What does it mean to be spiritually dead?

By Wendyl Leslie

Judgmental rooster is judgmental.

Part One: What does it mean to be spiritually alive?

Last time we looked through the characteristics of someone who is spiritually alive. But what about those who are spiritually dead? The Bible describes them for us:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Ephesians 2:1-3
Paul described three marks of the spiritually dead. They are remarkably different from those who are spiritually alive:

1. They live "like the rest of the world." This refers to the world's accepted, but immoral, lifestyles and godless motives. Jesus warned His followers: 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you" (John 15:18-19). People who live like the rest of the world cannot at the same time follow Jesus (Romans 12:2; Galatians 1:4).

2. The spiritually dead follow "the ruler of the kingdom of the air." This ruler is Satan. The passage focuses on Satan's reality as an evil power with a certain amount of control in the world. The Bible pictures Satan as ruling an evil spiritual kingdom — the demons and those who are against Christ. "Satan" means "the accuser." Paul calls Satan the "devil" in Ephesians 4:27 and Ephesians 6:11. In Ephesians 6:16, he calls him the "evil one."

That Satan and his demons work within the hearts and minds of the spiritually dead makes his evil kingdom very real. Paul wanted the Ephesians to recognize Satan's work as a present threat. The evil powers at work rival the work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:21). The spiritually dead are those who have not surrendered to God. They have decided not to obey Him. They are emboldened and energized by the power of evil. The force of the evil spirit is seen in those who actively disobey God both in faith and action (2 Thessalonians 1:8). These people live in constant rebellion and opposition to God.

3. The spiritually dead are enslaved to "gratifying the cravings of [the] sinful nature" (Ephesians 2:3). This is the third mark of unbelievers, described in the following verse: "All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts."

"All of us" refers to those who were once separated from God because of their disobedience. Romans 3:23 states, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (see also Romans 2:1-9; 3:9). Throughout the ages, human beings have lived in sin and disobedience, and Paul's audience (now believers) "lived among them," that is, among those people. Though believers, the Ephesians still lived among the sinful unbelievers, but they no longer participated in the sinful lifestyles. The spiritually dead cannot follow God because they do not know Him; instead, they live enslaved to "the cravings of [the] sinful nature...following its desires." The philosophy "if it feels good do it" is not just unique to the twenty-first century. "Gratifying" means that they did whatever felt natural to them. The "sinful nature" refers to people's natural state without God. That nature is self-centered, enslaved to its own desires. Such people are those who are described by John in 1 John. This is one of the most powerful passages of Scripture s describing the traits of the spiritually dead: "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 John 2:15-16).

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, succinctly outlines 17 distinctive characteristics of those who are spiritually dead: "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:2-5a). Then Paul adds this command: "Have nothing to do with them" (2 Timothy 3:5b).

As such, the spiritually dead are distinguishable from the spiritually alive in that they:

1. Live according to the world, not to Christ.

2. Live according to Satan, not to Christ.

3. Live according to the flesh, not to Christ.

As I mentioned at the outset, there's a vast difference between those who are spiritually alive and those who are spiritually dead. The Bible tells us that those who are spiritually alive "are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness" (1 Thessalonians 5:5).

To become spiritually alive means:

1. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

2. "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

3. Do not be friends with the world: "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

4. "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

5. Recognize that, "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matthew 6:24).

Take care and may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

In His Service and Yours.

Image Credit: Larraine; "Office Hijinks"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | Sin-Evil

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Published on 7-27-2015