Indicatives and Imperatives

What is Your Identity?

Several weeks ago, David Lomas, author of The Truest Thing About You,* spoke to our church about our identity in Christ. He reminded us that God does not command us to do anything without first equipping us through the Holy Spirit. At the end of his sermon, he challenged us to read through the epistles of the apostle Paul and identify the imperatives (the commands) Paul issued. He asked us to examine each imperative and look for the indicative preceding them. Lomas defined these indicatives as, “something that has already been indicated or declared over you. A truth.”

Before ever any demand is made, the gift is offered: the announcement of good news precedes the challenge… The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. Sinclair Ferguson

As I began to read through the epistles marking key verses with colored pencils, I immediately saw what Lomas meant; Paul clearly defines or reminds his readers of our identity in Christ.

Paul uplifts and encourages, models and redirects, teaches and exhorts, always by reminding us Whose we are, the gifts of everlasting love and grace we have in the Father, and the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul doesn’t expect us to do anything on our own, but with the Spirit’s strength and guidance, in whom we must abide and who eternally abides in us.

If we allow ourselves to be buoyed by the Holy Spirit as we are called by God to be all of who we are, might we experience little more love, a little more joy, a little more peace? Could we possibly extend a little more patience, a little more generosity, a little more kindness? Would we be endowed with a little more faithfulness, a little more gentleness, a little more self-control?

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God. Henri Nouwen

As beloved daughters and sons of the Most High God, we might even find more strength and energy.

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

In the following weeks, I’ll be sharing what I’ve discovered in the epistles of Paul. I’ll post about them in an order with which you may not be familiar. Instead of biblical order, I’ll write about them in chronological order. I’ve dated them according to what most theologians agree as the correct order (and five different Bible versions have noted as the dated order). Biblical order is longest to shortest to the churches followed by longest to shortest to individuals.

My prayer for this series is that you will find or be reminded of your identity in Christ as a beloved and wholly adopted heir of God.

*©2014 David Lomas, The Truest Thing About You, David C Cook, Colorado Springs, CO

12 comments

  1. youvehearditsaid · ·

    Very good. A VERY important balance to keep.

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  2. What a great observation Susan! I heard a similar thought when Stuart Briscoe said to look for the doctrinal truth and then the life application. The word therefore is often a clue to the application. Looking forward to your discoveries 😉

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. There is such richness in the writings of Paul. New discoveries, new applications – I don’t think I have enough colored pencils. 😀

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  3. I love Paul. Looking forward to it!

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    1. Me, too Ruth. I learn something new every time I write!

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  4. Looking forward to it, Susan. 😀

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  5. Great post, Susan. I’m happy to see the Nouwen quote, which I’ve never seen; however, it’s something I came up for myself when I was going through a tough emotional time. Also, I look forward to your trek through Paul. I read the entire NT recently and Paul’s writing is incredibly lucid…such insight. God bless.

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    1. Thanks, Michael. Love Nouwen’s writing. Sometimes he’s at the edge, but I appreciate the peace of Christ, which he exudes.

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  6. Awesome post, Susan. I never looked at it that way before. I will definitely be enjoying the adventure of discovering Paul’s indicatives and imperatives with you!

    Btw, there’s another thing Paul usually did. Whenever he quoted the Old Testament, a “but” or “however” usually follows afterward to contrast how things have changed under the New Covenant. That’s an interesting study too. 🙂

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    1. Ooooh, you’ve piqued my interest, Mel. More colored pencils! 😀

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