Ligon Duncan – Defending the Tota Gospel (Indicative and Imperative)
|July 9, 2012||Posted by Rick Hogaboam under Law/Gospel, Theology|
I try to be a faithful expositor of the word. Unfortunately, in reformed circles, this subjects one to the dreaded accusation of being a legalist. I’ve been accused of preaching “law” when exegeting the words of Jesus and Paul in relation to our salvation – go figure. “Just preach Gospel, preach grace, not law” I hear. My usual response? “I’m just quoting Jesus and Paul and Peter and James and every other inspired author who dared to speak with imperatives and…they thought it good news.” You get the point. Salvation doesn’t end with justification -it begins with justification. A robust soteriology will encompass all that the Bible has to say. If you hide behind justification to avoid actual sanctification, then you are actually minimizing salvation as a whole.
Jesus didn’t die on the cross to give us an excuse for our slothfulness in sanctification. Jesus died, rose, and ascended to judicially release us from the penalty of all sin, to actually redeem us from the domain and power of our sin, and to pour out the Spirit as power from on high to be transformed as his children into the image of Christ and be his witnesses throughout the world. If you emphasize judicial pardoning as a a means to be absolved from a hearty sanctification, then you are rejecting the actual telos (or goal) of your judicial pardoning. You are saved for good works (Eph 2:8-10). We make much of the cross by embracing all that Jesus intended in the cross and his resurrection. And ALL of it is according to grace, so that we can glorify him by enjoying ALL of his salvation.
Anyhow, the Rev. Ligon Duncan has granted me permission to quote the following from his Facebook wall (proof that intelligence does exist on Facebook walls – thanks, Lig):
Is a preacher’s exhortation to his beloved people to “do more” or “try harder” always an example of legalism? Always an evidence of a failure to understand the indicatives of grace? No.
Paul says: “we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10b). Paul, who knew just a little bit about grace, never backed down from these kinds of exhortations, and did not view them as contradictions of grace, but the very expression of it.
Here is what John Stott says about that exhortation. “Paul issues a call to growth. We are to please God ‘more and more’ (1), and we are to love one another ‘more and more’ (10). Christian complacency is a particularly horrid condition. We have constantly to be on our guard against vanity and apathy. In this life we never finally arrive. We only ‘press on towards the goal’. Our justification is indeed hapax (‘once and for all’); but our sanctification is always mallon (‘more and more’).”
By the way, Philippians 2:12-13 finds a parallel in the indicative-imperative of 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 “you have been taught of God to love one another” v.9 (indicative) therefore “we urge you to love one another more and more” v.10 (imperative). But note Paul’s logic. The indicative does not render the imperative unnecessary, nor does it mitigate the imperative, it in fact grounds the imperative and supplies its urgency.
Another interesting note in Philippians 2:12-13 and in 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 is that the indicative is not justification, but rather the sanctifying work of God in us. “God is at work in you” (Phil 2:13), “therefore work out you your salvation” (2:12), or, to take it in the order of the text: “work out your salvation” (2:12)–meaning live out the grace-bought, grace-grounded, grace bestowed salvation God has given you in godliness, that is, pursue holiness–because God is at work in you so that you can do just that (2:13). Paul doesn’t say in either place, “you are justified, therefore pursue santification” but rather “God is already at work in you for your sanctification, so pursue increasing godliness.”
© 2012, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.