What does Ephesians 2:1 mean?
ESV: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
NIV: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
NASB: And you were dead in your offenses and sins,
CSB: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
NLT: Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.
KJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
NKJV: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Verse Commentary:
The first section of this chapter begins by noting believers "were dead" in their sins. These immoral actions were part of their life, following the lead of the Devil, rather than God (Ephesians 2:2). This verse highlights the impact of sin: sin causes death. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). This spiritual death began as the result of sin in the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). Even as saved believers, we still struggle with sin and disobedience. The one who claims to be without sin deceives himself (1 John 1:8).

The reference to "trespasses and sins" uses both Greek words typically used in reference to sin. These are from the root words paraptoma and hamartia. The combination of these expressions covers both willful, knowing sins as well as mistakes and errors. Jesus taught that we are to forgive the trespasses of others as God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25). Jesus died for our trespasses (Romans 4:25). When we believe, He does not count our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). In Ephesians 1:7 Paul celebrated that we have "forgiveness of our trespasses." He will mention our spiritual failures again in Ephesians 2:5 (also Colossians 2:13).
Verse Context:
Ephesians 2:1–10 clearly explains the relationship between our lack of obedience, the grace of God, and our salvation. Those who are saved by Christ do not deserve this salvation. It is only by mercy, and by grace, that God chooses to forgive. In this section, Paul will repeat the claim that human effort has no impact on salvation whatsoever. No Christian can brag about their ''goodness,'' since we are saved entirely by the grace of God, not by our own good deeds.
Chapter Summary:
Paul repeatedly emphasizes that salvation is accomplished on the basis of grace, through faith. Good works, human effort, and our best intentions will never be enough to earn salvation. Every person is marked with sin, both deliberate and accidental, and for this reason we deserve to be separated from God. Only through His mercy and grace can we be saved, leaving no room for bragging. This also means that all who are saved, Jew and Gentile alike, are part of the same spiritual family. There is no cause for hostility between believers; we are all unworthy, and all saved by the same kindness of God.
Chapter Context:
The first three chapters of Ephesians focus on doctrinal issues; the last three show how those principles should be applied in real life. Chapter 2 makes a pair of related points about our status as saved believers. First, salvation is entirely dependent on the grace of God, not human efforts. Second, this means all Christians are part of the same family, Jew and Gentile alike. This bridges chapter 1's explanation of God's awesome glory to chapter 3's discussion of God bringing His long-awaited plan into action.
Book Summary:
Ephesians follows a theme common in Paul's writings: connecting theory with practice. In this book, however, he goes into greater depth before making the transition. As a letter meant to be read by more than just the believers at Ephesus, this is an important look at how Christian belief should translate into Christian action. The first three chapters lay out spiritual ideas, the last three chapters show how these truths should be applied in the life of a mature believer. Paul focuses heavily on love, the unity of the Christian church, and the incredible value of our salvation through Christ.
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