Death is a state of separation. PHYSICAL DEATH is separation of body and spirit (Jas. 2:26). The spirit lives on, and so God could say of long deceased Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, "I am their God" (Exo. 3:6). Moses and Elijah, long dead physically, talked with Jesus in His transfiguration (Matt. 17:3). How then can anyone who believes the Bible say that physical death is the cessation of all life, as som religious people claim? Even so, SPIRITUAL DEATH is separation from God (Isa. 59:1,2). Paul said: "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died" (Rom. 7:9). Sin produced death in Paul at that earlier time in his life (Rom. 7:13). Deliverance from that death was through Christ (Rom. 7:24,25). This deliverance was accomplished through reconciliation to God so that Paul was no longer separated from God (2 Cor. 5:18,19). So it is with us today.
We are all dead and alive. We are either dead in sin or alive unto God. If we are living is sin with its dominion over us, then we are dead. If through Christ we put to death the sinful life, then we are live unto God (Rom. 6:11). This newness of life is gained in Christ through our obedience to God by faith when we are baptized into the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6). Since we are all dead and alive in one of the two situations, we should recognize that spiritual death does not render us unconscious or incapable of action. Here we can see one of the errors of Calvinism. If, when we have died to sin, we are still continually tempted by it, then why, when we are dead in sin, can we not hear and heed the appeal of the gospel to repent and be converted without a miraculous operation of the Spirit to enable us? Peter told people who had been convinced by the preached message concerning Christ: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). They had not, at that point, received either the Holy Spirit as a gift or salvation as the gift of the Spirit, for Peter said: "ye shall receive" it, conditioned upon their repentance and baptism. They were dead in trespasses, yet they were told to do something about it. This indicates that they were capable of doing something about their condition, else the commandment was vain.
Now, consider the lives of the saints. Paul told people who had died to sin when they obeyed the gospel to "put to death" their members which were on the earth: "fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). This he said to people who had put off "the old man with his deeds" and had "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col. 3:9,10). These were people who had been dead but had been made alive together with Him through their faith and obedience to Christ (Col. 2:9-15). To the Ephesians, Paul included ALL as having once been dead in trespasses and sins, but he asserted that God had made them alive together with Christ through faith in Him (Eph. 2:1-22). Christians are Christians because they "have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" yet they must constantly guard themselves against the temptations of sin (Gal. 5:18-6:5). We must "let not sin reign" in our lives (Rom. 6:12).
Now, the practical questions are these: Are we alive to sin and thus dead, separated from God; or are we alive to God and dead to sin? God has made us capable of choosing and has provided the way of escape from death in sin through Jesus Christ, if we will believe in Him and obey Him (Heb. 5:8,9). What do we choose?
By Gilbert Alexander
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