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The Key to Understanding & Obeying God’s Commands

By February 13, 2019April 29th, 2022Ministry & Leadership4 min read

Mike Neglia is a leader in the Expositors Collective and will be sharing at the next seminar on April 5-6 at Maranatha Chapel in San Diego. Visit for more information and to register!

When I was in school, I loved English class. I’ve been a bit of a bookworm for as long as I can remember, and the novels, short stories, and poems that we read together in English class were always a highlight. My favorite teacher was my fourth grade English teacher, and her name was (I kid you not) Mrs. Story. Her passion for reading and literature has doubtlessly shaped me in more ways than I know. But as much as I enjoyed the literature, novels and narratives – I never quite understood “How the English language works” part of the class. My eyes would glance over the pages as we began to diagram sentences and talk about the differences between verbs, nouns and participles.

Something I did not comprehend until the past decade is the difference between an indicative statement and an imperative statement.

Most languages allow for different “moods,” which means that there are different ways of communicating information based on what action the sentence is meant to do, once it is heard or read.

If a sentence is imperative, then it is commanding you to do something:

“Get your feet off the table.” “Clean your room” “Change your tone.” “Love one another.”

If a sentence is indicative, then it is telling you a truth:

“It is 2016.” “It rains a lot in Ireland.” “You are staring at a screen right now.” “Jesus loves you.”
Each of those first sentences is telling you to do something, and each of those second sentences is telling you an undeniable truth.

One of the most important principles, when we come to read scripture, is this: The imperatives in scripture are all based on the indicatives.

This is especially true in Paul’s writings. When we are commanded to love one another, we are reminded of Jesus’ steadfast love for us (John 13:34) (1 John 4:11,19). When we are commanded to forgive those that sinned against us, we are reminded that we do so as forgiven sinners (Ephesians 4:32) (Colossians 3:13). When we are commanded to welcome strangers, we are reminded that we were aliens when Jesus welcomed us (Romans 15:7).

As Sinclair Ferguson writes: “Before ever any demand is made, the gift is offered: the announcement of good news precedes the challenge… The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives.”

Getting this into our heads and hearts will change the way that we look at the Bible.

Instead of seeing scripture as a collection of commands and rules for how we are to live our lives – connecting God’s imperatives to His indicatives will unlock the wonderful truth that the Bible is a record of the mighty acts God has done for us! Just as the Lord first liberated the Israelite slaves from Egyptian captivity before giving them His commandments at Sinai (Exodus 20:2), so Jesus first pays for our sins, justifies us and sends us His Spirit to indwell and empower us before we are expected to obey His imperatives.

I love Chuck Smith’s famous adage, “Where God guides, God provides.” I have found it to be true in my own life and seen it be true in the lives of many of my friends. And what is true in the financial realm is certainly true in the spiritual as well. If God is guiding you into holiness or obedience (which He is), He will also simultaneously provide the means and the ability to walk in the direction He is calling you to.

Mike Neglia is the lead pastor at Calvary Cork, having moved to Ireland from Fallbrook, California, in 2003. In addition to pursuing a master’s degree at Western Seminary, Mike serves on the Calvary Global Network Executive Team and hosts the Expositors Collective podcast.