In June 2016, I joined in the discussion that grace preachers did not major on the imperatives of our faith (https://wwwpilgrim.wordpress.com/2016/06/11/indicatives-and-imperatives/). And a few days ago, I was stirred to re-visit this issue of imperatives and indicatives, associating it with discipleship and disciple-making.
This time round, I discovered that there had been much discussion on this; and it was way beyond what I know and expected. Previously, it was like picking up a camera and and viewing this scene (scenario of indicatives and imperatives) without any focus. And as I searched and surfed on this (wow, the conversations on the I&I are awesome), my vision is beginning to sharpen (yes – beginning, still to be brought to sharp focus) on this.
So I asked myself, are the two “greats” – The Great Commandment and The Great Commission indicatives or imperatives? I also asked others. The answer was clear.
And many movements and groups have been founded and formed to motivate and mobilize believers behind and around the Great Commission.
“The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.” – Sinclair Ferguson
So in view of what Ferguson wrote, (and many others out there); have we in our love and dedication to our Lord, and to the lost; launched off correctly, or cruised on correctly, with the indicatives anchoring and driving our imperatives?
And if the imperative to make disciples has been our motive and motivation, would it have been a case of the flesh (effort and works) striving to please God, and unconsciously building on a wrong foundation? When I was in such a disciple-making ministry, indeed there was a sense of superiority that came the involvement in the DM activities – more spiritual, more disciplined …. .
And now I can echo with Jared Bumpers (http://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/indicatives-and-imperatives) how my moralistic (no, a superior self-righteous feeling of being different from the average church member) have set me apart from the others – a clear demonstration of self-righteousness –
“By focusing on the imperatives, the preacher (disciple maker?) unwittingly fosters a false sense of self-righteousness.”
Please don’t get me wrong. The exposure and training in the DM ministry has helped me to know more of the scriptures and pushed me to different and diverse situations in working out my faith. There is much merit in such ministries founded on the imperatives.
Could it have been better?
No it would have been right and authentic and proper if I had been nursed, nurtured and nourished first on the indicatives rather than the imperatives – like the Great Compassion of God in loving me, the Great Commitment of Jesus to be with me, the Great Certainty that Jesus is my Life and my Liberty, how my Great Captain and Commander is rolling out His purpose in Jesus, His plan to redeem man and accept man as a bride for the Bridegroom, and His program through the ages, and the future to fulfill all things in His Son, in Whom He is well pleased.