The following is a different view of Ephesians 2:3 than the Calvinist and Arminian views. For example, John MacArthur writes about Ephesians 2:1 that we are all born dead not because of our sinful acts that have been committed but because of our sinful natures that we are born with. He cross references Matthew 12:35 and 15:18-19 (pointing to our hearts as sinful).
Yet the following writer wrote:
1. The word “nature” (Ephesians 2:3) can at times describe a man’s God-given constitution (Romans 1:26, 31; 2:14, 27; 2 Timothy 3:3). It must be kept in mind that our constitution is just dirt and is created by God; and therefore, our constitution cannot be sinful in of itself.
2. The phrase “by nature” (Ephesians 2:3) does not always mean “by birth” but can at times mean “by custom or habit.” Otherwise, Paul would have taught that the Gentiles were born sinners but the Jews were not. Paul said, “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (Galatians 2:16; some translate birth as nature is his point). The word nature can describe a man’s self chosen character, custom, habit, or manner of life (Jeremiah 13:23; Acts 26:4; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Galatians 2:14-15; Ephesians 2:2-3; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Peter 1:4). This is voluntary and has to do with the heart. Therefore, moral character or sinfulness can belong to this type of voluntary and chosen nature.
3. The context of this particular passage is talking about a former manner of life. Paul is addressing a previous lifestyle. He said “in which you once walked” (v.2) and “once lived” (v.3). The natural man is the same as the carnally minded (Romans 8:6-7). It is someone who lives for the gratification of their flesh. To say that a person is by nature a child of wrath is the same as saying that they are under the wrath of God because they are living for the gratification of their flesh. Through free choice, men create a habit of self-indulgence.
4. To say that they are “sons of disobedience” (v. 2; 5:6) and to say they are “by nature children of wrath” is essentially the same thing. Disobedience is a choice of the will. Those who choose to disobey God are misusing and abusing their natures. Those who choose to disobey God are rightfully under His wrath.
5. That which brings the “wrath” (v. 3) of God is voluntary moral character, not involuntary constitutions. God is not angry with men for possessing the nature which He Himself created with them. God is angry with sinners because of how they have chosen to use their nature that He has given them by transgressing His just laws (1 John 3:4). God is angry with the wicked (Psalm 7:11) because the wicked do wicked deeds (Psalm 7:14). God is angry with sinners because of their sinful choices and sinful habits.
6. A sinful nature is moral not physical. Jesus had a nature like ours (Hebrews 2:14; 5:7-10) yet Jesus never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). A sinful nature is a person’s self-chosen character and not his God-given constitution. A man’s heart or will can be sinful, a man’s constitution or body can only be an occasion of temptation. Through continual choices of self-gratification, man has developed a habit of sin. Jesus was born with flesh just like we have and He was tempted in His flesh but He never sinned by giving in to temptation. If we choose to sin, we are choosing to use our God-given nature to rebel against God. This is what meant by sinful nature and not that merely being a human means that we are guilty of sin just by our constitutional makeup.
The ESV Reader’s Edition is a nice addition to the ESV line of Bibles. I purchased mine from Lifeway Christian Bookstore. Mine was about $26.
The layout of the ESV Readers Bible is that it comes with only the text of Scripture. For example, I have the Bible before me and I have it opened to Psalm 41. This edition has Psalm 41 over the words but no verses. It is like reading a novel.
Now does this help? I am use to reading the Bible with verses that I find myself trying to figure out what verse I am in. Sometimes I have been reading from this ESV and have had to pick up my ESV pitt minion to see where I am reading. I know that I am reading from Leviticus but what verse? Yet on the other hand I enjoy reading a Bible that just flows. I don’t get sidetracked by cross references or by even the verses themselves. I just read. The other advantage would be that you don’t find yourself counting verses. I just read chapters and not verses. This allows for longer Bible reading. My plan is to read the Bible through in this edition.
Overall this is a unique Bible and one that I do recommend. It has semi-large print (about 8.5) which makes it easy to read. This, of course, would not be a preaching or even study Bible. It is made simply to read from. I do encourage all disciples to read this edition of the ESV and enjoy!
Arminius is often said to be the theologian of freedom. One Calvinist theologian said that Arminius was “anthropocentric” in that he placed humanity at the center of his theology and not God. To this day, Calvinist theologians continue to assert that Arminius and Arminianism is all about human freedom. Libertarian free will is said a chief focus of Arminian theology.
And yet is this fair? Is Arminianism focused on free will and humans as its center?
The fact is that those who say that Arminius was first and foremost about human freedom must prove this from his writings. This cannot be done. Arminius does not elevate human freedom above God’s sovereignty nor does he ascribe to salvation the basis being free will. Arminius is clear in his writings that the will of man is free indeed but bound by sin (Romans 8:6-7). The will of mankind is darkened by our sinfulness. The will of man, like Jonathan Edwards later, was free but free to sin. Man could do nothing with their free will to earn salvation.
Arminius was clear that we should uphold free will for three main reasons. First, sin must be ascribed to free will. While God can certainly use man’s free will sinful acts for His glory (Genesis 50:20; Acts 2:23-24), the act of sin must be free and not from God lest God be made the author of sin itself which Scripture deplores (James 1:13-15). God is simply too holy to sin (Exodus 15:11; Habakkuk 1:13). If mankind does not have free will, sin must come from outside of them and that would be from the Creator Himself and Arminius simply would not affirm this.
Secondly, Arminius defended free will in regard to grace. It was here that Calvinists often attacked Arminius as being Pelagian. For salvation to be truly gracious and a gift from God (Romans 6:23) then it must be maintained that mankind receives this grace by their own free will albeit by the ministry of the Spirit. To deny freedom in the work of grace is to make grace not truly grace. How can one ascribe salvation as a work of grace if in fact man has no choice but to succumb to the irresistible drawing power of God? Calvinists will insist that this is truly grace when dead sinners are regenerated to believe the gospel but salvation as a gift from God (John 3:16) is not a gift if the person offered the gift has nothing to say about receiving the gift. Salvation as gracious is gracious in Arminianism since the will of man is freed by the Spirit to believe and receive the gift (John 1:12-13; Romans 11:5-6).
Finally, Arminius affirmed human freedom because it upholds the relationship between God and man as a true relationship. God is not forcing His will upon people as a Master and they as robotic slaves. Instead, God is loving, gracious, and reaching out to lost humanity through His Son and through His Word to bring them into a free and loving relationship with Himself. The consistent theme of the Old Testament is God having relationships with people (and later the nation of Israel) through human freedom. God allows the free will decisions of Abraham, David, and others to build His relationship with them. No doubt God is sovereign in His choosing but He continues to allow a man like Abraham or Moses to even sin against Him in the process but nonetheless uses the men and their free will for His glory. This does not end in the New Testament. The coming of the Messiah is God still reaching out to humanity. Yes our will is bent and wicked. Yes we are sinners but God is consistently holy and pure yet He reaches out to the lost though His Son (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15). God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
The facts are that Arminius is not putting man at the center of his theology nor even free will. Instead, Arminius affirmed the grace of God as central to his theology. We are saved by grace and kept by grace. Pelagianism places the beginning of faith in man but Arminius places salvation as an act of God’s first grace. It is God who initiates salvation first in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) and ultimately in His Son (John 1:17-18). The beginning of salvation is not in man. The beginning of salvation, according to Arminius, is God and His grace.
For more on this I highly recommend the book, Jacob Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Thomas McCall.