Ephesians – Wayne Barber/Part 23
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1999|
|How can a person be walking around, breathing, living—but be dead at the same time? Dr. Barber talks about the difference between physical and spiritual death in this installment of his series on Ephesians.|
The Living Dead
We are going to look at verse 1 of Chapter 2 this time. Our subject is “The Living Dead.” What a wonderful experience it was to go through chapter 1 of Ephesians. If I had been an Ephesian believer, I would have been shouting by now because of all the things God has done for me to give me so great a salvation. He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. In finishing out that chapter we saw our Lord Jesus far above all things and all things far beneath Him.
Now in chapter 2 Paul is going to look back to what they used to be, and then bring them up to what they are now in Christ Jesus. He starts it off by saying, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” Did you know there are people who live and breathe and laugh and love and at the same time are dead? Living dead people? “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” How can somebody be living and breathing and be dead at the same time? Try to convince somebody who is lost that they are dead. They cannot understand it: “My heart’s beating, my lungs are breathing. You are telling me that I am dead?”
One night I watched the old movie, “The Night of the Living Dead!” The people in it were ugly. They were supposed to be dead. They had big circles around their eyes, and they are walking around hurting people. They were living dead people.
In a strange way, that’s exactly what Paul is talking about here. The people he’s talking about, however, don’t look as ugly and don’t look as dead. They are alive, and yet they are dead. Now this is an enigma. How do we figure this thing out? “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” They are living, laughing, loving people, but they are dead in their trespasses and in their sins. Everyone who does not know Jesus Christ personally, who has never received Him into their lives personally and bowed before Him, is a living dead man.
The theme of Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 is the fact that the Jew and Gentile are equal when it comes to being dead in their trespasses and sins. As a matter of fact, Paul brings it up here. In verses 1 and 2, speaking to the Gentile Ephesians, he says: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Then in Verse 3, he says, “Among them we too…” Who is “we too”? Paul is a Jew, a converted Jew, and he says, “…we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
He mentions every group of people in the world. He mentions the Jews and the Gentiles who represented every other nation. Every one of us are equal when we stand before God. If we have not received Christ, we are all dead in our trespasses and in our sins. No man is any different. The Jew didn’t get a special exemption because of the Covenant promises and all the Law. They are just like the Gentiles. All of us stand dead in our trespasses and in our sins until we receive Jesus Christ into our life.
That is as far as we are going to go in this study. There are three things I want you to see that might help you better understand how a person can be living but dead at the same time.
The definition of being dead.
What does it mean to be dead in verse 1. “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,…” The word “dead” in the Greek language is the word nekros. It comes from the word nekus, which means “corpse.” Now that pretty well tells you the story. A corpse is one which has no life.
A person who is not a believer is devoid of life. Now you say, “ How can he be alive and yet you say he is devoid of life?” That gives you the first clue. We are not talking about physical life, we are talking about spiritual life. You must be able to distinguish between the two. If you don’t, then you’ll miss heaven. You’ve got to understand you can be physically alive but spiritually dead.
Now, to explain this, we are going to have to take a journey in the Scriptures, so turn first of all to I Thessalonians 5:23. Here we see that man is essentially in three parts. Paul, in his closing remarks to the church at Thessalonica, says, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit  and soul  and body  be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now what does he mean by the difference in spirit, soul and body?
Well, the spirit is where a man communicates with God. That’s what makes us uniquely different from the animals. It always amazes me that people can abort a baby and yet at the same time they try to save one of these animals that doesn’t even have the spirit within them to communicate with God. We take a lesser form of life and make it as if it’s a more magnified form of life. You can insure the colt of a pure-bred stallion at the moment of conception, but you can’t even look at a child as being a true life at the moment that child is conceived. It is all upside down. A man, a human being, has something that no other form of life has. He has a spirit, and it is in that spirit that he can communicate with God.
Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4, “Listen, God is spirit. It’s not what you do externally that worships God. It is what you do from the heart. You must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” So we have the spiritual part of man. Every one of us has a place called our human spirit.
Secondly, we have a soul, the immaterial part of us that causes us to be able to relate to the world around us. It’s the mind, the will, and the emotions. Now, to a degree even animals have a soul. They relate to the world around them. That is the immaterial, psyche, part of man.
Thirdly, we have our body. A body brings identity to an entity. That is what we live in on this earth that relates to our environment. When we move into our new [heavenly] environment, we are going to have to have changed bodies because we won’t relate to that environment until they are glorified and changed. We are going to have to have gloried bodies to be there.
You might be asking: “Where did man first possess spiritual life and where did he lose spiritual life? If we are dead spiritually and yet can be living physically, then when did it disappear? Did man ever have it? Was it ever lost?”
Look with me in Genesis 2:16-17. This is the first man and the first woman ever put on this earth. God breathed into them the breath of life, not only physical life, but spiritual life. They were created with God’s life in them. They could fellowship with Him, walk in harmony with Him, and walk in oneness with Him. Look at Verse 16 of Genesis 2. They were in a garden, a lush place. “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it, you shall surely die.’”
Remember in chapter 3, he ate of it. Did he die? Some people would argue and say, “No, he lived to be 800 or so years old. He didn’t die the moment he ate of it.” But yes, he
did! You must look at man in three essential parts. Physically he didn’t die that day, but physical death became a reality. Immediately he began to decay and corrupt. Not only that, his mind, his will, his emotions, and his soul were immediately disengaged from the wisdom he had once of God. Now man’s mind pulled away with such a humanistic fervor that in the 11th chapter of Genesis, he is found building a tower in order to reach God.
God had to curse him, break him into tribes and nations and confuse his language because he had become so engrossed in what he could do in ascending to the level of God.
Look at the secular world. Do you wonder why do they talk that way? Folks, listen, people without God’s life don’t know how to do anything else. The thing that makes it miraculous is when sinners don’t sin. Their soul has been far removed from anything God says and from any understanding that He can give.
Then look at Adam’s spirit. That’s where he immediately died. He immediately spiritually died when he sinned in Genesis Chapter 3. That means God’s life left him. Now he is physically alive, he is mentally competent, but he is spiritually dead. There is no influence of God within man. He was alive in one sense, but God was not in him. He couldn’t communicate with God. He couldn’t know the things of God. Physically and mentally he was alive, but he was spiritually dead.
So in Ephesians 2:1, he says, “You Gentiles, that’s the way you were. I was, too, as a Jew. We all were.” Why? Because of Adam. Romans 5:12 says that in that one man sinned, sin entered the world and death by sin. Death became a reality. Men were alive, but they were dead.
Let me share with you I Corinthians 2:14 about the man who is a natural man. That term refers to somebody who has never received Christ. He has been naturally, physically born, but he has never been spiritually reborn. He does not have that newness of life that must come at salvation. This verse describes the natural man, the man who was born as a result of Adam. Verse 14 reads, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
There was a time in your life and in my life when the gospel was nothing more than foolishness because we couldn’t understand it. Something was missing in our life. We were alive physically, but spiritually we were dead. Oh, folks. Can you see it? In every man’s heart there is a vacuum. We are not complete. We are not made whole until the Lord Jesus comes and takes that place in our life. The life was gone. Now He’s the one who has to come and give it back. We’ll look at that in detail later.
I meet people all over the world. They know the vacuum is there, but they don’t know where to go to satisfy it. They try works. They work themselves to death. They make big names for themselves. They try sex, or they try alcohol, or they try religion. People will try religion in a minute, but it won’t satisfy the vacuum that is there. There is no life in religion. Life is only in the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the giver of life. People can be alive. They can laugh. They can love. They can live and yet at the same time be dead. He is talking then about spiritual death.
The evidence of being dead.
You may be thinking, “I wonder if I’m alive or if I’m dead.” Well, if you have any confusion, we will at least have some evidences here that you can check out. How do you know that you are alive or dead? What are the evidences of being spiritually dead? Verse 1 again says, “And you who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” He describes the lifestyle of the Gentiles before Christ came to them and the lifestyle he had before Christ came to him.
Two words clarify it beautifully. First of all there is the word “trespasses”, paraptoma. It comes from two words, para, which means “alongside,” and pipto, which means “to fall.” It means a fault, an error, a wrong doing. In this context, it refers specifically to a willful transgression of a known rule of life. It also has guilt associated with it.
In other words, if you find a person who is lost and doesn’t know Jesus, there is guilt in his life. He doesn’t even know where it comes from. He willfully sins against the things God has said. He knows it is wrong to be immoral, but he’ll be immoral. He knows it wrong to be deceitful, but he lives deceitfully. He knows these things, but he is not willing to bow to them. He can’t bow to them until the Lord Jesus comes into his life. He is in bondage. Titus 3:3 says he is blind, he is deceived and he is enslaved to the very trespasses that we speak of right here.
The second word he uses here is hamartia. Here is the lifestyle of a person. It’s the first picture you get. He lives lawlessly. The Word of God doesn’t control his life. He does what he does because he wants to do it. He lives for himself. The word hamartia means he misses the mark in everything that he does. The word hamartia is plural, which means it’s not referring to one simple result. Everything in his life shows that he is completely missing the mark. It is an outward manifestation of the inward nature of a person without spiritual life.
A spiritually dead man is dead in his transgressions and his sins. Those things that miss the mark are evidences of the fact that there is no spiritual life in him whatsoever. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” They have missed the mark of the glory of God. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” Here’s where we’ve got to be careful. Some people are not equal to others in their corruption. In other words, we are all equally depraved when we are born, but the outcome of that may not be equal. This is what confuses people. Some people’s corruptness, their sins, hamartia may be much more vile than other peoples. Inwardly their natures are equally as corrupt. That is what you’ve got to see.
You say, “Now how in the world can that happen?” Some people have learned how to restrain their sin. First of all, they do it because of personal pride. You’ve got some people who are in positions so they wouldn’t do certain things. It’s not because it would be displeasing to God, but because it would be displeasing to the people they are trying to impress. So, therefore, they restrain their sin. What appears to be goodness is nothing more than a mask over that corrupt nature that is within.
Some people can restrain it by public opinion. If you are running for office, all of a sudden you will stop doing certain things. Not because you want to please God, but because you want somebody’s vote. You’ll do whatever it takes if you are a lost person. If you are a Christian, that’s different. We are talking about lost people, now.
Third, some people do it because of selfish interests. If you want something bad enough, you will restrain your own depravity in order to convince others so you can get what it is you want, your own selfish interests.
Or perhaps they do it because of the fear of its consequences. Do you know there are some people today, especially in the day we are living in, refusing to be immoral with someone because they are afraid of AIDS? That’s good, but folks, it has nothing to do with righteousness. It has nothing to do with spiritual life. They are just scared to death of what might happen to them, so they restrain themselves.
Just because somebody is not corrupt outwardly, don’t let that fool you. If there is no life inwardly, then he is just as depraved as the man that you can easily spot in a crowd.
People without spiritual life are lawless people. They are people who live in their transgressions, and every single thing they do misses the mark of what God requires. Day in and day out, there is no trace of spiritual life in them at all.
Well, there is one more point. I want to show you how you get this new life.
The vital signs of having spiritual life.
Let’s see how we get it first of all. Go back to Ephesians 1:13: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” After we hear the message of truth and understand it, we respond to it in belief.
What is the gospel? I Corinthians 15:2-4 tells you that Jesus Christ, the God-man, the Messiah, God’s Son, died for our sins. He shed not just human blood, not just divine blood, but divinely human blood on the cross. God accepted that. He died, rose the third day, ascended and was glorified. That is the gospel. If you are going to be spiritually alive, the life that you desperately need is wrapped up in a person. His name is Jesus.
Now, look at I John 5:12. I want to show you the vital signs. He tells you how the life comes back in. You can’t work it up. Verse 12 says, “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God, does not have the life.” It is as clear as it can be.
In 1 John there are three vital signs that I want you to see regarding this life being in Him. Look first of all in Chapter 2 verse 3. This is the first clue that a man has received Christ, and that life is working in him: “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” The first attitude of a person receiving Christ is a willingness to obey.
You have a root of willingness to obey. That doesn’t mean Christians always obey. But you cannot habitually live disobedient unto God. You may have an area that will trip you up. But at some point you will confess, repent and come back to God. Why? Because life is inside of you. It is a person. The divine seed of life is in you, and you can’t be left to do what you want to do. God will either take you out of here, or He’ll prune you.
He’ll cut you back and cut you back and cut you back until finally He disciplines. He scourges and chastens those whom He loves. He doesn’t let us get away with lawless living. You find a person who claims to know Christ and lives in sin, lives lawlessly as a habitual practice, that person does not know Christ, according to I John.
In I John 2:10-11 it says, “The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Automatically you begin to see an attitude towards God of a person with vital signs. He loves His Word, not just the promises, but the commands. But he also loves his brother. There is a brand new look that he has towards his brother in Christ. What does it mean?
I John 3:16 helps us understand what he is talking about. He says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” It’s His attitude in us. It is not just us loving. It is Christ loving in us.
In I John 5:2 we read, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.” You can’t love them until you love Him by obeying what He says.
There is one other place I want you to see. This gets more into that habitual sin problem I talked about. I John 3:6 reads, “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.” That means habitually sins, lives with sin as his lifestyle. You can have “a” sin, something that just eats on you and drives you nuts. Chapter 5 speaks of that. You deal with that, but you cannot habitually sin and claim to have spiritual life within you. We are brand new creatures in Christ.
Every now and then I choose, because of my old putrid flesh, to go back and chase after the things He saved me from. I used to know they wouldn’t satisfy. What’s wrong with me now? Am I going back to get satisfaction from what I know wouldn’t satisfy? That’s how we can be deceived by our flesh. But friend, as soon as I go back, I am most miserable of all people. I don’t know how you feel when you are convicted, but I feel like a horse has just kicked me right in the chest. I have got to do something about it. The grace and the precious blood of Jesus releases that pressure off of me. A person who can go back to it and go back to it and go back to it never left it to begin with. You see, the difference is, when you are saved, you don’t chase sin any longer. Sin chases you. That’s a big difference. That’s a huge difference. You still deal with it, but you are not after it. It is after you. That’s the difference.
The vital signs are: you have a new spirit of obedience towards Him; you love your brother, because it is Him loving in you; you don’t live habitually lawless anymore. Scripture says there is none that seeketh after God. There is none righteous, no, not one. Sometimes we doubt our salvation. If we are not saved, why are we seeking after God? That’s not the characteristics of one in his transgressions and in his sins.
Well, the definition of dead is spiritual death, not physical death. The definition or the evidence of being spiritually dead is a lawless lifestyle. Everything you do misses the mark. You know that, because when you see it hit the mark, you know immediately the difference. Sin misses the mark.
The vital signs—a life lived with obedience. When I am disobedient, I am willing to come back and repent and obey immediately. Romans 10:9 says, we confess Him, not as Savior, but as what? As Lord. That’s as clear as anything you can see in Scripture. He comes in and brings life with Him. He abides in us. Thank God, I was dead, but now have been made alive in Christ Jesus. Are you?