What Does it Mean to Be Spiritually Dead? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman on May 7, 2012 · Print Print · Email Email

We see many who profess faith in Christ yet do not live like Christians.  Are they spiritually dead?  What does this mean if we are not spiritually alive?  Is there guidance in the Bible where we can know if we or someone we know is spiritually dead?

The Spiritually Dead Church

The Bible does speak about a spiritually dead church and we must presume that this dead church is full of dry bones or spiritually dead members.  They might confess their sins, they might profess their faith but the question is do they possess this faith?  Anyone can confess, anyone can profess, but it is an altogether different thing to possess something.  In the message to the Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation, it is Jesus Himself that speaks to them.  In Revelation 3:14-20 it says:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.  Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Is the 20th and 21st Century church that Jesus is speaking about?  This church is neither hot nor cold.  If they were hot, we must assume that this means that they are seeking to please God and their deeds would prove it.  We could understand that a Christian that is on-fire for Christ would be reading their Bible, prayer often, give generously, and be striving to seek a holy life.  On the other hand, a cold Christian would be one that is callous to those in need around them, rarely pick up a Bible, pray only when they are in a crisis, and from the viewpoint of the world, look no different from the unbelievers around them.  Christ would rather have a Christian like this or one that is on fire instead of one that is a mixture of both.   Being a mixture of both is living a Christian life of duplicity, of hypocrisy, and is anything but authentic.  They are playing church so to speak.  The original language for “spit you out” could be better rendered as “vomit you out.”  As gross as this sounds, this lukewarm church appears to make Jesus sick to His stomach.  It’s like taking a drink of cool coffee or warm pop.  It does not leave a good taste in the mouth and is instead, rather disgusting.

What Does it mean to be spiritually dead

A Christian who is living like a Christian will be bearing good fruit

The Spiritually Dead Christian

One of the greatest tests to examine ourselves to see whether we are still in the faith is to read what I call the two “love chapters.”  These are 1 Corinthians 13 and Romans 12.  Galatians 6:4 is a great example where Paul actually says that we should each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”  What does Paul mean?  What is the standard to which we should examine ourselves?  Surely it is not by comparing ourselves to one another but by the works that we do as to whether they are good or evil. Christ of course is the gold standard by which we ought to compare ourselves and we all will be found wanting.  Paul continues his thought in Galatians 6:7-10, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Paul says that we must show care to not be deceived, indicating that this is possible.  Sin hardens a person’s heart and this sin allows even more sin to creep in, ever so slowly, like the frog in the pot on the stove…as the heat is turned up, the frog sees nothing wrong until he boils in his own environment.  He doesn’t realize that the heat is being turned up because it is happening so slowly.  Instead, the frog should have realized that he was being cooked and jumped out before it was too late.  This is the deceitfulness of sin.

Note that Paul says that we can actually mock God by not realizing that whatever we sow, we will most certainly reap.  If we sow to the flesh (sin) then we will certainly reap corruption of the flesh.  On the other hand, if we sow to the Spirit (being guided and lead by the Holy Spirit I believe is what he means), we will reap everlasting life and reap what we have sown in the “due season” of the harvest.

What Fruit is Being Born

A Christian who is living like a Christian will be bearing good fruit.  To bear good fruit, we must be abiding in the Vine.  Any vineyard worker knows this.  The True Vine is Jesus Christ.  Listen to what Jesus tells us in John 15:1-8,I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [literally, means “cleans” of which I love the original meaning] so that it will be even more fruitful.  You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  Interestingly, the vine is a symbol of the nation Israel.  Vine images were even on the temple and God calls Israel His vine (Isaiah 5).  Jesus is saying that if we remain in Him and He in us, we will bear fruit because we can not bear any fruit on our own.  However, if we remain in the vine, we will bear fruit and this fruit is evidence that we are not spiritually dead.

Jesus continues in verses 5-8,  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  Jesus is called the Word in John chapter one.  We could render this that if we remain in Him, He Who is the Word, and the Word of God is the Bible, He will remain in us; but only if we abide in Him (the vine) and continue to abide or reside in the Bible.  There is a grim reminder for those branches that do not remain in the vine…they are gathered together and burned!  If we do remain in His word, a blessing also comes as Jesus said because we can ask whatever we wish (in God’s will that is) “and it will be done for” us.  This seems to be saying that if we remain in Him and His Word, we can ask God for anything that is within His will and it will be granted to us (v 7).  If we don’t remain attached to and abide in the vine, we will wither (v 6).  Eventually a withering branch is only good for a burn pile.

Examine Yourself

To see if you are truly spiritually alive or spiritually dead, take Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 11:27-32:  So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.  For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.  That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.  But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.  Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.” If we don’t examine ourselves before we partake in the Body of Christ (the Lord‘s Supper or Communion), we can “eat and drink judgment” to ourselves.  That is why Paul was warning the church at Corinth that “many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [meaning they have died!].  What can a spiritually dead person do?  “If we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment.” Paul’s imperative command, not a hope-you-will-do-this saying, is that we examine ourselves, abide in the Vine (Jesus Christ and His Word, the Bible),  bear much fruit, and then and only then, can we “ask whatever [we] wish, and it will be done for [us].  That is to say our prayers will be answered.  And what better evidence is there that we are spiritually alive than God answering our prayers.   That is my prayer for whoever reads this.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Therese Christensen May 7, 2012 at 6:44 am

I would very much like to know where I can get the articles: 7 spiritual growth tips

Spiritual attacks
Putting on the armor of God
How to show Grace to others-10 ways

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Jack May 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Thank you for your question Therese. Here is a link to the seven spiritual growth tips:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/7-spiritual-growth-tips/

Here is a link for Spiritual Attacks which is also Putting on the Armor of God at:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/spiritual-attacks-putting-on-the-armor-of-god/

Finally, here is the How to Show Grace to Others – 10 Ways at:

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-show-grace-to-others/

By the way, anytime you need an article to read, please type these into the Search Box and they will direct you to them. Thank you for visiting us Therese.

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Jacob Bull May 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Hi, Im Jacob Bull and im 14 years old me and my girlfriend have a question about why god takes our loved ones away. My girlfriend askes if god loves you so much, why does he take the people you love the most away from

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Jacob Bull May 9, 2012 at 9:24 pm

*you

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Jack May 9, 2012 at 9:27 pm

These are things that only God knows…one man who lost his little baby said to me at the funeral that God wants to also people heaven and perhaps He is sparing them from some terrible disease or painful illness or cancer that would be unbearable. God loves us so much that He sent His completely innocent Son to die for us who are not innocent. I am so sorry that this does happen. If they die in the faith, they are really not dead however. God is the God of the living and not the dead.

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Jacob Bull May 10, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Thank you for answering my question.

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Jack May 10, 2012 at 9:25 pm

My pleasure Jacob. Please come back again soon and you are always welcome, even if the answer from me is “I just don’t know.” Thank you for your question my friend.

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Delight May 10, 2012 at 6:46 am

I was inspired,touched and blessed by this amazing writeup! God bless you and may more grace abound!

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Jack May 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Thank you so much Delight. Say, I just love that name for it reminds me of the Psalms which say that we can delight in God’s Law and He will give us the desires of our hearts. God bless you my friend. Please do come back again soon.

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Daniel May 12, 2012 at 9:17 am

Hi, thanks for your work.

I have heard a lot of people using the phrase “spiritually dead”, but have not read any evidence for the existence of the term. Where does the term for spiritual death come from. In a simple search of older bibles there is no such phrase. Where are the proof texts for Spiritually dead?

Can you point me to an article that proves this?

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Jack May 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Thank you Daniel for your comment. I have no article to point to this Daniel but I am referring to those in the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:14-20 who were lukewarm and they were “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” and yet did not even know it. They are in spiritual depravity. Do you see what I mean Daniel. Perhaps I could have given the article a different title perhaps “The Lukewarm Christian” or something like that. I accept responsibility for that and I am sorry but do hope you will see where I was coming from.

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Christine Guzay May 14, 2012 at 8:44 am

Awesome,thank you;)

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Pamela Rose Williams May 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Thanks for stopping by Christine, Jack is an excellent writer and a fellow brother in Christ. And since I know Jack reads and generally replies to most every comment I want him to know I love this lady — she is not only my sister in Christ, she is my biological baby sister too. She loves our site Jack and I would not be surprised if she is building a “hard copy” book of articles to she can study them out. God is good!

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Jack May 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Wow….how cool is that. Truly she is a sister, not only one in Christ either. Love it! <><

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Adriana May 23, 2012 at 10:19 pm

Hello,

I was wondering what one should do if we have been feeling spiritually dead and the hunger to once know God is fading away. This is happening to me now and I do not enjoy feeling like this. I feel guilty every time I pray and I’ve been out of church for awhile and I miss that closeness I once shared with the Lord. I know it is not He who moved, it is I but I just want to know the steps it will take into rekindling this relationship.

Thank you.

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Daniel May 24, 2012 at 7:06 am

Adriana, being spiritually dead is different to being under condemnation for having fallen from Christ. If you are spiritually dead, most people would say that you are, in fact, not saved.
But to answer your question…
What brought you to Christ in the first place?
Or better, what keeps you from Christ? *Sin*.
Your conscience needs to be purified from sin, so you need to remind yourself of why Christ died. And as Christ said to those who were repentant, go and sin no more… Sin will keep you from Christ, but better still, Christ will keep you from sin. Staying “in Christ” is what a “Christ-in” is. Read over Hebrews, especially 9 and 10. The engrafted word (meditated, memorised) will save your soul.

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Jack May 24, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hello Adriana. Daniel did a great job at answering this. Truly for me, I must be in the Bible every day. If we get into the Word of God the Word of God will get into us. Those who have worn, tattered Bibles are the ones that have it most together, at least spiritually. I try to pray 3 times a day and discipline myself to read the Bible at least every day. I also love to hear other pastors’ sermons and fasting is a great way to be drawing closer to God. I believe when you get back into church, that flame will start to rekindle. I recommend a great Bible-believing, Christ-centered, Jesus-glorifying church. If any of these three are missing, find another church.

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Adriana May 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Thank you both so much for replying and what you say is very true. If not consistently and actively pursuing a relationship with God, it’s so easy for our seed to be choked by things of this world. So I realize I just need to get back in church and pursue God with all I’ve got.

Thank you and blessings! (:

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Daniel May 25, 2012 at 3:58 am

Now, maybe I wasn’t that clear. You need to get “in Christ” and get “into his word” (which is nearly the same thing). But getting yourself back “in church” will not get you saved nor keep you saved. It’s not church that saves – Christ alone is the way to God. Going to a sound church does make a difference. Or better, fellowshipping with sound believers…
BUT look at Christ’s “altar-call” or sermon climax at the end of his most famous “Sermon-on-the-mount” (Matt 7). AND at the end of his last sermon specifically to his closest disciples. (Matt 24-25). He said… “I never knew you”. And he was talking to church-”believers”.
The bible also encourages us to flee sin, and pursue righteousness (rather than pursuing God – as such). Getting “In Christ” and “In his word” will help you. Rather than connecting to your local “Man-fellowship”, connect to God through his word. (And find some people who love doing the same – getting into Christ and his word.)

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Adriana May 27, 2012 at 12:26 am

Wow thank you. that’s where I went wrong the first time… going to church and bible studies for the word of God instead of wholeheartedly seeking Him by myself, as well as trying to remain in this world and be spiritual simultaneously.

Now that you clarify, it is the personal relationship that I must establish with God that will set me on a straighter path to righteousness rather than the church itself. The church is only an element to the closeness I can share with God.

Thank you so much for helping me to identify reasons why my relationship with Christ is suffering and steps I can take to really grow spiritually.

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Jack Wellman May 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Wow Adriana. What a beautiful post. I can sense your humility and humbleness in your desire to know God better and to grow in grace and knowledge. I surely wish I had such women of faith like you in the church that I pastor at. Oh that we had more believers like you who strive to know God better. God bless you my friend and thank you so much. How encouraging are your remarks.

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Cynthia June 26, 2014 at 11:41 am

Several years ago like 45 or so I believed I may have committed the only sin that cannot be forgiven for it had to do with the Lord’s Supper and I was young but knew who Jesus was and what He had done for us and is still doing. I was so horrible that I knew at that time I had sinned very very badly and against my Lord and Savior it was something sexual about the blood of the Lamb and trying to impress upon a person said something about drinking from my lord meaning him and then afterwards went to church and still go to church and Bible studies and do love the Lord Jesus , He means everything thing to me and this has haunted me so much. I am involved in Bible studies and attend a Bible based church with my husband of 36 yrs. and yes he is a very lover of Jesus. He loves the Lord and when I finally told him about the sin, it wasnot with him, he got angry and told me I thought I was the only one that could not be forgiven? He was really saying I have asked repeatedly for forgiveness from Jesus for this sin but I don’t think my husband realises that I have sinned against The Holy One and Him only. I have repented and told the Lord that I love Him and will continue to love Him and ask His for giveness till the day I die. I did read about when you sin against God only and not against another person that is the eternal sin. I feel horrible and condemned forever. Is this the sin that is spoken of as the sin that our Lord Jesus cannot forgive? Is there anything I can do? So many years ago but so much damage I did.

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Jack Wellman June 26, 2014 at 11:50 am

Cynthia, thank you for your honest comment. Anyone that is worried about committing an unpardonable or unforgiveable sin has surely not committed it because only a person who is worried about sin has room to be forgiven. The person who is not truly saved could care less about their sin but the evidence you show by worrying about it reveals clear testimony to the fact that you have the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin (John 16:8). How many of your sins were still ahead of you when Christ died? The answer is all of them! I urge you to talk to your pastor today even if its over the phone. Also, we have an article that addresses what is the unforgivable or unpardonable sin at this link: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/what-is-the-unforgivable-sin-a-biblical-analysis/ You are not condemned. Then, after you have read that read this: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/how-to-forgive-yourself-a-christian-commentary/ because then you have to learn to forgive yourself. I pray it helps and pray for you Cynthia. You are not lost or beyond forgiveness.

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