Indicatives and Imperatives in Scripture

I hope you, like me, have been pondering the great humility of Christ’s condescension this week. Obviously there is no way we can attain his perfect standard and example of humility. But, never the less, he is our standard. 


As we approach our next message in Philippians 2:12-14, I would like to ask us to consider the complimentary nature of “indicatives" and “imperatives" in the Scripture. Let me first define what these words mean:


Indicative: An indicative can be considered to be a simple statement of fact. It can denote a particular quality or representation.  For example, holiness is indicative of Christ.  It is a representation of His character.  This past Sunday we considered many indicatives as we considered the very nature of Christ in his condescension—coming in human form and being obedient to death on a cross.  Sometimes we see indicatives in Scripture that help us to understand what we have in Christ.  For an example of this, look at all the “in Christ” statements in Ephesians.  We have forgiveness in Christ, blessing in Christ, an inheritance in Christ, and much more. Indicatives are sometimes understated in many pulpits because they are seen as simply informational and impractical.  I would suggest to you that this could not be farther from the truth. 


Imperatives - Imperatives are the statements that we believe we can all touch and feel.  They are commands that sound like “be this” or "do this.”

When we hear an imperative, we instantly say to ourselves, “Now that is something practical I can do.” 

In Scripture we can basically see that an indicative is what Christ has DONE for us and an imperative is what we must DO. 


In Scripture, indicatives are the power behind the imperatives.  We have already seen this many times in Philippians.  We have a common joy of sharing in the gospel of Christ (indicative); therefore, we are commanded to love the Church (imperative). We have an eternal promise of salvation in Christ (indicative); therefore, we must live for Christ whether by life or death (imperative). We have been saved into the Kingdom of Christ (indicative); therefore, we must live out our heavenly citizenship (imperative). Salvation in Christ sheds light on the destruction of those who hate God (indicative); therefore, we must persevere and even suffer for the sake of Christ (imperative). We have comfort, participation in the Spirit, affection, and consolation in Christ (indicative); therefore we must not seek self but the interest of others (imperative). AND we have a perfect example of humility in the Lord Jesus who has emptied himself and been exalted by the Father above every name (indicative); therefore, we must think and act in imitating the very mind of Christ in humble unity (imperative). 


As we approach our next passage of Scripture this week, may I ask us all to ponder how each of these indicatives empowers us for the imperatives.  Without the work of Christ in our lives, obeying any imperative from him is absolutely impossible. Therefore, both indicatives and imperatives are intensely practical. This is what we will find as we dig into Philippians 2:12-14.