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The power of little words

April 30, 2011 2 Comments

by David Bode

Have you ever noticed how important little words are?

Take, for example, the difference between the words a and the. We call one the “indefinite article.” When we talk about a picture, we could be referring to any one of hundreds of images. If we talk about the picture, we’re looking at one specific photo or artwork. Perhaps you’re aware how the book known as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, incorrectly translates John 1:1 to read: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” That little word a drastically changes the meaning—denying that Jesus is the True God, the Eternal Word, one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Two other small words also have a dramatic impact: if and but. Consider what St. Paul says about the resurrection: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 20 ESV).

How sad and hopeless our lives would be if Christ hadn’t been raised! If, as many people have suggested, the disciples removed Christ’s body…if Christ had never really died, but simply “came to” in the cool of the tomb…if this is just a story the church has told to back up its teaching, then we are still in our sins. There is no life after death. There is no heavenly life. We are lost for all eternity.

Thankfully, though, Paul goes on to assure us, using that simple word but. Yes, Christ died—but Christ has been raised! The death He suffered on the cross does not prevent Him from His glorious task of bringing forgiveness and life to sinners like you and me. As Christ said: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18 ESV).

The devil thought Christ was defeated on the cross, but Christ rose again from the dead. An unbelieving world thinks the cross was the end of the story, but Christ rose and the story goes on. Even now, in our struggles, we have the assurance: Christ died for us, but Christ rose, and we will live in Him.

In Proverbs we read: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (30:5 ESV). There are no small, insignificant or empty words from God. They all have benefit for us. As we read and study the Word, even the smallest words come to life. Treasure that Word, knowing the Spirit is at work in all of God’s Word, leading us to the hope that is ours in Christ—that sure and certain hope of forgiveness and life through the Christ who died and rose for us.

Rev. David Bode is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in London, Ontario and serves as first vice-president of Lutheran Church–Canada’s East District


  • MirrorMan said:

    Thanks to Mr Bode for writing this definite article. It reminds me of lessons learned long ago in elementary grammar class. The difference between “a” and “the” is a distinction made in several languages. Sometimes definite articles are explicitly needed; used for emphasis. Sometimes they are understood (implied).

    John 1:1 definitely contains definite articles what are understood by faith-filled ears through time and geography. This is what it looks like:

    Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.
    In beginning was the Word and the Word was with the God and God was the Word.

    God and Word point to static subjects. The verse conveys a single thought, emphatically made in the 3rd clause. So it is counterintuitive to claim the Word was “a god other than the One previously identified in the verse.” Word and God are essentially the same, much like rain and water.

    It’s risky trying to explain divinely revealed Truth to an unbelieving world, for Christians and Christian scholars alike. We read that God speaks of himself in the plural; that the Son and the Father are one; that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son in both Testaments. Yet, the Trinity remains a slippery foundation for human reason to securely stand on. God tells us why in 1 Corinthians 2:14.

    John writes, “But these were written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of the living God, and that by believing you might have life in his name” (John 20:31).

    Who is he writing to?

  • domain registration India said:

    Nice and different article man. Yes, words are very important. On daily life, we are using many little words. Sometimes some words are effective.

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