Last Sunday we examined Ephesians 2:1-3, where Paul’s reminder to the Ephesian readers is of all that they were prior to Christ — dead in sin — and how their depravity left them unable to please God in any way.
The passage is also a means to identifying unbelievers. How can one determine if one is not only a professor of Christ, but also a possessor of Christ? We are unable to see the heart and mind of a man, but we can observe the reality of life, and this passage gives five clues to identify an unbeliever who is in need of the reality of the gospel.
An unbeliever is dead (v. 1). That is, an unbeliever is dead in his sin, unable to do anything righteous (he cannot do anything to glorify God), though he is unaware that he is dead. Richard Sibbes noted that “none are so aware of corruption as those whose souls are most alive.” Another way of saying that is, none are so unaware of corruption as those whose souls are dead. An unbeliever believes he can please God without Christ when he cannot.
An unbeliever lives according to the world’s principles (v. 2a). What determines how a person will live? What are the influences of a person’s life? A believer lives according to the principles of Scripture — the Word of God guides and controls his life. An unbeliever devalues and dismisses the authority of the Word of God and follows the direction of worldly impulses and desires.
An unbeliever lives under the authority of Satan (v. 2b). There are only two possible authorities for one’s life — one is either in submission to Christ or in submission to Satan. If he is not under the authority of Christ, then he is under the authority of Satan. So one way of determining if one is a believer is to ask the question, “does he embrace and love Jesus Christ and follow Him?” If he does not love Christ then by default he is under the authority of Satan and in need of salvation.
An unbeliever lives out his own dead desires (v. 3a). An unbeliever is not only one who follows the world and the devil; he also follows his own fleshly, dead desires. He follows all his worst impulses. Do you want to know an unbeliever? He is the one who lives to indulge fleshly sinful desires. He has no inclination to follow Christ. He, in fact, seems to have no conscience or awareness of his sin — he is undisturbed by his sinful activity.
An unbeliever is condemned (v. 3b). Every individual, by virtue of his identification with Adam, is born in sin and under the condemnation of God. An unbeliever is unaware that he is born into sin — he believes that he is innocent and by nature acceptable to God. Find someone who believes that he has no inherent need of Christ, and you have found an unbeliever.
So how do you identify an unbeliever? One who lives under the authority of the world, the devil and the flesh, and one who has no awareness of his sin and the condemnation that sin has wrought in his life is an unbeliever, in desperate need of the grace of God.