This past week we finished our series “A Family For All Families”. The first 3 sermons were attempting to communicate “Who We Are” as a church and as God’s chosen people. This is so important to the Christian life, and the life of the Church. Far too many Christians just “DO”. As someone who has been in “church” for a long time, and also who has a good amount of friends who don’t claim to love Jesus, this is one of the most frequent critiques I hear about the western church. Many people think of the Church like a “cult” because we just do what we are told. Therefore, I think it is important to answer the “WHY?” when we give instructions.
Where do I get this paradigm from? It is not because I want to make my unbelieving friends happy, but because it is the way the Bible is ordered. Scholars speak about the indicative and imperative relationship in Biblical language—particularly the verbs. Whenever God gives us imperatives He will always ground them in indicatives. Now I know what you are asking, “what the heck is an indicative or imperative”? Both of these are normally dealing with the verbs in Scripture. Any good scholar will tell you the verbs move the story along. The indicative verbs are verbs used to describe acts, events or to state objective facts. The imperative verbs are verbs that express commands or exhortations to influence our behavior.
Let me give a few examples of how this works, because no matter what worldview you have, you live this way. If you are a student of anything then this means you study. If you are a student in college studying engineering, then it is because you desire “to be” an engineer. Your behavior flows from your aspiration or how you view yourself. If you are a parent then you are supposed to have certain behaviors. You should feed your children, clothe them, comfort them, love on them, hug them, and etc. If you do not do these things then the average person would not really consider you a parent. You are at most a very negligent parent.
There are similarities to this in Scripture. Most people are familiar with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are instructions that were given to Israel on how they were to live. I believe it has been proven by Christian and non-Christian scholars that in the Ancient Near East (ANE) the Ten Commandments share similar traits to ANE moral code treaties (see Meredith Kline or JA Thompson on this). The treaty was formed when a smaller or less powerful nation would come under the protection of a more powerful kingdom. So, before God gives the Ten Commandments He says, “...I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex 20:2). This is the indicative truth. It serves as a reminder of the event called the Exodus. God SAVED Israel from slavery—the bondage of their oppressors. He heard their cries and did something about it. In Exodus 19:5-6 God says this about Israel, “...you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you will speak to the people of Israel.” This is “WHO THEY ARE” now that God has redeemed them. God rescued them. He did not just to rescue them, but He rescued them for a purpose. They were called to be a kingdom of priests. As people traveled through Israel they were supposed to meet a “holy”—“set apart”—“different” people. We are supposed to read this moral code treaty in light of these truths.
As we approach the NT, and the Church, we are supposed to apply the same concept. What is supposed to make the Church unique is we have been redeemed too. Not exactly like Israel. No, we have been redeemed from the bondage of sin (Rom 6:17-20). Sin, satan, and death are the oppressors of every human, everywhere. God sent His Son into the world to redeem us from the bondage of sin, which in turns sets us free from the bondage of satan and death.
I Peter 2:9 & 11 tell us, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light...Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Can you see the indicative and imperative relationship again here? If this is “who we are”, then Peter tells us this is “how you live”. The language is similar to that given in Exodus 19-20, but here we see instructions to PROCLAIM. What do we proclaim? God’s excellences!
Not only are we to proclaim how awesome God is, but we are also called to help people who have been called to the same task to live in light of that calling. At Refuge this is what we call discipleship. Christ commands us to go and make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20. But He also encourages us to teach Jesus’ disciples to observe His commandments. This is all rooted by Jesus opening these verses with this indicative, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is a declaration of Jesus’ kingship. It is creation language. Since Jesus is the Creator King, He knows what is best for His creation. Therefore, His instructions are not given to harm us, but to help.
God made a treaty with us through His Son, Jesus Christ. But just like in the ANE moral code treaties, we have been given instructions on how we are to live in light of the arrival of God’s salvation. We are now citizens of the kingdom of God, and we are to live that way. We don’t just convert people to Christ, but are here also to help them understand what it means to live like a citizen of God’s kingdom.
J. Pope - The Doxa Dude