Balancing the Indicative and the Imperative

The greatest tension in the New Testament is between the indicative (what God has already done and what is already true about us) and the imperative (what remains to be done as we respond to God by faith and obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit). That tension can be seen in verses like Romans 6:6: "Knowing this that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." You have to know and believe positional truth in order to successfully progress in your sanctification. Positional sanctification is the basis for our progressive sanctification.

The balance between the indicative and the imperative is about equal in Scripture, but I have not observed that balance being taught in our churches. We seem to focus more on the imperatives, i.e. instructing believers what they must do instead of balancing that with what God has already done. Many people attend evangelical churches for years and never hear enough positional truth to understand that they are children of God who are alive and free in Christ. Many have never repented of their old ways or resolved their personal and spiritual conflicts. Consequently, they are not maturing and the best messages from the pulpit are going right over their heads. Paul wrote, "I gave you milk to drink and not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not walking like mere men?" (1 Cor. 3:2,3).

We need to help Christians realize the incredible identity and position they have in Christ, and then help them repent of their own ways so that they can live a liberated life "in Christ.”

Dr. Neil

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