2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature;
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. NASB
The Gospel – Faith, Promises & Motives
Let us consider the relation of faith to sanctification. As we have seen, sanctification is that work of God conforming us into the image of Christ progressively over time.We have noted that it is a cooperative process where we are also called to exert effort and diligence to see it come to fruition. God works in sanctification and we work. It is an ongoing cooperative process. God’s work is primary and our effort is secondary. Therefore we are called to God-dependent effort throughout the New Testament. Now what we mean by God dependent effort is that we are dependent on God’s power to give us the necessary energy and divine enablement to both forsake the old nature of sin and also to exercise the virtues of the new nature within us by the Holy Spirit. As we look to God in faith in seeking these virtues, and seek the filling of the Holy Spirit, we receive power from God both to put off the old nature and to put on the new. This calling to exert effort is what we call imperatives. They are commandments, exhortations and admonitions to obedience.
This dependence of looking to God for His power is an exercise of our faith in God’s promises to lead us, guide, us and fulfill His good work in us and through us. And this faith is belief in God’s Word and based upon the grace that God has shown us in Christ, through His good work in the Gospel, and the sufficient grace for us to persevere in faith to the end of our life that is our possession because of Christ. Not only has God promised that we are now justified by grace, through faith in Christ alone, but He has promised to fulfill His good work of sanctification in us causing us to bear His image in greater degree over time until the Day of Christ when we are finally glorified.
Philippians 1:6 – 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. NASB
1 Peter 1:3-5 – 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. NASB
These promises to us are what we call indicatives. They indicate to us all of God’s promises that are ours because of Christ and are also sometimes expressed as warnings and warnings with consequences. So we believe the powerful Word of God with all of its promises and warnings to us (indicatives), and we seek to obey its exhortations and admonitions to us (imperatives).
Imperatives always grounded in Indicatives
In believing the Gospel, we have been justified by grace, through faith in Christ alone. This justification we could not have achieved by legal obedience to the Law because all have sinned. He has merited God’s favor for us, we have laid hold of it by faith, and Christ’s life, death and resurrection have sufficiently covered all of our sins and provided perfect righteousness for us, reconciling us to God so that he has adopted us into His family as His own children, having caused us to be born again by the Holy Spirit resulting in eternal life (Rom 3:21-28, 5:8-10, 5:19-21, 6:23, 1 Cor 1:30, Eph 2:5-9, Col 1:21-22, 2:13-14, 1 Pet 1:3-5). These are the indicatives which indicate the fullness of the grace that we now stand in. Nevertheless, in the Gospel we have imperatives from Christ to repent of our sins, to trust in Him and believe Him fully for righteousness, and to go and sin no more, pursuing a life pleasing to God which expresses both love toward God and love toward our neighbor. These are the imperatives that are non-negotiable exhortations and admonitions to become in practically who we already are in position. We have been set free from legal obedience for justification and righteousness, and yet we have been commanded to live a life of love toward God and neighbor.
Moreover, the Gospel of free grace also undergirds us in the midst of our own personal failures and the great trials and difficulties that we face in our daily lives. The hope and assurance (the confident assertions of faith) that God is in control of our circumstances and that He is working everything for our ultimate good in order to conform us into the image of Christ, is a bulwark against despair and discouragement. The fact that our forgiveness and redemption is an accomplished reality that can never be changed gives us much faith in the midst of the doubt that personal sinfulness and failure can cause. The indicative promises of God’s favor toward us in Christ and His ultimate triumph in sanctifying us reminds us that God loves us in spite of our struggle with sin and that He forgives us and is using even our failures to conform us into Christ’s image.
1 John 1:6-10 – 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. NASB
Romans 8:1-4 – 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. NASB
Romans 8:28-36 – 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ….. 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. NASB
1 John 5:4-5 – 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. 5 And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? NASB
See in these indicative promises the great triumph and victory that is ours no matter what we face or how we fail if we believe in Christ holding fast our hope in Him and His righteousness alone.
However, the imperatives are the fruit of having benefitted from the indicatives. They are the proper expression of the powerful grace of God that changes us into the ever increasing likeness of Christ. This is clearly taught in the New Testament.
Titus 2:11-14 – 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. NASB
Grace has appeared and brings us salvation, this is indicative. But notice that this grace “instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires” and to “live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age.” This is an imperative.
2 Corinthians 6:18-7:1 – 18 "And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. NASB
God will be a father to us, and we will receive all the benefits of having the Almighty as our Father. This is indicative. But Paul reasons, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is an imperative. This idea appears many places in the New Testament. Since we have been given such great and precious promises, then our proper response is one of conformity to God’s will, and here that is cleansing “ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Our work of cleansing ourselves is rooted and grounded in the fact that God is a father to us to shepherd us, and provided for us and to protect and care for us as His very own children. The imperatives are grounded in the indicatives so that we won’t lose heart and that our faith and hope are in God as the primary worker, working His good purpose in us, causing us the bear the image in greater degree and so partake in the divine nature and both glorify and enjoy Him in a rich and full way.
It is important then to understand that a right balance must be navigated continually between indicative and imperative. It is important to emphasize indicatives. The indicatives are the fuel and motivation for the imperatives. Kevin DeYoung comments on this; “We ought to positively glory in the indicatives of the gospel. The indicatives ought to fuel our following of the imperatives. Our obedience must be grounded in the gospel. Sanctification is empowered by faith in the promises of God. We need to be reminded of our justification often and throughout our Christian lives. Our pursuit of personal righteousness will not go anywhere without a conviction that we are already reckoned positionally righteous in Christ. So let’s be passionately and repetitively gripped by the gospel of free grace.”
But equally important is to insist on the imperatives that flow out of the indicatives. The “grace of God instructs us to deny ungodliness.” They go together and work for our sanctification. DeYoung comments further; “Imperatives must be rooted in indicatives. The question, however, is whether we betray the indicatives by insisting directly and explicitly for Christians to work hard at obeying the imperatives. No one denies that obedience to the imperatives is crucial. But can we demand obedience to those imperatives? Or is that falling back on law? The central question in this discussion is not just a matter of emphasis between the indicatives and imperatives, but whether emphasizing the indicatives accomplishes the goal of the imperatives without ever insisting upon them. Or to put it another way, is sanctification by faith alone in our justification by faith alone? I think not. The last thing I want is to be the guy who says “stop making the gospel so important.” I never want to encourage people to emphasize the gospel less. But it is possible to emphasize the gospel in a wrong way. The Reformed confessions understand that obedience to God’s commands–which we all want–is not accomplished merely by insisting on indicatives, but also by insisting directly and explicitly on the imperatives that flow from them.” End quote.See then why the New Testament is loaded full of imperatives calling us to the work of faith and the heavenward call of both mortifying the “defilements of flesh and spirit” and living in or putting on the virtues in very practical ways.
Let us see then that a healthy understanding of the grace of God in all of its promise and fullness is important and should be constantly emphasized in our Christian life. These indicatives fuel and motivate our faith. But equally important is the desire for God’s people to be holy and conform practically to God’s will and desire for our lives. These imperatives express our faith and put the glory of God on display in our lives so that we bear the image. This also then addresses the issue of the role of the Law for us. The Law is holy and good and rightly used when it is given to inform us of God’s will and also of His character. It helps us to understand who He is and what His purposes are for us in the world. DeYoung comments on this as well; Let’s not be afraid to land on law—never as the means of meriting justification, but as the proper expression of having received it….The Lutheran Formula of Concord is absolutely right in when it says, “We believe, teach, and confess that the preaching of the Law is to be urged with diligence, not only upon the unbelieving and impenitent, but also upon true believers, who are truly converted, regenerate, and justified by faith” (Epitome 6.2). Preachers must preach the law without embarrassment. Parents must insist on obedience without shame. The law can, and should, be urged upon true believers—not to condemn, but to correct and promote Christlikeness. Both the indicatives of Scripture and the imperatives are from God, for our good, and given in grace.”
It is NOT legalism for the church to preach obedience to explicit commandments from Scripture, when rightly applied. Rather it is the duty of pastors and teachers to bring imperatives consistent with the Word to bear upon our lives and our consciences. However it is extremely important that these imperatives not be confused with the indicatives of the Gospel. Imperatives are now the proper expression of worship and godliness as a RESULT of our justification, and never a MEANS to it. We are not saved by the works of the Law, or even obedience to New Testament commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ alone. He is Himself our righteousness before God (Rom 3:28, Gal 2:15-16, 1 Cor 1:30). Therefore, the indicatives are where we rest by faith in the sovereign work of God through Christ and the Spirit for our righteousness and assurance of salvation. And the imperatives are the obedience which God fully expects of those of us He has called, saved and justified as an expression of the fact that we have indeed been saved and justified, and are now longing to bear His image and become like Him, pleasing Him in all our ways and in the thoughts and meditations of our hearts.
Colossians 3:12 – 12 And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; NASB
If you would like to know how to know Jesus Christ and be ransomed from your sins and receive eternal life….. have a look at these links below that explain the Gospel…..
An excellent overview of the Christian Gospel.
A brief and concise overview of Gospel Basics.
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Pastor Shaan Sloan
Christ’s Servant at
Heritage Christian Fellowship
11104 Menaul Blvd NE
Albuquerque, NM 87112
The Lord is the Strength of My Life