MONDAY MINUTES With Pastor Chris McCool (March 21, 2022)

In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul writes the following: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;). . . .”

Notice the term “dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1) and “dead in sins” (v. 5). This reference to being spiritually “dead” occurs a few times in other places as well, but never more clearly than in these verses. What does this term mean, and what idea is God giving us by using this terminology?

The more I study the Scriptures, the more I am convinced that God does not play “hide the ball.” I realize that there are some deep mysteries in the Bible; however, I do NOT believe that God intends for His Scripture to be unintelligible to us, especially when it comes to basic matters such as our natural state and our eternal salvation! In other words, I believe the Lord uses terminology that we can understand, and uses words and phrases that He intends to convey the correct image of whatever He is talking about.

In this case, God inspired Paul to write that we are “dead in trespasses and in sins.” How accurately does He describe the condition of man in nature! When God told Adam about the penalty for eating of the fruit, He said that Adam would “die” when he ate of it (Gen. 2:17). Adam did not die physically, but he died spiritually in that he was separated from God! And this spiritual death was passed down to all of Adam’s posterity (see Gen. 5).

Yes, in the case of fallen man, a comparison to the physically dead is appropriate in describing his fallen nature.  So what image is God trying to convey to us by using this description? It is simple, and elementary: when someone is dead, he or she cannot function in the realm to which they are dead.  There is no activity, so to speak, in that realm.  He cannot respond to stimuli, or be active in any way in that realm to which he is dead.  In every case, life must precede any activity on the part of the person who is dead.  Thus, a physically dead man cannot function in any way in the physical realm; likewise, a spiritually dead man cannot function in any way in the spiritual realm!

So, in the case of spiritual death, this means that the sinner – prior to being made alive through quickening (the new birth) – CANNOT function at all in the spiritual realm.  This is why 1 Cor. 2:14 tells us plainly, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  Notice two things here:  (1) the “things of the Spirit of God” (i.e., spiritual things) are foolishness to a natural man, thus he has no desire for them; and (2) the “things of the Spirit of God” (i.e., spiritual things) are unattainable to the natural man, i.e., he CANNOT know them.  Thus, he has no desire for spiritual things, nor does he have any ability to know them.

In particular as to a dead man’s ability to respond to the gospel, these verses show us that he cannot.  I believe it goes without saying that the gospel message, and the preaching thereof, would be classified as a “thing of the Spirit of God.”  Jesus Himself says that “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”  (John 6:63).  So, based on 1 Cor. 2:14, a “natural man” – that is, the man who has ONLY been born in nature and has not been born of the Spirit (still “dead” in sins) – will think this message is “foolishness”.  Likewise, he will be unable to receive this message, because it is “spiritually discerned.”  Hence, spiritual life is required before the natural man can even hear or respond to the gospel message. But how does one obtain this spiritual life?

Jesus told Nicodemus, “ye must be born again” (John 3:1 et seq.).  A dead man cannot function in the realm to which he is dead.  Thus, he cannot ask for spiritual life, he cannot accept spiritual life, he cannot pray for spiritual life, because he is dead to that spiritual realm.  Notice that Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).  The word “see” is the Greek word which means “to see with the eyes; to see with the mind, to perceive, know; to see, i.e. become acquainted with by experience, to experience; to see, to look to; to take heed, beware; to care for, pay heed to.”  So, until a man is born again, he cannot “get” the Kingdom of God – and yet that was exactly what the gospel message was all about, wasn’t it?  “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” 

How then can a man be saved?  How does he pass from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life? The answer is the same as the answer given by Jesus to the rich young ruler, who came to Him in Mark 10 asking Him “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  (Mark 10:18).  This rich young ruler believed he had to DO something in order to be saved.  Jesus answered him in accordance with his way of thinking, and by doing so pointed out to him that although he had kept the outward commandments of the Law, the inward man was yet lacking (remember, in Mk 10:21 Jesus brought the young man’s covetousness to the forefront, and the man went away sorrowful – thus proving you cannot keep the Law in order to go to heaven!).  But after he had gone away, Jesus proclaimed the great truth in regard to eternal salvation, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”  (Mark 10:27).  He is here affirming that salvation is solely and wholly in the hands of God!

Thus, because of the spiritual deadness of every man, there has to be a complete salvation wrought by God Himself – because man can do none of it!  That’s why we refer to the “finished work of Christ.”  That’s what Jesus meant, I believe, when He proclaimed “It is finished!” while on the cross, just before He gave up the ghost.  (John 19:30).  And at some point in the life of every child of God – somewhere between conception and the grave – he or she will be given spiritual life through the new birth, by the Holy Spirit acting alone upon the dead heart of the elect child.

This brings such hope to me, because I could never generate spiritual life on my own in my dead, sin-cursed heart!

May the Lord bless you is my prayer!

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor