“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:1-3
Take a minute and read the passage from the Apostle Paul above, paying special attention to the language of death which he uses to describe the spiritual state of the unregenerate, unbeliever. It seems as though many either misunderstand Paul’s use of “dead in the trespasses and sins” or refuse to recognize the extremely helpless condition of unbelievers that this imagery provides.
In this passage, dead is the Greek word nekros. Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines this word as 1) The death of the body 2) The actual spiritual condition of unsaved men. Likewise, an outline of biblical usage would reveal the following:
- one that has breathed his last, lifeless
- deceased, departed, one whose soul is in heaven or hell
- destitute of life, without life, inanimate
- spiritually dead
- destitute of a life that recognises and is devoted to God, because given up to trespasses and sins
- inactive as respects doing right
- destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative
- spiritually dead
Dear reader, let there be no confusion about this use of the word dead to describe unsaved man’s spiritual condition. It means dead, in much the same way that we think of physical death. A physically dead person is unable to do anything, much less make decisions that would reverse their condition. Just as at death the physical body begins to decay, rot, and stink, so too does the spiritual carcass of the unbeliever. Paul emphasizes this same state again in Ephesians 2:5, but also in Colossians 2:13, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh….” In Romans 5:12 we read of Adam, the man through whom sin entered the world and by whom all of his posterity is now born in sin. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
With man’s spiritual condition in mind, we can now better realize what Jesus is saying to Nicodemas in John 3:3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Friends think on these words from Jesus as He describes what is known as regeneration or rebirth. Let them penetrate your heart. What are the implications we can gather from the Savior? First, there is no need to be born again, unless you are dead the first time around. This is buttressed by Scriptures overwhelming use of death to describe the sinner and life to describe the regenerate. Second, not one single person physically born ever chose to be, yet God showed His divine providence in bringing each one of us to life. As David said in Psalm 22:9a, “Yet You are He who took me from the womb.” This holds true for spiritual “rebirth” as well. This is why Jesus concludes His lesson on rebirth by saying, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Spiritual rebirth, or regeneration, comes from the Holy Spirit alone. In 1 Peter 1:3 we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Again, it is by the almighty sovereign God that He brings forth life to the rotten, decaying carcass of the dead sinner.
What shall we say to these things? Christian you have but one response: worship. Worship God in thankfulness for His mercy, grace, love, and goodness that He has shown you in giving you new life. Humbly recognize that He alone is responsible for your salvation and praise Him for it. Then serve Him because He is worthy.
Unbeliever, you too have but one response and that is to call out to God for mercy. That He might likewise grant you repentance and the faith necessary to believe in His Son. Just as the Apostle Paul points out the dead spiritual state of everyone, prior to salvation, he also includes one of the greatest phrases of hope in the Bible, “But God” in the very next verse of our passage above. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5
As we’ve discussed here in the past those who are not saved remain under the wrath of God and while this should seem scary to you, you need to equally feel hope because of the mercy and grace He has provided in Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, Who gave His life to remove the wrath of God from you, to cleanse you from your sins, and to regenerate your heart such that you would have the desire to live for Him. Repent and turn from your sins. Trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, who alone can provide you forgiveness for those sins. Then walk as a new creation in Christ.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 1 Corinthians 5:17-18