Prepositional Truth

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In the vast majority of human languages, nouns and verbs have all the fun. 

Those forms of speech are usually at the center of the action when it comes to communication.

Prepositions, however, aren’t far behind.  That’s because they express relationships between words.  And that can matter a great deal.

When someone says, “The boat is in the water,” our minds immediately generate pictures of a boat and a body of water – perhaps a dory plunging through rapids at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or a lobster boat heading out from Cape Cod.  We barely notice the little word in.  But that word takes on monumental significance when someone says, “Now that my life is in Christ, everything is different.”  What does it mean to be “in” Christ?  We assume it must be different from an aircraft carrier being in the Pacific Ocean. 

It’s worth pausing to do a quick review of elementary school English.  Our language is graced with approximately 150 prepositions.  Purists have long insisted that it’s improper to use a preposition to end a sentence, such as, “I wonder where the cat has gone off to.” 

A young boy, home sick from school, was dismayed when his mother visited his teacher to pick up a homework assignment.  He somehow managed to ask a question that ended with five prepositions, sighing, “Mom, why did you bring that book I didn’t want to be read to out of up for?”

In this regard, Winston Churchill has long been the hero of school children.  According to numerous sources (and they may all be apocryphal), the prime minister was incensed when a strict grammarian corrected him for putting a preposition at the end of a sentence.  “This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put.” 

Prepositions like over, under, across, beyond, below, around, from, and into tend to stay in the background, humbly and quietly doing their work of connecting other forms of speech.  But every now and then they become the stars of the show.

Think of the stirring conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  Those three words say a great deal. 

Is there such “prepositional truth” on the pages of Scripture? 

Examples abound. 

Paul says, concerning Jesus, “All things have been created through him and for him, and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).  A thousand doctoral theses could not exhaust the theological implications of those four words. 

Here are some other statements of Paul, each of which is rich with significance. 

“You are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14)
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13).
“These things happened to them as examples and written down as warnings for us” (I Corinthians 10:11).
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).    

Perhaps most striking of all, the Gospel of Matthew begins and ends with a spotlight on the same preposition. 

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which means God With Us” (Matthew 1:23).

“[Jesus said], ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:20). 

Jesus’ name contains a preposition.  There is no event, no appointment, and no circumstance this week in which he will fail to live up to it. 

He is the With-Us God.

And you can spend time with him right now.