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The Grammar Of Faith

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7

I was surprised at how a little English grammar lesson came to make such a big difference in my Christian life. It meant beginning to experience the rest and joy that Jesus promises in following Him. It all began to happen as I paid attention to the Indicative and Imperative Moods of grammar in Scripture. I remembered how my elementary school teacher explained that the Indicative Mood expresses a statement of fact such as, “She is going for a walk.” The Imperative Mood, on the other hand, expresses a command like, “You go for a walk.” A simple enough distinction that can make a difference in our Christian living.

Read your Bible and you will discover that it is filled with Indicatives, the statement of facts, the Good News of what God has done for us. And yes, you will also see many Imperatives, or commands, about what we do in response to what God has done. But keep this in mind: in the Bible the Indicatives always precede the Imperatives. What God has done for us is the basis of whatever we do in response to Him.

Take for instance how the Indicatives precede the Imperatives throughout the Old Testament. God reminds His people of what He has first done for them: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. — this Indicative is then followed by Imperative. — “you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).  Because of what God has done for His people, it makes good sense that they would have no other gods before Him. The Indicative [redemption out of bondage] becomes the basis for the Imperative (having no other gods).

We see the same Indicative-Imperative throughout the New Testament: “We love God because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  Our love for God (Imperative) comes in response to His first loving us (Indicative). Notice that today’s scripture is filled with Good News of Indicatives; all that God has done for us in Christ! It is often noted that the first three chapters of Ephesians are in the Indicative of what God has done for us in Christ. From those three chapters of Indicatives there flow the next three chapters of what we do in response. It reminds me that “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian living is gratitude.” (G. C. K. Berkouwer)

Minding the difference between Indicative and Imperative can free us from legalism or moralism that are often confused for the Gospel Good News of Jesus Christ. Legalism and moralism command “Do!” The Gospel announces “Done!” The Gospel is not something for us to do, but first something for us to believe: we place our trust in Jesus’ cry from the cross, “It is finished!” 

I invite you to take some time today to reflect on and to savor the Indicative statements of fact in what God has done for you:

·   “He loved us…

·   “made us alive together with Christ…

·   “raised us up with him…`

·   “seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…

From these Indicatives of the Gospel let us respond in gratitude and praise to God!

A fellow traveler,

Tim 

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