Last night, at our Wednesday Night Small Group Bible Study, we spent the entire time discussing the practical relationship between “gospel indicatives” and “gospel imperatives” from Philippians 2:1-2. That is, biblically speaking, out of the “done” (indicatives), there flows “do’s” (imperatives).
We see this throughout the epistles, especially.
For example, the apostle Paul begins Romans 12:1 with “Therefore…by [in view of] God’s mercies (see Romans 1-11), present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” He then spends the rest of his letter giving “imperatives” that we are to do “in view of God’s mercies” (indicatives). Romans 1-11 are the indicatives. Romans 12-16 are the imperatives. What we are called to “do” as Christians flows out of what God, in Christ, has “done.”
Elsewhere, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes in 4:1, “I therefore…urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called.” The grounds for this imperative, and all of those that follow in chapters 4-6 flow out of the “indicatives” of “the calling to which we have been called” as outlined in chapters 1-3. On the basis of what God, in Christ, has “done,” (1-3), here is what we are to “do” (4-6).
It has become popular, for instance, to react against the dangers of Christian moralism by make pithy statements like, “Christianity is not about doing, it’s about being.” Well, yes…and no.
True, whenever the indicatives (what Christ has done) get lost behind the imperatives (what we must do), we drift into grace-strangling legalism. Yet on the other hand, when the imperatives (what we must do) get lost behind the indicatives (what Christ has done), we can drift into grace-abusing licentiousness.
Neither of these are acceptable extremes for Christian discipleship. God has given us commands and he expects us to obey them. Yet, in His grace, has provided all that we need in the gospel to do all that he would have us do in this life. God is supernaturally committed to both our holiness and our joy, which, through the power of the gospel, are conjoined twins that cannot be separated.
To put it more memorably, what we do for Christ flows from who we are in Christ. Our Christian activity is always the consequence of our Christian identity.
A few years ago, Danny Akin (via Thabiti Anyabwile) walked through Paul’s letter to the Galatians at a conference and commented on the 29 “indicatives” and the 13 imperatives that flow from them. This is good, rich food for the soul. Enjoy.
29 Gospel Indicatives (Galatians 1:1-5:12)
1. The gospel is rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:1).
2. The gospel delivers us from the present evil age to the glory of Christ (1:3-5).
3. There is only one gospel and to desert it is to be damned (1:6-9).
4. The gospel is ours by divine revelation and not human imagination (1:10-12).
5. The gospel is grounded in a gracious election (1:15).
6. The gospel is constantly in danger of being lost and needs to be defended (2:4-5).
7. The gospel that saves Gentiles is the same gospel that saves Jews (2:7-9).
8. There are ethical imperatives that follow the gospel (2:11) and no ethnic distinctions in the gospel (2:12-14).
9. The gospel is good news that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the Law (2:15-16).
10. Through the gospel, we are identified with Christ and His work on the cross (2:20).
11. The love of Christ for sinners is made evident in the gospel (2:20).
12. We receive the Holy Spirit by faith in the Gospel, the same Spirit who justifies and sanctifies (3:2-5).
13. The gospel that saved Abraham in the past is the same gospel that saves us in the present (3:7-9).
14. Relying on good works not only does not save but actually curses (3:10-11).
15. The gospel is the good news that Christ has redeemed us from the curse as our penal substitute (3:13-14).
16. The gospel is rooted in a covenantal promise that precedes the law (3:17).
17. The law is good because it shows us our sin (3:19, 21).
18. The law is good because it is our school teacher who leads us to Christ to be justified by faith (3:25-26).
19. The gospel unites us to Christ where we’re all one in him–soteriological not ecclesiological (3:27-29).
20. The gospel is grounded in Trinitarian theology (4:4-6).
21. Gospel redemption leads to adoption as a child of the Father (4:7).
22. The gospel gives us a knowledge of God freeing us from rules (4:8-11).
23. Faithful ministers will be passionate for the ministry of the gospel even if it results in anguish and a broken heart (4:12-20).
24. Works-salvation leads to slavery, while Mt. Sinai leads to freedom (4:21-31).
25. To pursue salvation by works obligates us to keep the entire law perfectly (5:1-3).
26. To be justified by works is to fall away from justification by grace through faith (5:4-6).
27. The gospel that saves us and sanctifies us (5:7-8).
28. To preach a false gospel invites judgment and calls for the strongest condemnation from the faithful (5:10-12).
29. The indicative of the gospel naturally leads to the imperatives of the gospel (5:13-6:20).
13 Gospel Imperatives (Galatians 5:13-6:20)
1. We will not indulge and pander to the flesh (5:13, 16-21).
2. In love we will serve others (5:13-14).
3. We will not brutalize one another in word or action (5:15).
4. We will live in the Spirit whom we received when we believed (5:22-26).
5. We will engage in spiritual restoration (6:1-2).
6. We will be humble (6:4-5).
7. We will serve and do our part in the body.
8. We will bless those who teach us (6:6).
9. We should embrace and reaping (6:7-8).
10. We won’t grow weary in well-doing (6:9-10).
11. We will accept persecution for the cross of Christ (6:11-13).
12. We will boast only in Christ and His cross (6:14-15).
13. We will pursue peace, mercy, grace and Christ (6:16-20).