Friday, February 25, 2022

Formed By the Word Week 7: Indicative


Week 7: Indicative

This past week I have been working on a project for a meeting on Saturday where we will go through Colossians 3:1-4 and look at its implications for spiritual formation. So I thought today's word would focus on a pattern found in this passage that is very popular with Paul in his writings.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Colossians 3:1-4

Paul has a grammactical pattern that he uses which expresses his theology of sanctification. Paul likes to lay a foundation with indicative statements before he tells us what to do or how to live (imperative statements or commands).  An indicative states a fact or a reality. In the New Testament an indicative states something that God has done, is doing, or will do. Indicatives generally tell us who we are as a result of something God has done, is doing, or will do. So, we could also call these identity statements for those who are in Christ. Paul uses indicatives - telling us who we are -  before he gives us imperatives - telling us what we should do or how we should live. Why this order? Well, if he gave us the imperatives first, then we would be operating out of a works-based gospel. Paul instead communicates with this pattern of indicatives preceding imperatives that doing flows out of being. Another way to say this is, what we do or how we live is a response to who we are in Christ, a response to what He has done or is doing or will do. Who Christ is and what He has done for us is our motivation to live for Him.

We can look at this passage in Colossians 3 and see examples of this. The passage begins with "Since, then" which is another way of saying "If, therefore". This means we need to look at the context. In chapters 1 and 2 of Colossians Paul has written to address false teaching taking place in the Colossian church where they are trying to combine Jewish thought and traditions and Greek  philosophy and wisdom teaching with the teachings of Christ. We call this syncretism, where different forms and practices of different religions are fused together into one. 

So to combat this false teaching, or heresy,  Paul exalts Christ. In the first two chapters of the book Paul describes who Christ is - His deity, His supremacy, His power, His authority - he describes what Christ has done for us - redeeming us, forgiving us our sins, reconciling us to God through His blood - and finally, he describes who we are in Christ - made alive with Christ, holy and without blemish, those who have Christ in us, the hope of glory. Paul lays a foundation that is rooted in the truth of Christ and firmly establishes who we are in Christ.

Then he tells us that since all of this is true, and that we "have been raised with Christ" (indicative #1), then we should "set our hearts on things above (imperative #1), where Christ is seated at the right hand of God".  Also, we should "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things" (imperative #2). Why? Because "you died, and your life is now hidden (secure, kept safe) with Christ in God." (indicatives 2 & 3). He then follows this with a promise. "When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear (indicative #4) with him in glory."

The indicatives in this passage tell us what Christ has done on our behalf - you have been raised with Christ, you died. They tell us what He is doing now - your life is hidden with Him, you are safe and secure in Christ because Christ is in you. And they tell us what He is going to do - you will appear with him in glory. The pattern seen in these indicatives point us to the truth that is foundational to them being true of us - "with Christ/Him". These indicatives are what identify those who are in union or in relationship with Christ through faith in who He is and what He has done to redeem us and to reconcile us with God. Then we are called to live the resurrection life, the way of Christ. We do this by having a heavenly mindset. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven who are guided by "the things above" while we journey through this life on earth. This is how we grow in Christlikeness, and the rest of Colossians goes into how we practically set our hearts and minds above and live as Kingdom people.

So when you see an imperative (a command about how to live or what to do), look for the indicative pointing you to your motivation for doing and living the kingdom way - what Christ has done, is doing, or will do.

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

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