One of the most important imperatives in Christian ethics is this: Become who you are!
At first glance, this imperative might seem like a piece of goofy New Age blatherskite, but it isn’t. It is firmly rooted in the logic of the gospel. Consider, in this regard, what Paul writes in Romans 6.11-14:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
The words, “in the same way,” let us know that this paragraph is logically connected to the paragraphs that precede it. In those paragraphs, we read several statements about ourselves, all of them written in the indicative mood. For example:
- “We died to sin” (verse 2)
- “our old self was crucified with [Christ]” (verse 6)
- “we will also live with Christ” (verse 8)
A little grammar might be helpful at this point. In English, a verb can express an indicative or an imperative mood. (There’s also subjunctive and optative moods, but we don’t need to discuss them right now.) The indicative mood expresses facts about what was, what is, or what will be. The imperative mood, by contrast, expresses a command: Do this! Do that!
Now, as I mentioned, the verbs in verses 1-10 are written in the indicative mood. They tell us who we are in Christ. We are dead to sin but alive with Christ.
By contrast, the verbs in verses 11-14 are written in the imperative mood. They tell us what to do:
- “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus”
- “do not let sin reign in your mortal body”
- “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin”
- “offer yourselves to God”
- “offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness”
The indicatives of verses 1-10 logically precede the imperatives of verses 11-14. We died to sin; therefore, we should count ourselves dead to sin. Our old self was crucified with Christ; therefore, we should not let sin reign in us or offer parts of our bodies to sin. We live with Christ; therefore, we should offer ourselves to God and the parts of our bodies to him. In other words, because of what Christ did in you, do this in response! The indicative and the imperative express the logic of the gospel. First, God saves us by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Then and only then do we begin to produce Christ-like good works.
Who are you? A man or woman in Christ. Now act like it! Become who you are!