Prepositions are typically small words but they pack a deceptively powerful punch. They make a difference, a big difference. Consider if you will, the difference between being in the car, under the car or beside the car. In the first scenario you are driving the car, (or possibly a passenger) in the second scenario, you have either been run over by the car or you are a mechanic fixing the car. In the third scenario, it is unknown whether you will become the driver, a car vandal or car thief, or perhaps you are simply admiring said car.
But all these possibilities become reality by simply changing the preposition. Who knew prepositions were so powerful? Well, turns out they do have a certain impact. Prepositions can totally change the situation.
Consider the difference between someone giving money to you and someone taking money from you. In the former, perhaps you are being paid for work you did or you won a bet. In the latter, you are being robbed, my friend.
Think about the difference between Jesus walking on the water and Peter, who ended up walking in the water. It’s the difference between being dry and being wet. (and also between being divine and being human)
It makes a huge difference whether the tornado goes through the city, around the city or jumps over the city. The end result on the ground is very different depending on which preposition tells the story of the tornado’s journey.
Prepositions tell us a lot about location and location is important as it determines so much. Take for instance Jesus’s location revealed to us in Romans 8:34 which says,
” . . . Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
The preposition “at” tells me where Jesus is and the preposition “for” lets me know that He is interceding on my behalf. I am also reassured by what Romans 8:31 tells me,
” . . . If God is for us, who can be against us?” I confess – it makes a huge difference in my relationships whether someone is for me or against me. What a difference a preposition makes!
We are getting closer to the season in which we celebrate Christ’s birth. We are remembering that this was the time when God came to dwell with us and walk among us. Two very important prepositions that changed the course of human history. Matthew 1:23 tells us,
” ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us.’ ”
“With” is a wonderful preposition when I consider what it means. It means that the Creator of the universe came to live among His people, came to share in their daily lives. For a miraculous, mercy filled moment in time, God inhabited human history in human form.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
Approximately thirty three years later a very important prepositional change would occur. Jesus would go from living with His disciples here on earth to living in His disciples through the person of His Holy Spirit. Jesus attempted to prepare His disciples for this big change by explaining to them,
“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. . . . when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:7 & 13)
Jesus also told His disciples, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)
So Jesus was leaving earth but would send the Holy Spirit to believers after His departure. Paul referred to the Holy Spirit’s presence in every believer when he wrote to the Colossians saying,
“the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27)
That switch from with to in was a big one. What a difference it makes in our daily lives. It happened at Pentecost, this miraculous arrival of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of a prophesy made by Joel so many years before when he foretold that God would do this,
“I will pour out My Spirit on all people . . . And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:28 & 32)
Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven after His resurrection when He told His disciples in parting,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
So . . . “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. . . . All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4)
Later, Peter would explain to crowds of curious people what had happened to him and the other disciples in these words,
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)
Peter made it clear that God’s gift of His Holy Spirit was for anyone who would believe on the name of His Son, Jesus.
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ ” (Acts 2:38-39)
Everyone receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, not just living with them but in them. The Holy Spirit was Jesus’s parting gift to us, so to speak. Jesus was no longer going to be physically present with us, but He would be spiritually present in us twenty-four/seven forever. Maybe this is why Jesus said it is better for us that He went back to the Father because then He could send us His Holy Spirit to live in us instead of with us.
“In” is closer than “with”. It doesn’t get any more personal. I’m thinking about the ten commandments, which God wrote on the stone tablets and gave to Moses to present to the Israelites, so that God’s laws could be with them. Those sacred stone tablets remained with the Israelite people in their Ark of the Covenant but those laws being “with” the people didn’t really change their lives in any meaningful, ongoing sense or way.
This is probably why in Hebrews 10:15-16 I read these words,
“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ ”
Wow! What a difference a preposition makes! From external to internal is an important distinction. And it is a distinction that matters greatly to God. Paul describes the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit this way in 2 Corinthians 4:7,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (our bodies are the jars of clay, the treasure is God’s Holy Spirit living in us)
I’m sure the disciples were feeling quite abandoned as Jesus began preparing them for His return to the Father after His resurrection. But Jesus reassured them with these words,
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.” (John 14:16-20)
He lives with you and will be in you. Jesus was with the disciples and many other people during His time here, but upon His return to heaven He fulfilled that promise that He would no longer abide with us, but in us.
And that is the power of a preposition, dear readers. Prepositions determine position and God prioritizes the internal over the external. He says in John 15:4,
“Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”
a particularly powerful preposition, that one “in”.
“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
sincerely, Grace Day