When I was a kid, my palate was not very sophisticated. Besides, I just wasn’t interested in eating. I would much rather play instead. So, I used to have real difficulty identifying what kind of meat I was eating. (Not that I cared much.) Was this lamb, beef, pork, turkey? I was confused. It was funny for my parents. Eventually I got teased about it. “No, it’s Giraffe!” they would jokingly say.
Like most kids gradually I learned. One of the key indicators to what I was eating was what went with the meat on the plate. Mint sauce with lamb, apple sauce with pork, tartare sauce with fish (fish? – yup, I began to joke about it too) etc.
When reading the Bible there are certain things we consider the real meat and certain things we consider the embellishments – sauces, garnishes etc. Prepositions can be treated as the parsley on the hollandaise sauce – nice, if you like that sort of thing, but disposable if you don’t. Either way let’s get to the real meat!
However, the importance of prepositions shows up in this pair of verses from Paul:
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:3,4 (NIV)
How did you read it? In this case it seems to me that the preposition is crucial. Often we read
… the law might be fully met in us …
… the law might be fully met for us …
Did you get the difference? In other words, often we read this verse, which is about our ongoing sanctification (‘in us’), as a verse about the atonement (‘for us’).
There are some people who take the view that the law has no place in the life of the believer. They want to read the Scriptures in this way. Therefore, the idea that the God might be doing something with the law in us, they say, is unacceptable. “For us”? Yes, on the Cross. “In us”? No, the law is obsolete.
But you can only take this view if you ignore the garnish. Here, the prepositional garnish is an essential pointer what the doctrinal meat is. Yes, we can try and do without it – “lets get to the meat!” we say. But this attitude makes for a pretty dull meal, which may consist of a slab of something we find difficult to identify.