HOW DO CHRISTIANS GROW & CHANGE? PART 3
A couple weeks ago, I started this series called “What is Gospel-Centrality” by asking the question “Does the Bible teach that sanctification is empowered by the Gospel?” and then I answered that question, “Yes it most certainly does” with support from the obvious and unseverable connection between the statements of fact in the Bible (indicatives) and the commands to act on the truth (imperatives).
To show we have support from others on this, Dr. Richard Gaffin (Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary) said “Indicative – imperative = inactive mysticism and quietism; imperative – indicative = legalism” (tweeted by @TonyReinke on 1/7/12). Scotty Ward Smith (Pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, TN and a council member with The Gospel Coalition) also tweeted “A bigger grasp of gospel indicatives should lead 2 a quicker submission 2 gospel imperatives. Joyful, meritless obedience” (tweeted 6/3/12).
With the Bible as the highest and final authority in the Church, you may have noticed last time that I didn’t quote the Bible at all to prove my point — it was an introduction — leaving some of you, maybe, to ask “Is this idea biblical?” I’m so glad you asked!
Over the next several weeks, I will seek to prove that Gospel-Centrality is biblical. Today, let’s start with big picture stuff, and in subsequent posts will dive into the details. First, did the giving of the Law (imperatives) come before or after the deliverance (indicative) in Exodus? Survey says? After!!! The call to and expectation of obedience came after the gracious freedom God provided the Israelites in their rescue from Egyptian slavery some 3500 years ago.
Second, the structure of the NT itself demonstrates this connection: 4 Gospels recounting the life of Jesus (indicatives) come before 22 books showing how His life should impact the lives of believers (imperatives). Now, I am well aware there are imperatives in the Gospels and indicatives in the Letters, but in general, the connection is there.
Third, the structure of many NT letters shows this connection: Romans has 11 chapters (1-11) of mostly indicatives before 5 chapters (12-16) of imperatives. Galatians has 4 chapters (1-4) of mostly indicatives with 2 chapters (5-6) of imperatives. Ephesians has 3 chapters (4-6) of mostly imperatives after 3 chapters (1-3) of indicatives. Colossians has 2 chapters (1-2) of mostly indicatives after 2 chapters (3-4) of imperatives.
Conclusion: indicatives and imperatives are connected in the Bible, the second flowing out of and depending on the first, as seen in the first giving of imperatives (Exodus), the structure of the New Testament and the structure of individual New Testament letters. Imperatives should never be preached without a solid foundation of the indicatives; indicatives are incomplete without the application of imperatives.
If these examples of the Bible’s unseverable connection between indicatives and imperatives do not convince you, stay tuned. I’ll be back with more proof that growth as a Christian is largely Gospel-centered. In the meantime, check out Matthew 5:44-45 and 1 Peter 1:16 and see if you see in these verses what I’ve been arguing for.