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Ephesians 2:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Among whom also we all had our conversation - We Jews, as well as you Gentiles, have lived in transgressions and sins; ανεστραφημεν, this was the course of our life; we lived in sin, walked in sin, it was woven through our whole constitution, it tinged every temper, polluted every faculty, and perverted every transaction of life. The lusts - the evil, irregular, and corrupt affections of the heart, showed themselves in the perversion of the mind as well as in our general conduct. The mind was darkened by the lusts of the flesh, and both conjoined to produce acts of unrighteousness. It was not the will of God that was done by us, but the will of the flesh and of the mind.

And were by nature the children of wrath - For the import of the phrase, by nature, φυσει, see the note on Galatians 2:15, and Romans 2:14; (note). To what is said on those passages, I may add, from Dr. Macknight: - "Nature often signifies one's birth and education, Galatians 2:15; : We, who are Jews By Nature. Also, men's natural reason and conscience, Romans 2:14; : The Gentiles who have not the law, do By Nature the things contained in the law, etc. Also, the general sense and practice of mankind, 1 Corinthians 11:14; : Doth not even Nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, etc. Also, the original constitution of any thing, Galatians 4:8; : Who are not gods By Nature, Also, a disposition formed by custom and habit; thus Demetrius Phalereus said of the Lacedemonians: φυσει εβραχυλογουν Λακωνες· The Lacedemonians had naturally a concise mode of speaking. Hence our word laconic; a short speech, or much sense conveyed in a few words." The words in the text have often been quoted to prove the doctrine of original sin, but, though that doctrine be an awful truth, it is not, in my opinion, intended here; it is rather found in the preceding words, the lusts of the flesh, and the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The apostle appears to speak of sinful habits; and as we say Habit is a second nature, and as these persons acted from their originally corrupt nature - from the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, they thus became, by their vicious habits, or second nature, children of wrath - persons exposed to perdition, because of the impurity of their hearts and the wickedness of their lives. Here we see that the fallen, apostate nature produces the fruits of unrighteousness. The bad tree produces bad fruit.

Children of wrath is the same as son of perdition, son of death, etc.; i.e. persons exposed to God's displeasure, because of their sins.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

We all had our conversation - see the notes at 2 Corinthians 1:12; compare 1 Peter 4:3.

In the lusts of our flesh - Living to gratify the flesh, or the propensities of a corrupt nature. It is observable here that the apostle changes the form of the address from “ye” to “we,” thus including himself with others, and saying that this was true of “all” before their conversion. He means undoubtedly to say, that whatever might have been the place of their birth, or the differences of religion under which they had been trained, they were substantially alike by nature. It was a characteristic of all that they lived to fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind. The “design” of the apostle in thus grouping himself with them was, to show that he did not claim to be any better by nature than they were, and that all which any of them had of value was to be traced to the grace of God. There is much delicacy here on the part of the apostle. His object was to remind them of the former grossness of their life, and their exposure to the wrath of God. Yet he does not do it harshly. He includes himself in their number. He says that what he affirms of them was substantially true of himself - of all - that they were under condemnation, and exposed to the divine wrath.

Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind - Margin, as in Greek, “wills.” Complying with the wishes of a depraved nature. The “will of the flesh” is that to which the flesh, or the unrenewed nature of man, prompts; and Paul says that all had been engaged in fulfilling those fleshly propensities. This was clearly true of the pagan, and it was no less true of the unconverted Jew that he lived for himself, and sought to gratify the purposes of a depraved nature, though it might manifest itself in a way different from the pagan. The “will of the mind” referred to here relates to the wicked “thoughts and purposes” of the unrenewed nature - the sins which relate rather to the “intellect” than to the gross passions. Such, for instance, are the sins of pride, envy, ambition, covetousness, etc.; and Paul means to say, that before conversion they lived to gratify these propensities, and to accomplish these desires of the soul.

And were by nature - Φύσει FuseiBy birth, or before we were converted By conversion and adoption they became the children of God; before that, they were all the children of wrath. This is, I think, the fair meaning of this important declaration. It does not affirm “when” they began to be such, or that they were such as soon as they were born, or that they were such before they became moral agents, or that they became such in virtue of their connection with Adam - whatever may be the truth on these points; but it affirms that before they were renewed, they were the children of wrath. So far as This text is concerned, this might have been true at their very birth; but it does not directly and certainly prove that. It proves that at no time before their conversion were they the children of God, but that their whole condition before that was one of exposure to wrath; compare Romans 2:14, Romans 2:27; 1 Corinthians 11:14; Galatians 2:15. Some people are born Jews, and some pagan; some free, and some slaves; some white, and some black; some are born to poverty, and some to wealth; some are the children of kings, and some of beggars; but, whatever their rank or condition, they are born exposed to wrath, or in a situation which would render them liable to wrath. But why this is, the apostle does not say. Whether for their own sins or for the sins of another; whether by a corrupted soul, or by imputed guilt; whether they act as moral agents as soon as born, or at a certain period of childhood, Paul does not say.

The children of wrath - Exposed to wrath, or liable to wrath. They did not by nature inherit holiness; they inherited that which would subject; them to wrath. The meaning has been well expressed by Doddridge, who refers it “to the original apostasy and corruption, in consequence of which people do, according to the course of nature, fall early into personal guilt, and so become obnoxious to the divine displeasure.” Many modern expositors have supposed that this has no reference to any original tendency of our fallen nature to sin, or to native corruption, but that it refers to the “habit” of sin, or to the fact of their having been the slaves of appetite and passion. I admit that the direct and immediate sense of the passage is that they were, when without the gospel, and before they were renewed, the children of wrath; but still the fair interpretation is, that they were born to that state, and that that condition was the regular result of their native depravity; and I do not know a more strong or positive declaration that can be made to show that people are by nature destitute of holiness, and exposed to perdition.

Even as others - That is, “do not suppose that you stand alone, or that you are the worst of the species. You are indeed, by nature, the children of wrath; but not you alone. All others were the same. You have a common inheritance with them. I do not mean to charge you with being the worst of sinners, or as being alone transgressors. It is the common lot of man - the sad, gloomy inheritance to which we all are born.” The Greek is, οἱ λοιποί hoi loipoi“the remainder, or the others,” - including all; compare the notes at Romans 5:19. This doctrine that people without the gospel are the children of wrath, Paul had fully defended in Romans 13. Perhaps no truth is more frequently stated in the Bible; none is more fearful and awful in its character. What a declaration, that we “are by nature the children of wrath!” Who should not inquire what it means? Who should not make an effort to escape from the wrath to come, and become a child of glory and an heir of life?

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
In Heavenly Places, 282.2

The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan ... stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery. The angels of God ... look on with astonishment and joy, that fallen men, once children of wrath, are through the training of Christ developing characters after the divine similitude, to be sons and daughters of God, to act an important part in the occupations and pleasures of heaven. HP 282.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 106.2

The sinner so recently dead in trespasses and sins is quickened by faith in Christ. He sees by faith that Jesus is his Saviour, and alive forevermore, able to save unto “the uttermost [all] that come unto God by Him.” In the atonement made for him the believer sees such breadth and length and height and depth of efficiency—sees such completeness of salvation, purchased at such infinite cost, that his soul is filled with praise and thanksgiving. He sees as in a glass the glory of the Lord and is changed into the same image as by the Spirit of the Lord. He sees the robe of Christ's righteousness, woven in the loom of heaven, wrought by His obedience, and imputed to the repenting soul through faith in His name. FW 106.2

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 943

(Ephesians 2:1-6; see EGW on Genesis 2:7; Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15.) Partakers of the Divine Nature—We must learn of Christ. We must know what He is to those He has ransomed. We must realize that through belief in Him it is our privilege to be partakers of the divine nature, and so escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. Then we are cleansed from all sin, all defects of character. We need not retain one sinful propensity.... [Ephesians 2:1-6 quoted.] ... 7BC 943.1

As we partake of the divine nature, hereditary and cultivated tendencies to wrong are cut away from the character, and we are made a living power for good. Ever learning of the divine Teacher, daily partaking of His nature, we cooperate with God in overcoming Satan's temptations. God works, and man works, that man may be one with Christ as Christ is one with God. Then we sit together with Christ in heavenly places. The mind rests with peace and assurance in Jesus (The Review and Herald, April 24, 1900). 7BC 943.2

The Enabling Grace of God—In His Word God reveals what He can do for human beings. He molds and fashions after the divine similitude the characters of those who will wear His yoke. Through His grace they are made partakers of the divine nature, and are thus enabled to overcome the corruption that is in the world through lust. It is God who gives us power to overcome. Those who hear His voice and obey His commandments are enabled to form righteous characters. Those who disregard His expressed commands will form characters like the propensities that they indulge (Letter 44, 1903). 7BC 943.3

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