the weblog of Alan Knox

The difference between alive/dead and healthy/unhealthy

Posted by on Sep 10, 2012 in discipleship | 6 comments

The difference between alive/dead and healthy/unhealthy

Last year, when I started eating better foods and exercising regularly (ok… exercising at all), I learned something important. There is a difference between being alive and being healthy. (In the same way, there is a difference between being dead and being unhealthy.)

For several years, I had been living a very unhealthy lifestyle, although I was still alive… I was still living. I was not dead. Thankfully, people did not treat me like I was dead even though I was unhealthy.

You know, it’s only people who are alive who can be healthy or unhealthy.

That’s true for physical life and physical health. It’s also true of spiritual life and spiritual health.

I’ve noticed that people often confuse the two issues. I’ve seen spiritually dead people exhorted toward spiritual health. I’ve also seen spiritually unhealthy people treated as if they were spiritually dead.

The issues involved with being spiritually alive or dead are different than the issues involved with being spiritually healthy or unhealthy.

It’s only people who are spiritually alive who can be spiritually healthy or unhealthy.

Did you know that almost all of Scripture was written to people who were already spiritually alive in order to encourage them toward being more spiritually healthy? It’s true. Even passages that discuss spiritual life and death were usually written to remind those who are already spiritually alive. (For example, consider Ephesians 2:1-10.)

Have you ever thought about the difference between being spiritually alive/dead and spiritually healthy/unhealthy? Do you make a distinction when you talk to and encourage other people? Do you know if you are encouraging them toward spiritual life or toward spiritual health?

What happens if you do not make a distinction? What happens if you exhort spiritually dead people in ways that are intended to help people who are already spiritually alive become more healthy?

What happens if you address spiritually unhealthy people as if they were spiritually dead?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-10-2012


    This is a distinction I don’t think I’ve heard taught before. One of the primary dilemmas I can see come up if we don’t make this distinction is the possibility that as saved individuals we fail to remind ourselves to stay healthy, seeing those exhortation passages as only intended for unsaved, dead people. “I’m alive, so it doesn’t much matter what happens now.” If we see them as speaking to us, all of a sudden we become more responsible than we initially thought we were. Good word!

  2. 9-10-2012


    You said:
    “Did you know that almost all of Scripture was written to people who were already spiritually alive in order to encourage them toward being more spiritually healthy?”

    I quite agree. I understand that evangelism and spreading The Gospel in word and in deed are of vast importance as it pertains to The World and The Church, but I find myself defaulting on the truth that The Scriptures, specifically those within The New Testament, are designed to be read as family business, meaning for The Church and not for The World.

    Like the reality of ekklesia, The Scriptures are for His Body first, and then for The World. Nicely said, sir.

    How can we, as The Body, minister to The World when we need to have a semblance of spiritual health ourselves? I mean, we can, (since The Spirit is not limited by our ability to minister…He is the one who saves, after all, not us), but it is so much richer when we can be active participants in Him regarding The World when we are spiritually healthy.

  3. 9-10-2012

    Doctrinally sound (hugiaino) teaching, generally produces healthy Christians. . . would you agree Alan ? I like the word Paul used to describe doctrine. The “Great Physician,” certainly desires us to be healthy in body, soul, and spirit.

  4. 9-10-2012

    Really liked your analogy Alan!

  5. 9-11-2012

    I’m a little nervous with the idea of judging whether a person is spiritually alive…does alive and unhealthy vs. dead look different from the outside in the spiritual realm and how do we reconcile it with the passages on judging?

    On a different note, someone brought great light to my understanding of the ‘problem passages’ in Hebrews relative to loss of salvation by suggesting that those who have ‘experienced’ and ‘tasted’ were observers in the group who had not made the commitment to Christ…still dead…not unhealthy.

  6. 9-11-2012


    That’s a good point. If we are alive in Christ, then we should also be expecting ourselves to grow healthier in Christ.


    Yes, I had not thought about that in conjunction with this post. But, you’re right. Our healthiness (is that word?) affects our proclamation to those who are dead in Christ.


    Yes, sound teaching definitely helps us grow healthier, as long as it is teaching in word and in deed.


    Thank you very much!


    No, we can’t perfectly judge whether someone is alive or dead. There will be clues given through their lives, but even then, unhealthy people can appear to be dead.