The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Bryan Chapell: Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.” What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure

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The Imperative-Indicative Balance

Brian Chapell: Right application of Scripture necessitates Herman Ridderbos’s famous insight into Paul’s theology. Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible (Acts 16:14–16; Col. 3:1–5; 1 John 5:1–5).[i] The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our “who” and our “do.” What Christians do is based on who we are in Christ. We obey because God has loved us and united us to himself by his Son; we are not united to God, nor do we make him love us, because we have obeyed him. Our obedience is a response to his love, not a purchase of it. We keep this indicative-imperative relationship clear, not by when we happen to mention each element in a sermon, but by making sure

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4 Great “Therefore’s” in the Bible

Michael Kelley: 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

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Gospel imperatives and indicatives

The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice

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Indicatives and Imperatives

Doug Wilson: “There is a basic difference between the indicative and the imperative. The indicative is simply a statement of fact.  the imperative is a command. The indicative states, “The book is on the table.” The imperative commands, “Put the book on the table.” The former states what is; the latter attempts to control what will be. Many Christians mishandle the Scripture because they do not properly distinguish between the two. The central example of this is the turning of indicatives into imperatives. The Bible tells us that something is so, and we attempt to change it into a command to make something so. The imperatives of the Bible tell me what I must do. The indicatives of the Bible tell me what has been done. When I take the message of what has been done and turn it into something that I must do, I am twisting Scripture. It is easy to see this confusion when others are guilty of it.

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