Friday, May 30, 2008

Dead, Part 3 of 3

The second condition Paul states only in Ephesians 2:1: “dead in trespasses and sins.” “Sins” (ἁμαρτία) is the most general word for sin in the Greek and therefore it is difficult to find any critical distinction with παραπτωμασιν. Lincoln argues that παραπτωμασιν and ἁμαρτία are in hendiadys as plural synonyms and that it “helps to convey an impression of the immensity and variety of the sinfulness of the readers’ past.” Best agrees stating “there is no reason to doubt that the words are synonyms.” MacArthur gives helpful meaning to the hendiadys, “Paul does not use the two terms here to point up different kinds of wrongdoing but simply to emphasize the breadth of the sinfulness that results from spiritual deadness.” Ephesians 2:2 continues the singular idea from the previous verse with “in which you once walked…” This would seem to remove the possibility of the second condition stated in the introduction, but a distinction must be made between the hendiadys here and Paul’s use of “dead in trespasses” in Colossians 2:13 where no hendiadys is found.

The final condition in Colossians 2:13 translated “uncircumcision of your flesh” is very unique in the New Testament. Many commentators, such as John MacArthur and Matthew Henry , see this phrase as indicating the physical state of uncircumcision as either literal (MacArthur) or symbolic of being outside the covenant people (Henry). However, a number of observations indicate a different conclusion. A metaphorical understanding of circumcision is common in the Old Testament where the Israelites were often accused of an uncircumcised heart. This Old Testament use is carried over into Acts 7:51 and Colossians 2:13. Just prior to making this statement, Paul reminds the reader that they were “circumcised in Christ with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ (2:11).” Paul is clearly speaking in a spiritual sense, applying physical terms to a spiritual reality. Despite its irregularity in the New Testament, the context weighs heavily on the meaning favoring a non-physical circumcision. What, then, does it mean to be uncircumcised in the flesh? Zemek helpfully concludes σαρκὸς (flesh) is a reference to the unregenerate human nature. Additionally, Paul describes our circumcision in Christ as “putting off the body of the flesh (2:11b).” Therefore, “uncircumcision of your flesh” means to have the mechanism of our unregenerate sinful nature attached. Put another way it is the natural state of sinfulness prior to experiencing the regenerating work of God.

Paul wrote the darkest picture of the unbeliever. They are not influenced by sin, merely inclined to it, not even highly prone to it. Paul teaches in these two verses that the unbeliever is spiritually dead because of the sinful nature of their soul which is manifested in acts of sin. Paul adds to the bleak picture by preceding his descriptions of man with a glorious picture of Jesus as the living and reigning One. The sinner is left hopeless and in complete dependence on God to do a saving work, which is exactly what the Apostle Paul intends the reader to understand.


As a reminder, this series is taken from a paper I wrote for theology class. Thankfully the professor thought I did really well!