1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Chapter one set forth God’s plan. Chapters two and three show how God executes that plan. Verses one to 10 demonstrate how sinners who deserve God’s wrath can receive God’s grace. Verses one to three show our situation with God before becoming Christians.
1 And you
The “you” here refers to Ephesian believers. Paul was about to describe their spiritual history.
He made alive,
The words “He made alive” are in italics, indicating that they do not occur in the Greek text; they are, however, found in verse five. Translators supply these words to help us understand the context of the statements found in verses one through three. Having spoken of Christ’s resurrection and its impact on Christians, Paul now picked up the idea of new life in Christ for believers.
“Made alive” is to come alive spiritually. God imparts divine life by regeneration at the point of our being born again.
who were dead
Unregenerate people are spiritually dead to God. They are alienated from the life of God (4:18). Non-Christians are living corpses to God. Spiritual death is not extinction of being but separation from the life of God. God says that as non-Christians we were dead, not sick. No one can squirt religious perfume on us and make us different.
in trespasses and sins,
The sphere of non-Christian death is in the features of “trespasses and sins.” We were not dead because we committed acts of sin but because we were “in” sin. Trespasses and sins were the sphere of our actions. We do not become cheaters because we cheat; we cheat because we are cheaters. Commission of sins does not make us sinners; we sin because we are sinners (Mt 12:35; 15:18-19).
A trespass is a transgression, a deviation from the direction God wants us to go. It is to step across God’s clear boundaries set forth in His Word.
“Sin” means to miss the mark. The idea is to fall short of God’s standards (Ro 3:23). The target is the absoluteness of God, His glory. We all fail to measure up to the perfection of God. Sin is the failure to measure up to the glory of God.
This does not mean that all men are equally corrupt but that all men equally fail to measure up to a perfect God. This is why man cannot be anything other than sinful. No matter how religious or humanly righteous a person might be, in God’s eyes he has failed to measure up to a perfect God. People apart from God can do good things, but they cannot satisfy an absolute God by themselves.
In God’s eyes, non-Christians are walking corpses.
Man is spiritually dead but physically alive. He is a dead man walking (1 Ti 5:6). He is dead to God Himself, to His Word, to spiritual life, to God’s truth, to all the reality that God affords to those who believe. The Bible does not view mankind optimistically but as fundamentally flawed toward God. Man is not evolving but is in a state of rebellion against God. We currently have as many wars and conflicts as the world has ever had. Murder, pedophilia, thefts, deception, and crime of all sorts run rampant in modern societies. Although the world has made progress against disease, starvation, and poverty, man’s basic nature remains the same.
The Bible proclaims man dead in trespasses and sins. He does not have the capacity to move toward God. His attempts to form religions fail in moving him one inch toward the God of Scriptures. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, man cannot come to know Jesus as Savior. It takes supernatural intervention by God Himself to deliver man from himself.
God says “no trespassing” on His Word. Yet man loves to go his own way and says “no” to the claims of God. Man asserts that “day-by-day in every way I am getting better and better.” But in clear statements of Scripture, God says man comes short of His glory and trespasses.