Dead in Trespasses and Sins

Edward Hendrie

            What about faith? Some may ask: doesn’t a person have to be smart enough, educated enough, good enough, to believe in Jesus? The Holy Bible states that faith is a gift from God. We, who are saved, were at one time dead in sin, but God, through his Holy Spirit, made us alive by his glorious grace. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1. It is not possible for a dead man to do anything, a dead man cannot even have faith, he must be made alive again. Man does not have it in him to come to Jesus; God must draw him.

            Arminian preacher David Cloud, however, believes that man is able to come to Christ of his own free will. Cloud is the founder of Way of Life Literature, which he describes as a “fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry.” Endnote Cloud also runs the Fundamental Baptist information Service. Way of Life Publishes The Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity and The Advanced Bible Studies Series. Way of Life also publishes The Fundamental Baptist Digital Library, which is Composed of approximately 3,500 select books. Endnote Way of Life has produced bible study materials in over 12 languages. “In 1984, Way of Life began publishing O TIMOTHY MAGAZINE, a monthly publication with the aim of urging preachers to stand for the truth and to resist error.” Endnote Cloud proudly portrays himself as an expert in Christian doctrine. His website states: “Cloud has spent an average of at least six hours per day in study since his conversion in 1973. He has built a 6,000-volume research library.” Endnote Let’s examine what all of Cloud’s study and writing has produced.

            Cloud thinks that it is heresy to believe that man is totally unable to come to Christ of his own free will.


Well, if we are going to take the “dead man” analogy literally, a dead man can’t sin either. When the Bible says the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins it means that he is separated from God’s divine life because of sin. To take this analogy beyond the actual teaching of the Bible and to give it other meanings, such as to reason that since the sinner is dead in trespasses and sins he must not be able to believe, is to move from truth to heresy. Endnote

            Cloud explains his view of man’s ability to believe in Jesus of his own free will.


The Bible teaches that man is morally corrupt (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18) and dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), but it nowhere teaches that man cannot respond to the gospel. When I have challenged Calvinists to provide me with even one verse that says man is dead in trespasses and sins in SUCH A MANNER that he cannot even believe the gospel, they have never provided such a verse. Endnote (emphasis in original)

            It is not clear to whom Cloud talked, but his claim of challenging others to prove the total inability of man to come to Christ is probably a myth, since all Cloud needed to do was read his bible during one of his 6 hour study sessions and that truth would have jumped out at him. John 6:44 makes it clear that man is unable to come to Jesus without God the Father drawing him. “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Id. The bible is clear that salvation is not by the “will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13.

            Cloud’s blindness to the plain meaning of the words in the bible seems to be endemic among Arminians. For example, Dr. John G. Mitchell ignores the plane meaning of John 6:44 and twists it to conform to his Arminian theology:


Now please don’t take John 6:44 - “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” - out of its context to stress the sovereignty of God and to deny the free will of man. ... There are some who believe that God is going to save only those He has predestined to save. The have no choice in the matter because He has elected them. The bible doesn’t teach that. Endnote

            The bible expressly teaches the very thing that Dr. Mitchell denies. Notice how Dr. Mitchell left out the operative language in John 6:44: “and I will raise him up at the last day.” By ignoring that clause, Mitchell is able to construct a theology whereby God draws everyone in the world. However, with that clause read in context, it is clear to any reader that all who are drawn by the Father will be raised up on the last day. There will be none among the drawn who will be lost. See John 6:37-39. To be saved, one must be drawn; all who are drawn will be raised up on the last day. Hence, the Father only draws those whom he has elected for salvation. Read in its entirety and in context, John 6:44 renders the Arminian theology impossible.

            Being in the first graduating class from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1927, Dr. Mitchell was among the first of a torrent of Arminian preachers from that institution to spread their error throughout the country and indeed the world. Dr. Mitchell went on to be the founder of Multnomah School of the Bible.

            Returning to Cloud, he seems to think that man can be “morally corrupt” and “dead in trespasses and sins” and “spiritually blind” and yet still have the capacity to believe the gospel of his own free will. Sadly, Cloud’s Arminian theology is very popular. “Cloud has preached in more than 550 churches in every State of the Union except one and in many foreign countries.” Endnote Cloud is blind to the meaning of the passages he has cited. The very passages cited by Cloud make the point that “man is dead in trespasses and sins in such a manner that he cannot even believe the gospel.”

            The entire theme of the bible is that it is because man is dead in trespasses and sins that he cannot believe in Jesus without the intervention of God. Cloud cites Ephesians 2:1, and admits that man is spiritually dead, but he denies the truth of the passage, which is that the spiritual death is an impediment to man believing in Jesus. When reading the verse in context, it is clear that man needs God to make him spiritually alive, so that man can believe in him. The passage clearly refers to the quickening of our spirits by God. Cloud ignores God’s quickening and represents the passage as only meaning that man is spiritually dead. He ignores the fact that man is so completely dead that God mus intervene to make them spiritually alive. According to Cloud’s theology it is unnecessary for God to spiritually quicken his elect, because they can come to Christ on their own.


And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:1-8 AV)

            Cloud further cites to Romans 3:10-18, but he seems to suggest that those verses only mean that man is morally corrupt. Man is certainly morally corrupt, but he is much worse off than that. Cloud fails to mention that Romans 3:11 states clearly that no one seeks God. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” (Romans 3:11 AV) If none seek after God, then it must be God that seeks after men. In fact, man is so completely lost and helpless it was necessary for God to redeem us by being crucified and then to justify us totally by his grace. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24 AV)

            Cloud cites 1 Corinthians 2:14, but dismisses it as a proof that man is unable of his own free will to come to Jesus. Cloud admits that the verse describes the spiritual blindness of man, but somehow he doe not think that spiritual blindness is an impediment to belief. The passage is clear proof that the spiritual blindness makes man unable to receive or understand the gospel. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 AV)

            God must give his elect a new spiritual heart to receive and understand the gospel. In fact, the two preceding passages make a distinction between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God. It is only through the intervention of the Holy Spirit that man can believe in Jesus. The gift of the Holy Spirit is freely given by God to his elect.


Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13 AV)

            Cloud seems to think that God wasted his time giving us his Holy Spirit; man can believe in Jesus without God having to intervene to spiritually born him anew. According to Cloud, man is capable of coming to Jesus through his own free will.

            In addition to misrepresenting the scope and import of bible passages, the preachers of the Arminian gospel take scripture passages out of context. They wrongfully divide God’s word. The bible admonishes against such ungodly tactics. God states that if you quote his word, it should be properly done. We are to rightly divide his word, otherwise it subverts the hearers of his word.


Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; (2 Timothy 2:14-17 AV)

            An example of this is the practice of the promoters of the anti-gospel, who quote Philippians 2:12 out of context to give the appearance that the bible supports their view that man must of his own free will believe in Jesus and thereafter make certain that they do not lose their faith. Endnote According to their anti-gospel, the faith they have in Jesus is theirs, and therefore they can choose to reject Christ at any time and lose their salvation. Such a one must work daily to maintain his faith and not fall away to damnation.

            An example of a theologian wrongly dividing Philippians 2:12 to support the Arminian theology is found in Dan Corner’s criticism of Charles Spurgeon’s defense of the perseverance of Christians. Corner cites Philippians 2:12 as authority to support his Arminian theology that man can lose his salvation.


Furthermore, as already cited, Spurgeon wrote:


“It must be a very commendable thing in them [Christians who believe they can fall from grace] to be able to get through a day without despair.”


But Paul and the other early Christians were not overcome with despair, as Spurgeon suggests should come to rejecters of the perseverance of the saints doctrine as they were. Instead, they walked in the fear of God themselves, as they also worked out their salvation with fear and trembling:


“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12, KJV). (bold and italics emphasis in Corner’s original article) Endnote

            Philippians 2:12, at first blush, seems to support Corner’s Arminian theory that man can lose his salvation. However, Corner has wrongly divided that passage. The next sentence (Philippians 2:13), which explains the meaning of the passage, has been left out. Because the passage has been wrongly divided, it works to subvert the hearers to believe the lie of man’s free will, and even salvation by works. When we look at that passage in context we see that the actual meaning is quite different from the Arminian deception.


Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 AV)

            Arminians avoid Philipians 2:13 like the plague for obvious reasons. That passage makes clear that it is God that works in the believer to both “will” and “to do” of his (God’s) good pleasure. The salvation that is worked out is worked out according to God’s good pleasure. Man may think he is acting in accordance with his own will and pleasure, but in fact it is God who is working in the believer to will and to do of God’s good pleasure. How does God work in the believer? The Holy Ghost indwells the believer. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 4:16.

            In proverbs 16:1-4 God explains that the preparations of the heart of man is from the Lord. God not only puts the faith in the heart of those who are saved, he also made the unbeliever for the day of destruction according to his good pleasure.


The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:1-4 AV)

For more information on this topic, go to or contact Edward Hendrie at edwardhendrie [at] gmail [dot] com.