we begin a relationship with Christ our heart and purpose in life is reborn, we now have an end goal that is bigger than just our own wants and needs, we now are serving Christ and living a life that honors him and brings glory to his name. Our purpose is now to spread this relationship with as many people as we can, so that when the end comes, we will be able to celebrate with as many of God’s children as we can. Our new life after being dead in sin allows us to see our lives in a new perspective, eliminating the “Spirit of the Age” in our actions an thought and replacing it with the spirit if God.

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  14. Walking in the dark can be a very scary situation in life as a whole. It is something that does happen to people everyday and you may not even know it when you see them. It is very important to treat people the way you want to be treated. God is the way out of that dark tunnel or dark pathway. Find God through your prayers and Church. God will lead you in the right direction in life and away from the darkness. He can make you feel like you are back home and away from the evil spirits. Paul says that a person before they have met God is considered dead in trespasses and sins. Being dead means that in the spiritual state the Gentiles are away from Christ.Despite our bodies feeling dead God will make us feel very alive.

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  15. One element of Paul’s ministry that stands out is his commitment for each and every person to know who God is. However, a verse that supports such a commitment comes from Ephesians 2: 8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast” (NIV). When it comes down to it, Paul is making the point that the Gentiles will never understand who God is until they accept who he is. At the same time, the verses leading up to this verse is also implying the same message, which states, we are to be obedient to God and not cave into the flesh of our desires (2:1-3). The information from verses 1 through 9 are making it clear that we are all sinners, and that people have to be deliberate and actively live out their faith in the Lord. Ultimately, this information from these verses are indicating that we are not in control. Rather, it is the Lord that should be at the center of our lives, and know that he is the ultimate judge of the living and the dead.

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