This great blog post can be seen from the original author here: http://sandrahooper.blogspot.com/2015/09/spiritual-death-or-physical-death-in.html
Spiritual Death or Physical death in Romans 5:12
In the past I had a problem when it came to the term "spiritual death," because of the connection with Reformed Theology.
"Spiritual death" simply means a "moral and relational" separation from God” which comes about by sinning, and never has to do with infants. Infants do not come into this world morally and relationally separated from God. The Bible teaches that infants are born morally innocent (2 Kings 14:6; 21:16; 24:4; Joel 3:19), that children are born innocent with no knowledge of good or evil (Rom. 9:11, Ecc. 7:29, Duet. 1:39). Infants do not go to hell when they die (Matt. 19:14 Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).
Question: How do you explain the fact that humans die?
Man physically dies because they have no access to the tree of life. Jesus himself was under this condition. Like all humans, He had cells that reproduced and died. He lost his baby teeth. He lost hair and grew more. He got hungry, he thirsted, and he grew tired and needed sleep. He was in all ways like us. (Heb. 2:14; 17)
We have this idea that Adam was created immortal, which the Bible says he was not (1 Corinthians 15:47-50). If Adam and Eve had to eat from the tree of life to become immortal, then they were created mortal to begin with!
Sin is a choice, not a constitution. Sin is a transgression of law (1 John 3:4) and conscience (James 4:17). If sin is a choice it cancels out constitution, if sin is in our constitution it cancels out the choice.
Now, if "physical death" is referred to in Romans 5:12 as a result from Adam's sin, then it can no longer be a result from "personal" sin. In Romans 5:12 it states,
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
The death in Romans 5:12 deals with personal transgression... "for all have sinned." Spiritual death comes by sinning. The word "have" indicates an activity on every individual's part since sin is voluntary. All that have sinned are the ones who have sinned. Babies do not sin. Babies cannot make moral choices.
However, when a person comes to maturity where he knows the difference between good and evil, and does evil, they sin and consequently come under the wrath of God as a result of them misusing their free will. (Rom. 1:18-21; 2:12-15; Rom. 6:16). So the type of death that comes upon individuals for their own personal sin is not physical (all are going to eventually die physically), but spiritual (Eze. 18:4, 20). This spiritual death (severed relationship with God) comes by personal disobedience to light. (James. 4:17; Heb. 7:26; 1John 1:5) It is addressing spiritual death that passes upon all men, for that all have sinned (v.12). Not in Adam! It does not say "all have sinned in Adam." This is why there was a group of people (not babies) who were spiritually dead between Adam and Moses (v.14). So death (spiritual) still reigned over those who had NOT sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression (v.14), meaning they were sinning against the law of their conscience (James 4:17).
Sin is optional, not a necessity of nature. All who choose to sin become spiritually dead in their sins. But just as a person may choose to sin (which we all have) they must also choose to reject the created habits. This is possible through the freedom of the will and God given nature (Ecc. 7:29; Rom. 2:14). If sin were physical (as Gnostics teach) this would not be true. How can a person feel responsible for something that does not spring from his choice but rather governs his choice? But sin is moral so the will is always in play - always able to choose vice or virtue - otherwise we're robots!
Michael Pearl, as well as others, teaches that Roman 5:12 is referring to [physical] death and that [physical] death is the condemnation that went out upon all of Adam's descendants, but Romans 5:12 is speaking of a death that comes upon all men for their own personal transgression ("for all have sinned"). And it is only upon a person sinning that they can experience condemnation (Eze. 18:4,20; Eph. 5:5-7), since condemnation and justification are completely conditioned upon a person’s personal choices, not Adam's. Those who decide by free will to follow Adam's example are spiritually dead in their sins (i.e. separated from God relationally Isa. 59:2), without righteousness (Rom. 6:20) and will receive the punishment of eternal death (2Thess.1:9; Rev.21:8). BUT, those who choose to follow Christ's example will be spiritually alive (reconciled relationally to God Jn.17:3; Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21) without sin (Rom. 6:7; 11,13; 8:10) and will receive eternal life in the world to come (Mk. 10:30).
Now here is where we need to be very careful. If Paul were not speaking of "spiritual death" in Rom. 5:12, he would then be teaching what is known as "positional righteousness" in Rom 6, 7, 8. WHY?
Knowing this that our old man was crucified with Him that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
(Here it is...)
For he who has DIED has been freed from sin." (Rom. 6:6-7)
It's very easy to see that 'baptism of repentance' which happens in 'initial salvation' (2 Cor. 7:10-11) is a spiritual regeneration (Rom. 6:4-7; Jn. 3:3; Titus 3:5). The problem is, if Paul were referring to [physical] death in Rom. 5:12, then he is also referring to [physical] death here in Rom. 6:7. Therefore Paul would have been teaching (which he did not) that a person must [physically] die to be "freed from sin!" (Rom. 6:7) This then makes Rom. 6, 7, 8 all POSITIONAL, rather than PRACTICAL. This is a very dangerous teaching!!
Likewise you also reckon yourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:11)
This must be done positionally (counting yourself dead to sin) since sin will be with you until you [physically] die according to Michael Pearl and many others who teach the physical death position. (Rom. 6:7)
The question must be asked. How can someone be "set free from sin" (Rom. 6:18), but still NOT be set free from sin, since you have yet to [physically] die? (Rom. 6:7) This is where imputed righteousness comes into play. Romans 7:5, 14-25 must also all be taken in positionally since you must [physically] die in Rom. 6:7 to be "freed from sin." So many have fallen for this false teaching, myself included, that one will not be set free from sin until they die! This is wrong!
Michael Pearl rejects Rom. 7:14-23 as being the normal Christian life (since it was directed at unsaved Jews, Rom. 7:1, and I agree), but by teaching there is only one type of death in the scriptures (i.e PHYSICAL), he cancels out his commentary and refutes his own position of Paul's penmanship. How? Simple - by teaching that Rom. 5:12 is speaking of [physical] death necessitates Rom. 6:7 to be speaking about [physical death].
Pearl rejects the sin nature (and I do as well), but His position on the meaning of "death" leaves the sin nature in tack (somehow) since you cannot be freed from sin until you [physically] die!!! (Rom. 6:7) This is where I see a problem with a teacher who rejects original sin and holds on to a doctrine like imputed righteousness.
The same condemnation that is found in Rom. 5:16, 18 is found in Rom. 8:1. Since the condemnation is due to Adam's transgression and is referring to physical death (as Pearl says) that was unconditionally imputed to all his descendants (that is condemnation was imputed), then there is in fact condemnation for those who are in Christ since they are physically still alive! (Rom. 5:18; 8:1) This might be another reason why Pearl holds to imputed righteousness....the blood must cover, not purge.
Romans 8:6 says,
For to be carnally minded is [physical] death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Huh? How? If death only has one meaning, how does Pearl explain this verse?
For if you live according to the flesh you will [physically] die... (Rom. 8:13) ???
There are people who live according to the flesh and live well up to their 80's and 90's and sometimes more. So this is the problem of Romans. 5:12 with death being 'physical'; it necessitates positional righteousness.
The context of Romans 5:12-21, Paul speaks of condemnation and justification. The condemnation is referring to spiritual death, for those who are justified still die physically.
Also, if "death" in Romans 6:23 means physical death, being justified would mean that we would not die physically!
It is "spiritual death" in Rom. 5:12, not physical. I see the influence and effects of Adam's sin led unto the condemnation of all people - that is - upon all those who choose to sin by their own free will and follow Adam's example will come under the wrath of God.
Pearl's rejection of original sin but acceptance of imputed righteousness would be like me teaching the sin nature and telling people to obey God. It DOESN'T WORK. If you're born a sinner, you MUST have Jesus' imputed righteousness (which they teach and is not Scripturally correct); however, if you're born morally innocent, then you must obey from the heart! (Rom. 6:16-17; 1 John 3:7)
Take Romans 5:16:
And not as it was by the one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.
The two examples and their work are yet again being contrasted. Adam's influence and sin resulted unto condemnation while Christ's obedience resulted in a free gift unto justification. Let me point out that it does not say that the sin of one condemned them all, but rather that the sin of one led to the condemnation of them all. This is because condemnation and justification are both CONDITIONAL, not unconditionally universal as Pearl says. Condemnation can only come upon personal transgression, while justification comes freely through the process of repentance and faith. (Acts 11:18; 20:21; 2 Cor.7:10-11)
I see a state of spiritual deadness as a state of relational separation from God DUE to moral disobedience. I do not believe there are any morals in the metaphysics of man. For example, I attended a funeral a while back. Upon seeing the deceased it was obvious there was no vice nor virtue in the corpse. The body is simply an instrument (2 Pet. 1:13-14). This instrument can be used for "righteousness" or unrighteousness" (Rom. 6:13). Yielding our instrument (flesh) to sin leads to death while obedience leads to righteousness (Rom. 6:16). If Adam's sin has caused the whole human race to physically disease and decease, then how does our personal sin lead to physical death, again? (Rom. 6:23)
If the spirit cannot die, then Christ would have to be joined with sinners, but if the spirit can die then Christ must be separated from sinners (Heb. 7:26). Now, if two persons are separated that must mean they are no longer joined although they both actually live. This is the same thing as "spiritual death." Nothing physically dies, but rather separates. The Bible says God must be separated from all sin (1 Jn. 1:5; 3:5; Heb. 7:26).
King David who fell into murder and adultery with his beautiful neighbor Bathsheeba (2 Sam. 11-12) is said by many to have only lost his joy of salvation or maybe some loss of rewards (Psa. 51:12) but not his spiritual state with God. Since King David was an "elect" they say he could grieve the spirit, but never quench it. However, Ezekiel said something totally different.
But when a righteousness man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? [The answer to this question has eternal consequences] All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Eze. 18:24)
How could Ezekiel be referring to physical death when Judaism teaches man is created mortal and which the Bible supports? This is how we know that King David was NOT in a safe "spiritual" condition until he found godly sorrow in Psalms 51. Hence, David lost his justification and fell back under condemnation DUE to the fact he transgressed known law (1 Jn. 3:4; James. 4:17; Rom. 8:13). Although King David was still alive (since he was physically walking about) his communication with God was severed for those 8 months until he found repentance.
Can the spirit die? Jesus said it could. But remember, "spiritual death" simply means a "moral and relational" separation from God”
...for this my son was dead [morally and spiritually] and is alive [relationally] again. (Lk.15:24; 32)...He that...believeth...is passed from [moral and spiritual] death unto life [relationship]." (Jn. 5:24)Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead [moral and spiritual], and Christ shall give thee light." (Eph. 5:14)...yield yourselves unto God, as those that are [relationally] alive from the dead [moral and spiritual]." (Rom. 6:13)And you being [morally and spiritually] dead in your sins...hath he made [relationally] alive together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." (Col. 2:13)We know that we have passed from [moral and spiritual] death unto life [relationship]." (1Jn. 3:14)
Spiritual death means being out of touch with God and righteousness, which means that a person who is out of touch with God has no righteousness (Rom. 6:20) and therefore must reinforce only unrighteousness. And since all unrighteousness is sin (1 Jn. 5:17) the unrighteous are sinners (1 Jn. 3:7-10), and must by necessity be separated from God (Heb. 7:26) due to their wicked works (Col. 2:13), not birth!
"Spiritual death" comes ONLY by sinning! Since sin is a moral issue which is a transgression of the law and conscience, and babies are not able to make moral decisions, they are morally neutral! (2Kings 14:6; Deu. 24:16; 2Chr. 25:4; Eze. 18:2-4; Eze. 18:19-20) Babies are innocent. Children are neither guilty of evil, nor worthy of praise until they are able to make their own decisions (Rom. 9:11). They have to come to the age of maturity (accountability) where they know the difference between good and evil. This sin is not by necessity, but rather by choice. (James. 1:13-15). This is why every human is responsible for the "things done in the body” and is judged "according to what he/she has done, whether it be good or bad." (2Cor. 5:10)
The founder of Calvinism said we were born "lumps of sin" (i.e Augustine of Hippo). And as far as John Calvin, I do not believe that he was a regenerate born again believer. He took his theology from a man who thought babies could be regenerated by baptism. Of course Calvinism holds to total depravity. If they didn't, their heresy would all fall down (_.U.L.I.P?). Basically, Calvinism is modern day Manicheanism, which is Gnostic. Denial of man's "free will" is a heathen belief, just like dualism! (i.e. the “sinful nature.”) If man cannot respond to the call of the Spirit, then man is not a man but rather a preprogrammed robot. If mankind can't repent no more than ice can burn, God is a liar. (Mk. 1:15; Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 11:18, 17:30; 26:18-20) If man is OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved), the Son of man was a liar (Matt. 10:22; Lk. 13:24).
James also said:
Therefore lay aside ALL filthiness and overflow of wickedness and "receive" with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (James. 1:21-22)
What do the Calvinists say about that?
If Reformed Theology have it right, then that means God must by necessity save people in their sins. Since they are incapable of responding to the call of repentance proven by deeds and faith working by love, they would have to be compelled [by God] and forced against their own will [by God] to do something they never wanted to do - that being of course - love God. Calvinism is heresy!
Keep in mind the day that Adam sinned against God he "spiritually died" (Gen. 2:17). Spiritual death comes by personal sin, not Adam's. If one were to say that physical death is a result from Adam's sin, then it would stand to reason that we do not physically die for our own personal transgressions...but yet
She that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. (1Tim. 5:6)
Is she physically dead or spiritually dead? Can you even be physically dead while you're physically live? If the spirit cannot die, how is she dead while she still lives? This is precisely what happened in the garden. God said,
You shall not eat from the tree for IN THAT DAY you shall surely die. (Gen. 2:17)
Did Adam physically die the moment he ate from the tree? NO. Scriptures say Adam lieved to be 930 years old and then he died. (Gen. 5:5) So the death God was speaking of in Gen. 2:17 must have been referring to the relational ends of things... spiritual death. [He eventually died physically because he and Eve and all his posterity no longer had access to the tree of life which sustained their mortal fleshly bodies. We suffer the consequences of Adam's sin, but are not guilty of his sin.
Sin is not a substance since there are no morals in substance. Adam, by his own free will, chose to transgress and consequently brought sin into the world and spiritual death comes by sin. (Rom. 5 :12) It is speaking of "spiritual death" through Adam. How? Not by imputation, but by following his EXAMPLE of disobedience. So "[spiritual] death passes upon all men for that all have sinned." (V.12)
The verse in Romans is speaking to the influence and effects of Adam's sin which led to the condemnation of all men, upon all those who choose to sin by their own free will. There is no such thing as universal condemnation. Again, notice in Rom. 5:16 it does NOT say that the sin of one condemned them all, but that the sin of one led to the condemnation of them all. Condemnation is conditioned upon personal transgression and justification is conditioned upon repenting and believing. Men can only be condemned for their own personal sins (1Cor. 6:9; Rev. 21:8) and reconciliation requires a personal choice (2 Cor. 5:20). Condemnation is the wrath of God that comes upon the sons of disobedience.(Jn. 3:36; Eph. 5:5-7) Romans 8:1 says,
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.
Again, condemnation is CONDITIONED upon a person's walk, it is not universal apart from choice. Condemnation is shown to be spiritual death, for if you live according to the flesh you will [spiritually and morally] die (Rom. 8:13), since being carnally minded is death. (Rom. 8:6)
Another question worth pondering is this. If the carnally minded are dead but still walking around, how are they dead? If condemnation is physical, and a person gets born again, are they still condemned since they are still in the flesh and condemnation is physical? How could there be no condemnation? (Rom. 8:1)
Thus it can be clearly seen that Romans 5:12 speaks of spiritual death. In fact, much of Scriptures speak of spiritual death unless the context calls for physical death.