Did you know that, in Ephesians 5, Saint Paul challenges us to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”?
Did you catch that? He said we are to give thanks at all times and for all things! That seems crazy, doesn’t it?
Most modern commentators gloss over that as if Paul didn’t really mean what he wrote. But in the 4th century A.D., Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople—who read Ephesians in his native tongue—preached that Paul meant we should thank God “even for Hell.”
Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s Church, and certainly not against Christ, who is the Word of God, and who is the Light of the world, and who descends into the depths of the earth.
He makes a way when there is no way…because He is the way.
He makes a door when there is no door…because He is the door.
He is the Light.
And “whatever is exposed to Light becomes Light.” And that even includes Hell, or to be more precise Sheol, in Hebrew, and Hades, in Greek.
There is no biblical equivalent for the English word “hell.” So when Chrysostom said, “Thank God even for hell,” he would have used the word Hades. And Hades is in the depths of the earth. Hades is temporal, and Hades comes to an end and Jesus is the End.
You see? Hades has no purpose, and yet God has a purpose for Hades. And I think it’s this: that those who refuse the Grace of God in Christ here on earth would ultimately surrender to the Grace of God in Christ there when they see Light in the darkness. To refuse to thank God for His Grace (and all is Grace) is to trap yourself in lies and outer darkness. It is to refuse your own creation. It is to make a place for the devil. In Ephesians 4:27 Paul literally wrote: “Give no place to the devil.”
If we ever say that there is a group of people to whom God’s mercy can never reach, an endless place where God’s light can never shine, a place of endless torment where they will never give thanks, aren’t we giving an absolutely immense place to the devil? And aren’t we then “living to the praise of the devil’s glory?” Perhaps we think it’s our glory, but it’s the devil’s glory, it’s an illusion.
To refuse to “give thanks always and for everything,” is to preserve a place for nothing and the devil inhabits the nothing, the abyss. But to “thank God always and for everything” is to be saved. It is to have faith in Grace. It is to “live for the praise of God’s glory.” It is to be created in God’s image. It is to be filled with the Holy Spirit… and come into agreement with the Kingdom of Heaven.
So let’s start “thanking God always and for everything!”
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled: “Thanks for Everything and Nothing.” To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: Thanks for Everything and Nothing
Discussion questions are available here: 6.2.2013 Discussion Questions
Image credit: Art by Carlos Sandoval