The Spiritually Dead main image

The Spiritually Dead and the Image of God

6 September 2021

4.7 MINS

Christians are continually confronted with the rampant unbelief and hardheartedness of spiritual deadness in our day. Nonetheless, Christ is continuing to work; He is faithful to make even the spiritually dead alive in Him!

Say That Again!

Envision this scenario:

A Christian panellist on the ABC’s Q&A program shares the truth of the Word of God on an issue. His point is met with applause from the audience; however, the eyes of some of the other panellists seem simply to just glaze over.


Having misunderstood the Christian’s point, still other panellists retort with either flippancy or scorn. The next question from the celebrated host doesn’t seem to flow on from the previous question.

What is going on here? Sometimes it almost seems as though people aren’t speaking the same language!

Ever Seeing and Ever Hearing

Jesus experienced this phenomenon many times from His hearers, even when He performed miracles and spoke the very words of eternal life. On one occasion, He quoted Isaiah to describe the paradox of those who were not ready to receive the spiritual truth that He came to share.

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13).

In doing so, Jesus gives us an insight into the condition of spiritual deadness. People in Jesus’ time, as in our own, willingly reject the truth despite the evidence.

Because of their constant unbelief, people eventually experience the hardening of their hearts. God does this simply to confirm their own choices.

Isaiah wrote:

“He [God] has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts.”
~ John 12:40a,41

What Went Wrong?

Mankind was created in the image of God as an eternal being. Nonetheless, eternal life was conditional on obedience to the command that man should not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God said,

“When you eat of it, you will surely die.”
~ Genesis 2:17

Tragically, Adam and Eve chose to sin by disobeying God’s command.

Paul writes of the tragic result for mankind, saying:

“Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,
and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
~ Romans 5:12

Sin causes a distinct contrast between who God intended us to be — as His image-bearers — and who we have become: His enemies. It leads to both physical and spiritual death.

Everybody’s Spiritual Condition

The Rev Dr John Stott writes:

“The death that Paul refers to is a factual statement of everybody’s spiritual condition outside Christ … which included ourselves until God had mercy on us.”

For many, this statement about the ‘deadness’ of non-Christian people does not seem to square with the everyday experience. All of us see people who make no Christian profession, but who appear very much alive and do wonderful things. Are we to say that such people are dead?

Stott answers:

“Yes, indeed, we must and do say this very thing. For in the sphere that matters supremely (which is neither the body, nor the mind, nor the personality, but the soul) they have no life. … They are as unresponsive to him [God] as a corpse.”

Spiritual death is the condition of being separated and alienated from the living God because of sin.

Their Hearts are Hardened Against God

Those who are spiritually dead CANNOT please God. Paul writes:

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

Without the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, our hearts are hardened, and we live in the futility of our thinking. Everything we do is rebellion against God and is displeasing to Him.

They are Blind to the Glory of Jesus

Those who are spiritually dead CANNOT see the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Again Paul writes:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
~ 2 Corinthians 4:4

The Gospel is declared to everyone. But Satan as “the god of this age.” has blinded the spiritually dead who don’t believe in Christ “who is the image of God”. Jesus said:

“For judgment I have come into this world,
so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
~ John 9:39

Although many were shocked that Jesus considered them spiritually blind, Jesus said that it was only spiritual blindness that could explain their stubbornness and stupidity. Adamant in their claim that they could see, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were “guilty of sin”. (John 9:41)

To those who remain open and recognise how sin has truly blinded them from knowing the truth, Jesus provides spiritual understanding and insight.

They are Deaf to the Voice of the Holy Spirit

Those who are spiritually dead CANNOT understand the things of God. Paul again writes:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
~ 1 Corinthians 2:14

We should not be surprised when people are not able to grasp spiritual truth, no matter how clearly it may have been presented.

From Death to Life

Nevertheless, what the spiritually dead CANNOT do for themselves, God is more than able. Jesus explains how the spiritually dead can escape death and receive eternal life. He said:

“Whoever hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. … a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.”
~ John 5:24-25

In saying that the dead will hear His voice, Jesus was talking about the spiritually dead who will hear, understand, and see Him as the Son of God.

Our role is to keep sharing Jesus’ words of life and praying that God, by His Spirit, will continue to soften hardened hearts. Only in this way can the spiritually dead receive God’s mercy and be saved.


Merciful Heavenly Father, We come to you on behalf of those who are separated and alienated from You because of sin. We ask that in Your mercy You would rescue them, knowing that Your desire is that none should perish.

Thank You, Jesus, that You came into the world so that the blind would see. We stand against the work of Satan who has blinded the eyes and blocked the ears and hardened the hearts of all the sons of Adam.

In the Name of Jesus, we ask that You, by Your Holy Spirit, will enable the spiritually dead to see, hear, and believe in Jesus, for Your Son said “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

[Photos: Mike Chai; Pixabay; Jackson David on Pexels]

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