“Every imperative of Scripture (what we are to do for God) rests on the indicative (who we are in our relationship with God), and the order is not reversible.”

“The human instinct with every non-Christian religion reverses the order, teaching that who we are before God is based on what we do for God. Thus, any preaching that is distinctively Christian must keep listeners from confusing, or inverting, our ‘who and our’“do.’” - Bryan Chapell


Good article and I agree with it as far as it goes. I do think there is a place for a pastor understanding his congregation here though. If you are speaking to people that are fully aware of the gospel and have trusted in Christ, it’s not always necessary to highlight the indicative to the same degree. Yes it can’t be neglected given man’s propensity to trust in himself, but I have heard it done in a way that almost seems to flatten out the direct command of the passage; for example the whole Tullian Tchividian thing.

I’ve reacted negatively to Chapell’s “Christ everywhere” language on preaching before. This particular explanation of it seems more balanced.

Where I would differ: If you’re preaching through Romans, for example, you have many chapters of indicative then a bit of imperative, then more indicative, then lots of imperatives. If you’re preaching through the book to the same audience, why would it be necessary to “repreach” the indicative in every sermon when you’re working through, say, Romans 12?

But I do think brief summary statements keeping it all connected is important.

I just hesitate to lay down hard and fast rules for “every sermon” on these things.

I’m also not sure that he understands that moral transformation is pretty close to the whole point of the gospel. We don’t preach change as an opportunity to declare the gospel. Transforming us for God’s glory is why Christ died.

So there’s an excessive “anti-moralism” here and there that lingers in Chapell as well that makes me wonder if he gets that it’s integral to the gospel.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

I am no expert on Bryan Chappell. Other than his name I know little about him. Where are you getting that he has an “anti-moralism” in this article? He clearly says your actions (imperatives, and in your example moral behavior) comes from your identity in Christ (indicatives). Does he state this somewhere else?

Mark, Chappell is part of what some have classified as “reformed anti-nomianism.” Whether or not you agree with that designation he is definitely controversial. I recommend listening to John Pratt’s series on Issues in Sanctification from the Central Seminary MacDonald Lecture Series. He doesn’t cover Chappell in detail but it’s helpful. For some (myself) its more an issue of preaching what the text is actually saying.