Indicatives and Imperatives in the Bible
1. For as long as we don’t respect and understand what hermeneutics is all about, we will continue to misunderstand and misinterpret the Bible.
2. For as long as we disregard the various contexts of Scripture, we will continue to misunderstand and misinterpret the Bible.
3. For as long as we continue to ISOGETE instead of EXEGETE, we will continue to misunderstand and misinterpret the Bible.
4. For as long as we disregard the various INDICATIVES and IMPERATIVES found in the Bible, we will continue to misunderstand and misinterpret the Bible.
That’s really sad.
What are Imperatives and Indicatives?
Indicatives are statements of fact. It is a statement of what is true, what is reality. In Paul’s and in John’s epistles, the indicatives are what is already true presently for all Christians or believers in Christ. Imperatives are usually commands or a response as a result or in view of the indicative.
According to Paul and John, Christians should think, speak and act according to who they were in Christ — that was the appeal — the imperative. Paul even used the word, “I implore you on Christ’s behalf…”
Examples of Imperatives and Indicatives
INDICATIVE: “…even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
IMPERATIVE: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
In this example, Jesus tells everyone to become perfect (Greek, teleios) or become spiritually mature (imperative, command) because the Father is perfect or spiritually mature (indicative or a statement of fact).
INDICATIVE: (A statement of fact) – Philippians 2:13 for IT IS GOD WHO WORKS IN YOU to will and to act according to his good purpose. See also Philippians 1:6.
IMPERATIVE: (Response) – Philippians 2:12 THEREFORE, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed– not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence– CONTINUE TO WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION with fear and trembling,
Paul was saying here that since the Christian’s salvation is already assured and secure in Jesus Christ (God will see to it that we will make it), since they have already been saved, THEY SHOULD act according to WHO THEY WERE IN CHRIST. “WORK OUT” or show to the world WHAT A CHRISTIAN REALLY IS or OUGHT TO BE in thought, in word and in deed.
INDICATIVE: Christians have been and are RECONCILED already. That is their present status in Christ (2 Cor. 5:18).
IMPERATIVE: Since Christians are already RECONCILED in Christ, therefore Christians SHOULD BE RECONCILED! (2 Cor. 5:20)
“…God were making his APPEAL through us. WE IMPLORE YOU on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
They “CANNOT BE” unreconciled! In context, the meaning of “cannot be” does NOT mean that they really “CANNOT” or are “NOT CAPABLE” of being unreconciled. In fact in the Corinthian Church, there were divisions among them. They were “unreconciling” themselves among themselves. They were capable of sinning and causing division and becoming unreconciled.
In context, the point is that they SHOULD BE RECONCILED BECAUSE THEY ALREADY WERE! They “CANNOT” live like sinners having divisions among them! They ought to live and SHOULD LIVE like real Christians who were reconciled.
This is not a contradiction for those who understand context and what indicatives and imperatives are in the Bible.
The issue is not about salvation. They have already been saved in Christ. The issue also has everything to do with spiritual things. The issue is on having good manners and right conduct in conformity with who they were in Christ — already reconciled and saved.
INDICATIVE: Christians have already been raised in Christ (Col. 3:1).
IMPERATIVE: Therefore Christians SHOULD (DAPAT LANG), set their hearts on things above. (Col. 3:1-2).
The issue is not about salvation. They have already been raised — meaning to say, “saved” already. The point is, THEY SHOULD BEHAVE according to WHO they were in Christ. This is about spiritual things.
The issue is about being true to who they were in Christ. They should NOT have a double standard of life.
This is not about sin management in order to be saved. They already were saved in Christ. It’s about acting and behaving in accordance to who you are in Christ.
INDICATIVE: Christians have already died in Christ. Their life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is the Christian’s life. Christians will appear with Christ is glory. This the Christian’s truth and reality right now as well as their future destiny (Col. 3:3-4).
IMPERATIVE: In view of the Christian’s reality in Christ, THEY SHOULD put to death their earthly nature or sinful nature. This is not sin management in order to be saved. They were already saved. Paul was merely reminding Christians to act according to WHO THEY REALLY WERE IN CHRIST. (Col. 3:5).
They were already children of God’s Kingdom and therefore should not act like children of the devil. It DOES NOT MEAN THEY CANNOT SIN or are NOT CAPABLE of sinning. Rather, Paul was telling them that THEY SHOULD NOT SIN. That is the context.
INIDICATIVE: Christians have ALREADY TAKEN OFF the OLD SELF and HAVE PUT ON the NEW SELF (Col. 3:9-10). This is the status of Christians.
IMPERATIVE: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, CLOTHE YOURSELVES with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Col. 3:12-13).
Can you see how the the Bible uses imperatives and indicatives?
It does not say that Christians who have taken off the old self “CANNOT SIN” or are “NOT CAPABLE” of sinning. Rather, Paul was telling Christians what they SHOULD BE DOING in light of WHO THEY ALREADY WERE (saved, righteous) in Jesus Christ.
Despite the fact (indicative) that they have already put off the old self and have already put on the new self, Paul CONTINUED TO REMIND THEM TO “PUT ON” or CLOTHE THEMSELVES with righteousness (even though they were already righteous in God’s eyes).
INDICATIVE: Christians ARE already children of God. That is their present truth and reality in Christ. That is WHO THEY ARE in Christ. They will be like Christ at his second coming — future reality (1 John 3:1-2).
IMPERATIVE: In light of WHO CHRISTIANS ARE in Jesus Christ, in light of the HOPE of a future resurrection and glorification, John was urging them to PURIFY THEMSELVES! (1 John 3:3). Those who are sinning are practicing lawlessness or wickedness (1 John 3:4). This is not talking about the Law of Moses but rather talking about a lifestyle of being wicked and evil — practicing lawlessness.
1 John 3:6 – No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
1 John 3:6 is quite clear. This is not sin management in order to be saved. They already were saved and considered righteous in God’s eyes. This is about the imperative in light of the indicative. Since they were already in Christ (indicative), THEY SHOULD conform their lifestyle in accordance with God’s kingdom. Not with the kingdom of the devil. If they continued to sin as their way of life, then then it showed they were not of God but of the devil (1 Johh 3:8). John said they SHOULD PURIFY THEMSELVES (1 John 3:3). If they have sinned, they have an Advocate in Christ (1 John 2:1-2). Those who are saying Christians CANNOT SIN or are NOT CAPABLE OF SINNING will have a problem with context in 1 John chapters 1 and 2 (and of course 3 as well).
As per context, John was not saying Christian CANNOT or ARE NOT CAPABLE of sinning. That interpretation is out of context and is a misunderstanding of what are imperatives and indicatives in the Bible.
1 John 3:8 – He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
1 John 3:8-9 should not be interpreted APART FROM ITS CONTEXT. This is the reason for the misunderstanding. This is called prooftexting (Check Wikipedia for meaning).
Words and phrases derive its meaning depending on how it is used in a particular context.
As can be seen in context, 1 John 3:9 does not mean Christians are NOT CAPABLE OF SINNING. Rather, the imperative is that THEY SHOULD NOT SIN because sinning is INCOMPATIBLE with WHO THEY WERE IN CHRIST. That is the meaning IN CONTEXT.
Misunderstanding immediate context and total disregard for the whole or larger context of 1 John is the reason for all this confusion.
INDICATIVE (Ang Katotohanan): 1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: GOD IS LIGHT; IN HIM THERE IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.
IMPERATIVE: (Ang dapat gawin o di dapat gawin): 1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.
IMPERATIVE (Dapat lang – SHOULD DO): Walk in the Light. (1 John 1:7).
INDICATIVE: – God is in the light. Christ’s blood purifies us from all sin (1 John 5:7).
INDICATIVE: (Katotohan) – The truth is not in us (Liars) IF WE CLAIM TO BE WITHOUT SIN. A Christian is CAPABLE and ABLE to sin. That is the reason why there is a command (imperative) NOT TO SIN!
1 John 1:8 – IF WE CLAIM TO BE WITHOUT SIN, WE DECEIVE OURSELVES AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN US.
IMPERATIVE (Ang dapat gawin): – Aminin! Confess! Let’s not make God a liar by saying we have no sin.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
This passage is part of the overall context of 1 John 3:9.
IMPERATIVE: John told Christians NOT TO SIN. They were capable of sinning.
1 John 2:1-2 NIV 1 John 2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense– Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
INDICATIVE: Jesus Christ is our atonement. Sin is not a problem although we are still CAPABLE of SINNING.
This is not about sin management. Our salvation is secured and assured. We are saved in Christ. Be we still do and continue to commit sin. Our salvation is not dependent on our performance.
But we are told to quit sinning! We are told not to walk in darkness (IMPERATIVE) Why? Because that is INCOMPATIBLE with WHO WE ARE IN JESUS CHRIST! WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THE LIGHT (Indicative).
INDICATIVE: Christians are justified by faith, saved by God’s grace through Christ (Romans 5).
IMPERATIVE: Stop living a life and practice of sinning habitually! (Romans 6:1-2)
INDICATIVE: Christians are buried with Christ, united in Christ’s death, will be united in Christ’s resurrection. Old self crucified (Romans 6:4-6).
IMPERATIVE: “…WE SHOULD NO LONGER BE SLAVES TO SIN! (Romans 6:6)
INDICATIVE: Christians died with Christ, freed from (Rom. 6:7-10).
IMPERATIVE: Christians SHOULD count themselves dead to sin but alive in Christ. (Rom. 6:11).
Romans 6:12-13 THEREFORE DO NOT LET SIN REIGN (IMPERATIVE) in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
These are just random examples I picked out from the Bible . I hope these examples are enough to show that indicatives and imperatives will help us in understanding the context of Jesus Christ, the Living Word as we read the Written Word. The indicatives and imperatives should be considered — not disregarded — to understand the context of Jesus Christ in Scripture.
Bible Versions and Translations of 1 John 3:9
Let us have a healthy respect for the work of Bible scholars who have spent all their lives making the Bible helpful and understandable to us.
1 John 3:9-10The Message (MSG)
9-10 People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
English Standard Version: 1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
New American Standard Bible: 1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
New International Version: 1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
New Living Translation: 1 John 3:9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.