Ben Reaoch | Category: The Christian Life
Moving from Romans 1-11 to chapters 12-16 is a significant transition in this important letter. An important insight here requires a grammar lesson. We need to observe the relationship between the indicative and the imperative. An indicative verb states a fact. “You are a human being.” “You live in Pittsburgh.” “It is Sunday morning.” These are indicative (declarative) statements. Many of the indicative statements in Scripture are glorious promises to God’s people. Here are a couple that appear in Romans 1-11.
“God put [Christ Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood . . .” (3:25)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (8:28)
The indicative pervades chapters 1-11. In contrast to the indicative, there is the imperative. An imperative verb states a command. This is one of the main forms of speech that parents use with their children. “Clean your room.” “Stop fighting.” “Do your homework.” “Clear the dinner table.” “Watch the baby” (that’s one of the new ones at our house). Hopefully, as parents give exhortations to their kids, it is in the context of a loving, gracious relationship. That’s what Paul is highlighting for us here. He’s about to give us a whole bunch of commands. But all of them are in view of the mercies of God (Romans 12:1).
There are very few commands in Romans 1-11. But chapters 12-15 are filled with commands. A couple of them appear right here in the first 2 verses. Paul begins with an appeal, an exhortation, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. He goes on to command, “Do not be conformed to this world.” “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
This is much more than a grammar lesson. It speaks to the fundamental nature of Christianity. This is not works-religion. The message is not, “You do this and this and avoid these things, and then God will put forward His Son to die in your place.” No, the message is, “God put His Son forward to die in the place of sinners. Receive this gift. And THEN here are some guidelines for life that you can joyfully follow.” The indicative comes before the imperative in Christianity. The promises of God come first, then the commands. The truth of what God has done is the foundation. Our obedience is then built upon that foundation.
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