Prominent Prepositions

Romans 3:19 - 8:1.

The importance of the truths contained in Romans 3 to 8, as regards their individual application, it is impossible to overestimate. Peace, deliverance, and liberty cannot in any degree be realised or enjoyed apart from the intelligent and spiritual apprehension of the truths therein brought to light by the apostle.

The framework of truth in these chapters may be simply and distinctly traced in connection with some prepositions, which possess a remarkable and unmistakable prominence.

The object of this paper then is, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, to link up these important successional truths one with another, as it were, by a simple chain of little words which, being in themselves insignificant, may have failed duly to impress even a constant reader with their full and distinctive importance.

Man's responsible position, whether Jew or Gentile, is first of all summed up in the little preposition, in Romans 3:19,


"Guilty before God." The two streams of humanity, Jew and Gentile, privileged and unprivileged, with and without law, are here presented, exposed in their responsibly guilty state before God. Next, the full and unmistakable character of that righteousness which, being God's, alone can suit Him, comes out at least on its negative side. Law and law-righteousness have nothing to say to it, for it is declared to be


law, i.e., apart absolutely from any link of association with human righteousness with which man seeks, when first conscious of his guilty state, to cover himself, as in the first instance Adam and Eve, by a garment of their own make.

But if human effort is thus summarily put out of court, it is only that God's righteousness may be acquired


"the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (v. 24), presented as such on the divine side; while as to appropriation on ours, it is said to be "through faith in His blood."

In accordance with the subject of this part of the epistle, the declaration of God's righteousness by means of the blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, is announced to be


"the remission of sins." This little word is repeated in chapter 4:2, "Jesus our Lord … was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification"; and in chapter 5:6-8, though the word in the original is different in the two latter cases, it is correctly translated "for" in English: "Christ died for the ungodly," "Christ died for us."

So far these little but leading words have been rapidly glanced over as expressing fundamental truths of immense moment; viz., man's universally guilty state; the character of God's righteousness in its aspect manward; redemption alone through Christ Jesus, ours through faith, God acting in sovereign grace for remission of sins, resurrection witnessing to the complete justification of the sinner and the ungodly.

The gospel, it is to be feared, is often summarised by, and limited to these truths. Marvellous, however, though they assuredly are in scope and character, they are far from exhausting the full measure of the work of redemption. Indeed we may say, with the light Romans 5:8-12 furnishes, that that work would be incomplete and insufficient if it reached no further than the extent to which it is applied in the earlier part up to Romans 5:11.

A little preposition now occurs, which it is not too much to say fairly studs chapter 5, occurring twenty times, viz.,


At verse 11, however, it introduces a subject different entirely as to its character from any that precede, but of immense moment to apprehend before deliverance and liberty can be spiritually and divinely enjoyed. Its force may be summed up in one short word, viz., entail.

Hitherto responsibility has been occupying the apostle's teaching in this epistle, and necessarily comes first, as dealing with individual relations of guilt, and the removal in righteousness of sins connected with that personally-responsible condition in which each separately stands before God.

In contrast to this, by entail is meant state or condition acquired by hereditary descent, not as the result, as here considered, of personal doings or responsibility: "by one man sin entered … and so death passed upon all men," etc. Hence a sinful nature - sin - is entailed by Adam's fall upon all Adam's descendants.* The characteristic force of the preposition "by" comes out perhaps most distinctly as entail in verse 19, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

*As disease may be the fruit of personal responsibility, or of hereditary entail.

This little word consequently, as applied to Adam and to Christ, presents us with the truth of two distinct headships, whose status, by virtue of what each has done, is entailed upon those ranged respectively under those headships. Though not so designated here, these are elsewhere termed "the first man" and "the second Man," "the first Adam" and "the last Adam." (1 Cor. 15:45-47.)

We are now face to face with the first essential truth of immense importance to apprehend, as preparatory to the divine understanding of the truth of deliverance, which is simply the relief experienced by the soul's intelligent transfer from the headship of Adam to the headship of Christ, together with the corresponding practical and experimental deliverance from the bondage entailed by the first, into the liberty entailed by the latter.

But first, before entering upon the practical and experimental side of this important subject, the apostle states doctrinally that which is no matter of experience in itself, but upon which what is experimental is based.

It is impossible to advance a step towards apprehending and enjoying liberty under the new headship so long as indistinct thoughts of relation to the Adam headship remain; hence the absolute importance of the truth involved in the next important preposition, viz.,


This little word has a double bearing, viz., first, upon the judicial condemnation of that which by entail has been transmitted from Adam downwards, i.e., sin, the nature: "Our old man has been crucified WITH Him" (v. 6. New Trans.); secondly, upon the termination of the believer's connection and identification with the first or Adam headship: "If we have died WITH Christ," etc. (v. 8.) Dead with another may be understood in one of two alternative ways - either representatively, as the conscript who may be held to have died if his substitute should have died, or in the sense of the death of two actually at the same time, and under the same circumstances, as in the case of Saul and Jonathan, of whom it is said, "in death they were not divided." It is only in the former of these two senses that it is possible for the believer to "have died with Christ," and uniformly so, when death is applied to the believer in the historical or past sense; that is to say, it is wholly and absolutely objective. It may be well here to draw attention to what has been noted by others, viz., the change from the pronoun "we," used uniformly in verses 1 to 10, to "ye" in verse 11. That which is true of all believers, and has even become by faith the possession subjectively of some, is in verse 11 pressed hortatively, at once reducing to practice what has been, it may be, already accepted in the faith of a past accomplishment in Christ. But this practical application of Christ's death, coming in as it does under another preposition, will be treated of separately later on.

Other expressions, and as such in themselves irreconcilable with the one under consideration, are used when death is practically and experimentally connected with the believer; viz., "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin" (v. 11); "Bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:10); "Mortify therefore your members," etc. (Col. 3:5); "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh," etc. (Gal. 5:24.)

Lest, however, the objective truth of the believer's having died with Christ should by any possibility be confused with the subjective exhortation to reckon ourselves dead (v. 11), it may be well to examine the proposition more carefully. Assuming then that "having died with Christ" expresses what is practically and experimentally made good or to be made good in the believer, in order to arrive at some clear idea of what is meant it is necessary to ask the simple question, What has died? for death is death, and where death has taken place someone or something has died, and here evidently not to be revived.

From Scripture we conclude that man is tripartite in his being, viz., body, soul, and spirit. In addition, at the Fall "sin entered"; but when, as we say, converted, there is beside the new birth, life, or nature. It is self-evident that death cannot, in the sense considered, refer to any of these (save possibly through misapprehension and erroneous teaching), or to sin, as this is at once exposed by a reference to the inspired exhortation, "Let not sin therefore reign," "have dominion," and by Paul's own acknowledgment of the "sin that dwelleth in me," these expressions being perfectly irreconcilable with sin having died in the believer. It is therefore absolutely impossible to apply death in its historical or past sense subjectively to the believer, save as the appropriation of faith. Objectively, representatively, and thus terminally and judicially, it has its full scriptural accomplishment in Christ, as Scripture terms plainly and unmistakably involve: believers "have died with Christ."*

*"Now I have died with Christ, and so do not belong to the old position of a child of Adam. Death clearly closes all relationship and bond with it." (Deliverance from the Law of Sin. J. N. Darby. p. 8.) (To be continued.)

Baptism confirms and illustrates the truth of the believer's having died with Christ: it is "unto CHRIST'S DEATH," the order as put being most remarkable and significant - "buried with Him by baptism unto death," the reversal of the ordinary course, and involving an already accomplished fact, expressively complete in burial, which precedes death in another sense, viz., practical and experimental - treated of in detail later on in the chapter.

The practical application of the believer's having died with Christ is set forth in the form of another preposition, viz.,

"TO or UNTO,"

which comes out very distinctly in verse 11, "Reckon ye therefore yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin," &c. Christ in death, and believers representatively with Him, died unto sin, verse 10 marking definitely a relation in which believers now stand to sin. Faith's apprehension of what is true of the believer before God, before it is made good in him, has undoubtedly a practical form of expression, not in actual physical death, but the reckoning or accounting himself as such to sin. It is not now the historical past, but rather the continuous present - "So also ye reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." (New Trans.) This exceedingly important transition from the past tense to the present furnishes a further impossibility as to any identity between the expressions "have died" and "reckon … dead," what is past and completed not being reconcileable with what is present and continuous, save as cause and effect. It is the relation in which the believer stands in Christ, death to sin, brought into the practice of the life; his attitude continuously towards the inward nature, in its dominating tendency and energy, rather than the attenuation or actual death of ANYTHING within him, and that by the simple practical means of accounting the body dead, i.e., the vessel or vehicle by which sin can alone express itself, and without the active co-operation of which it is rendered impotent, or as verse 6 expresses it (New Trans.), "annulled," the true rendering of "destroyed"; lit., left unemployed.

Hence, in deliverance viewed subjectively and practically in the believer, nothing has died or has to die as long as he remains in the body. In this practical aspect of deliverance it may be said to be the perpetual annulling of the energy and dominion of sin within, by the practically accounted condition of the body in the power of the Holy Ghost,* based upon the full judicial judgment of that nature in Christ, according to Rom. 6: 6 and 8:3; but if past historical death with Christ is omitted or ignored, the foundation is lacking upon which practical deliverance can be made good, and the apostolic doctrine is dislocated so as to be absolutely ineffectual in its results practically.

*In this connection see Rom. 8:13; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:13-20; 1 Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 4:10; 1 Thess. 5:23; James 3:26; James 4:1; Col. 3:5.

We are not left without the clearest scriptural authority for the application of reckoning dead to the body, for Rom. 8:10 throws clear light upon what it is that in the full Christian state of liberty is practically held for dead, viz., "THE BODY is dead because of sin" - physical death having no place here. Full Christian state (the state of a Christian being quite another thing, as always short of the scriptural standard) anticipates, in a certain sense, resurrection; viz., the body, so reckoned or accounted dead as to its being vitalised by sin, that it may be free for the full energy of the Spirit of God, its only recognised legitimate life. "The Spirit is life because of righteousness," i.e., practical righteousness.

Indeed, from Rom. 6:11-13, it is clear that the body is in view in connection with the exhortations, "Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin," "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body … neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield … your members as instruments of righteousness unto God"; again, verse 19, "As ye have yielded your members servants, etc  so now yield your members," etc.

Before, however, relief can be enjoyed by means of this practical deliverance, it is necessary to consider the force of another small but important preposition occurring in chaps. 6 and 7, viz.,


In chapter 7:14 we read, "I am carnal, sold under sin"; chap. 6:14, we "are not under law," which the undelivered soul conceives itself to be. From Rom. 7:4, 6, we learn that the believer has "become dead to the law by the [dead] body of Christ." The judgment, which a broken law demands, has been exhaustively borne by Christ in His death, but that was on the believer's behalf; hence, by virtue of an exhausted penalty fully borne, there is freedom from the law, absolutely and permanently. And Christ's death being the believer's judicial death, it is said (v. 6), "But now we are delivered from the law, having died (New Trans.) in that in which we were held."

Sin and law are in these chapters estimated in the light of the new divine nature called, chap. 7:22, "the inward man." By the instinct of holiness, proper to this new nature, the believer becomes conscious of sin's true character and of his bondage under its dominion. By the instinct of obedience, which also belongs to the new man, he is made aware of the holy, searching claims of the divine requirements, as yet embodied for him in law, but to which no effort of his enables him perfectly to conform himself. The spirit that would be free to live wholly to God is hampered and shackled, not yet knowing divine deliverance, by entanglement with these; but through the distress experienced three important truths are learnt - essentially deliverance.

That the distress proceeds from the presence of two things, as yet undistinguished - I and sin - "the inward man" and the old nature. (v. 17.)

"In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." (v. 18) - no good.

"How to perform that which is good I find not." (v. 18) - no strength.

For deliverance, not self-improvement through self-effort, there is now groaning: "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" (v. 24.)

This point of deepest distress reached experimentally, the light of a new discovery shines in: "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Applying at this stage the doctrines involved in the three little words last considered, the character of deliverance "through Jesus Christ our Lord" becomes apparent.

First, Adam's status having been entailed upon those of his order by Adam's headship, Christ the last Adam's status is entailed upon those of His order by Christ's headship in resurrection.

Second, having died with Christ, all association with the Adam headship, as concerns the believer, has ceased for God. This brings in the relief of deliverance FOR FAITH. Faith sees it as effected in Christ.

Third, having died with Christ, who, in that He died, died unto sin, the believer practically and experimentally accounts himself in the power of the Holy Ghost, dead TO sin, having also become dead to the law by that same death. This brings in the relief of practical deliverance in the daily and hourly walk.

One step further, and the full truth of deliverance is made good to the believer, expressed by our last preposition, viz.,


"There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," where it is well known Romans 8, should end, the latter clause belonging to verse 4. The believer's full standing "IN Christ," no longer IN Adam, is now consciously reached, and with it the full conviction that condemnation, if "in Him," is impossible, hitherto unavoidably connected in the troubled mind with the domination of sin, and the pressure of law's claims, "Being now made free from sin" has now its own special blessedness and intelligent meaning, as well as "become dead to the law by the body of Christ"; deliverance is enjoyed, and liberty now lies before the emancipated believer in all its blessed characteristics, as set forth in Romans 8:1-17.*

*"My standing is in Christ, not in Adam, or flesh at all. It is not that the flesh is not in me, but it is not my standing and place before God. I am in Christ, or in the Spirit; in Christ consequent on His having died and risen and gone up beyond sin and death and judgment; or in the Spirit, which is the power of it down here.

"I have got into the new place in Christ in that I have died to the old thing - Adam - and am alive in Christ. Had I to die or to get free by my own victory I should not succeed, but I have found the need of a deliverer, as unable myself to set aside flesh, and have by grace found one in, by faith, having died and risen with Christ. I have not to die, I reckon myself dead, because by the Holy Ghost Christ who died is in me as my life." (Deliverance front the Law of Sin. J. N. Darby., pp. 9, 10.)

In conclusion, it may be well to summarise the important truths associated with the little words which have been under review.

"Before." Man's universally guilty state, whether Jew or Gentile.

"Without." God's righteousness on behalf of the sinner, is apart from law and law-keeping.

"Through." Redemption lies wholly in the work of Christ.

"For." Propitiation effects the remission of sins absolutely, and resurrection witnesses to justification.

These four concern sins or responsibility.

"By." The two great headships, Adam and Christ, whose respective status is entailed upon those belonging to their respective orders.

"With." The believer having died with Christ, his connection with the Adam headship and order is, for God, thereby dissolved. Christ, viewed as raised from the dead, is head of the new order to which he belongs.

"To." The believer accounts himself now dead to sin, to which in Christ's death he died.

"Under." Sin dominates the quickened soul, while law demands what cannot be rendered until deliverance is practically apprehended.

"In." True, full Christian standing in Christ, which introduces the believer into "the liberty wherewith Christ hath made him free."

These last five have to do with sin or entail.

These little golden links in the chain of divine truth in these chapters, leading up from guilty distance to the full Christian state of liberty and enjoyed nearness to God, are presented with a view to simplifying a line of doctrine which may have appeared perplexing to some who have been gauging their own acceptance by occupation with their state, instead of with their standing. But it is important to keep in mind that experimental knowledge of self must precede practical everyday deliverance, however clear we may be doctrinally as to the manner of it. M. C. G.