A Short Study of Ephesians 2:3
“Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2:3)
We may observe here a distinction drawn by the Apostle between the desires of the flesh and the desires of the mind. Both are opposed to God and godliness, both are the fruits of our fallen nature. But the desires of the FLESH seem to be those grosser and more sensual lusts and passions which are connected, so to speak, with the lower part of our nature. The desires of the MIND are those which are connected with its higher qualities. Thus some are steeped up to the very lips in all manner of vile abominations of sensual lust, in the gratification of which they find all their pleasure. While others, who would scorn, or at least are not tempted to the baser lusts of the flesh, carry out with equal ardour the promptings of a more refined character and disposition. Ambition to rise in the world, thirsting after power over their fellow-men, a craving for fame and distinction in any particular branch of art or science, discontent with their present situation in life, envying everyone superior to them in birth, wealth, talent, accomplishments, position, or worldly happiness—attempts, more or less successful, to rise out of obscurity, poverty, and subjection, and to win for themselves name, fame, and prosperity—how wide a field does this open to our view, as embracing “the desires of the MIND!”
And observe how the Apostle puts upon a level the desires of the flesh and the desires of the mind, and stamps them both with the same black mark of disobedience and its consequences—the wrath of God. We look around us. We see the drunkard staggering in the street, we hear the oath of the common swearer, we view the sons and daughters of Belial manifesting in their very looks how sunk they are in deeds of shame. These we at once condemn. But what do we think of the aspiring tradesman—the energetic man of business—the active, untiring speculator—the man who, without scruple, puts into practice every scheme and plan to advance and aggrandize himself, careless who sinks if he rise? Is he equally guilty in our eyes? What do we think of the artist devoting days and nights to the cultivation of his skill as a painter, as an architect, as a sculptor—of the literary man, buried in his books—of the scientist, devoting years to the particular branch of study which he has selected to pursue—or similar examples of men, whose whole life and all whose energies are spent in fulfilling the desires of their mind?
As far as society, public welfare, the comfort of themselves and their families, and the progress of the world are concerned, there is a vast difference between these two classes—and we would do violence to right feeling to put them upon a level. But when we come to weigh the matter as before God, with eternity in view, and judge them by the word of truth, we see at once that there is no real difference between them—that the drunkard does but fulfill the desires of his flesh—and the scholar, the artist, the man of business, the literary man—in a word, the man of the world, whatever his world be, little or great—does but each fulfill the desires of his mind. Both are of the earth, earthy—both are sworn enemies to God and godliness, and could you look into the very bottom of his heart, you might find the man of intellect, refinement, and education to be a greater foe to God and His word than the drunkard or the profligate! The sin in both is one and the same, and consists in this, that in all they do they seek to gratify that carnal mind which is enmity against God, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. God is not in all, or indeed in any of their thoughts. Instead of living to and for Him in whom, as creatures of His hand, they live and move and have their being, they live wholly unto and for themselves—and thus are practical rebels against God, as rejecting His rightful claims upon their obedience!