A graceEmail subscriber asks what Paul means when he says in Ephesians 2 that once we all were children of wrath. Likewise David in Psalm 51 when confessing that he was conceived in sin.

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Some believers suggest that both David and Paul are deliberately overstating the matter to make a point. But there is more to these pronouncements than that. Sin is not only a specific wrong deed. It is also a malignant force, thoroughly imbedded in our fallen nature making us predisposed to sin. That was one result of Adam’s sin, which Paul discusses alongside Jesus’ faithful obedience, in Romans 5:12ff. (However, because of Jesus, no one will be finally condemned solely because of Adam’s sin. Those who are finally lost will throughout their lives have rejected God’s grace and fellowship.) David looks at himself and confesses not only that he is a sinner but that he always has been. Paul says that even those who are finally saved once were controlled by sin and were under God’s judgment.

Perhaps the easiest way to see just how realistic these statements from the Old Testament prophet David and the New Testament apostle Paul really are is to look in the mirror. When I listen to my conscience and honestly inspect my own heart in the light of God’s desires for me as a human being, I am an abysmal failure. Every moral command God has given, I have broken–in thought or word if not in actual deed. If I ever deny that, I will be lying and further proving the point. If I should ever pretend that it is not so and that I am not guilty before God apart from Jesus Christ, I would be a hypocrite of the worst sort. Instead of denying my sinfulness, I confess it. Rather than pretending to be something I am not, I admit just what I really am. And because God is rich in mercy, I am now a saved one by grace through faith (Eph. 2:3-9).

Jesus represented humankind in all his living and dying. Through Christ, God “reconciled the world to himself.” Because God did that, we beseech every living person “on behalf of Christ” not to “receive the grace of God in vain,” but to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:19–6:1). To put it another way, we urge all people everywhere to accept their reconciliation and to begin to live for Jesus who died for them (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This is all from God, and it is all a free gift. Any person alive can enjoy it by trusting Jesus and entrusting himself or herself to him as Savior and Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; Mark 16:15-16). It is all to the praise of the glory of God’s grace.