Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Importance of Gospel Indicatives and Gospel Imperatives In Romans 6

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Romans 6:9-13 "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God."

Introduction: Defining "Gospel Indicatives" and "Gospel Imperatives"

Today's post is going to explore the realities and responsibilities of Christian identity in Christ or what Bible teachers call "Gospel indicatives" and "Gospel imperatives". 

Anytime we speak of a verb or statement being in the "indicative", we are referring to how that verb or statement is describing someone's status or identifying the reality of that person or state of affairs. Gospel indicatives are those statements that tell me "who I am" and "whose I am". In Paul's letters to the various churches, we find his letters or epistles characterized by two general formats. First, Paul reminds his readers of who they are and whose they are by way of Gospel indicatives. 

After reminding his readers of their identity, Paul will then employ what are called "Gospel imperatives" or exhortations for his readers to apply to their lives. Identification leads to application. The more I understand "who I am" and "whose I am" by way of Gospel indicatives, the better I will be able to adjust my thinking, behavior and speech by way of the "Gospel imperatives". 

Seeing how Gospel indicatives and Gospel imperatives work in Romans 6

Romans 6 is concerned with unfolding Paul's opening discussion on the believer's post-conversion growth in Christ or sanctification. Central to the thought of Romans 6 is the notion of "union with Christ" or "identification with Christ". We could say Romans 6 explains what follows from one's union with Christ in justification at salvation (covered chiefly in Romans 5). It is in Romans 6 that we discover how the above categories of "Gospel Indicatives" and "Gospel Imperatives" work together to help Christians understanding the reality of their identity and the attendant responsibilities.

With regards to Gospel indicatives or the realities of Christian identity, we find the following statements in Romans 6...

1. Romans 6:3b "all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?"

2. Romans 6:4 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

3. Romans 6:5 "For if we have become united with Him..."

4. Romans 6:6a "knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him"

5. Romans 6:8 "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him"

6. Romans 6:11 "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

7. Romans 6:23b ..."but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

We can tell whenever we are dealing with the realities of Christian identity or Gospel indicatives. Note the underlined prepositional phrases: "in Christ" and "with Christ" and "in Christ Jesus" and "into His death" and so forth. Such "in" and "with" and "into" language speaks of our relationship and position "in" and "with" and "into" Christ and He with us. This is the reality of the believer's position with respect to Jesus Christ. No one person nor circumstance can annul this truth. So with the precious Gospel indicatives or realities stated, Paul then lays out the Gospel imperatives or responsibilities in Romans 6...

1. Romans 6:12 "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts"

2. Romans 6:13a "and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin..".

3. Romans 6:13b ...."but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead".... .

4. Romans 6:14a "For sin shall not be master over you".... .

5. Romans 6:19b ...."so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification."

Again, the underlined phrases point to commands or "imperatives", i.e - "don't do this" and "do do that". Such imperatives are Gospel imperatives, referring to the responsibilities of the Christian in their progress in sanctification. 

The trap Christians fall into when the Gospel indicatives are unknown or avoided

Sadly, so many Christians (including myself) develop temporary amnesia and allow circumstances, other people, the world and internal hangups of the past to define who we are. Worst still, rather than focusing upon these Gospel indicatives, we will attempt to carry out the Gospel imperatives apart from them - thus reversing the God-ordained order. In other words, we try to carry out Christian responsibilities without laying hold of the precious realities.  If one tries to carry out the Gospel imperatives without the Gospel indicatives of Romans 6, they will quickly find themselves frustrated and defeated. Why? The imperatives require the indicatives to not only be lived out, but enjoyed.

Illustration: When a car loses the ability to transfer the power of the engine to the wheels

Not to long ago I was driving our family car on a moderately long trip. My wife and I were the only ones in the vehicle. The traffic on the particular highway we were driving was moving at a brisk pace. As we drove, we suddenly found our car's engine racing and our vehicle traveling at a progressively slower velocity. Soon, we had to pull off at an exit and get the car to a garage. The mechanic told us that the transmission had burned up its internal mechanisms, thus resulting in a decreased ability for the car to continue driving. 

The Gospel indicatives are like the motor of the Christian life. As we grasp "who we are" and "whose we are", we come to terms with the power source of the Christian life - our union with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel imperatives are like the demands of road travel on a vehicle. As long as the power of the engine is transferred to the wheels, everything is fine. However, what happens when I fail to connect the demands of the Christian life to the power source (the transmission in this case)? I find myself getting bogged down and laboring to keep up. I need to be constantly reminded in the Word of God as to what the Gospel indicatives are - since they describe the reality of my identity. Only then will I be able to carry out responsibilities that otherwise are impossible to do on human strength alone. 

Closing thoughts

Today we explored what are called: "Gospel indicatives" and "Gospel imperatives". Gospel indicatives are those statements in the New Testament that describe the reality of my identity in Jesus Christ. To put it another way - the indicatives describe "who I am and Whose I am". Such Gospel indicatives are necessary if I am to carry out the responsibilities of the Christian life or what are also called "Gospel imperatives". 

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