THE BIBLE SPEAKS

Dead or alive?



Background Scripture:
Ephesians 2:1-10.
Devotional Reading:
Psalms 86:1-13.


 

 


Somewhere I read that when informed that former President Coolidge had died a political associate was quoted as asking, “How could they tell?” I’m sure that this taciturn man had some enduring qualities, but being “a ball of fire” was not one of them.



I’ve also heard of a certain tombstone on which a man’s name was inscribed, followed by these additional pieces of information: “Born November 18, 1924, Died October 31, 1955, Buried March 3, 1979.” This may be apocryphal, but I have personally read some incredible tombstone inscriptions, such as the one in a Key West, Fla., cemetery that bore a man’s vital statistics and this inscription: “I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK!”



It used to be fairly easy to determine if someone was dead: no pulse, no breathing. But today we know that a person who is not breathing and without a pulse can sometimes be resuscitated. Similarly, there are people who are alive physically, but dead spiritually. The writer of Ephesians speaks of being spiritually “dead through
the trespasses and sins in which you once walked”
(Eph. 2:1). He alludes to this once again in 2:5, when he says, “…even when we were dead through our trespasses…”
SIN AND ‘FLESH’



So, in the morning when we awake, it is not enough to have a pulse and be breathing, but we need to determine whether we are spiritually dead or alive. To be physically alive and spiritually dead is a terrible state – like the man who was dead at age 31 and buried at 55. Ephesians tells that sin and trespasses can make the difference between spiritual life and death.



I have previously explained that the most common word for sin in the Greek New Testament is hamartia, a shooting term meaning “to miss the mark,” as in shooting an arrow at a target. Sin thus is failure to hit the target of living our lives in and for Christ.



Ephesians speaks of living “in the passions of our flesh”
(2:3), leading many people to think of sin primarily as sexual in nature. But, biblical scholars agree the basic human sin is our pride, the inclination of all of us to overestimate our virtues, powers and achievements. So, when the New Testament writers speak of “the flesh,” they are not speaking of the physical body, but our selfserving human appetites of all kinds. So, we may “miss the mark” when we fail to be what God created us to be.



I once read a little story about a pastor who returned to his study and found waiting for him a man in a gray flannel suit. The man spoke at length about his many and notable accomplishments in life and the services he had rendered to others. Finally, the pastor asked, “And who are you?” The man smiled and said as he left, “I am the man you could have been!” Are you today the person God intended? ZOMBIE-LIKE



Sin is not fulfilling God’s purposes in our lives. William Barclay reminds us that it “is not something the theologians have invented. It is the failure in any sphere of life to be what we ought to be and could be.” Whether or not we realize it, that is being “spiritually dead,” a zombielike person who can go through all the motions of living, but in whom real life has been extinguished.



The good news of Jesus Christ is that as Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, so “God, who is rich in mercy, out
of the great love with which he loved us, even when we
were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together
with Christ…and raised us up with him”
(2:4-7). We need to be raised from the dead for the new life in Christ both before and after death. We are saved by grace for good works: “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”



If you have been raised up with Christ, no one should have to ask if you’re dead or alive.