Indicatives and Imperatives

Pillar of truth


A popular Christian pastor and blogger recently commented about my blogs –

“Hi friend, it strikes me you’re a rare breed … someone who attends NCC yet actively critiques the sermons….”

I responded in order to correct any perception that I might be unhappy with NCC and JP –

“Oh, you noticed. But I really do thank God for J Prince, whom God raised for the need of the hour to re-package the Glorious Gospel of Grace to many within God’s kingdom who have been hurt and harmed by the mixture of the truth of Grace and the teaching of the Law from the pulpit and the printers! And if only pastors and leaders fully grasp that all of us have our own VANTAGE POINTS when championing or advocating issues of sanctification (discipleship) “against” amazing and awesome Grace. As one local ‘theologian’ recently puts it – there are ‘indicatives’ and ‘imperatives’ in our legacy, BUT I notice that the imperatives of sanctification and discipleship tend to be raised by theologians, pastors; (understandably the burden of such roles to exhort believers and fill their church with quality Christians) while the thousands of testimonies for the lasting deep impact and influence of Grace are from the believers who realise our indicatives, and the power of God’s grace (vantage point of a sinner!); which I believe is the great need of the hour…..”

I mentioned INDICATIVES and IMPERATIVES because of late, some have been referring to a local theologian who cautioned and hinted that the hyper-Grace gospel is dangerous, erroneous and even heretical!  I quote from one point in the summary of the talk: (

“Their understanding of the writings of Paul is erroneous. Paul always balances the indicative and the imperative (you are such and such, therefore, you should do such and such). But the new antinomians only emphasise the indicative and entirely omit the imperatives.”

The pastor and blogger wrote back

“Great that you mentioned the indicative and the imperative. Both are needed and must be taught from the pulpits.”

I had already said that more often than not, it is the pastors and workers who pitch for the imperatives when confronting the Grace teachers (and labelling with a broad brush – hyper Grace).  Since Joseph Prince is notorious for advocating and preaching radical Grace, many would caution that we must not neglect the imperatives.

Yes, they are right.  Prince need to address issues of the imperatives. And other pastors and ministries must also preach and teach the indicatives.  So I asked myself, what do the Navigators, Campus Crusade and most pastors major in their teachings?  Do they give equal time to the indicatives?  I wonder and conclude “hardly”. (I was a leader for many years in a disciple-making-ministry).  What would my findings be if I do an audit of the Sunday sermon topics over one year in one hundred churches?  Would there be a balance of indicatives and imperatives?

BUT the issue is not balance!  This term sounds so mature, even-handed, impartial, unprejudiced, wise, astute, judicious, responsible etc. But this can color and cloud my discernment of the Gospel of Grace.

Indicatives and Imperatives are not the two ends of doctrinal truth!  They are not two sets of truth on the ends of a balance scale / see-saw.  Sadly upholding balance seemed to have the last say and closing curtain call in this issue of Grace and discipleship!

It is not balancing on a pivot!  It is not balancing on a fulcrum! The imperatives are not equal and opposite ends of our Legacy and Life in Christ.  It might appear so when the indicatives in the first chapters of Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, Romans are followed by the imperatives.  The truth is the imperatives are built up ON the foundational indicatives!  The Liberty in the Spirit supports and sustains the Fruit of the Spirit (not even the fruits of work and disciplines).

Can we balance the Vine and the branches?  Can we put the Root and fruit side by side and balance them? Can we put the Cornerstone on the same importance with the many living stones that make up the house?

Our works of righteousness are built solely on the foundation and righteousness of Christ!

1 Timothy 3:15 describes the church of the living God as the pillar and foundation of the truth,  and our foundation is Jesus Himself, our Cornerstone and our Capstone.


4 thoughts on “Indicatives and Imperatives

  1. Hi brother, “A popular Christian pastor and blogger” is wrong leh. I’m not a pastor (that was what students called me at St. Andrew’s but it was only a title…), and I’m also not popular! 😀

    Appreciate your thoughts about the indicatives being the foundation for the imperatives. I believe that’s true. However, I would like to add something about biblical balance. I come from Covenant Evangelical Free Church and one of the key values we believe in is biblical balance. But it’s often misunderstood to mean a 50-50 concept. Biblical balance rather refers to nothing less than preaching the full counsel of God and wrestling with the seeming tensions in Scripture.

  2. Pingback: Make Disciples (3) – the Imperative | New Creation Church - transiting through ...

    • My apologies for not following up on your suggestion. I’m busy with many family matters at the moment, but I really do plan to share my thoughts on healing – hopefully soon. You might have read my other post on 1st March (Making Discipke (3) ) touching on “Indicatives and Imperatives” again. Shalom to you. Jesus bless you in all ways always!

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