The Main Thing

Why has God designed and purposed that our great destiny is to know Him? What is the knowledge of God for? Why does God mean us to know Him and to grow in the knowledge of God? And there is only one answer that Scripture gives us to that: and that is that we might worship Him. Everything will disappear as we enter His presence and glory, except this. It is the chief business of the church of Jesus Christ in this world, because it is the permanent occupation of the church of Jesus Christ in the world to come, that we should worship God. So says Jesus to the woman of Samaria: The Father is seeking worshipers. When God began to seek you and then find you in Jesus Christ, and drew you to Himself, He was seeking worshipers. The Apostle Paul tells us that it is the mark of the people of God, one of the great marks of those who are His true circumcision in Philippians 3:3f.: we are the circumcision, that is the true people of God, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. It is [the] ultimate activity of the people of God: to worship God.

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God! (Rev. 19:10)” (sermon)

 

Indicative before Imperative 5

The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives.

The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs, because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness, and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. . . .

Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”

Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference, Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase

Indicative before Imperative 4

The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:

You are not _____;
You should be _________;
Therefore, do or be ________!

Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).

This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done). . . .

This “become what you are” way of speaking is strange for many us. It seems precisely backward. But we must adjust our mental compass in order to walk this biblical path and recalibrate in order to speak this biblical language.

We see this all throughout the NT. Here are a few examples of this gospel logic and language:

“You really are unleavened” (indicative), therefore “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” (imperative). [1 Cor. 5:7].

“You are not under law but under grace” and you “have been brought from death to life (indicatives), therefore “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body. . . . Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness” (imperatives). [Rom. 6:12-14]

“Having been set free from sin, [you] have become slaves of righteousness (indicatives) . . . [therefore] now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification (imperative). [Rom. 6:18-19]

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (indicative), therefore, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (imperative). [Gal. 5:16, 24]

Pastor, are you encouraging your people to become who they already are in Christ Jesus?

—Justin Taylor, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/imperatives-indicatives-impossibilities/

Indicative before Imperative 3

Christian existence is a strangely relaxed kind of strenuousness, 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. Moreover (if the parable may be extended one clause further), the climber must attach himself to the rope before starting his effort. So the gospel not only begins with the indicative statement of what God has done, before it goes on to the imperative: even the imperative is first a command to attach oneself (be baptized! become incorporate!), before it becomes a command to struggle.

The striving does come: strenuousness is indispensable for the Christian climber—but only in dependence on all that has first been given by God and then appropriated through the means of grace. And the attachment to Christ, which is what causes the tension and makes us “amphibian,” is also precisely what gives us our confidence and our grounds for hope, as it is also the source of forgiveness and renewed strength when we fail.

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