What I Mean When I Say “Imperatives Not Required”

Yes. I said that. And I say that. And yes, it sounds dangerous and heretical. If it doesn’t, just listen again: “Imperatives aren’t required for a New Covenant saint to walk in paths of righteousness.” In order that I’m not misunderstood, allow me to explain why I say this.
First, let me explain what I don’t mean. I don’t mean imperatives are to be ignored. The commands of Christ and His apostles are authoritative. If we love Christ, we will obey Christ. We won’t consider His instruction to us as optional and push it under the carpet. Not at all! Let me be abundantly clear. The Christian must obey Christ, i.e. His commands written in New Covenant Scripture. This is my position. That I don’t define these commands as the Law of Christ doesn’t mean I reject His commands. To make that conclusion is to make a wrong one, allowing a theological framework to undermine a Biblical distinction. According to Jeremiah, new covenant law is internal, not external. How then, can New Covenant law be understood to be outside us, written on a page? It’s my conviction that it cannot.[1] But it’s also my conviction, that though not law (which is good news for those of us who do not obey Christ perfectly), Christ’s commands are in Scripture to be heeded.
So, what do I mean? It’s quite simple actually. When I say imperatives aren’t required I mean to say that “Christ in you” is sufficient for walking in a way that pleases God. Of course, appeal to the Scriptures is always required. Just listen carefully to these selected texts (italics and boldface mine):

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
“Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).

These two verses are amazing to me. The Thessalonians had “no need” for written instruction because they were “taught by God” to “love the brethren” which is what they were doing. The Lord makes “you increase and abound in love” that “he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness.” Our hearts are established blameless in holiness because God does it, making us abound in love for one another, how? Is love not produced by the Spirit, even the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22)? Indeed, this internal reality is consequential. Christ in you in His Holy Spirit is a determining, governing ‘Law,’ not just a mere doctrine. As Ezekiel promised: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (36: 27). Or as David put it: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3).
So, imperatives are not required because Christ in you is sufficient. I am not advocating a word-less, quietist, grace-cheapening, subjective, situational-ethic “Christianity.” I’m simply calling for a Christianity that is Biblical, Christ-exalting, Spirit-filled, and truly holy.

[1] While in my view the Law of Christ is internal and not written on a page, it is not at odds with what is written on the pages of the Bible but in keeping with it.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/todd-braye.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) is the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blacke, Alberta, Canada. After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, he served a Baptist church in eastern Ontario for six years before coming home to Alberta. He has been SGBC’s pastor since October 1, 2005.[/author_info] [/author]


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