Friends, there is always a “therefore” to faith. For every single reality you believe to be true about God, the world, and mankind, there is always a therefore. We must not stop at the indicative, but instead push forward to the imperative. We must live that which we believe.
Here is how the Bible defines faith:
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen (Heb. 11:1).
Not only that, but the Bible gives us all kinds of things that we ought to believe. It is a book, after all, primarily about God and His work in the world. It is through God’s Word that we know God and what He is like and consequently truly know ourselves in light of the reality of Him.
But here is where we must be careful, lest we think that “faith” is about intellectually agreeing with a certain set of facts and realities. That is certainly a component of faith. Believing in something false or unreliable has no value at all; it doesn’t matter how strongly I “believe” that I can play professional baseball. The strength of my belief doesn’t make the unreal real.
Yes, of course, there is an intellectual component to faith. But it does not stop there, for real faith always, always, always is applied faith. There is a real life outworking of the real things we believe. This is the very point James was trying to emphasize in his letter:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself (James 2:14-17).
The Bible is full of both indicatives and imperatives. Indicatives are facts. They are realities. And in the Bible, they are firm and secure because the Bible is the unchanging Word of God.
The imperatives are commands or implications. They are statements of direction, made with authority, that have a direct and expected act of obedience expected to follow.
Now often, the indicative is linked with the imperative. It’s a statement of fact with an implication of response. And most often, the indicative is about what God has done and the imperative is about what we must do, or think, or believe in response as a matter of response and obedience. The order is important here – we response because God has done. Not, we behave so that God will do. It’s the simple difference between something like “God loves you” therefore you respond, and “I am obedient” so God will love me.
The link between the indicative statement of fact and the imperative statement of response is the word “therefore.”
And that’s the single word that can change the way we understand faith.
Here are just a few of the examples of this powerful word:
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
Here is the command. We are not to casually associate with things like sexual immorality or impurity; no – we are to kill them. Put them to death. Even crucify them. But what is the indicative that drives this violent imperative? That, glory to God, we have already died in Christ and been raised to new life. With a new self. And a new heart. In this new life in Christ, then, we have been changed to fully embrace who we really are in Him and put to death what remains of our old selves.