Relationship and Rules
God made us and redeemed us. He knows how the Christian life functions best. We should therefore not be surprised that the Bible tells us how we should live.
When you read Scripture carefully however, you discover that God’s statutes don’t exist in a vacuum. They are imbedded in God’s gracious redemption. He first establishes the relationship, then He gives the rules.
When it comes to our sanctification, there is a specific relationship between the imperatives (the rules, the commands) and the indicatives. An indicative statement is a statement of fact. It communicates certainty. The indicative states: “The TV is on”. The imperative states: “Turn on the TV”.
The indicatives in the Bible tell us what has been done already. The imperatives in the Bible tell us what we must do now. But it is key to note that the imperatives are rooted in the indicatives. In other words, the power and motivation to obey God is found in what He has done for us.
Here are a few examples:
- “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (imperative) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (indicative)” (Phil. 2:12,13)
- “Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth (imperative). For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (indicative)” (Col. 3:2,3)
- “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (imperative), as God in Christ forgave you (indicative)” (Eph. 4:32).
You will find this pattern all through the New Testament. Separating the imperative from the indicative is a recipe for discouragement and frustration. You will seek to obey God in our own strength. Your walk with the Lord will be reduced to a performance based faith.
But if we realize that God provides us with all the resources we need, radical obedience is possible. We cooperate fully in God's work to make us more like His Son. We notice that His commandments are not burdensome (1 Joh. 5:3).
The relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ enables us to keep His rules. With Augustine we can confidently pray: “Lord command what You will and grant what you command.”