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When God’s Grammar Blows Your Mind

I used to hate grammar. I went to an elementary school where diagramming sentences was still a thing even in the early 2000s. But when I became a Christian, and when I started studying the Bible (especially in the original Greek), the grammar of the Bible started to blow my mind.

For example, Romans 11:36 says,

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

In Romans 1-11, Paul expounds and unpacks what has been called the greatest expression of the Gospel ever recorded. Anyone even remotely familiar with Romans knows that is exactly the case. Romans is a beautiful portrait of what Christ has done to save His people.

Just go read Romans 3:23-26, 4:22-25, 5:1, 5:8-11, 6:5, 7:25, 8:1, 9:16—there are some of the most amazing statements of the Gospel within Paul’s epistle to the Romans. And after spending 11 chapters unpacking the “Gospel of the Glory of Christ” (how Paul describes the Gospel in 2 Cor. 4:4), Paul almost explodes into doxology in 11:36—”For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” You can almost hear Paul’s utter joy and excitement as he cannot hold back any longer from praising the great Triune God. The reason I bring up this verse is that it changes everything about our lives. In 18 words, Paul completely reorients everything about everything. I hope to show you why. Let’s break it apart briefly.

Conjunctions Are Key

At first glance, the first word of the verse may seem like another unneeded conjunction like “and” or “but”. The word ‘for’ may not seem that theologically weighty, or it may not seem to carry much significance for understanding the verse—but it does. Don’t skip over the conjunctions or prepositions of the Bible, for in them are a ton of insight.

You see, when the New Testament writers (especially Paul) start a thought with a conjunction like ‘but’, ’therefore’, ’since’, or ‘for’, the author means for us to consider the whole of what he had just written. That little 3-letter word ‘for’ is Paul’s way of telling us to remember and consider everything he just wrote in the preceding 11 chapters in order to understand why he is saying what he will say after ‘for’.

This is extremely important because Paul gives us a universal way of looking at everything we do and experience as Christians (“all things” really means all things!).

By saying ‘for’ at the beginning of the verse, he intends for us to remember and consider everything we just read about the glory of Christ in the Gospel. It’s as if Paul is saying to us, “Before I give you the exhortations of chapter 12, and before I give you a God-centered way of looking at all things as a Christian:

  • Remember that Christ propitiated the wrath of God for you if you trust in Him (Rom. 3:24-25)!
  • You have peace with God now (Rom. 5:1)! You have been set free to enjoy a relationship with the great Triune God of the Universe (Rom. 5:11)!
  • You are joined to and united with Christ (Rom. 6:5)!
  • You are released from the curse of the Law (Rom. 7)!
  • There is no condemnation for you now (Rom. 8:1)! The Spirit helps you in your weakness (Rom. 8:26)!
  • It was God’s initiative that resulted in your salvation (Rom. 9:16)!

Therefore, because of all of that, because of all Christ has done for you in His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection and ascension to the right hand of His Father, now live and think this way.”

All of that is in the little, seemingly insignificant word ‘for’. Again, I urge you, do not take the conjunctions of the Bible for granted.

From, Through, To

After reminding us of the great Gospel truths of his letter, Paul then moves on to give us the way to look at our lives as a people that have been bought by Christ.He does this by telling us from where everything comes (“from Him”), how everything happens (“through Him”), and for whom everything is meant (“to him”). Let’s look at each one briefly.

Paul says that everything is from God. Nothing is left out. Nothing has ever happened to us or been given to us, or will happen or be given to us in the future, that is not directly from the hand of God.

  • He works all things according to the purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11).
  • Every good gift comes from above (James 1:17).
  • God causes all things to work for the good of those that God calls and that love Him (Rom. 8:28).
  • And since the Father didn’t even spare His beloved Son, He will, with Christ, freely give His children all things (Rom. 8:31).

Don’t ever look at anything in your life or in this world as if it is apart from God’s will for you. Be comforted that the same Paul that writes “all things are from God” in 11:36 is the same Paul that writes that tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword will work for our good and will not separate us from the love of Christ in 8:35. And also, be humbled that nothing you have ever done or ever will do is from your own power.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.”

Paul then goes on to say that everything is done through God. That means that everything that you have ever done, are doing now, or will ever do is ever in, through, or by your own power or strength. Nothing. “ALL THINGS” really does mean all things. From your salvation, to your becoming more like Christ, to your going to the grocery store to buy eggs—all things occur because God empowers and is the decisive cause for them. Not that you didn’t believe in Christ (John 1:12), not that you don’t have to strive to become more like Christ (Phil. 2:12-13), not that you didn’t drive to the grocery store or have to make the money to buy eggs—but in all things it was not you, but the grace of God working in you (1 Cor. 15:10). If you’ll go look at John 1:12 and Philippians 2:12-13, which are both places that indicate that we are responsible to do certain things, like believe or strive, God is given as the decisive and determining factor in those acts—acts that we must do.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.”

Lastly, Paul tells us to whom all things are for. All things are “to Him”. This last one seems like a culmination of the previous two—a cherry on top, if you will. But what exactly does it mean for all things to be “to God”? Well, Paul defines exactly what he means by that at the end of the verse—“To him be glory forever. Amen.” So what Paul means by all things are “to God”, is that all things exist to glorify God. They are meant for Him. The exist to show Him off. It seems as though Paul says that all things are “to Him” precisely because all things are both from God (as a gift) and through God (accomplished in His power).

If God is the both the source and empowering force for everything we do, wouldn’t it just make sense that all things are meant to be done to God’s glory? Paul evidently thinks so. According to Ephesians 1:5-6, the overarching purpose of God is the praise of His glory and grace. 1 Cor. 10:31 says “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.” Eating and drinking simply means, “even in the littlest, seemingly unimportant acts of your day”, and Paul says that even those are meant to be done to make God look as beautiful and glorious and marvelous as He is (the definition of glorifying God!).

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Why It Matters

Why does all of this even matter? How does the importance of one conjunction and four prepositions change the way you live?

That word ‘for’, means that all of your life is to be lived in the shadow of the Gospel. Everything in your life should be lived in response to the reality of all God has accomplished for you in Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself every day. Preach these truths into your mind until your heart sings Gospel chords.

You may be taking a large, heavy course-load this semester and will need divine empowerment to be a diligent student—which will come through God. You may be a new parent and the seemingly impossible task of raising a child for the rest of your life might feel suffocating—the sustaining grace to be a faithful, Gospel-centered parent will come through God. You may struggle to maintain a consistent quiet time or devotional life where your communion with Christ can grow—the grace to keep you abiding in Christ will come through God. The divine energy for all good works, which you were predestined to do (Eph. 2:10), will be supplied by God.

Therefore, depend on the God of all Grace to sustain, keep, strengthen and empower you—for when you depend on God’s provision (“from God”) and God’s power (“through God”), you glorify Him (“to God”) because when you depend upon God for all things, you make Him look infinitely valuable, extraordinarily beautiful, and amazingly gracious.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

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