In my previous post, I suggested that Ephesians 1:3-4:16 forms a historia salutis section of the book, where Paul reviews the history of salvation climaxing with the new covenant, and the formation and structuring of God’s new-covenant people, the church.
We commonly read Ephesians 2:1-10 as ordo salutis, the work of salvation in the life of an individual believer. But this outline suggests that we should consider reading it first as historia salutis, Jesus’s once and for all historical accomplishment of our salvation. It is clear that the passages immediately preceding and following (Eph. 1:15-23, 2:11ff) refer to Jesus’s work on the cross, so reading the passage in those terms is actually quite natural. This requires that we read “you” as referring to the Gentile world, but this is consistent with the rest of the chapter.
Certainly God works resurrection in the lives of individual believers in a small image of the pattern of his great resurrection work in history. It is precisely because of Jesus’s death and resurrection that the Spirit is at work giving life to us here and now, so we have ample warrant to make a secondary application of this passage to our personal histories. If Jesus had not died for us, then what is described here would have been true of us — rebellion, death and wrath! But we should be careful in how we state the application: first of all since we want to grasp the fullest extent of what Paul is exulting in here, and second, because the details will be more or less true of the actual histories of individual believers. Even though this may have been overwhelmingly true of those who were converted in Ephesus, it cannot have been entirely the case even for the original audience: for example, 2:2 would not apply to the covenant children addressed in 6:1-3.
Praise God for the “immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”