Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dead, Part 2 of 3

In examining the phrase translated “dead in your trespasses,” we find the Greek text having “dead” (νεκρους) as an adverb to οντας (stative verb), which means that deadness here is the defining characteristic of the state of being. Scripture teaches that death is not limited to bodily existence, but is a way of describing the relationship between one state of being and its opposite. In the parable of the prodigal son the father exclaims, “my son was dead, and is alive again (Luke 15:24),” meaning that his absence was death, but his presence was life. Jesus told a hesitant disciple, “leave the dead to bury their own dead (Matthew 8:22),” indicating that to follow Him was life and to stay behind was death. Paul exhorts believers to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11)” because Jesus “died to sin (v. 10)” so that believers would no longer be enslaved to it (v. 18). Each context defines death not by the absence of physical life, but by the worst possible condition compared to the desired state of being. Therefore when Paul uses this term in our primary texts, he depicts the worst possible condition the unbeliever could be in due to his trespasses, sins, and the uncircumcision of his flesh.

Paul states the first condition of the unbeliever in Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1 (the latter in hendiadys) that the unbeliever is “dead in trespasses.” According to Bauder, παραπτωμασιν (trespasses) “emphasizes strongly the deliberate act … with its fateful consequences.” Many passages substantiate this by inferring intentional sins such as Matthew 6:14, 15 and Romans 5:15-21. This second passage is worth considering. In it Paul makes the direct correlation of “one man’s [Adam’s] trespass [παραπτωμασιν]” to the result that “many died.” Put another way, “by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners (5:19).” The end result is that “sin reigned in death (5:21).” Yet Adam’s sin perpetuated to all people such that none could blame Adam for their own death: “death spread to all men because all sinned (5:12).” Therefore Adam’s παραπτωμασιν began the cycle of death, but each person’s own παραπτωμασιν continues the cycle of death. This is what it means to be “dead in trespasses.” The question then becomes “how does παραπτωμασιν (trespasses) relate to ἁμαρτία (sins) in Ephesians 2:1?”