Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

At the 2007 Banner of Truth conference this Spring, Sinclair Ferguson made the following note after reading Titus 2:11-13 (“For the grace of God has appeared … training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions”). He says,

“The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of those imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made in Christian ministry. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our preaching our indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our teaching on holiness becomes a whip or a rod to beat our people’s backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we ourselves have seen. We’ve seen our own failure and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives. … Woven into the warp and woof of the New Testament’s exposition of what it means for us to be holy is the great groundwork that the self-existent, thrice holy, triune God has — in Himself, by Himself and for Himself — committed Himself and all three Persons of His being to bringing about the holiness of His own people. This is the Father’s purpose, the Son’s purchase and the Spirit’s ministry.”

Sinclair Ferguson, message from the 2007 Banner of Truth Conference, Our Holiness: The Father’s Purpose and the Son’s Purchase.

Along with Titus 2:11-13, Ferguson cited 1 Peter 1:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Romans 8:28-29 and 15:16. Ferguson preached from John 15:9 the next day where Jesus’ call for fruitful disciples is wrapped in His call for them to “Abide in my love.” Ferguson challenges preachers to root the commands to be holy in the grace of our electing Father, the work of His Son on the Cross and the ongoing work of the indwelling and filling Spirit towards our holiness. The challenge is not to avoid the commands, but make certain our indicatives are strong enough to support them. Preaching from the indicatives assumes the preacher is first living daily in the indicatives of God in his private study.

7 thoughts on “Ferguson: Supporting the imperatives to holiness

  1. […] I adapted the following Sinclair Ferguson quotation, which originally spoke of the pastor’s ministry of the Word, so that it speaks directly to the Christian’s approach to his personal study of the Word: “The great gospel imperatives to holiness are ever rooted in indicatives of grace that are able to sustain the weight of [Scripture’s] imperatives. The Apostles do not make the mistake that’s often made [by Christians]. [For the Apostles] the indicatives are more powerful than the imperatives in gospel preaching. So often in our [personal study of Scripture our grasp of Scripture’s] indicatives are not strong enough, great enough, holy enough, or gracious enough to sustain the power of the imperatives. And so our [attempt to apply Scripture’s imperatives] becomes a whip or a rod to beat our [own] backs because we’ve looked at the New Testament and that’s all we have seen. We’ve seen our own failure, and we’ve seen the imperatives to holiness, and we’ve lost sight of the great indicatives of the gospel that sustain those imperatives” (adapted from Sinclair’s sermon at 2007 Banner of Truth conference). […]

  2. Excellent quote, Tony, and much to digest. Thanks for sharing it. Any idea if downloads are available?

    I enjoy your blog very much and have linked to it before. I always find something interesting, thought provoking, and enlightening. Thanks for your hard work.

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