“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins. – Ephesians 2:1
In those words, the Apostle Paul is speaking of a ‘former’ state of those believers, a state of being spiritually dead. So we have to ask – former to what? Well, that is rather self-evident in the context and can only mean before they believed in Christ, since he is speaking to professing believers in Ephesus.
That begs the question:
‘Since they formerly were spiritually dead and therefore unable to deal with spiritual matters, and because believing in Christ is a spiritual matter, how did they come to believe in the first place?
Paul answers that question a little further along in the same passage of scripture:
“God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– Ephesians 2:4-5
We are always eager to give the ‘credit’ for the grace that saves us to God and God alone, and rightly so. On the other hand, we are not so quick to give God the credit for the faith we place in His Son. We read the following passage, giving God all the credit for the grace that saves us, but we take credit for placing ‘our’ faith in Christ.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:8
Concerning faith, John Gill’s commentary explains:
“through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; salvation is through faith, not as a cause or condition of salvation, or as what adds anything to the blessing itself; but it is the way, or means, or instrument, which God has appointed, for the receiving and enjoying it, that so it might appear to be all of grace; and this faith is not the produce of man’s free will and power, but it is the free gift of God; and therefore salvation through it is consistent with salvation by grace; since that itself is of grace, lies entirely in receiving grace and gives all the glory to the grace of God: the sense of this last clause may be, that salvation is not of ourselves; it is not of our desiring nor of our deserving, nor of our performing, but is of the free grace of God: though faith is elsewhere represented as the gift of God, (John 6:65) and it is called the special gift of faith, “
Yes, faith is the means by which God saves a person, but it’s not the same human faith that we are born with and exercise in all things temporal. Since before God gives us life, we are spiritually dead and totally lacking the ‘spiritual’ faith necessary to exercise toward salvation.
Do we find that spelled out in our favorite passage in Ephesians (v 8)? Not explicitly, but we are told that we have nothing about which to ‘boast’ in our salvation. If the faith that of which Paul speaks; faith that leads to true salvation, is the same human faith I was born with, and I somehow applied human logic to the issue of my eternal destiny, and ‘decided’ on my own that I would like to be saved from hell, I have reason to boast, even if it’s just a little bit and even if I did not actually boast about being smart enough to reason it all out. I would have a reason to boast if I chose to do so.
So I ask again, how dead is DEAD?