Indicatives and imperatives. You find them both in the Bible.
Indicatives are facts; they are realities. And in the Bible, they are firm and secure because the Bible is the unchanging Word of God.
The imperatives are commands or implications. They are statements of direction, made with authority, that have a direct and expected act of obedience expected to follow.
Often, the indicative is linked with the imperative. It’s a statement of fact with an implication of response. And most often, the indicative is about what God has done and the imperative is about what we must do, think, or believe in response as a matter of response and obedience. The order is important here – we respond because God has done. Not, “We behave so that God will do.” It’s the simple difference between something like “God loves you,” therefore you respond, and “I am obedient,” so God will love me.
The link between the indicative statement of fact and the imperative statement of response is the word “therefore.” Again, you find it all over the Bible. That single word has great power because it brings together the work of God and the response of humanity. You might even say that the entire Christian life is built on understanding these “therefore’s.”
Here are just a few of the examples of this powerful word:
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
Here is the command: we are not to casually associate with things like sexual immorality or impurity. No – we are to kill them. Put them to death. Even crucify them. But what is the indicative that drives this violent imperative? That, glory to God, we have already died in Christ and been raised to new life with a new self and a new heart. In this new life in Christ, then, we have been changed to fully embrace who we really are in Him and put to death what remains of our old selves.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. (Romans 12:1)
In the previous eleven chapters, Paul explained the universally hopeless nature of sin. He gave us the pathway of faith. He told us how we were set free from sin and death by the great sacrifice of Jesus, and that there is now no condemnation for us. Even more, that God is working all things together for our good and that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Therefore…
Therefore, we are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We are to give ourselves wholly and completely, and joyfully, over to God. But don’t miss this – Romans 12 is a chapter about the church. We, not only as individuals, but also together as the body of Christ, should become a living sacrifice in light of the truth of the gospel.
Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this. (Revelation 1:19)
John was taken up in a vision and beheld the glorious Son of God. There was no longer any mistake about his identity as there was when John had previously walked with him; not any more. Now, he saw not the common looking tradesman-turned-Rabbi from Nazareth, but the ruler of the cosmos before him. And what was the “therefore” of that vision?
To write it down because this One, this Jesus, is saying it. And if this Jesus says it, then it’s rock solid. Write it. Record it. Believe it. Come back to it. So that we might come back to it again and again today.
Therefore I will give him the many as a portion, and he will receive the mighty as spoil, because he willingly submitted to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet he bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels. (Isaiah 53:12)
This “therefore” is different from the others. The context is the great Messianic passage of Isaiah 53, in which we get a true picture of God’s anointed one. The one who would bear our sorrows and sin. The one who would be despised and rejected by men. The one we would consider stricken by God because of the cross. And yet, in a great reversal, God would therefore lift up this chosen one, because of His obedience, and give Him many as a reward.
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord that our eternity hinges not on our ability to live out a “therefore,” but on Jesus’ righteous life on our behalf.