Ephesians 2:3

And were by nature children of wrath, even as others. The apostle traces the pedigree of all the elements that enter into this spiritual death up to our birth itself. He does not say that it is on account of "nature" or natural depravity that we are children of wrath, but "by nature;" that is, we are simply born in a state of condemnation. There is no express reference here to Adam or to our relation to his sin, though it is certainly implied that we had our probation in Adam, and are therefore born in a state of condemnation. To say that we are condemned on account of our hereditary depravity is to say that we are condemned without a probation. The doctrine of original sin is one of the" deep things of God." Pascal well says, "Original sin is folly in the sight of man, but this folly is wiser than all the wisdom of man. For without it who could have said what man is? His whole condition depends upon this imperceptible point." The recognition of the doctrine is the starting-point of the doctrines of special revelation, of redemption through Christ's blood, of regeneration through the Holy Spirit. This passage implies -

I. THAT WE NEED REDEMPTION FROM THE MOMENT OF OUR BIRTH The sacrament of baptism is meaningless on any other theory. "The wicked are estranged from the womb." Why do all men certainly sin from the beginning?

II. THAT ALL MEN, JEWS AND GENTILES, ARE BORN IN THIS STATE OF CONDEMNATION. Because "all in Adam die" (1 Corinthians 15:22).

III. THAT GOD'S WRATH IS A REALITY. It is grounded in his essential holiness, as appears from the fact that God swears in his wrath (Hebrews 3:11), and it belongs to the idea of the personal God as he acts in history, who cannot look with equal indifference or equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, piety and impiety, wisdom and folly. It is not to be regarded as a mere modification of Divine love, as either love-sorrow or the anger of love. It is not Biblical to say that a God who has wrath is not a God of love. The objective reality of Divine wrath on account of sin is an axiom of natural theology (Romans 1:32) as well as of revealed; it is presupposed in the atonement, and must be carried into any conception we may form of future retribution. - T.C.

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of Our flesh.
1. The chosen of God have, before conversion, nothing differing from other sinners. Even those whom God takes to mercy were sinful as others, before by His grace they are changed. And why?(1) That the mercy of God may be magnified, and made manifest in the free grace of justification.(2) That love may be engendered in us who have been justified. Mary, who had many sins forgiven, loved much.

2. Where there is no fear of God, no outward privileges will procure us His favour. When God's people do not obey Him, their circumcision is made uncircumcision. How can this be, seeing the one pro. less the true God, while the other does not?(1) In deeds they deny Him.(2) In deeds they set up false gods — their lusts, pleasures, riches, etc.

3. We must not be ashamed to confess ourselves sinners with the worst. The most upright are most forward in confession. It is the proper fruit of grace, to freely confess and give glory to God.

4. By nature the state of all is such that God's wrath abides on them.

(1)We are born separated from God.

(2)We are given up to Satan.

(3)Subject to every curse in this life, whether spiritual or corporal.

(4)To death temporal.

(5)To death eternal.

5. By nature all of us are sinful; not only in regard of Adam's sin imputed, but of corruption or concupiscence with which we are conceived (Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3; Genesis 8:21; Ezekiel 16:4, 5, 6; Isaiah 53:6; Isaiah 1:4).

6. Even the children of the godly are by nature children of wrath.

(Paul Bayne.)

A sinful state cannot but be a miserable state. If sin goes before, wrath follows of course. In the text we have four things.

1. The misery of a natural state; it is a state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. The natural man is a malefactor, dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal, held fast in his fetters, till the day of execution; which will not fail to come, unless a pardon be obtained from his God, who is his judge and his opponent too.

2. Here is the rise of this misery; men have it by nature. They owe it to their nature, not to their substance or essence; for that neither is nor was sin, and therefore cannot make them children of wrath; though, for sin, it may be under wrath: not to their nature, as qualified at man's creation by his Maker; but to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the Fall; to the vicious quality, or corruption of their nature, as before noticed, which is their principle of action, and, ceasing from action, the only principle in an unregenerate state.

3. The universality of this misery. All are by nature children of wrath, "we," says the apostle, "even as others"; Jews as well as Gentiles. Those that are now, by grace, the children of God were, by nature, in no better case than those that are still in their natural state.

4. Here is a glorious and happy change intimated. We were children of wrath, but are not so now; grace has brought us out of that state. And thus, it well becomes the people of God to be often standing on the shore, and looking back to the Red Sea, or the state of wrath, which they were once weltering in, even as others. The state of nature is a state of wrath.

I. WHAT THE STATE OF WRATH IS. No one can fully describe it. Enough may be discovered, however, to convince men of the absolute necessity of fleeing to Jesus to escape it.

1. There is wrath in the heart of God against the natural man.(1) His person is under God's displeasure (Psalm 5:5).

2. There is wrath in the Word of God against him (Revelation 2:16).

3. There is wrath in the hand of God against him. He is under heavy strokes of wrath already, and is liable to more.

(1)There is wrath on his body (Genesis 2:17).

(2)Wrath, on his soul.

(3)Wrath on his enjoyments.

(4)He is under the power of Satan (Acts 24:18).

(5)The natural man hath no security for a moment's safety from the wrath of God coming on him to the uttermost.The curse of the law, denounced against him, has already tied him to the stake: so that the arrows of justice may pierce his soul. Does he lie down to sleep? There is not a promise that he knows of, or can know, to secure him that he shall not be in hell ere he awake. He walks amidst enemies armed against him: his name may be Magor-missabib, that is, terror round about (Jeremiah 20:3). Thus the natural man lives, but he must die too; and death is a dreadful messenger to him. It comes upon him armed with wrath, and puts three sad charges in his hand.

1. Death charges him to bid an eternal farewell to all things in this world; to leave it, and haste away to another world.

2. Death charges soul and body to part, till the great day. His soul is required of him (Luke 12:20). O what a miserable parting must this be to a child of wrath! Care was indeed taken to provide for the body things necessary for this life; but, alas! there is nothing laid up for another life. As for the soul, he was never solicitous to provide for it.

3. Death charges the soul to appear before the tribunal of God, while the body lies to be carried to the grave (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

II. I shall CONFIRM THE DOCTRINE of the state of wrath. Consider —

1. How peremptory the threatening of the first covenant is: "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).

2. The justice of God requires that a child of sin be a child of wrath; that the law being broken, the sanction thereof should take place.

3. The horrors of a natural conscience prove this. Conscience, in the breasts of men, tells them that they are sinners, and therefore liable to the wrath of God.

4. The pangs of the new birth, the work of the Spirit on elect souls, in order to their conversion, demonstrate this. Hereby their natural sinfulness and misery, as liable to the wrath of God, are plainly taught them, filling their hearts with fear of that wrath. As it is the Spirit's work to "convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment" (John 16:8), this testimony must needs be true; for the Spirit of truth cannot witness an untruth.

5. The sufferings of Christ plainly prove this doctrine. Wherefore was the Son of God a son under wrath, but because the children of men were children of wrath?

III. I now proceed to APPLY THIS DOCTRINE of the misery of man's natural state. Is our state by nature a state of wrath? Then —

1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals.

2. What desperate madness is it for sinners to go on in their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on thine own head! to lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! (Romans 2:5).

3. Thou hast no reason to complain as long as thou art out of hell. "Wherefore doth a living man complain?" (Lamentations 3:39).If one, who has forfeited his life, be banished from his native country, and exposed to many hardships; he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared.

1. To you that are yet in an unregenerate state, I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is yet hope. O you children of wrath, take no rest in this dismal state; but flee to Christ, the only refuge. The state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in. But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and for that end to know what course to take, I offer them these few advices.(1) Retire to some secret place and there meditate on this your misery.(2) Consider seriously the sin of your nature, heart, and life. A proper sight of wrath flows from a deep sense of sin.(3) Labour to justify God in this matter. To quarrel with God about it, and to rage like a wild bull in a net, will but fix you the more in it.(4) Turn your eyes towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and embrace Him as He offers Himself in the gospel.

2. I Shall drop a few words to the saints.(1) Remember, that in the day our Lord first took you by the hand, you were in no better a condition than others.(2) Remember there was nothing in you to engage Him to love you, in the day He appeared for your deliverance.(3) Remember, you were fitter to be loathed than loved in that day.(4) Remember, you are decked with borrowed feathers. It is His comeliness which as upon you (ver. 14).(5) Remember your faults this day, as Pharaoh's butler, who had forgotten Joseph. Mind how you have forgotten, and how unkindly you have treated, Him who remembered you in your low estate.(6) Pity the children of wrath, the world that lies in wickedness. Can you be unconcerned for them, you who were once in the same condition?(7) Admire that matchless love, which brought you out of the state of wrath.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

When, nine years after his marriage, the birth of his son Nero was announced to him, he (Nero's father) answered the congratulations of his friend with the remark, that from himself and Agrippina nothing could have been born but what was hateful and for the public ruin.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

The wall thought it very unfair to influence a child's mind by inculcating any opinions before it should have come to years of discretion and be able to choose for itself. I showed him my garden, and told him it was my botanical garden. "How so?" said he, "it is covered with weeds." "Oh," I replied, "that is only because it has not yet come to its age of discretion and choice. The weeds, you see, have taken the liberty to grow, and I thought it unfair in me to prejudice the soil towards roses and strawberries."

(Coleridge's Table Talk.)

Conversation does not mean talking. There is no instance where it has this signification in the English Bible. It means, as the Greek original does, deportment, conduct, character, as in the following passages: 2 Corinthians 1:12; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 2:3; Ephesians 4:22; 1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 13:5, 7; James 3:13; 1 Peter 1:15, 18; 1 Peter 2:12; 1 Peter 3:1, 2, 16; 2 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 3:11. In Philippians 1:27, conversation signifies citizenship; so that to have a good conversation is to act worthy of the New Jerusalem to which grace has called you. But this former conduct or conversation of theirs was "in the lusts of the flesh." This refers —

1. To carnal or sensual appetites, in which the heathen world was sunk, and Paul asserts in the text that the Jews were the same (Romans 6:12; Romans 7:8, 9; 1 Timothy 6:9, and many others). This implies and includes luxuries, the pleasures of the table, drunkenness, and all such forbidden pleasures.

2. These fleshly desires are seen most perfectly in the systems of false worship adopted by the heathen world in general. Baalim was the embodiment of lewdness; Buddhism is the embodiment of the dogma of priestly rule; so is Hindooism and other forms of religion. The Greeks and the Romans deified nature and the dead. The flesh is the teeming fountain of vileness from which all these and similar systems flow: — the picture, the image, the idol, the oracle are the four head forms or developments of false worship, and they all come from the flesh.

3. Flesh is always contrasted with spirit, and in general denotes alienation from God. The law of the flesh is sin; the works of the flesh are evil; the carnal mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:6, 7); to walk after the flesh is ungodliness; to be in the flesh is not to know or please God. Jesus Christ crucified it, and He gives us the principle and power of doing the same.

(W. Graham, D. D.)

Original or birth sin is not merely a doctrine in religion, it is a fact in man's world acknowledged by all, whether religious or not. Let a man be providing for an unborn child; in case of distribution of worldly property, he will take care to bind him by conditions and covenants which shall guard against his fraudulently helping himself to that which he is to hold for or to apportion to another, He never saw that child; he does not know but that child may be the most pure and perfect of men; but he knows it will not be safe to put temptation in his way, because he knows he will be born in sin, and liable to sin, and sure to commit sin.

(Dean Alford.)

Many inquirers find it difficult to believe themselves innately bad, simply because they have been told that such a belief is required of them. No man taught the doctrine of original sin, commonly so called, so impressively as Jesus Christ, and yet He never mentioned it. His whole scheme was founded upon the assumption that men were wrong. Every call to a new point, every frown upon sin, every encouragement of well-doing, meant that society needed regeneration. Men may come upon the doctrine of original depravity in one of two different ways; for example, they may come upon it as a dogma in theology. The first thing that some theologians do is to abuse human nature, to describe it as being, covered with wounds and bruises and putrefying sores, and as deserving nothing but eternal burning. Human nature resists this as a slander: it says, "'No; I have good impulses, upward desires, generous emotions towards my fellow creatures; I resent your theological calumnies." So much for the first method of approaching the doctrine. The second is totally unlike it. A man, for example, heartily accepts Jesus Christ, studies Him with most passionate devotion, and grows daily more like Him in all purity, gentleness, and self-oblivion. From this attitude he looks back upon his former self; he compares the human nature with which he started with the human nature he has attained, and involuntarily, by the sheer necessity of the contrast, he says, "I was born in sin and shapen in iniquity." This conclusion he comes to, not by dogmatic teaching, but by dogmatic experience; what he never could have understood as an opinion he realizes as a fact. Suppose a tree to be conscious, and let it illustrate what is meant by growing into a right understanding of this hard doctrine. Tell the tree in April that it is bare and ungainly in appearance; very barren and naked altogether. The tree says, "Nay; I am rooted in the earth; my branches are strong; I live in the light; I drink the dew; and I am beautiful; the winds rock me, and many a bird twitters on my boughs." This is its April creed. Go to the same tree after it has had a summer's experience: it has felt the quickening penetration of the solar fire, quenched its thirst in summer showers, felt the sap circulating through its veins; the leaves have come out on branch and twig; the blossoms have blushed and bloomed through long days of light; fruit has been formed, and mellowed into maturity. Now hear the tree! "I am not what I was in April; my very identity seems to be changed; when men called me bare and rugged I did not believe them a few months ago; now I see what they meant — their verdict was sound; I thought the April light very beautiful, but it is nothing to the blazing splendour of the later months; I liked the twitter Of the spring birds, but,. it is poor compared with the song of those that came in June. I feel as if I had been born again." The parable is broad enough to cover this bewildering, and at times horrifying, doctrine of hereditary depravity. Men cannot be in April what they will be in September. Each year says to growing hearts, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." In old age men may accept the rejected doctrines of. their youth. Experience brings us round many a rugged hill, and gives us better views of condemned, because misunderstood, opinions.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

As it is absolutely impossible for a man to believe, when the dice are thrown sixes successively a thousand times, that the dice are not loaded, so is it a thousand times more impossible to believe, when every human being of all nations and generations, without a single exception, begins to sin the instant he enters moral agency, that his will is not biassed by a previous effectual tendency in his nature to sin.


I. Jews and Gentiles (i.e., all) are by nature alike prone to and lovers of sin. Before and after the flood. In Asia, Europe, Africa, etc.

II. Believers can happily say that the time of their sinful conversation is past. (See text; Isaiah 4:13; Romans 6:17; Titus 3:8.)

III. When a man knows himself, he will confess that his nature is sinful as others. Job; David; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Paul.

IV. The corruption of nature is sinful before it appears in thoughts, words, etc. (Matthew 15:19; Romans 9:11-13).

V. The sinfulness of every man's nature justly exposes him to the wrath of God.

VI. The Scriptures tell us satisfactorily how the world comes to be so wicked. IMPROVEMENT: The necessity of regeneration. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," etc. (John 3:6, 7). The necessity of daily self-denial. The fatal delusion of Pelagians. The fatal delusion of Arminians. Grace must make one to differ from another.

(H. Foster, M. A.)

It is assumed far too axiomatically that the wrath referred to can mean nothing else than God's personal wrath against sin, whether original or actual. We are ready to admit that sin in any form must draw down the Divine displeasure. God would be less than God unless sin drew down on it that consuming fire by which at present it is punished, and so held in check, and by which it will ultimately be destroyed forever when He who sits as a refiner shall have purged His silver from the last speck of dross. In this sense God's wrath against sin — a wrath punitive and a wrath purifying; for they are both, stages of the same process — is an essential conception of His character. But while admitting this, it is going too far to assume that this wrath of God descends on us at the beginning, instead of at the end, of our moral career. If we are children of wrath in this sense, by our descent from Adam, we can easily see how this view tends to efface all moral distinctions of good and evil. The race is a doomed one from the beginning, and we are all overwhelmed alike in the same whirlpool of perdition here and hereafter. Men may shrink from such remorseless logic, and seek to soften it down; but as long as the text, that we are by nature children of wrath, stands unrevised in our so-called Revised Version, is it strange that the English reader appeals to that text as decisive on the extreme or Augustinian doctrine of birth sin and its consequences? But is this the true interpretation of the text? Will the words bear any other rendering? There must be a mistake somewhere. May it not lie in the inattention of learned men to the fact that the Apostle Paul wrote in Greek, but thought in Hebrew, and that consequently Hebraisms crop up in cases where students of classical Greek are not on the lookout for them as they should be. The present is a case in point. In the previous verse the apostle has described mankind as children of disobedience, which is a strong adjectival form in Hebrew for children thoroughly disobedient. In this verse, returning to this thought and emphasizing it, he reminds us that we all once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath — i.e., children of a wicked, passionate impulse, even as others. The text in this sense not only confirms in this way what goes before, but it also throws a fresh, though lurid, light on human nature, Jew alike and Gentile. It reminds us that these lusts of the flesh and mind all had their root in a principle of passionate impulse (ὀργη) which is congenital to us, and which is so much our nature that we may in a sense be described as the children of this passionate desire, or the slaves of it, as we should say in modern phrase. Surely this is a dark enough description of human nature, without adding that other dark hue of Augustinian theology, that in consequence of this we are born under God's wrath, and that the curse of God descends on us as a kind of birth, taint.

(J. B. Heard, M. A.)

What is it to be a child of wrath? It is to turn every blessing that this earth can give into aggravated misery. The happier we see a man — the more exalted in station, the more renowned by fame, the more endowed with wealth — the more miserable is his lot when precipitated from them all to everlasting ruin. Belshazzar was more to be commiserated and contemned than the poorest beggar within the city of Babylon, when the hand of fire came forth to write his doom upon the wall; the louder he had laughed — the more triumphantly he had "praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone" — the deeper draughts of luscious wine that he and all his court had quaffed from the golden vessels of Jehovah's temple — the deadlier was the livid paleness of his face, the loosening of his joints, and the smiting of his knees, when the fatal characters of death and judgment were traced, before his eyes. What profit in the vast domains of wealth, when the trumpet of eternal judgment shall awake their haughty owners from the death of trespasses and sins? When they shall call, but call in vain, upon those lofty mountains, of which, in their pride of heart, they had boasted as their own, to fall on them and cover them, and hide them from the wrath of that God whom they have dishonoured and despised?

(R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Wrath and threatening are invariably mingled with love, and in the utmost solitudes of nature the existence of hell seems to me as legibly declared by a thousand spiritual utterances as of heaven. It is well for us to dwell with thankfulness on the unfolding of the flower, and the falling of the dew, and the sleep of the green fields in the sunshine; but the blasted trunk, the barren rock, the moaning of the bleak winds, the roar of the black, perilous whirlpools and the mountain streams, the solemn solitudes of moors and seas, the continual fading of all beauty into darkness, of all strength into dust — have these no language for us? We may seek to escape their teachings by reasonings touching the good which is wrought out of evil, but it is vain sophistry. The good succeeds to the evil as the day succeeds to the night, but so also the evil to the good. Ebal and Gerizim, birth and death, light and darkness, heaven and hell, divide the existence of man and his futurity.


The passions may be humoured till they become our master, as a horse may be pampered till he gets the better of his rider; but early discipline will prevent mutiny, and keep the helm in the hands of reason.


A clergyman, having made several attempts to reform a profligate, was at length met with the decided statement, "It is all in vain, sir; you cannot get me to change my religion." "I do not want that," replied the good man; "I wish religion to change you."

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