We were dead (not just sick, not just dying) in our sins. We were helpless apart from the saving work of Christ. He came not to save the righteous, but to save sinners – even the chief of sinners. So why do we bristle so much at this notion? The short answer is that we probably have more of the world in ourselves than we care to admit. The world resists the simple message of the gospel, and these objections manage to trickle their way into the church, to our shame.
In his book The Gospel-Driven Life, Michael Horton makes this vivid observation:
“Picking up on a phrase from Augustine, the Protestant Reformers said that as fallen sinners we are all ‘curved in on ourselves.’ Born with a severe case of spiritual scoliosis, our spines are twisted so that all we can see are our own immediate felt needs, desires, wants, and momentary gratifications. But the gospel makes us stand erect, looking up to God in faith and out to the world and our neighbors in love and service. Not every piece of news can do that, but the gospel can.”
But do we really believe this? Perhaps the Reformers, et al, have made too much of this. Perhaps we are a little fallen, like wobbly toddlers, but not that fallen. Perhaps we have just enough life to pick ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps and blaze our own spiritual trail unto salvation.
But then, on the other hand, the Apostle Paul makes the following statements:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”(Ephesians 2:1)
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
We were dead (not just sick, not just dying) in our sins.