During the sermons this past Sunday we considered the structure of Ephesians and how it relates to the whole of Scripture, our relationship with God, as well as our lives of faith. Here are those two troublesome grammar terms:
§ Indicative—states facts and blessings
§ Imperative—states commands, requests and expectations
And now a reminder of the loose, simplistic structure of the book of Ephesians:
§ Ephesians 1-3—our spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Indicatives)
§ Ephesians 4-6—how we are to live (Imperatives)
Why is this so important? Here are two reasons.
1. It affects our attitude about our salvation. The longer I have preached, the more I have come to believe in the importance of our attitude as it relates to our salvation. If we believe that we are the ones who are the primary force behind our eternal standing with the holy, just, righteous Creator God, we will never be able to have confidence and assurance of our relationship with that God and will always live with insecurity about our eternal destiny. What a tragic way to live!! Because of the awareness of our own sins, deep inside we know that if we are the ones responsible for our redemption through our good deeds and lives we have no hope. But if we trust our loving and merciful Father, and the blood sacrifice that our gracious Savior gave for us, we will have a humble assurance based not on our own faithfulness but on the faithfulness of our Lord.
2. It affects our attitude about our lives. We are called to live a certain way. There are imperatives in the gospel. In spite of the beliefs and expressions of our pluralistic society where tolerance is king, there are some things that matter to God. There is right and wrong. Our first question is, what determines what actions are right and what actions are wrong? For the Christian, there can be only one answer: the Bible. Granted, our understanding is limited by our humanity, knowledge, experience, etc. But Scripture is the only objective standard we have that is tied to and based in the revelation of God. And so we do the best we can to try and understand it, and we do the best we can to obey it, and we trust in the One we have turned to in obedient faith to lead, guide, and save us. Our second question is, am I genuinely seeking to be obedient? And again, this is where our attitude is affected by our understanding of salvation by grace through faith—salvation based on the Indicatives of God’s work and blessing and not on the Imperatives which we fulfill imperfectly at best. If we understand that our God has blessed us and saved us through the grace of Jesus Christ and our response of faith, we will seek to obey. But not from a perspective of fear and dread, or burden and constraint. Rather, our obedience will stem from a sense of humility because of our sins, gratitude and love because of our Savior, and joy and hope because of what we have been given in Christ Jesus.