Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things work.

-Robert Farrar Capon


During the Protestant Reformation, reformer Martin Luther and the humanist-scholar Desiderius Erasmus were debating about what best presents the nature of salvation and our need for grace.  Erasmus, a theologian himself, admitted that sin had made man sick, and went on to say that our need for grace is like a young toddler who is learning to walk. Erasmus reasoned that a person is able to take some steps towards God—but sometimes man also needs his heavenly Father to catch him and help him along.  Luther—the lightning bolt for grace—was offended by such a weak and pitiful view of grace.  According to Luther, Erasmus had it flat out wrong.  Luther went on to explain that our salvation is more like a caterpillar that is completely surrounded by a ring of fire and unless someone reaches down and rescues the little critter—it would certainly fry to a crisp.

In his book Chosen by God, the layman’s theologian R.C. Sproul argues that there is a world of difference between treading water and reaching out for a life jacket that gets tossed to you to save you from drowning than there is, say, being dead on the bottom of a river and not being able to lift a finger to help engineer such a rescue—instead you’d need to be brought back to life before you could think about anything else.  And so it is with our conversion Sproul goes on to say—we had nothing to do with bringing it to pass.  It is nothing short of a miracle, not some venture we help God out with. 

If we are to accurately appreciate the gospel message and present it’s truth to those dead in their sin and on the road to hell—we need to understand the gravity of our ghastly predicament without Jesus, the exclusive Messiah. 

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…    (Ephesians 2:1-6, ESV) 

For those of us prone to think we can add one thing to what God has already done for us—we might want to reconsider.  God has done it all in Christ Jesus—there is no escaping the ring of fire without him.