What is the spiritual condition of someone dead in sin? Is man spiritually ruined and helpless? Or does man retain some kind of inherent spiritual ability? Setting apart our human ego, and looking to what Scripture says may be uncomfortable for most, but it is vital to have a good understanding of this, as this is the basis on which the ground motive of the Bible is built.
We will examine key Scriptures around the issue, and start and end with what the Bible says, not what our human pride wants us to believe, or without interjecting philosophy.
(1) And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
(2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–
(3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
From the passage above, it is quite clear what it means:
- It is our state before being saved (in which you once walked)
- It is following the world (following the course of this world)
- It is following that which leads to evil (Prince of the power of the air, that spirit that leads to disobedience)
- It is between those spirits or influences where we all, without exception, come from (among whom we all once lived)
- It is those sins and trespasses which made us happy (in the passions of our flesh)
- It is that which ruled our lives, both in body and in mind (carrying out the desires of the body and the mind)
- It made us children of God’s judgment to damnation by its very nature (and were by nature children of wrath)
- It is true of all men, everywhere (like the rest of mankind)
This passage is written to the Christians in Ephesus, who are “faithful in Christ Jesus”. The passage describes where they came from, and it is clear that they came from where “all mankind” is, i.e. all people are dead in trespasses and sins, prior to a spiritual event of some sort.
There are several places in the Bible where it is shown that there are no exceptions, all people everywhere are affected by this:
Psa 143:2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.
Rom 11:32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
Ch 6:36 “If they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin–
Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way
Mic 7:2 The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net.
Mic 7:3 Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.
Mic 7:4 The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge.
Rom 3:9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
Rom 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
Rom 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
Rom 3:12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
1Jn 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
There are many more, but it is clear from the Bible that we are all indeed sinful, and so spiritually “ungood” that we are regarded as spiritually dead, and unable to seek God. But what about retaining some little part of goodness, deep down, that will enable us to reach out and seek God (even though Rom 3:11 above says that no-one can do that)? Again the Bible cannot be more clear:
Mar 7:20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.
Mar 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,
Mar 7:22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
Mar 7:23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
“From within” is that which comes from man’s very nature, and it is a scary list of sin that comes from inside. But still, you may argue, that does not preclude some little part of goodness somewhere in those depths of depravity? Again the Bible is very clear…every faculty of man is corrupt:
Tit 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
Gen 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Rom 7:17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Rom 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
It is clear that man in his natural state, as an unbeliever, has nothing pure in his heart, only evil. What then, is the consequence of this inherent evil? It is slavery to evil. Remember, slaves are not able to do what they want, they are captive to their master. In the case of the human spirit in it’s natural state, that master is sin, and by implication, the evil one. Once again, we turn to Scripture to see what it says:
Joh 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
Rom 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Rom 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Again, it is clear that the human spirit is being held captive by sin. The assertion is often made that man can start the change in himself, or by his own will. We turn once again to what Scripture says:
Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
1Sa 24:13 As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’
Rom 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Psa 10:3 For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.
Psa 10:4 In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
Joh 3:20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
By this time it should be clear that man in his natural state is indeed spiritually dead, seeks nothing but evil, and can do nothing to please God. Yet we still have those that maintain that man, being a spiritual being, can understand the gospel and come to a saving understanding of God. Even though that is absurd in light of what we have seen previously, we will look at what the Bible has to say on that issue:
1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Deu 29:4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.
So man cannot even accept that which comes from God, simply because in his natural state, he is utterly incapable of understanding it. But despite all of the preceding, some still assert that God has made it possible for every person on the planet to come to repentance and salvation, if only they, as natural men, will choose God, or allow Him into their lives. What does Scripture say?
Mat 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Joh 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.
Joh 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,
Joh 14:17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
Joh 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
Joh 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Joh 6:65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Rom 9:13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Rom 9:14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
Rom 9:15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
Rom 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
Php 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
Php 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Man is utterly powerless in his natural state to even seek God. He cannot, by his own natural will or corrupt nature reach out to God and understand what is put before him. It is only God that can make the change in man necessary to understand God:
Eze 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
Eze 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
As we started with the letter to the Ephesians, describing their deadness in their sins, we will conclude with what caused them to become holy (saints), and faithful in Christ:
Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–
Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Even though man is dead, God makes him alive. That is because of God’s mercy and love alone, not some inherent or natural goodness in man, but purely because of God’s mercy. He saves us from our sin every day, making us alive with and in Christ. Not only are we made alive, but we are raised to be with Christ in peace. Our salvation is not to show how good or great we are, but to demonstrate the greatness of Christ, the greatness of His love and mercy towards us, His children.
None of that is any of our doing. Not our reaching out, crying out or seeking God. Not some inherent faith or some wild happening of fate. It is purely because it is a loving and merciful gift from the almighty God.
To God be all the glory.