Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 14, 1961
NUMBER 32, PAGE 6,11

"A Living Corpse"

C. D. Plum, Paden City, West Virginia

Literally, a corpse is a dead body. But a living corpse could not be a dead body, although it can be, and is, something dead, something inactive. In this lesson we hope to study things that represent a living corpse.

The Alien Sinner

One of the most striking examples of a living corpse is an alien sinner. The alien sinner, as you know, has never been a member of the church. He is "dead," very much 'dead, 'although he is also alive. Being dead he is a corpse, but being alive, he is a living corpse. But how is this live sinner dead? Paul tells us how in these words: "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." (Eph. 2:1) The alien sinner is dead in sins, but physically alive, hence, a living corpse. He is alive in the sight of man, from the standpoint of the flesh, but dead in the sight of God, from the standpoint of his sins. In this sense, millions now living' are dead. In the world today we have millions of living corpses.

It is altogether possible for Christians to be married to dead people. When a Christian man marries out of the church he is married to a "dead woman," and when a sister in the church marries a man outside of the church she is married to a "dead man." It matters not how kind and thoughtful that man may be toward this sister, nor how good morally he may be, he is a dead man in God's sight, and she is married to a "corpse." Even though this sister may not need to leave this dead husband, which believeth not, "if he be pleased to dwell with her," yet it still remains she is married to a corpse, and will so remain until that husband obeys the gospel and is thereby made alive in Christ. Many heart aches are usually experienced by Christian people who marry out of the church, heart aches from a religious standpoint. Sometimes it turns out alright;: the dead one is baptized into Christ, but so many times it does not turn out so well.

The Dead Christian

Another type of living corpse is a dead Christian. Demas was one such type, having forsaken Paul and Christ because of his "love for this world." (2 Tim. 4:10) And of this type Paul wrote: "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." (1 Tim. 5:6) Backsliders are a class of living corpse. They are physically alive but spiritual dead. In this great group we find all those former Christians that have given themselves over to the works of the flesh: dancers, drinkers, gamblers, and so on. Their name is legion.

The Church A Corpse

Practically the whole church at Sardis, excepting only a few, became living corpses. That this is true is easily seen in the fact that Jesus so recognized it, and so spoke of them. He said: "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead." (Rev. 3:1) When a name doesn't represent true facts it is a mere sham. Why does a backsliding church want to feign life when it is a living corpse, even as Sardis? Many factors contributed toward the death of the church in Sardis. All waywardness, so far as I know, is of equal recognition before God. Hence, we shall not try to establish the death of the church at Sardis to any one line of departure.

Various Things

1. Jesus criticized the church in Sardis because of her work. He said, "I have not found thy works perfect before God." I greatly fear that on this score of works it is high time that every congregation in the land look well to what they are doing, and more especially to what they are not doing. We will be condemned as quickly by God for what we fail to do that we should, as for what we do. Does your congregation have a working program? Are we playing at doing things, giving a little dab here and a little dab there, where help is asked for, or do we really love the Lord enough to really do something definite and specific and follow it through? Love that demonstrates itself in work makes for a live church. "Faith that worketh by love," is the thing Paul said to the Galatian brethren. When the church is not working it is drifting and rifting and dying. A failure to "hold fast" was another contributing cause for the church at Sardis being a living corpse. They had discontinued to fight, ceased to run, and had betrayed the confidence of keeping the faith. They failed to stand in "defence of the gospel;" to earnestly contend for the faith had lost its appeal to the church in Sardis. Because of this very thing, many churches of Christ over this land of ours are simply living corpses. The only hope for reinstated life into these corpses is to come to repentance, even as Jesus told the church in Sardis. May God grant that they may do so before it is eternally too late.

2. The church at Sardis failed to watch, and because of this Jesus said: "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." A failure to be on guard is a serious charge to soldiers. Literally, a failure to be on guard simply is inviting death, especially when the enemy is near. Satan is the enemy of Christ and the church. If we sleep on the job it is no wonder we become a living corpse. Satan never sleeps. He is always awake to take advantage of the church when she fails to watch.

Members of the church need to watch their company, for company corrupts good manners." There is a tendency to become like those with whom we associate, to talk like them, walk like them, and act like them. No wonder Jesus charged the church to watch.

The tongue of the members of the church need to be watched. A wagging tongue does not make a living church, but it does make a living corpse out of a church. Homes are broken up, brethren are separated, and the church ruined by a few wagging tongues. Since the tongue can -not be tamed it should be harnessed. Yes, by gospel harness. Bits in the horses' mouths are necessary to turn them about, and a gospel bit in a Christian's mouth will help keep him on the road to heaven.

3. The church in Sardis had become a living corpse because of sin defilement. Their white robes of righteousness were abused and soiled. This was true generally. Jesus recognized a few in Sardis that had not defiled their garments, and they were still walking in white. We thank God for the faithful few. We are glad too that the faithful few" will not be lost because of the unfaithfulness of the majority. To which class do you belong?