What does Ephesians 2:2 mean?
ESV: in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
NIV: in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
NASB: in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
CSB: in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient.
NLT: You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil — the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
KJV: Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
NKJV: in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
Verse Commentary:
Paul refers to the sin-centered lives of his readers in the past tense. Those who live in sin follow two wrong things. First, they follow the way, or the "course," of the world. Proverbs 14:12 notes, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." What seems right from a human perspective leads to death apart from the wisdom of God.

The second problem of those who live in sin is that they follow "the prince of the power of the air." This is clearly a reference to Satan. He deceived Eve in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3) and continues to deceive many today. Paul specifically refers to Satan's influence in the lives of those who are "sons of disobedience," rather than the sons of God. Satan is a spirit, not a human, who works in the lives of those who disobey God. In this context, the sons of disobedience are clearly unbelievers.

In this context, Paul speaks about living in sin as a prior way of life for those who become believers in Christ. In the next verse, he'll discuss how this is the way "we all once lived." Believers, however, are called to live differently, in a way that pleases the Lord. Other parts of the New Testament, including Paul's own writings, make it clear that believers can still sin. That sin will not cause us to lose our salvation. But those who trust in Christ can, and should, live lives clearly different from those who live for the world.
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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