Sunday, November 2, 2008

Imperatives and indicatives

After stating that no one -- not even the holiest among us -- can perfectly obey the Decalogue, Question 115 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: "Why will God then have the ten commandments so strictly preached, since no man in this life can keep them?"

Answer. First, that all our lifetime we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, and thus become the more earnest in seeking the remission of sin, and righteousness in Christ; likewise, that we constantly endeavour and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God, till we arrive at the perfection proposed to us, in a life to come.

In Reformed theology this is called the "third use of the law." The Heidelberg Catechism is built around a trajectory of guilt, grace and gratitude -- and it makes clear that the earnest endeavours of the Christian to "become more and more conformable to the image of God" flow out of gratitude. But before we can properly reckon with how the Christian relates to the Law, we must get clear the difference between Law (the imperative) and Gospel (the indicative). Scott Clark has a short Lord's Day meditation on this, including some links to further reading.

Does “Law” = OT and “Gospel” = NT?

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