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Small words

February 2006 | by Michael Austin

big meanings! (1)

I am interested in words, and I hope you are too. There are several reasons for my interest. I can still remember the sense of enlightenment when, as a young child, I was taught to read. Words began to make sense and, as it were, speak to me.

A more basic reason for interest is the awesome truth that we have been created in the image of God by the Word of the living God (Genesis 1:26-27). Even after the Fall, ideas, significance, wonder and meaning are still written into the depths of our humanity.

Yet more wonderful, I am a Christian because the Spirit of God graciously opened my eyes to grasp the message of the cross of God’s dear Son (1 Corinthians 1:18). God reveals himself in Scripture – which consists of written words! How this ought to impress us with the serious task of asking the Holy Spirit to give us a life-transforming understanding of God’s Word.

Taught by the Spirit

In this short series I shall look, in a non-technical way, at the big meanings of some of the small words in the Greek New Testament. In the original autographs these are ‘words taught by the Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:13).

My first ‘small word’ is kata, which occurs many times in the New Testament with several meanings depending on how it is used in a sentence. But 15 times in Ephesians katais translated ‘according to’ and conveys the thought of something that follows appropriately or fittingly as a result of a particular action or plan.

The universe is not a chaotic series of unrelated events. Things happen ‘in accordance with’ causes. In the same way, the events that flow out of a person’s actions show a fitness or ‘accord’ with their character or ways of working. Let’s look at a few examples from Ephesians.

Glorious grace

We may act according to a fallen, corrupted principle. You were spiritually dead, says Paul, ‘when you followed [that is, lived in accordance with, kata] the ways of this world’ (2:2).

Nevertheless, on a wonderfully exalted level, true believers are assured that God ‘predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with[kata] his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace’ (1:5-6).

We are also assured that in Christ, ‘we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with[kata] the riches of God’s grace’ (1:7).

We conclude with the powerfully confirming truth that those who have received the riches of God’s grace are brought by that grace into God’s family, ‘having been predestined according to[kata] the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with[kata] the purpose of his will’ (1:11).

Small words acquire big meanings when linked with the power, grace and purpose of God. Hold on to this vital truth for life – that God, gloriously, majestically and eternally, has saved us according tohis gracious purpose!