The Indicative & Imperative In Preaching
Concerning the relationship of the indicative and imperative in preaching.
are based on the gospel and what Christ has already done
are the commands of scripture which are based on the indicatives
Let me just say that my philosophy of ministry guides me to preach exposition of the word of God and this will always make me cover both indicatives as well as the imperatives of Scripture. We understand that the imperative is based on the indicative and on what Christ has accomplished but then we must explain to people their Christian duty based on what Christ has already done.
I think a great example of this is seen in Romans 6:1-14. The first 10 verses are indicatives and in the passive voice which means that these are things that happened to us when we were saved and converted to Christ and we really had nothing to do with it. We were baptized into Christ, baptized into his death and raised up to new life (Romans 6:1-4) and consequently we are dead to sin and now alive to God. Then Paul will explain to us what we ought to do about these facts and the mood switches to that of the imperatives in verses 11-14 and he will give us commands as to what our responsibility is in light of these facts. Paul says to reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God, and he says to stop presenting your bodies as instruments for sin and start presenting them as instruments of righteousness (6:11-14).
both are necessary for a biblical world view
So without going into more exegesis of the passage I think this illustrates the biblical point of view that the imperatives are based on the indicatives and that both are necessary for a biblical world view. So, for example in the book of Ephesians chapters 1-3 are mainly indicatives that speak on the blessings that Christ has accomplished for us. And in Ephesians chapters 4-6, these chapters consist mainly although not exclusively as imperatives which give us our Christian duty in light of what Christ has accomplished. For example if I am preaching the book of Ephesians, I will preach the indicatives mainly in chapters 1-3 and then I will preach the imperatives in chapters 4-6 . So, for the sake of argument, if I am in chapter 4 after preaching the first 3 chapters of Ephesians I will preach the imperatives boldly and hopefully with force and emphasis and this is being faithful to the revealed will of God.
Think of the importance of the imperatives or the commands of scripture. The imperatival mood is the mood of command and thus it is one person’s will trying to affect another’s will to do something. So generally speaking when the imperatives are used in scripture, it is God trying to persuade someone of a certain course of action. So for example if Paul is writing in Ephesians 4 to walk worthy of the Lord, it is as if God himself were saying through Paul that He desires his people to walk worthy. Or if Paul tells us in Col 3:5 to mortify sin it is as if God himself were telling us to mortify sin in our members. Remember that Paul said in 1 Cor 14:37 that the commands that he writes are the commands of the Lord.
it is God trying to persuade someone of a certain course of action
we must preach Christ and him crucified
[&] to teach God’s people what they should do in light of the great salvation that Christ has wrought
I personally do not think that in every sermon I have to remind the congregation of all of the indicatives that came earlier although at times this might be prudent to do so. The imperatives are just as essential as the indicatives of scripture. If one is in Christ then the imperatives will actually be a delight to him (Jer 31:31-34, Psalm 40:8, Hebrews 8, 10). It is worth repeating that the true child of God will delight in God’s commandments. The Psalmist says, And I will delight myself in Your commandments, Which I love (Psalm 119:47 NKJV). The people of God need to be constantly reminded of how they can walk and please God (1 Thess 4:1-8) and thus we must constantly remind them as preachers (Phil 3:1). If we do not then we are derelict in our sacred duty.
So for us to have truly Biblical preaching we must preach Christ and him crucified as our message and part of that message is also to teach God’s people what they should do in light of the great salvation that Christ has wrought. All true preaching must include both the indicative and the imperative.
Honestly I feel that in today’s lukewarm church climate the imperatives of Scripture are needed to be proclaimed boldly and with the power of the Spirit. We are living in a decadent age, in which worldliness has infringed on the churches. The imperatives of scripture by the Grace of God will transform the sinner into Christ likeness and true Christ centered holiness.
Pastor Jason Jesuroga