EPHESIANS 2:1-5 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
I was a saxophone player back when Men At Work were cool. And I wasn’t half bad by the time I reached high school. Good enough to ditch my student model horn and get something better.
I must have gone to every pawn shop in East Texas before finally walking into one with a saxophone for sale. Two, actually.
The salesman took one down and laid it on the counter between us. Yellow metal body, silver keys, perfect condition. “Eight hundred.”
“How much for the other one?” I asked.
It was dark brown, dented in a couple places, oxidized all over, its shiny lacquer rubbed off by years of use. I took it down from the wall and wiggled its keys. Clack click clack.
“This is the one you want,” the salesman said. “It’s brand new, never been used. Lady brought it in said she bought it for her son and he quit soon as he started. It’s got a case, cleaning kit. Everything! Brand new!”
I pulled a crumpled ball of bills from my pocket and laid in on the counter. “I’ve got $300?”
The Greek word “kosmos” is usually translated “world” and has five meanings throughout the bible. So it can be difficult to discern which meaning is intended in a given passage. Sometimes there’s dispute among men and women much smarter than I am. But there’s no disagreement among them about its meaning in Ephesians 2:2.
EPHESIANS 2:1-5 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world…
Here it means “order, arrangement, organization, pattern.” It’s referring to man-made society, the way it’s put together: standards, institutions, practices, structures, beliefs and mores.
The world has been assembled in such a way that it supports the desires, thoughts and feelings of “the flesh” and not of God. In other words, it is an environment in which sin is normal.
Any society – in Moscow, Austin, Belfast, Kempala – assembled by “the flesh” of human beings is a society in which “the flesh” of its citizens will be inspired and corroborated.
“The world” is not “out there” and it isn’t “them”. It’s not merely the music, rated R movies, and sitcoms the pastor of my childhood wagged his finger at from the pulpit every Sunday morning. It’s the pervasive upside-down normal of the place and time in which I live. A normal I help build every day too.
It’s a normal that pushes vice but throws virtue in the bargain bin.
It promotes fashionable over modest, greed over generosity, self-promotion over humility, screen time over face time, selfishness over loyalty, independence over community, voyeurism over contentment, patriotism over peace, ambition over contentment, narcissism over love for neighbor…
This is the “pattern of this world” we’ve created together (Romans 12:2).
Pity and exasperation mixed in the salesman’s eyes. I think he figured I was buying that rusty old saxophone because I couldn’t afford any better. But I knew something he didn’t know.
He took my money. I dug a mouthpiece out of my jeans pocket and slid it onto the neck of the horn. After a few seconds’ work bending a couple keys back into place, I brought the antique to my lips and played Amazing Grace. The look on the salesman’s face was priceless.
So was the saxophone. It’s been appraised at almost thirty times what I paid for it.
The other one? The brand new shiny one the salesman pushed with such certainty? Not worth the price on its tag. A student model made for beginners who quit soon after they start. But it sure looked good.