Paint buckets and bendy men.
Last week, I preached on Ephesians 2:1-10. It’s a powerful text and loaded with theologically charged words and ideas. I try to focus my message on the central idea of the passage by carefully considering the, well, um… grammar. I mostly forgot about grammar after the fifth grade or so, until I began studying Biblical languages and then I very quickly caught up on fifth grade English.
In English, we usually identify the parts of a sentence by the word order. The subject usually comes before the verb and the object. The subject does the action of the verb, and the object receives the action. So, in the sentence: “Bob hit the ball,” we identify “Bob” as the subject and “the ball” as the object. If we change the word order, we change the meaning of the sentence.
Greek word order is more flexible than English. Greek uses case endings to identify the difference between the subject and the object. So, in Greek, you can place the object of the sentence before the subject for emphasis. This is precisely what happens in Ephesians 2:1-9. Paul places the object first, and you don’t get to the subject until verse 4! Then there are three verbs in verses 5 and 6 to round out the basic idea of the sentence which is: “God makes us alive together with Christ, raises us and seats us with Christ.”
It’s important to identify the main idea of any sentence, otherwise you may miss what the Bible intends to communicate. And when you transfer that idea to a modern audience, it always helps to have a good illustration or example. This is where paint buckets and bendy men come into play. Illustrating our move; from death to life by the power of God, I set up two paint buckets on the platform and used little yellow bendy men to point out that everyone is lost without God’s intervention. Just like the bendy men are powerless to move themselves from one bucket to another, we need the power of God to transfer us from death to life!
Now I have a bucket full of bendy men in my office. So, if you need some… come see me. They haven’t moved. And, unless my grandchildren find them, they won’t. But God is always able to move a willing heart.