And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
The apostle sets forth the greatness of Divine power in man's salvation by setting forth the greatness of his sin and misery, represented under the aspect of spiritual death. Let us understand the nature of this death.
I. MARK THE EXPRESSIVENESS OF THE TERM. It is strange to find it applied to living men. But there are certain suggestive points of similarity between natural and spiritual death.
1. The dealt have all the organs of sense, but no sensibility. As the psalmist said of the idols of the heathen, so are the dead: "Eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not" (Psalm 115:5, 6). So the spiritually dead have no susceptibility in regard to the things of God; they see not the beauties of holiness; they see not God or Christ.
2. The dead drove all the machinery of motion, but the machine is at rest. So the spiritually dead have all the natural faculties of life - judgment, memory, imagination, feeling, conscience - but they are unable to renew themselves into spiritual life. The inability is not natural, but moral, and therefore sinners are responsible for it. They cannot, because they will not. "Ye will not come unto me, that ye may have life" (John 5:40).
3. The dead are cold to the touch. The living body retains its heat very much in the same manner as a fire retains its heat, and, in a very true sense, we are all literally burning out like the fuel that is consumed in our fires. The dead are cold as the grave that covers them. So are the spiritually dead; they have no warmth of Christian love going out either to God or man. Though intellectually alive to all purely worldly interests, they are coldly indifferent, or even hostile, to the interests of the kingdom of grace.
4. The dead go onward to corruption. The process of corruption may be arrested for a time by the skill of man, but it will prevail in the end, and man returns to the dust whence he came, as the spirit has returned to the God who gave it. So the spiritually dead are corrupt, constitutionally, in virtue of the sin of Adam, and they are still more corrupt through temptation to actual transgression. The absence of love to God interposes no check to the progress of corruption in a human heart. What a terrific picture is that of a dead soul!
II. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OR CONDITIONS OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. We see our dead surrounded successively by the shroud, the coffin, the hearse, the grave. So likewise the spiritually dead are surrounded by "trespasses and sins." These two expressive terms indicate, not simply the cause of death, but its conditions and circumstances.
1. Trespasses. This term is exceedingly expressive as embodying what is involved in the original term.
(1) It suggests the idea of a landmark fixed by God, which he has commanded us not to pass. Yet who can say that he has not passed the landmark? Who can say that he has not trespassed upon God's preserves? For what God had reserved for himself out of all the trees of the garden of Eden, cur first parents trespassed upon; and who among ourselves has not again and again trespassed upon that reserved territory of love wherewith God has surrounded himself and surrounded each one of our neighbors?
(2) The word suggests the further idea of a barrier which God has placed in our way, and told us that we are not to force it or pass it. There is the barrier of his Law, which he has strengthened by terrible penalties, and upon which he has inscribed his own fearful curse: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them" (Galatians 3:10). Yet who can say that he has not passed this barrier, though God's curse was inscribed upon it? There is the barrier of conscience which God has built up strongly in every man; and who can say that he has not again and again passed this barrier, often bringing the artillery of worldly advantage or pleasure to bear against it and break it down?
2. Sins. This term points to the sinful movements of the soul - sins of thought and purpose, as trespasses seem to point to the various developments of a sinful nature. The sins are the fruit of moral corruption which has its seat in the heart, and radiates thence to every department of human conduct. The principle of sin is not merely negative, for it is a positive negation of the Divine will, putting something else in its place. The term "sins would, more exactly than the other, include sins of omission, which are necessarily much more numerous than sins of commission. It is a solemn thought that men are dead in sin" by every duty they omit, by every opportunity they neglect, by every blessing they despise, as well as by every positive transgression of the Divine Law. The radical significance of both terms implies a real hostility to God, which is only brought into prominence the moment the sinful spirit comes into sharp and painful collision with the pure Law of God. This dark picture of the sinner's state suggests that
(1) we ought to mourn for the dead, as we mourn for our dear ones who are carried forth to burial;
(2) that we ought to pray for the dead, that God may grant them "a quickening together with Christ;"
(3) that we ought to warn the dead that, if they die in their trespasses and sins, they will be buried in their trespasses and sins. - T.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;