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Ephesians 2:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Wherein in time past ye walked - There is much force in these expressions; the Ephesians had not sinned casually, or now and then, but continually; it was their continual employment; they walked in trespasses and sins: and this was not a solitary case, all the nations of the earth acted in the same way; it was the course of this world, κατα τον αιωνα του κοσμου τουτου, according to the life, mode of living, or successive ages of this world. The word αιων, the literal meaning of which is constant duration, is often applied to things which have a complete course, as the Jewish dispensation, a particular government, and the term of human life; so, here, the whole of life is a tissue of sin, from the cradle to the grave; every human soul, unsaved by Jesus Christ, continues to transgress. And the nominally Christian world is in the same state to the present day. Age after age passes on in this way and the living lay it not to heart!

The prince of the power of the air - As the former clause may have particular respect to the Jewish people, who are frequently denominated הזה עולם olam hazzeh, this world, this latter clause may especially refer to the Gentiles, who were most manifestly under the power of the devil, as almost every object of their worship was a demon, to whom the worst of passions and practices were attributed, and whose conduct his votaries took care to copy.

Satan is termed prince of the power of the air, because the air is supposed to be a region in which malicious spirits dwell, all of whom are under the direction and influence of Satan, their chief.

The spirit that now worketh - Του νυν ενεργουντος The operations of the prince of the aerial powers are not confined to that region; he has another sphere of action, viz. the wicked heart of man, and in this he works with energy. He seldom inspires indifference to religion; the subjects in whom he works are either determinate opposers of true religion, or they are systematic and energetic transgressors of God's laws.

Children of disobedience - Perhaps a Hebraism for disobedient children; but, taken as it stands here, it is a strong expression, in which disobedience, ἡ απειθεια, appears to be personified, and wicked men exhibited as her children; the prince of the power of the air being their father, while disobedience is their mother. Thus they are emphatically, what our Lord calls them, Matthew 13:38, children of the wicked one; for they show themselves to be of their father the devil, because they will do his works, John 8:44. Some think that by children of disobedience the apostle means particularly the disobedient, unbelieving, refractory, and persecuting Jews; but I rather think he speaks this generally, and refers to the Jews in the following verse.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherein - In which sins, or in the practice of which transgressions.

Ye walked - You lived, life being often compared to a journey or a race. note, Romans 6:4.

According to the course of this world - In conformity with the customs and manners of the world at large. The word rendered here as “world” - αἰων aiōn- means properly “age,” but is often used to denote the present world, with its cares, temptations, and desires; and here denotes particularly the people of this world. The meaning is, that they had lived formerly as other people lived, and the idea is strongly conveyed that the course of the people of this world is to walk in trespasses and sins. The sense is, that there was by nature no difference between them and others, and that all the difference which now existed had been made by grace.

According to the prince of the power of the air - see Ephesians 6:12; compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 4:4. There can be no doubt that Satan is here intended, and that Paul means to say that they were under his control as their leader and prince. The phrase, “the prince of the power,” may mean either “the powerful prince,” or it may mean that this prince had power over the air, and lived and reigned there particularly. The word “prince” - ἄρχοντα archonta- “Archon,” means one first in authority and power, and is then applied to anyone who has the pre-eminence or rule. It is applied to Satan, or the chief of the fallen angels, as where he is called “the prince - ἄρχων archōn- of the devils,” Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; “the prince of this world,” John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11. But “why” he is here called the prince having power “over the air,” it is not easy to determine.

Robinson (Lexicon) supposes it to be because he is lord of the powers of the air; that is, of the demons who dwell and rule in the atmosphere. So Doddridge supposes that it means that he controls the fallen spirits who are permitted to range the regions of the atmosphere. It is generally admitted that the apostle here refers to the prevailing opinions both among the Jews and pagan, that the air was thickly populated with spirits or demons. That this was a current opinion, may be seen fully proved in Wetstein; compare Bloomfield, Grotius, and particularly Koppe. Why the region of the air was supposed to be the dwelling-place of such spirits, is now unknown. The opinion may have been either that such spirits “dwelt” in the air, or that they had control over it, according to the later Jewish belief. Cocceius and some others explain the word “air” here as meaning the same as “darkness,” as in profane writers. It is evident to my mind that Paul does not speak of this as a mere tradition, opinion, or vagary of the fancy, or as a superstitious belief: but that he refers to it as a thing which he regarded as true. In this opinion I see no absurdity that should make it impossible to believe it. For:

(1) the Scriptures abundantly teach that there are fallen, wicked spirits; and the existence of fallen angels is no more improbable than the existence of fallen people.

(2) the Bible teaches that they have much to do with this world. They tempted man; they inflicted disease in the time of the Saviour; they are represented as alluring and deceiving the race.

(3) they must have “some” locality - some part of the universe where they dwell. That they were not confined down to hell in the time of the Redeemer, is clear from the New Testament; for they are often represented as having afflicted and tortured people.

(4) why is there any improbability in the belief that their residence should have been in the regions of the air? That while they were suffered to be on earth to tempt and afflict people, they should have been permitted especially to occupy these! regions? Who can tell what may be in the invisible world, and what spirits may be permitted to fill up the vast space that now composes the universe? And who can tell what control may have been given to such fallen spirits over the regions of the atmosphere - over clouds, and storms, and pestilential air? People have control over the earth, and pervert and abuse the powers of nature to their own ruin and the ruin of each other. The elements they employ for the purposes of ruin and of temptation. Fruit and grain they convert to poison; minerals, to the destruction caused by war. In itself considered, there is nothing more improbable that spirits of darkness may have had control over the regions of the air, than that fallen man has over the earth; and no more improbability that that power has been abused to ruin people, than that the power of people is abused to destroy each other. No one can “prove” that the sentiment here referred to by Paul is “not” true; and no one can show how the doctrine that fallen spirits may do mischief in any part of the works of God, is anymore improbable than that wicked “men” should do the same thing. The word “power” here - “power of the air” - I regard as synonymous with “dominion or rule;” “a prince having dominion or rule over the air.”

The spirit that now worketh - That still lives, and whose energy for evil is still seen and felt among the wicked. Paul here means undoubtedly to teach that there was such a spirit, and that he was still active in controlling people.

The children of disobedience - The wicked; Colossians 3:6.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 94

[Appeared in Notebook Leaflets, Christian Experience, No. 15.]

It is expressly stated that Satan works in the children of disobedience, not merely having access to their minds, but working through their influence, conscious and unconscious, to draw others into the same disobedience. If evil angels have such power over the children of men in their disobedience, how much greater power the good angels have over those who are striving to be obedient. When we put our trust in Jesus Christ, working obedience unto righteousness, angels of God work in our hearts unto righteousness.…  1SM 94.1

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 500

The same spirit that prompted rebellion in heaven still inspires rebellion on earth. Satan has continued with men the same policy which he pursued with the angels. His spirit now reigns in the children of disobedience. Like him they seek to break down the restraints of the law of God and promise men liberty through transgression of its precepts. Reproof of sin still arouses the spirit of hatred and resistance. When God's messages of warning are brought home to the conscience, Satan leads men to justify themselves and to seek the sympathy of others in their course of sin. Instead of correcting their errors, they excite indignation against the reprover, as if he were the sole cause of difficulty. From the days of righteous Abel to our own time such is the spirit which has been displayed toward those who dare to condemn sin. GC 500.1

By the same misrepresentation of the character of God as he had practiced in heaven, causing Him to be regarded as severe and tyrannical, Satan induced man to sin. And having succeeded thus far, he declared that God's unjust restrictions had led to man's fall, as they had led to his own rebellion. GC 500.2

But the Eternal One Himself proclaims His character: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:6, 7. GC 500.3

In the banishment of Satan from heaven, God declared His justice and maintained the honor of His throne. But when man had sinned through yielding to the deceptions of this apostate spirit, God gave an evidence of His love by yielding up His only-begotten Son to die for the fallen race. In the atonement the character of God is revealed. The mighty argument of the cross demonstrates to the whole universe that the course of sin which Lucifer had chosen was in no wise chargeable upon the government of God. GC 500.4

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 341

Fallen man is Satan's lawful captive. The mission of Christ was to rescue him from the power of his great adversary. Man is naturally inclined to follow Satan's suggestions, and he cannot successfully resist so terrible a foe unless Christ, the mighty Conqueror, dwells in him, guiding his desires, and giving him strength. God alone can limit the power of Satan. He is going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it. He is not off his watch for a single moment, through fear of losing an opportunity to destroy souls. It is important that God's people understand this, that they may escape his snares. Satan is preparing his deceptions, that in his last campaign against the people of God they may not understand that it is he. 2 Corinthians 11:14: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” While some deceived souls are advocating that he does not exist, he is taking them captive, and is working through them to a great extent. Satan knows better than God's people the power that they can have over him when their strength is in Christ. When they humbly entreat the mighty Conqueror for help, the weakest believer in the truth, relying firmly upon Christ, can successfully repulse Satan and all his host. He is too cunning to come openly, boldly, with his temptations; for then the drowsy energies of the Christian would arouse, and he would rely upon the strong and mighty Deliverer. But he comes in unperceived, and works in disguise through the children of disobedience who profess godliness. 1T 341.1

Satan will go to the extent of his power to harass, tempt, and mislead God's people. He who dared to face, and tempt, and taunt our Lord, and who had power to take Him in his arms and carry Him to a pinnacle of the temple, and up into an exceedingly high mountain, will exercise his power to a wonderful degree upon the present generation, who are far inferior in wisdom to their Lord, and who are almost wholly ignorant of Satan's subtlety and strength. In a marvelous manner will he affect the bodies of those who are naturally inclined to do his bidding. Satan exults that he is regarded as a fiction. When he is made light of, and represented by some childish illustration, or as some animal, it suits him well. He is thought so inferior that the minds of men are wholly unprepared for his wisely laid plans, and he almost always succeeds well. If his power and subtlety were understood, many would be prepared to successfully resist him. 1T 341.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 16

This volume bears the title of Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers. It is not devoted essentially to instruction as to how the work of the minister should be conducted, as is Gospel Workers. This volume contains messages given to admonish, warn, reprove, and counsel the ministers of the church, with special attention given to perils peculiar to men who stand in positions of responsibility. Some of the reproofs are severe, but the assurance is given that God in his chastening, “wounds only that he may heal, not cause to perish.”—Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 23. TM xvi.1

The reproofs and counsels directed to ministers and especially administrators were not published initially by Ellen G. White, but rather by the President of the General Conference, and later the General Conference Committee. For the most part they were messages directed originally to the President of the General Conference, O. A. Olsen, and his associates in administrative work, particularly in Battle Creek. He and his committee placed them in print that their fellow ministers and fellow administrators might have the benefit of the reproofs which pointed out wrongs, and the counsels and encouragement associated with the reproof. TM xvi.2

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