(Post by: Gerald Steele)
As a linguist I know that prepositions matter. As a matter of fact, they are sometimes even more complicated to master than verb tenses.
I have been intrigued, in recent years, at Christmastime to read the words of Matthew 1:18-21, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way: After His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not willing to make her a public example, had in mind to divorce her privately. But while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for He who is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
The narrative is not complicated to understand, and it concludes with the angel’s affirmation, “She (Mary) will bear a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people FROM (emphasis mine) their sins.”
The preposition “from” is key to our understanding of the biblical doctrines of “sin and salvation.” Unfortunately, sin and Christians have become strange bedfellows in the 21st century. Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. Christians drink like non-Christians. Christians fornicate like their non-Christian counterparts. Christians engage in pornography. Christians think that occasional cussing is okay and cute. I could add to this list into infinity.
Let me be clear, this substandard approach to genuine Christian living was never God’s intention for His people. God calls His people to holy living as evidenced in Matthew 1:21. Jesus did not arrive on planet earth with the mission of saving His people IN their sins but FROM them.
God’s grace is not a license to sin. As a matter of fact, according to Paul it’s a deterrent.
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘NO’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)
This is the Christmas message. Jesus came to free us from the tyranny of sin. He came to save us FROM our sins and not IN them. Pay attention to the prepositions in this hymn!
O HOLY NIGHT
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”