Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Bible Lesson in Grammar

“And they glorified God in me.” (Galatians 1:24)

         Whenever I read the last verse of the first chapter of Galatians, I often think that the Holy Spirit is giving me a refresher course in priorities by means of a lesson in grammar I learned many years ago. Here’s what I mean.

The subject of this little six-word sentence is “they,” a pronoun referring to the churches of Judea (v. 22). The verb—in this case an action verb—tells us what the churches did. They “glorified” someone or something. When you see an action verb, the first thing to look for is a direct object, a word that receives the action of the verb or shows its result. In other words, we need to find out who was the recipient of the glory these Galatian Christians were offering. In this sentence, we’ve been given three little words from which to pick, to fulfill that role: “God in me.” But we can narrow it down further because the direct object must a noun, which leaves the little preposition “in” out of the running.

Now we’re left with only two candidates to receive the action of the verb “glorified.” To put it simply, who received the glory, God or Paul? Now, if you’re really slow on the pick up here, and still finding it hard to decide (and don’t act as though you haven’t wavered between the two in your own life), I can settle the whole thing by reminding you that the before mentioned preposition “in” has already tapped “me” to be its own personal object, thereby leaving only one Person left to receive the glory—God!

         This is an important lesson, however you learn it. As a lively, if not yet master, grammarian, the Holy Spirit reminds me that as well as being the supreme object of my affections, God should be the direct object of any glory that might otherwise come to me. Paul says of these believers, they looked at him and glorified God…not him. And isn’t it humbling to realize that God would give us an opportunity to make Him look good? We can’t do this, however, as long as we’re jockeying for the position of “direct object.” God shares many things with His children, including His love and His home; but the one thing He refuses to share is His glory.

        Mark it down; when the verb is “glorify,” the only acceptable direct object is God.

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