In which dead is d.e.a.d.

by Craig on May 12, 2011

Someone whose faith does not go beyond words,
that faith is useless.
Such faith is dead without works of Christian love,
which alone can bring it back to life.
The Venerable Bede, 700ish

So what is a “dead” faith Lord?

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)

I know what death is for a living thing. It’s the absence of life.

But what is death to a “non being”?

Faith isn’t a living creature.
It’s a vehicle of Grace.
It’s a decision,
It’s a lens through which to see the world,
and beyond the world.

But it’s not a bird, or a plant.
It’s not material,
It’s not alive.

So what is it, when it’s dead?

I wrote yesterday that many – MANY – have tried to soften this word “dead”. Taking it to mean barren or fruitless instead of what the word can only mean – d.e.a.d.

I mean a tree can be very much alive and produce no fruit.

But a dead tree can’t produce fruit at all.

Dead. means. dead.

So I go to Your Word, Lord, knowing that You can help me figure this out.

I check out what a contemporary of James wrote.
Paul used the word “death” to refer to non-alive “nonbeings”.
Maybe he can shed some light.

What then can we say? That the law is sin? Of course not! Yet I did not know sin except through the law, and I did not know what it is to covet except that the law said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, finding an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetousness. Apart from the law sin is dead. (ROM 7:7-8)

This little dab of Scripture, written by Paul, is part of a section of his writing that includes bunches of uses of the word “dead” that’ll leave a head doing a pirouette.

Maybe later I’ll spin around in it.

But now I want to know,
what it is,
when a thing that isn’t a living creature,
is dead.

Sin isn’t a living creature – and Paul said it’s dead without the Law of Moses.


And then there’s Romans 9:14, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”

Interesting – I’ve been writing on faith and works. James says faith can be dead. I look to Scripture, and it informs me that works can be dead.

Nice twist God!

As many years as I study You there’s always some new facet that’s been there all along.

Works. can. be. dead.


One more…

Hebrews 6:1, where the writer chides the recipients of the letter to stop being babies in the faith and get serious – and then hits them with this, “Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God.”

And there it is again – “dead” works.

And these are the only uses like the ones I wanted to find in the New Testament.

And what do they mean?


A dead faith is one that is unusable, unworkable, and inoperable.

While this word “dead” doesn’t mean barren or fruitless – dead stuff doesn’t produce. Barren and fruitless are companions of death – but don’t define it.

A dead faith is ineffective, pointless, meaningless.

Dead faith isn’t weak faith, or barren faith, it’s non-existent faith.

That sounds bad.
That sounds fatal.

But what are we gonna do – it’s what the Bible says.

Thank you Lord, reasoning this out with you…

has been exactly the opposite of “dead”…

and even that teaches me something.

Now there’s one more part of this verse…


please come back.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Wolf May 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

Great job Craig you make the Word come alive.


Craig May 12, 2011 at 11:45 am

It’s a verse that generates lots of commotion – but it’s there – and James has always been considered inspired by the church. It’s there – we have to deal with it. No? Thank yo uvery much for the encouraging words Scott. God Bless you.


Michelle May 13, 2011 at 4:29 am

“Apart from the law sin is dead.” What came to mind when I read this – sin has no power over me without the knowledge of the law (or, to be pedantic, prior to the Law being handed down on Sinai there was no sin as such). So, if works/faith are dead then they have no power either for God or not.


Craig May 13, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Well I guess, technically there was sin – but Paul defined sin I think as a violation of the Law of Moses. There is still right and wrong – even a aside from the Law – God’s lain down law. It’s even sin if I think something is a sin – and do it – even if it’s not a sin according to God – if I violate my own conscience. Don’t make me look up that verse by the way :) I’m tired. That whole section of Paul that I referred to – and you quoted is so twirly and spinny and deep I get dizzy. God bless you Michelle.


Michelle May 14, 2011 at 3:08 am

I find that Paul is ALWAYS twirly and spinny and deep. And often have to re-read a verse or phrase to understand him! 😀


Dawn May 13, 2011 at 9:37 am

Dear Craig,

I thought you’d never get to non-existent, but you did.

Dead faith isn’t weak faith, or barren faith, it’s non-existent faith.

You can substitute non-existent for dead in these Scriptures and that says it for me. Of course, I’m not looking at the original languages, but in English this is what seems logical to me. Of course, being of German descent my logic is linear and that may not be the best strategy when seeking the mind of God. Ah, well, looking at the parade of life through the knothole of the fence this is what I “see:” non-existent. You made me read the whole post to get to it, Craig. You are good that way.

I wanted to say that I Corinthians 13:2, 3 came to mind when you wrote about faith and works being dead. “If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” I think faith is more than believing and “working” is more than just doing things for others as “proof” of faith. The motivation/attitude/heart behind the believing and doing seems to be a key.

Wow! I’m surely glad you have a comment section. I talked myself right into that one…another God moment for me right here at Deep Into Scripture.

God bless you as much as He blesses me through you, (and that is a lot!)


Craig May 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm

So you critique me as you read huh? :)

It all comes back to love Dawn – and we know exactly what Love is because of Scripture – so it all goes back to Scripture – and that’s why I have two separate – hard to maintain blogs instead of just one easier to keep up with blog:) And I heart my comment section too – there is really so much good stuff down in it – I heart the people who read me – so smart!! And Dawn – thank you – thank you – and as always, God Bless.


A. May 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

OK, Michelle-that WAS a good one! Whew! Dawn…laughing at your comment about talking yourself into that one! I do that too, sometimes! So funny!

Craig, this is really leaving no wiggle room I am glad you are not letting it make any excuses-this dead faith thing. It make me sit up and take more notice of all this-these things matter because they matter to our Father. Also, if we begin to see any of our twigs dying, it lets us know that something is amiss in our faith-it is a barometer for us. And God makes it clear to help us, not to hurt us, I am thinking. He wants us to know when we are heading for the ditch so we can turn around, not because He gets some pleasure out of hammering us or pointing a finger.

I also love your five-line description of what faith is!!!


Craig May 13, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Absolutely no wiggle room – not if we read the words of Jesus, and James, and even Paul with a careful eye. But it’s the law of Love now – not the Law of Moses that get’s broken or followed – and then there’s Grace. Thank you A. God bless. and the twig thing – you are a writer – and you know stuff!! :)


Debbie May 15, 2011 at 3:28 am

Thank you for faith and words and lessons on what d-e-a-d means to us. Sorry, kind of tired so not a good comment, but wanted you to know I was reading! :)


Craig May 15, 2011 at 7:21 am

and thank you for that!!!!!! HEART that. That’s a comment to heart!! Bless you Deb.


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: