Information found in the Watchtower January 1st, 1959 issue.
A person who is dead is not capable of activity; yet Jesus said on an occasion: “Let the dead bury their dead.” (Luke 9:60) Why did he make this statement? He knew well enough that dead bodies cannot bury other dead bodies. He knew that dead persons cannot even think, let alone do work. So how can the dead bury the dead?
The explanation is in the fact that a person can be physically alive but spiritually dead. This was pointed out by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: “Furthermore, it is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” And to the Romans he said they should present themselves “to God as those alive from the dead.” (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 6:13) A transformation came over those people when they became Christians. Formerly they disregarded the laws of God and were indifferent to his service. They were spiritually dead. From that dead state of inactivity they were made spiritually alive. Evidence of their aliveness was the good fruit they brought forth to the glory of God in the form of a growing number of Christians.
There are many persons in Christendom who firmly believe they are spiritually alive because they regularly read the Bible and attend church. But where is the activity that should be evidence of their aliveness? In what way are they using the knowledge they gain from Bible reading? Can sitting in a church once a week be considered as Christian activity? Can it bring forth the same good fruit that was produced by the first-century Christians?
The well-known clergyman Dr. Robert J. McCracken of the Riverside Church in New York city bemoaned the lack of Christian activity among many of Christendom’s churchgoers. He said: “In too many minds religion is identified exclusively with religious exercises, prayer, Bible reading, church attendance. Overlooked is the fact that religion is, first and foremost, the glorifying of God amid the everyday activities of life. The world is the place where religion needs to be seen in action.”
But what must the action be? Is it participation in political and civic activities? Is it activity in church socials? Is it the building of hospitals or engaging in temperance and reform movements? Is it operating a gambling booth at a church bazaar? Are these the activities that make a person spiritually alive in the eyes of God and that bring forth good fruit to his glory? There can be but one answer and that is an emphatic No!
The early Christians were productive of Christian fruits because they preached the things they had learned. Preaching the truths of the Scriptures is essential for spiritual aliveness. It is a Scriptural requirement: “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” “All your works will laud you, O Jehovah, and your men of loving-kindness will bless you. About the glory of your kingship they will talk, and about your mightiness they will speak, to make known to the sons of men his mighty acts and the glory of the splendor of his kingship.”—Rom. 10:10; Ps. 145:10-12.
Public declaration of the good news of God’s kingdom, of His purposes and of the many enlightening truths of his Word is the activity a Christian must engage in. Christ set the example by engaging in that activity himself. He expected his followers to do the same. In fact, they were commanded to “follow his steps closely.” (1 Pet. 2:21) To the twelve apostles Jesus said: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” And to Peter and Andrew he said: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”—Matt. 10:7; 4:19.
When Jesus demonstrated how to become “fishers of men” he did not do what a clergyman in Muskegon, Michigan, did. After giving a sermon based upon this statement by Jesus the clergyman led about thirty-five parishioners outside, where they spent the morning fishing through the ice. Jesus, on the other hand, led his disciples into the field ministry. There he demonstrated how they could publicly preach the good things they had learned. He was helping them to be spiritually alive through Christian activity. Can as much be said for that clergyman in Michigan?
The question, “Are you spiritually alive?” is a very serious one. It should be given careful thought by all who claim to be Christian. Merely stating that you believe in God and Christ and merely being a church attender does not mean you are spiritually alive. Neither does it mean you are a Christian. There must be action that gives proof of your faith. The Bible writer James said: “But do you care to know, O empty man, that faith apart from works is inactive? Indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”—Jas. 2:20, 26.
It is activity in the Christian ministry that gives proof of your faith and of your spiritual aliveness. When Jesus said: “Let the dead bury their dead,” he went on to point out how spiritual aliveness is connected with the ministry by saying: “but you go away and declare abroad the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60) Is this what you are doing? If not, how can you claim to be spiritually alive? How can you say you are following in Christ’s steps?
Whether your existence is divinely terminated or divinely extended for eternity depends upon your obedience to God, your faith and your spiritual activity that gives proof of your faith. Only by being spiritually alive can you hope to be physically alive eternally.