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

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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

Paradox

Christ’s own being on the Cross contained all the clashing contrarieties and scandalous fates of human existence. Life Himself was identified with death; the Light of the world was enveloped in darkness. The feet of the Man who said “I am the Way” feared to tread upon it and prayed, “If it be possible, not that way.” The Water of Life was thirsty. The Bread of Life was hungry. The divine Lawgiver was Himself unjustly outlawed. The Holy One was identified with the unholy. The Lion of Judah was crucified as a lamb. The hands that made the world and raised the dead were fixed by nails until they were rigid in death. Men’s hope of heaven descended into hell. He was deprived of all His rights, to be with us in our privation.

—Frank Lake, Clinical Theology, 116

The Doctor Becomes the Patient!

In his book On the Incarnation, Athanasius asks what it means to speak of Christ as the Great Physician of our humanity. Christ does not heal us by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take, and then going away, to leave us to get better by obeying his instructions—as an ordinary doctor might.  No, He becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again for us, our humanity is healed in Him. We are not just healed “through Christ” because of the work of Christ but “in and through Christ.”  47

—James B. Torrance, “Christ in Our Place,” A Passion for Christ, 47

God Became the Inventory

The owner has the right to throwaway the inventory, and God wouldn’t have lost an ounce of glory if the Great Flood had destroyed everyone, including Noah. But God in His grace became the inventory to purchase our lives with His blood. The Creator became the creation, and according to Revelation 13:8, in the mind of God Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross before the world was spinning on its axis. The veil of the Temple that once separated us from God’s presence has been torn in two, and both prostitute and peasant have access into the Holy of Holies.

—Christian George, “Younger Evangelicals and a Restlessness for Revival,” The Founders Journal 71 [Winter 2008], 16