Indicatives and Imperatives

Many people read their Bibles looking only for what they need to do. These same people love application preaching, where the preacher gives a list of 10 things to do. I appreciate their hearts, as they want to obey the Lord. But, such people often miss the reason for their obedience. Furthermore, they miss the enabling power to continue on in their obedience. They need to learn some grammar.

Here’s a grammar lesson that is the price of gold. Indicatives are statements of fact. They tell us of reality. Imperatives, on the other hand, are commands. They tell us what to do. When it comes to the Bible, the imperatives always have an indicative supporting it. In other words, we are not merely told to obey the Lord. We have empowering reasons why we obey.

Consider the following portion of Scripture: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you” (Ephesians 4:32).

We have three sets of commands (i.e. imperatives):
1. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.
2. Be imitators of God
3. Walk in love

We have three reasons behind each of these commands (i.e. indicatives):
1. Just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
2. As beloved children.
3. Just as Christ also loved you.

Notice that there is a direct connect between each of these imperatives and these indicatives. We are to be forgiving, because we have been forgiven. We are to imitate God, because we are loved children. We are to walk in love, because we have been loved. If you miss the connection, you will miss the enabling power to sustain this sort of living.

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