On Ephesians 2:1

by John Gill

The Cause of God and Truth, Part II, Chapter IV, Section IV.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. - Eph. ii. 1; with Col. ii. 13.

MEN in an unregenerate state, being represented in these passages as dead in sin, shows, that whilst they are in such a state, they are as incapable of spiritual motion or action, or of quickening themselves, as a dead man is of natural motion, or action, or of raising himself from the dead. Whence it must needs follow, that the work of conversion is a work of God, and not man, and to be ascribed to the exceeding greatness of his power, in which man is passive as a dead body is in its resurrection from the dead. In answer to which,

1st. It is said, "that the metaphor of being dead in trespasses and sins, cannot warrant our saying anything of unregenerate persons, which may properly be affirmed of the dead;" for,

1. "A dead body is void of all sense; whereas the unregenerate man is often under strong convictions, and a deep sense of his present misery." To which I reply, that it is one thing for a man to be under strong convictions, and a deep sense of his present misery, or of the evil and mischief which comes by sin, which sense is purely natural; and another thing to be under real convictions, and a deep sense of the true evil and wickedness that is in sin, which is purely spiritual, and arises from the quickening influences of the Spirit of God.

2. A dead man cannot awake himself out of the sleep of death; but God saith to the spiritually dead man, Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life, it should have been light, Eph. v. 14. I reply, that these words are not spoken to the spiritually dead, but to professors of religion, as abundantly appears from the context; who were fallen into a drowsy, sleepy frame, which was very much owing to their conversation with dead sinners: wherefore the Apostle exhorts them, to rouse themselves from this lethargy, and arise, and depart from their dead companions, and unfruitful works of darkness, when they might expect more light and liveliness in their souls from; Christ.

3. "A dead man cannot hear: but to the spiritually dead, God saith, Hear, and your souls shall live, Isa. lv. 3." To which may be replied, that there is a twofold hearing of I the word; an external one, which regards the outward ministry of it, and an internal one, so as to understand it; the former, men spiritually dead may be capable of, but not of the latter; see John viii 43, 47. Besides, the persons spoken to in the passage of Scripture cited were not spiritually dead, but were such as were quickened, who had a principle of spiritual life implanted in them. In consequence of which, they thirsted after spiritual things, ver. 1, though greatly distressed under a sense of their spiritual poverty. Wherefore, the Lord encourages them to hearken to him, and listen to his covenant grace and promises, that they might live comfortably.

4. "It would be absurd to exhort a dead body to turn about and live; whereas God thinks it not incongruous to say to persons spiritually dead, Turn yourselves, and ye shall live," Ezek. xviii. 32 and xxxiii. 11. I reply, that the passages referred to do not regard such who were spiritually dead; since they concern the whole house of Israel, and every one of them: of whom it cannot be said, that they were dead in trespasses and sins: nor do the exhortations relate to the first work of conversion, but to an external reformation of them as a body politic, that they might peaceably live in their own land, and comfortably enjoy the good things of it.

5. "Good Christians are said to be dead to sin, Rom. vi. 2, 11; to the law, Gal. ii. 19, and to the world, Gal. vi. 14." Now if hence we cannot truly argue, that they cannot sin at all, that they can do nothing relating to the world, or to the law; neither can we argue from the metaphor of being dead in trespasses and sins, that we can do nothing in obedience to the calls of God, or compliance with the motions of his word and Spirit. To which I reply, that the meaning of the phrases in the passages mentioned is, that believers are freed from the damning power of sin, and from the curse and condemnation of the law, and are delivered from this present evil world. Now, whereas we can truly argue from hence, that believers are so dead to sin, the law, and the world, and these to them, as that they cannot condemn, damn, or destroy them; so we can truly argue from the metaphor, of being dead in trespasses and sins, that men can do nothing spiritually good, until God powerfully calls them by his grace, and they feel the quickening influences and motions of his Spirit.

2ndly. In answer to the argument from these Scriptures, it is observed, that "both the places cited concern only the Gentile world; and so we cannot argue from those words, which do so certainly relate to the worst of Heathens, that this must be the natural state of all men: or, that the same power is requisite to convert the unregenerate Christian, and the worst of Heathens." I reply, that these persons spoken of were Heathens, is readily granted; but that they were the worst of Heathens is not so manifest, though, probably, they were as bad as any. However, I cannot but take notice of the unregenerate Christian, as a mere paradox, a contradiction in terms; since no man can be truly a Christian but he that is regenerated by the Spirit of Christ. But, passing these things, let it be observed, that the same character of being dead in a moral or spiritual sense, is given to unregenerate Jews, which is here given to unconverted Gentiles, Matt. viii. 22, John v. 25. For that they were Jews, and not Gentiles, our Lord speaks to and of in the places referred to, is evident from this consideration, that as yet the Gospel was not sent to the Gentiles; nor were there any among them as yet who heard his voice and followed him. Nothing is more certain and true than this, that he, or she, that liveth in pleasure, whether Jew or Gentile, are dead while they live. Besides, the apostle says the very same things, in the same words, of himself, who was a Jew, and a devout one, and of others, while unconverted, as he does of these worst of Heathens, Eph. ii. 4, 5. So that we may truly argue, and safely conclude, that this must be the natural state of all men; and that the same power is requisite to convert an unregenerate Jew, yea, an unregenerate man living where Christianity is professed, and the worst of Heathens, since the same characters belong to them.