And you being dead because of trespasses and sins in which you once walked….
The reward of sin is death..
The mystery of iniquity (2 Thessalonians 2) is very puzzling. On the one hand, I know in my mind what is right but in my body I see another principle or force trying to get me to go another way (Romans 7). Paul’s answer, like so much in Scripture, is simple to understand – just don’t follow those desires, follow the Spirit instead (Romans 8, Eph. 4) – but very difficult to do.
In fact we are in a war between two forces, one aggressive, evil and deceitful and the other standing firm, good and truthful.
Sometimes it amazes me how that works itself out in historical earthly battles also. It seems clear to me that Hitler and the spirit behind him was aggressive, evil and deceitful and Churchill, Roosevelt and the spirit behind them were standing firm for freedom, generally on the side of good things we all appreciate and on the whole truthful about what they were saying. The same thing happened during the cold war with Stalin representing one side and Reagan the other. The same can be said of the current conflict with Putin the aggressor and Zelensky and Ukraine the defenders of democracy and freedom for us all.
And it is not as if it is that difficult to see the difference between, for example, lies about the Jews and concentration camps on one side and the Marshall plan and the liberation of the Jews on the other. Or mass deportations, poverty and exploitation in the case of the USSR on that side and freedom, democracy and prosperity in the West. Likewise it is not difficult to see the difference between unwarranted aggression, lies and oppression on one side in Putin’s Russia and the desire for freedom and truth in Zelensky’s Ukraine on the other.
Of course things are not always black and white, not in the above conflicts nor in many others. For the Christian it can often feel that way also in our internal battles.
In Ephesians, Paul is very black and white. He clearly points out that the old man that we live with and struggle against is a real, powerful, enemy being worked on and directed by powerful spiritual forces (Eph. 2:1-3). However, he also says that if you have truly heard and learnt from Christ you know the answer and how to fight against it:
1. Put off the old man like a garment or something that clings to you.
2. Change your thinking thoroughly so your whole mind thinks or is infused by the Holy Spirit’s mindset.
3. Put on the new man, i.e. the specific image of Christ made for you by God in true righteousness and holiness.
You can read about this in Ephesians 4:20-24 which are core verses in all of Ephesians and many other of Paul’s writings. This was a revelation he received from God early on. He expects that anyone who has been born again or met with Christ will know what he is talking about. These things are spiritually taught (1 Cor. 2) so you need to be born again to understand and experience them (John 3). And if you are born again you will both experience this battle and know the answer, make no mistake.
According to Paul the stakes in this internal, spiritual war are every bit as high as that fought for in the world and the results of winning or losing are every bit as great.
So, paradoxically, you are dead but don’t walk in that death. Don’t be a zombie. Instead walk in the Spirit who is in you if you are born again. You are alive in Him, so put to death the works of the old man in your life and don’t give any place to the flesh or the devil.
How we will experience heaven, now and in the future, depends more than we know on how well we fight this battle here below (Eph. 5:5-6).