Dead, Or Alive?

November 14, 2019
Volume 23, Number 36

A man who died is technically released from his obligations, right? His heirs may have to assume his debt, but that man will pay not another penny on bills he assumed in his previous life. We would all agree to this proposition; how could we not?

But what if that “man who died” came back to life? That was the case with Benjamin Schreiber, who in 2015 developed septic poisoning in his body from large kidney stones. In his most critical hours he was revived five times. Technically, he argued before a court in Iowa, he died, and should therefore be released from his debt – to society.

Schreiber has been housed in the Iowa State Prison since 1996 since being convicted of murdering another man. He and his lawyer thought they had found the perfect loophole since he had been convicted to “life in prison”, and not to “life plus one day”. Last week an appeals court dismissed his case, calling it “unpersuasive”. If he had signed the papers to petition for release (which he had), then he must be alive.

Schreiber’s sentence will only be considered fulfilled, the court said, when a medical coroner pronounces him dead. So far that hasn’t happened.

The apostle Paul wrote to people who had died. No spiritual medium was involved; we’re not referring to people who died physically. He wrote: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1,2). Even Paul had died – “we who died”.

Christians are people who have “died to sin”, he affirmed. If that is not the case then we have a problem, one that John wrote about: “If we say that we have fellowship with [God], and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). We can’t have it both ways. Either we have died to sin (and thus no longer practice it), or we have not died to sin (and continue to walk in it).

Dying to sin is what being a follower of Jesus Christ is all about. That’s what Jesus taught: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up His cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). When Jesus took up His cross He died physically and was buried. When we take up our crosses, a death to sin must happen.

Why should anyone choose to die, even in the spiritual sense? So that we might be buried – “with Christ”. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). New life is given to us in the grave.

My appeal to God is that I have died. I want that new life. But does my daily life back up my claim? Are my arguments “unpersuasive” to Him?

Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.


Copyright, 2019, Timothy D. Hall. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version (Copyright, 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.).

“LightGrams” is produced by the Central Church of Christ, 2722 Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37601, and is written by Tim Hall, minister. It is sent free of charge every Thursday to all who request it. To subscribe or to receive more information, write to “” (our E-mail address), to the U.S. mail address above, or call (423) 282-1571.

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