You may or may not be aware of a current controversy in Christendom over the existence of hell. If you aren’t, you can read about it here. I know most people hate all the arguing that goes on over theology, but I’m not one of those people. I sort of welcome these conflicts because it shows we’re still thinking, still wrestling out our faith like the apostles did and the early church fathers did and nearly everyone who has had to make a decision with eternal implications has done. I haven’t read Rob Bell’s new book (it hasn’t been released yet, but some chapters and promo videos are floating around), so I wouldn’t presume to speak into his theology. I do, however, think theology (an understanding of the nature and character of God) itself is important. It’s not everything – but it is important. I also love when I run into a passage that so easily sets the building blocks in place for me:
Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to this worldly age, according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain…
Such an in-your-face statement. You were dead. Done. Toast. Why? Because there’s a Bad Guy. An enemy. And he is easy to follow since his ways permeate our culture to such a degree that we don’t know we’ve breathed in his smoke until we’re dead from the cancer it causes. Often without even realizing it, we conform to an easy, evil way. I can’t get over the power of those words: You. Were. Dead.
Ephesians 2:4 But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!
Well, wow. This is good news. This is a miracle! We were dead and now we’re not. We were toe-tagged in the morgue and now we’re dancing in the streets…or at least we oughta be. Because look at the rest of the story:
Ephesians 2:6 He also raised us up with Him and sealed us with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
He hasn’t just used chest compressions to jump start our heart. He lavishes us with grace and gifts to jump start our lives…He doesn’t just want us breathing, He wants us really truly living!
Beware of any gospel that starts with anything other than: you were dead. We don’t get to keep the life of His story while also denying the death in our own. In an effort to edit our sin out of the picture, we have often blurred and distorted the beauty of His extravagant grace by making it essentially unnecessary.
I wouldn’t pay you much for a good defibrillator right now because I don’t need it (in fact, I probably wouldn’t even recognize one if I saw it.) But if I was clutching my chest and falling to the floor, that device would be worth…well, everything I have. Knowing that I’m dead without it dramatically increases its value.
I was dead. He is life.
That’s my theology.