Spiritual Death

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…” (Ephesians 2:1)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:1-3

As indicated earlier, there is a close connection between the opening words of Ephesians chapter 2 and the verses preceding them. In Ephesians 2:1-6, the apostle Paul shows the way in which God’s great power has been exercised toward us in a spiritual resurrection and ascension that parallels what happened to Christ physically.

Paul begins by describing the natural condition of his readers as one in which they were “dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (2:1). The death he refers to is clearly a spiritual death. It is possible to be alive biologically and yet to be totally dead – inert and unresponsive – to God and the things of the Spirit.

One writer uses the picture of a kitten and a ball of wool to highlight this situation. Even a very young kitten, he says, will respond to a thread or ball of wool dangled before it. It bats it with its paws and tries to seize it with its mouth. But, if you try to get a kitten to listen to you read one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, your efforts will be fruitless. A kitten simply doesn’t have the mind to appreciate poetry. We might say that it is “dead” to poetry.

There is a similarity between this and our natural condition toward God. Our problem is not that we cannot comprehend the idea of God or recognise his presence in the world (Romans 1:19ff.).  Our problem, rather, is a moral one. In our rebellion against God, we close our minds to him and to his goodness so evident around us. The mind of natural man, Paul says, is at “enmity” with God – it is bitterly set against him (Romans 8:7). Our inner disposition is to reject him. And because of that, we are “dead” toward him and blind to the light that lightens every man (John 1:4).

That is why Paul links our state of death with “transgressions and sins.” It is because we are set upon turning from God and living in ways that he hates that we are dead to him and his overtures of mercy. As such, we are “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3).

This is the miserable plight of us all by nature. Without the Spirit of God as an indwelling and enlightening presence, we find no pleasure in God and the things of his kingdom. It takes nothing less than a mighty work of God’s power within us to bring us out of this death state – a work of his power akin to that by which he raised Jesus from the dead (1:19ff.).

It is in this way that we see the greatness of God’s power toward us. Our awakening from spiritual death mirrors Jesus’ physical resurrection from death. 

Closing Thoughts:

  • Does this idea of spiritual death help you understand why your unconverted friends and family have no interest in God?
  • If it takes a work of God’s power to make them “alive”, what role do we have in seeing them come to Christ?

– Andrew Young