“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
May 27, 2008

The Subtle But Important Disctinction Between A Command And A Promise

Steve Holmes has made a posted an excellent and thoughtful analysis on his blog, “I won’t name the liturgical resource, because it is a good one, a very good one, and does not deserve to be vilified for one slip, but I was glancing through it, and lighted upon the Pentecost service. ‘Consider,’ it invited […]

Steve Holmes has made a posted an excellent and thoughtful analysis on his blog,

“I won’t name the liturgical resource, because it is a good one, a very good one, and does not deserve to be vilified for one slip, but I was glancing through it, and lighted upon the Pentecost service. ‘Consider,’ it invited us, ‘Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8…’Acts 1:8 reads:

???? ???????? ??????? ?????????? ??? ????? ????????? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ?? ?????????? ??? [??] ???? ?? ??????? ??? ???????? ??? ??? ??????? ??? ???.

(’But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be witnesses in Jerusalem,and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’–my tr.)

Forgive the grammarian in me, but this is all in the indicative mood, not the imperative mood; there is no ‘command’. Jesus is here stating realities, not issuing instructions.

I suspect that the most common way of eviscerating the gospel in our churches is this: making indicatives imperatives. We turn promise into command; gospel into law. I know why we do it: anyone who has been a pastor does. We struggle with people who take the gospel for granted, and we want to illustrate to them the radical claims of Christ on their lives. I won’t even say that the instinct is wrong (although I will confess to giving in to it far too often and far too readily in my own ministry); but turning Biblical promises into demands is no way to deal with it. When Jesus says ‘you will…’ he means–you will. Not ‘you might’, or ‘you should’, or even ‘if you do x you will’, but ‘you will’. And so for the rest of Scripture.

And so Acts 1:8: the promise, to the eleven at least, and I suspect to all Christians (I take it that all who have come to Christ in penitence and faith, been baptized and received into the church have received the gift of the Spirit here promised), is that they will be witnesses. This is not an instruction that we should evangelise, but a promise that, somehow, at some level, in some way, despite so much of what we are and do, when people encounter us, they will see a glimpse of Jesus.

I wonder if we took this promise seriously as a promise, believed that Christian people will witness to Jesus regardless, whether our evangelistic strategies would look different?”

That’s a very good question indeed and one that I’m not sure I can answer just yet. But, it does deserve some serious consideration.

Responses
Alexander M Zoltai 12 years ago

I wasn’t aware you were in the ministry. My mother, father, and both sisters were ministers.

My Faith has no clergy but I certainly see why they exist.

This post gave this minister’s son a deep lesson in exegesis !

It radiates the Spirit of Christ…

~ Alex

Steve 12 years ago

I think the evangelical churches ought to question their methods and strategies here. Personally speaking, the times that I’ve attempted to proactively share the Gospel have met with cool indifference, but the times that I’ve reactively shared it have bee a result of something I’ve done or said that impacted somebody. I was not aware at the time that what I was doing was witnessing Christ.

But He did.

1 Peter 3:15-16: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

brodie 12 years ago

Fernando – good thoughts from Holmes – thanks for posting them here.

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