We are testing a hypothesis, namely, this one: Does “wrath” refer only to “historical” events in history, the negative implications of doing things contrary to God’s will, or does it also refer to “evangelistic” wrath (threatening with wrath when evangelizing) or “eternal” wrath (an endless state of the damned)? Our text today is illuminating.
Today we look at Ephesians 2:3. Here it is in context, and we want to sweep the whole context, and I ask you to read it all. I believe this is the clearest text in the entire NT to show that wrath is not always “historical” wrath.
1 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ?by grace you have been saved? 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God? 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.
Eph. 2:11 So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ?the uncircumcision? by those who are called ?the circumcision??a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands? 12 remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.
What this text by Paul teaches is that:
1. All humans, not just Gentiles but also Jews, all humans are under the wrath of God.
2. All humans are “because of their nature” children of wrath.
3. All humans are the receptors of God’s mercy in Christ.
Now more carefully:
1. We need to connect the words Paul uses here for all humans in the sinful, unredeemed condition: “dead” (v. 1), lived in trespassses and sins (2), connected to the “ruler of the power of the air” (2), by nature children of wrath (3).
2. Gentiles specially: “without Christ” because they are Gentiles (12), “aliens” from Israel (12), “strangers to the covenants” (12), “no hope” (12) and “without God” (12). Thus, Gentiles were “far off” (13).
3. Christ brings together Gentiles and Jews.
4. #3 does not suggest that #1 is only about Gentiles. Paul has too much “all of us” in that first section.
5. It is true that Paul wants to sketch how bad the unredeemed state is so he can magnify the mercy and grace of God, but that does not mean his sketch of the unredeemed state is hyperbole.
This is not simply historical wrath, though it could have some of that. I would see this as eternal wrath — God’s wrath against sin and against sinners. This is not evangelistic wrath because Paul is not evangelizing. Did Paul use wrath evangelistically? What do you think?