By Tim Sullivan


Without God’s intervention, it would be impossible to correctly interpret the Scriptures. Our understanding of his Word is entirely dependent upon his revealing that Word to us. Therefore, says the Psalmist, “I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments” (Ps. 119:131). God’s response is entirely positive: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10). We “open our mouth” to God in meekness. Psalm 22:26 says, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied.” This was the experience of Jeremiah who said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jer. 15:16).

This does not imply that our quest for biblical understanding is a passive undertaking. “Get wisdom, get understanding” says Proverbs 4:5. Our pursuit of wisdom is active, not passive. The road to spiritual understanding is through much prayer coupled with diligent study of the Word of God. We are enlightened when he opens the scriptures to us. “Through thy precepts I get understanding,” says Psalm 119:104. “The entrance of thy words giveth light,” says Psalm 119:130, “it giveth understanding unto the simple.” That is why the Lord says, “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read” (Isa. 34:16).

The Lord’s servant must “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). True study requires that your heart and mind be open to discovery. The objective of honest study is not to be proven right or wrong, but rather to discover the truth. A true student remains detached from his preconceived notions. He longs to know God (in the words of C. S. Lewis), “Not to what I think thou art, but to what thou knowest thyself to be.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see through a glass, darkly.” I am convinced that much of that darkness is self-imposed. We don’t see because we don’t want to see. We don’t read the Bible; we read into the Bible, using our favorite verses to support our personal point of view. Adding sin to sin, we turn a blind eye toward all the verses that contradict that position.

As we study the Scriptures, it is good to remember that the Bible is not a collection of 31,102 independent verses. Each individual verse is clarified by those surrounding it, just as the green band in a rainbow is clarified by the three bands of color on either side. Each scriptural truth fits into a cultural, geographical, and historical context.

Seeing the “bigger picture” makes us better able to put away those doctrines that do not have a biblical foundation. At the same time, we need to pay attention to the details. Little words can have big meanings.

One morning as I was reading my Bible, three little words arrested my attention. I noticed them in the closing verses of Romans chapter 11.

Romans 11:34-36:
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:36 says that of him are all things, through him are all things, and to him are all things. These three little words – of, through and to – are prepositions; little words with big meanings. According to Webster’s dictionary, a preposition is “a word usually put before another to express some relation or quality, action or motion to or from the thing specified.” In Romans 11:36, the relationship between the Lord and “all things” is described three ways: All things are of him, through him and to him. What is the Bible telling us?

All Things are OF HIM

The preposition “of” emphasizes the point of origin. All things originate with the Lord. In other words, he is the source of all things.

In Mark 5:30 we read, “And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” From where did this healing virtue originate? It was “of him.” This power came from Jesus.

In John 6:38, we read that Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Who was the originator of his mission? It was “the will of him that sent me.” The preposition of points back to God.

Yes, all things are of Jesus. How is this so? Jesus said, “All things are delivered to me of my Father” (Lk. 10:22). As Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, when God raised Jesus from the dead, and set his Son at his own right hand, he “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church.” 1 Corinthians 15 further clarifies this:

1 Corinthians 15:27b-28:
... But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he [God the Father] is excepted, which did put all things under him [Jesus the Son].
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Jesus is the source, the originator, of all that we have and all that we are. We are of him, even as he is of God.

1 Corinthians 1:30:
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

All Things are THROUGH HIM

The preposition “through” also emphasizes the direction of movement. It means “proceeding from and passing out.” In Mark 11:16, we read that Jesus “would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.” You can easily picture a man carrying a vessel in one entrance and out the opposite exit. In order to reach his final destination, he must go through the temple. This is the picture I want you to see when you read John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Here, the words through and by mean the same thing.

You cannot reach God by going around the Son. You must go through Jesus. Our salvation is fully because him. He is the door through which we must pass to reach eternity. “The gift of God,” says Romans 6:23, “is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The synonymous prepositions through or by also mean “on account of” or “because of.” To see this more clearly, read John 1:1-3:

John 1:1-3:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

These verses do not point to Jesus as the creator of all things, but the reason for all things. This same truth is shown in Ephesians 3:9, which says that God “created all things by Jesus Christ.” Jesus is not only “the reason for the [Christmas] season.” He is the reason for all things.

All Things are TO HIM

Finally, the preposition “to” emphasizes the target or purpose of the motion. 1 Peter 5:11 says, “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 says, “To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” Everything we do as Christian is for the purpose of glorifying the name of Jesus Christ.

Colossians 3:17:
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Practical Consideration

Picture a train that is running on a track from Station A to Station B. Station A is the point of origin. The train is “of” or from Station A. The track is the way of travel. The train comes through or by way of the track. Station B is the final destination. The train travels to Station B. The entire journey is of, though and to.

Christianity is all about... Christ. He is “the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending” (Rev. 1:8). He is also everything in-between. All things are of him, through him, and to him.

The verse we have been considering, Romans 11:36, is a response to the questions that precede it:

Romans 11:34-35:
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

The answer, of course, is no one. Why? Because all things are of him, through him and to him.

The Bible is a practical book. The aim of our “instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16) is not the accumulation of knowledge, but “good works” (2 Tim. 3:17). “We are his workmanship,” agrees Ephesians 2:10, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).

This year, let all things be of him, through him, and to him, and you will see a greater harvest of spiritual fruit than you have ever known before.



From the December 2006 issue of The Vine & Branches