God’s Gracious Initiative 4

Divine indicatives give rise to divine imperatives. This is the Bible’s underlying grammar. Grace, in this sense, always gives rise to obligation, duty, and law. 

Commandments are the railroad tracks on which the life empowered by the love of God poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit runs. Love empowers the engine; law guides the direction. They are mutually interdependent. The notion that love can operate apart from law is a figment of the imagination. It’s not only bad theology; it’s poor psychology. It has to borrow from law to give eyes to love. . . . Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from His gracious person. It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything his Father commanded him. Nor is it for us.

—Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, 168-69,173

God’s Gracious Initiative 3

There is a great book produced by Presbyterian & Reformed of quotes from Geerhardus Vos [A Geerhardus Vos Anthology]….

Vos says that the heart of legalism is when we separate the law of God from the person of God. And what we have got then are bare imperatives that don’t have an indicative that will sustain them.

God Himself in his grace, love, kindness, and generosity was the indicative that would have sustained the imperative of “Don’t eat the fruit of this tree.” And I see that distortion of God’s character, and the notion of legalism that seeks to earn what now as fallen creatures we can never earn, and blinds us to His a priori love for us in Christ.

Satan is cast out in terms of his dominion over our lives from the beginning of our Christian lives, yet we are still living in a world and with a memory and as a being for whom, I think, that battle against legalism is a lifelong reality.

And this gets back to the quiet time. I have met a lot of very fervent Christians who, if they haven’t had their quiet time, feel things will go wrong in the day. They turn the gospel on its head.

—Sinclair Ferguson, interview with C. J. Mahaney

God’s Gracious Initiative

Christian existence is a strangely relaxed kind of strenuousness [cf. Matthew 11:30], precisely because the Christian gospel is what it is. Before ever any demand is made, the gift is offered: the announcement of good news precedes the challenge.

The indicative precedes the imperative as surely as the rope is made fast round a firm piece of rock for the climber’s security before he has to apply himself to the struggle.

C. F. D. Moule, “’The New Life’ in Colossians 3:1-17,” Review and Expositor 70:4 (1973):479