• August 28, 2014

Grace for the dead

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Posted: Saturday, October 20, 2012 4:30 am

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the Munchkins loved Dorothy because her house crushed the Wicked Witch. They were so happy they sang a song of celebration (you might be singing it to yourself right now, “Ding-dong the witch is dead!”).

The coroner confidently certified the death, “As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she’s not only merely dead. She’s really, most sincerely dead.”

Paul says the same thing about God’s people in Ephesians chapter 2. He certifies that we were dead. Not just merely dead, but sincerely dead.

He tells us in simple words that, “you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” Ouch. That is hard to hear. We are told that we only brought deadness to the table in our relationship with God. This underscores how deep and unconditionally God’s love really is.

Ephesians starts positively. Paul spends all of Ephesians chapter 1 detailing how we are graciously adopted, redeemed and sealed by the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul makes it very clear that we are loved and cherished by grace.

Then, in chapter 2, Paul starts talking about how bad we were. He says that we were dead. Not just messed up, but dead!

We often think of our salvation as latching on by faith to a lifeline that God gives while we were thrashing about in the oceans of sin and confusion.

Most of the New Testament supports the “lifeline” analogy and encourages us to merely “call upon the name of the Lord” to be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

I fully embrace and believe this. The Gospel is simple. Jesus died for your sins, so trust him!

For some reason, however, Paul finds it necessary to go deeper. Ephesians 2 shows us that what we remember as thrashing on the surface of the water was actually death on the bottom of the ocean floor. Paul says the moment of faith is not splashing for help, but God reaching down and scooping up rotten, dead corpses and making them live again.

One of the creepiest stories in the Bible is Ezekiel 37. There God re-animates dead, dry bones. This shows God’s reviving love for his people.

Hebrews 11 tells us that all of the Old Testament promises of a restored Israel are ultimately fulfilled through Christ.

Another picture of God bringing dead people to life is in the story of Lazarus in John 11. Jesus wept at the death of his friend; he was told that the body was stinking from rot. It was then that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

These pictures reach their pinnacle in the death and resurrection of Christ himself. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (and my prayer for you) is that believers experience the resurrection power of Jesus in their own life (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Why does it matter to you and me that salvation is pictured as resurrection from rotting death? I think it helps us to further celebrate the glory of God’s grace.

Ephesians 2:7 sums it up this way, “that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus!”

If I think of myself as reasonably “save-able” I am subtly reserving some glory for myself.

Ephesians 2:3 says that deadness was true of ALL God’s people. I may prefer to think that only conspicuous sinners were dead, and the nice guys like me just needed a little fixing up.

We were all dead. Not only merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead.

Philadelphia Pastor Jack Miller used to say it like this, “Cheer up! You’re worse off than you think, but cheer up! You are more loved than you can imagine.”

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