Today I want to tell you about one of, if not my favorite, words in the New Testament. I’ll warn you right from the start, it’s probably not what you think. It’s not one of those big words like propitiation or sanctification. It’s not the name of God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit. It’s not love or mercy or grace or peace. Of course all of those are great words, but my favorite word in the New Testament is only three letters long. In fact, in the original Greek language it is only two letters long! Are you ready for it? One of my favorite words in the New Testament is “but.”
“What do you mean?” you might ask. “How can but be one of your favorite words? It’s just a simple conjunction of contrast.” Yes, that is true, but a lot of times when the New Testament authors use it, it packs a powerful message. Consider Paul’s use of the word “but” in Ephesians 2:1-5, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ruler of the atmospheric domain, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and by nature we were children under wrath, as the others were also. BUT God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!” (HCSB).
Paul also uses this conjunction in Romans 5:7-8. Talking about how Christ died for the ungodly in v6, he goes on to say, “For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. BUT God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!”
The apostle Peter also makes use of this word in 1 Peter 2:10. In fact, he uses it twice: “Once you were not a people, BUT now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, BUT now you have received mercy.”
Just from these three examples, I’m sure you can see why “but” is one of my favorite words. “But” is used by the New Testament authors to contrast our old lives as sinners with our new lives as saints. We all know that our lives before Christ weren’t pretty, BUT we also know that Jesus changes everything. In Christ we are a new creation, “old things have passed away, and look, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
“But” may be a short and simple word, yet its meaning is huge! It really represents a dividing line in our lives as believers. Each of us have that “BC” part of our life—the time before we knew Christ. Yet for all of us who are believers, we also have that BUT moment. As Paul said in Ephesians 2, we were dead in our trespasses and sins, BUT God made us alive! Now that is something to celebrate!
If you are reading this and you aren’t sure that you have experienced that “but” moment in your life, I would encourage you to talk to someone about that. There is no better feeling than to know that your sins have been forgiven and that eternal life has been guaranteed to you by the Creator of the universe.
And for all of you who can think back to that “but” moment in your life, that moment when you were made alive, that moment when Christ saved you, take a second right now to praise Him for that. In fact, try to praise Him for it everyday. It’s never a bad thing thank God for the “buts” of life. There is an old saying that goes something like this: “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” All of our ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ won’t come true, but we know that one in particular did, and we have much more than a merry Christmas to show for it!