Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you ever confuse grace, God’s free gift, with legalism, moralistic ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’? If so, I want to share with you a little lesson in grammar and grace to encourage you; the lesson is knowing and remembering the difference between the Indicative Mood and Imperative Mood. It boils down to this:
- The Indicative Mood expresses a statement of fact, a reality, an actuality, such as, “She is going for a walk,” or, “The door is open.”
- The Imperative Mood expresses a command, an order, a directive, such as, “Go for a walk”, or “Close the door.”
Keeping in mind the difference between the Indicative Mood and the Imperative Mood is essential in following Jesus. You will find that the Bible is filled with Indicative statements of fact, or realities of what God has done for us. We might call these Indicatives the “God-Dimension” of faith. In the Bible you will also find Imperative commands, those things God directs us to do. We might call these Imperatives the “Human-Dimension” of faith. This is precisely where the Indicative and Imperative moods are so important for us:
THE INDICATIVE ALWAYS PRECEDES THE IMPERATIVE – WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US (INDICATIVE) ALWAYS PRECEDES WHAT GOD ASKS OF US IN RESPONSE (IMPERATIVE).
The Bible always makes what God has done for us the basis for what God calls us to do. Note this for instance in a key Old Testament passage:
“I am the LORD you God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery [INDICATIVE]; you shall have no other gods before me” [IMPERATIVE] Exodus 20:2-3
What God has done in saving His people (Indicative) is the basis for having no other gods in our lives (Imperative). Similarly, we see the Indicative and Imperative dynamic throughout the New Testament:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God (INDICATIVE), to present your bodies as a living sacrifice (IMPERATIVE)… Romans 12:1
God’s astonishing mercies shown to us become the basis for living our lives for Him.
When we neglect Indicatives and Imperatives in reading the Bible it becomes so easy to drift into legalism or moralism. We then make the Christian life of list of “Do’s and Don’t’s” rather than the grace of God in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not “Do!”, but rather “Done!”
Dutch theologian G. C. Berkouwer sums it all up like this: “The essence of Christian living is grace (i.e., Indicative); the essence of Christian living is gratitude (i.e., Imperative).
I have found that minding the Indicatives and Imperatives makes all the difference in the world. It truly makes for a life of grace and peace. It is the grammar of grace!
A fellow traveler,