Alive or Dead?

I am introducing an updated teaching piece originally written around 1890 by the famous writer and Bishop of Liverpool, England, John C. Ryle. His message, updated and made easier to read with all references included can change lives, yours, mine, others. It’s an extremely important one.

Alive or Dead.jpg

Alive or Dead?

          John C. Ryle (1816-1900)                 Modern Editing: S. Newdell

J.C. Ryle’s Alive or Dead asks the question faced by every human who has ever lived: Are you among the living or the dead? In his direct and engaging style, Ryle challenges the reader to consider his own condition, and call upon God to turn him in the right direction before he “lays down this booklet.” Sections include
1. All are spiritually dead 
2. All need to be made alive
3. How a dead soul is made alive
4. Are you alive?


Alive Or Dead       Stephen Newdell, Editor

(Free of Charge)

Original source materials come from this wonderful resource:

John C. Ryle (1816-1900)

English Anglican. Ryle served in parish churches within the  Church of England for almost 40 years, becoming the Bishop of Liverpool in 1880. He came to international prominence as preacher, Bible expositor, and author. With a style focused on communicating great truths to the common man, his tracts and booklets have sold in the millions.


This is an editing of a long message taken from the works of John C. Ryle, with slight changes to modernize, improve, and make for easier readability in our modern times. British spelling is retained throughout. The message has been subdivided into several parts for easier reading and may be useful for group discussions or shorter sermons.
John Charles Ryle was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool.
Born10 May 1816, Macclesfield, United Kingdom
Died10 June 1900, Lowestoft, United Kingdom
Ephesians 2  New International Version (NIV)
Made Alive in Christ
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
This question deserves a thousand thoughts. Look at it carefully, and ponder it well. Search your own heart, and do not turn away from this small piece of writing without solemn self-inquiry. Are you among the living or the dead?
Listen to me while I try to help you to an answer, and show you what God has said about it in the Scriptures.

  1. All Are Spiritually Dead

First then let me tell you that we are all by nature spiritually dead.
“Dead” is a strong word, but it is not my own coining and invention. I did not choose it. The Holy Ghost taught Paul to write it down about the Ephesians: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (Eph 2:1).

The Lord Jesus Christ made use of it in the parable of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:24 New International Version (NIV)

24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:32New International Version (NIV)

32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
You will read it also in the First Epistle to Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:6New International Version (NIV)

But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.
Is a man wiser than God? Must I not take heed to speak that which I find in the Bible, and neither say less nor more?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “Let the dead bury the dead?”

 Matthew 8:20-25New International Version (NIV)

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Now perhaps you see the light of understanding. Let the spiritually dead bury the spiritually dead. YOU come along with me and raise the dead to life in God. I think that is what he was saying.
“Dead” is an awful idea, and one that man is quite unwilling to think about. We do not like to admit the whole extent of our spiritual disease. We shut our eyes to the true danger we face. We go into denial and tell ourself all this God stuff is a myth. That when we die we’re dead and there’s nothing more. It’s over and we, and our lives had no more value than the empty shell of a long dead clam found on a beach.
Many will allow us to say that naturally most people “are not quite what they ought to be: they are thoughtless, they are unsteady, they are gay, they are wild, they are not serious enough.” But dead? Spiritually dead? In our modern times with all of our sciences, and many scientists telling us there is no God….
Oh no! We must not mention anything to do with Christianity, with religion, with spiritual development, or with God. It is going too far to speak openly of God. Such ideas are no longer “politically correct.” The very idea of God and an eternal life or lost opportunity for eternal life is a stone causing us to stub our toes and stumble. It’s like an offensive rock that we can’t quite get over or around!
God! Humbug. Show me your God. I want to meet this God you claim to know. If your God is real, bring him out here and introduce us. You can’t do it because he’s a figment of your childish imagination.
But what we like in religion is of very little consequence. The only question is, What is written? What does God say? God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts, and God’s words are not man’s words. God says of every living person who is not a real, thorough, genuine Christian, be he rich and powerful or one of the just surviving, old or young—he is spiritually dead.
In this, as in everything else, God’s words are right. Nothing could be said more correct, nothing more faithful, nothing more true. Let me reason this out with you.

The rest of this magnificent sermon will be available at my website (LINK TO APPEAR HERE) in mid/late August.

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