There was one important thing about Romans 6 that I left out of last night’s sermon because as I said, we couldn’t cover everything. Nevertheless, this is so important I wanted to share it with you as I have gotten a lot of feedback about the whole topic we touched on in the sermon.

Now stay with me, this vital point for Christian living comes from Greek Grammar. I need to teach you a little bit about Greek moods, and I don’t mean Nana Mouskouri, having a strop!

In both English and New Testament Greek grammar the verb is described in terms of tense and mood. To understand some really important teaching in the New Testament two moods need highlighting


The indicative mood indicates or expresses a fact or reality It is the mood of certainty. In the New Testament, the indicative tells us what God has done for us as believers in Christ. It declares the reality of what Christ has done for us. So when it comes to Christian living it expresses  the God side of the equation.


The imperative mood in contrast expresses a command, an order, or an exhortation. The imperative tells us what we need to do in response or can do as a result. Theologically, the imperative calls on believers to live in a certain way, for example, in a Godly way, in sexual purity etc. So in terms of Christian living the imperative, points us to the believer’s side of the equation.

Now here is the key point, the imperative usually flows from and depends upon the indicative. So in the New Testament we get a theological truth (indicative) which leads to a moral exhortation (imperative) To put it plainly, we see this pattern time and time again in the writings of Paul, GOD HAS DONE THIS (indicative ) so now YOU CAN AND MUST DO THIS (imperative)

This is why I was saying last that to have victory over sin we need to know some basic theological truths because what we are called to do as Christians has to be based on what God has done for us already, the imperative needs the indicative.

OK GET READY FOR THE MAIN POINT …. The relationship between Indicative and Imperative teaches us that living the Christian life, growing in holiness, becoming more spiritually mature is about  becoming what we are. So God’s Word tells us that we are declared to be righteous in God’s sight because of what Jesus did for us through his life, death and resurrection, but we are to live this out in ongoing, progressive sanctification, we are to become what we are, we are righteous in God’s sight now we are to become righteous in our daily lives. In faith, obedience and dependence on the Holy Spirit we follow our Lord, becoming more like him and less like our old selves. But all of this is based on what God has already done on our behalf. Who we become as Christians is in response to and enabled by what Jesus has done for us.

So let’s look at Romans 6. The indicative tells us what Christ has done for us and who we are already in Christ, the imperative instructs us in how we should therefore live out that new reality. We are to behave what we believe, become what we are!


We died to sin” (v.2);  
our old self was crucified with him” (v.6);  
we are “dead to sin but alive to God” (v.11);   Do not let sin reign” (v.12);  
we “have been brought from death to life” (v.13); “sin shall not be your master”   “do not offer the parts of your body to sin but offer yourselves to God” (v.13);  
(v.14); “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness  
you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God” (v.22). “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members(C) as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (v.19)  

Now why is all this Greek Grammar important? It keeps us balanced. There have been two unhelpful views on how we grow as a Christian and overcome sin

ITS ALL DOWN TO GOD …. One group has put the emphasis on God’s role, its down to allowing God to change us. This group might use the slogan LET GO AND LET GOD

ITS ALL DOWN TO US …. This group puts the emphasis on our role, we need to be disciplined and put effort into fighting sin and growing. This group might use the slogan WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING

When we understand the indicative and the imperative, we understand we need both emphasis. When it comes to Christian living there is personal responsibility and effort, there are things we need to do and not do, THE IMPERATIVES. However, we are only able to do these things because of what God has already done for us and is doing in us. THE INDICATIVES

I love the balance we get when it comes growing as a Christians we see in Philippians 2: 12-13 “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (our responsibility and effort) 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose (God’s work and empowering.)” Someone has likened it to the crew on a sailing ship. For a sailing ship to make its voyage, the crew have to put in the effort to raise the sails but the power comes from the wind. For your voyage to Christian maturity, you need to put in personal effort but this is to enable you to be empowered by the Spirit.

So look out for the indicatives and imperatives in the NT reminding us of what God has done for us and who we are as a result and then telling us how we should respond. A good tip to find them is in Paul’s letters words and phrases like THEREFORE, DO NOT, or SO NOW usually separate indicatives and imperatives, the indicatives coming before and the imperatives after. Now go and have some fun finding them, it could just change your life.

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  1. Pingback: 8 July Be what you believe – Westlake Church Nyon

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