Summary: Paul describes how the choice to choose Christ as Savior is the difference between life and death.
Mount Whitney in California is the highest spot in the continental United States (14,495 feet). As you gaze from what can seem to be the top of the world, only eighty miles to the southeast is Death Valley, the lowest spot in the United States at 280 feet below sea level and the hottest place in the country with a record 134 degrees in the shade! What a contrast! One place is the top of the world, the other the bot¬tom. One place is perpetually cool, the other relentlessly hot. From Mt. Whitney you look down on all of life. From Death Valley you can only look up to the rest of the world.
Paul draws a similar contrast for us in our passage for today. In these verses, Paul takes us from the lowest depths of despair to the highest reaches of joy, and tells us that the difference between being a Christian and not being a Christian is the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
1. The depths of death - vs. 1-3
Paul begins with a description of the state of spiritual death that people are in without Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
A. The fact of spiritual death - v. 1
All who are without Christ (the source of all life) are spiritually dead. Which means, of course, that they are ineffective when it comes to ever being able to attain a right relationship with God: for dead people can’t do anything!
The nineteenth century philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, said in his will that when he died his entire estate was to be given to the University College Hospital in London on the condition that his body be preserved and placed in attendance at all the hospital’s board meetings. And that’s exactly what was done. His body sits in a chair, dressed in early nineteenth century gentleman’s wear. Every year to this day Bentham is wheeled up to the board table and the chairman says, “Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting.” Jeremy Bentham will never raise his hand in response, he will never submit a motion - because he has been dead for nearly a hun¬dred and sixty years.
The fact is, dead people can’t do anything, and that is what Paul is talking to us about - the spiritual state of those apart from Christ.
Spiritual death, spiritual inability to properly relate to God, being totally unable to do anything with respect to pleasing God or to earn His favor - that is the state of all who will not come to God as He says they must - through faith in Christ.
Far from the city of Jerusalem, Israeli postal workers sort through huge piles of undeliverable mail. Included among these dead letters are many addressed to God. Some have been forwarded to foreign postal workers who think someone in Israel might know what to do with them. Eventually, all of these petitions to God end up at a recycling plant in central Israel.
Unless one’s approach to God is through faith in Christ and acceptance of His sacrifice for our sins at Calvary, they are sure to have the same fate as those dead letters in Israel. Apart from Christ, all are spiritually dead.
B. The forces behind spiritual death - vs. 2-3a
Paul mentions three enemies of those who aren’t right with God - the world, the flesh, and the Devil.
1) The world - v. 2a
The world refers to the system of selfish thought that is predominate in our culture. It is the enemy around us.
2) The flesh - v. 3a
The flesh refers to our selfish, sinful nature. It is the enemy within us.
3) The Devil - v. 2b
The Devil is the selfish spirit - the fallen angel who orchestrates the work of evil in the world around us. “The ruler of the kingdom of the air,” is the enemy above us.
They all work together to deceive people into thinking that everything is O.K. and that they don’t need to consider the claims of Christ. A person can live for himself, think for himself, and die unto himself, never needing to give consideration to the spiritual realities explained in the Bible.
There was once a man who thought he was physically dead, but he was very much alive. The persuasion of his wife, family, doctors, and friends had no effect upon his crazy idea that he was actually dead. The doctor, almost to the point of desperation, hit upon a idea. The man came to the doctor’s office. Sitting across the table from the doctor, the physician asked, “Do you believe that dead men bleed?” The man who thought he was dead considered the question only for a moment and replied, “No, I don’t believe that dead men bleed.”