The Glorious Indicative

By Stan Key

Reading recently through an old book of sermons that I “stole” from my father’s bookshelf last fall, I stumbled on a short passage that literally jumped off the page.  I know nothing about the preacher (Douglas Horton) and actually found the rest of his sermon somewhat boring and rather liberal to my tastes.  But this particular paragraph penetrated my mind and ever since has been trickling down into my heart.

Always the church is in danger of slipping into the imperative mood in its teaching: do this or do that, and you shall be saved.  It is a mood which puts the emphasis on the work of men – a tragic mood, therefore, since no man can save himself without God…. What the Reformers did was to restore to the church her ancient and thrilling indicative: this has been willed and that has been done by the Almighty and you are saved.  Sola gratia – by grace alone the world is overcome. ¹(p. 207).

I had to read and reread those words to get what Rev. Horton was saying.  I even had to go to my grammar book and refresh my memory on the meaning of the indicative mood (used to state objective facts) and the imperative mood (used to state commands). But after several days of cogitation, rumination and meditation, the blessing began to come!

As Katy and I were talking about this after dinner tonight, she said: “It’s time for one of us to write a blog.  It’s your turn so I think you should write about the glorious indicative!”  So in humble obedience to my wife, I’m sharing these thoughts with you.

This is what the Spirit is teaching us.  Our tendency is to understand salvation and the victorious life that is promised us in terms of commands, obligations and responsibilities (the imperative mood):  Do this, Don’t do that, Try harder, Pray more, Give more, Worship more, etc.  This is how I have often preached the Gospel and this is how I have often lived it.  During the past six months, Katy and I have often felt that if we could only pray more, try harder, believe with greater intensity, and work more diligently, we could live in the victory that Christ has promised us.  To be honest, the end result of living under the weight of such imperatives only leaves us tired and defeated.  We never seem able to do enough.

But Horton’s paragraph reminds us of a truth that is anchored in God’s word from Genesis to Revelation.  It is not what we do that matters but what he has already done! Grace alone.  Sola gratia. The preaching in the book of Acts is not a list of duties and commands.  No!  The apostles preached the glorious indicative: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus reigns… Jesus is Lord!  Oh eventually they would get around to using the imperative:  Do this, Don’t do that, etc.  But those were corollaries of the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.  So at this time in our lives when Katy can do absolutely nothing it is freedom to realize that the One who is Lord is not dependent on our performance.

The glorious indicative is working like a soothing balm to our souls.  Jesus is Lord.  “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (II Tim. 2:13).  Oh, there is still much that we need to work on and many areas where we need to grow.  But our hope, our confidence and our song is in the glorious objective fact of Jesus’ victory over sin, death and hell.   Yes, the “ancient and thrilling indicative” makes an amazing difference in the way we face our battles today.  So when disease, stroke or any life circumstance keep us from ‘doing’ we can rest in what He has done and in the knowledge that we belong to Him.

Can I get an Amen?


¹The Protestant Pulpit: An Anthology of Master Sermons from the Reformation to Our Own Day.  Compiled by Andrew W. Blackwood.  Abingdon Press.  New York.  1947.


74 thoughts on “The Glorious Indicative

  1. Enjoyed reading your thoughts pastor Stan. We think of you and Katy and your family often. Blessings to you all….until we meet again !
    – Greg and Catherine Zampier ❤️


  2. Amen! Your quote from II Timothy 2:13 especially hit home for me! Thanks for the reminder! I will continue to keep you both in my prayers!

    Missing you both,
    –Gail Lafferty


  3. Stan:

    Amen! Thanks for this blog post. We’ve been seeing more of this too, by God’s grace. I’m still enjoying Renovation of the Heart, by Willard, but also The Ragamuffin Gospel 😀 by Brendon Manning.

    Love from John and Charity


  4. Amen.

    “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus”. He; not me. I cling to this often.


  5. Amen!! Yes, yes, all that matters is that Jesus loves me, and I can not work my way through those pearly gates. But I know you Katy, and no matter what your physical state, you are in that throne room of grace laying down petitions and lifting up praise, and THAT is a DOING warrior for Christ! No, we don’t need to be doing to get there, but Katy, you are still doing, doing, doing. We love you!!


  6. OH Yes, you can get an AMEN. I have been sorting through some of the same thoughts,being a senior &climates in some activities. I haven’t grasped all the gems in your reading.,but thank you for sharing. What a blessing . My love to you Stan &Katy❤️


  7. Amen and amen, Pastor Stan and Katy!!! This ‘glorious indicative’ about which you wrote has been transforming our minds and softening our hearts over the last several years as the Lord, just like you, has led us to books and teachings about the reformation. The Gospel of God is Good News to weary souls. He has surely done FOR us what we could never do! And this redounds to the praise of His glorious grace! So very glad to see you both being restored and entering into His promised rest. Lots of love to you all, ❤
    Joe and Lois


    1. Lois and Joe,myou are so dear to reply and respond, keeping in touch with us. You both have so much more to teach us but thanks for the humility you have always exercised inever learning and loving we’re thankful for you both. Our love to your family!


  8. Amen and amen. We are in the middle of another unexpected health crisis with Duane with very uncertain outcomes and trying to downsize and deal with end of life decisions at the same time. It seems there is never enough of me to go around, and even as Duane is fully dependent on me, I must be fully dependent on Him, and rejoice in the what I call the “glorious distractions” He gives–such as our 8 wonderful grandchildren and the closing soon on a low maintenance house in Mary’s neighborhood. God is faithful–His gifts of mercy, grace, and the everlasting arms help me to face each day. We miss you at LCC and pray for you and yours.


    1. Linda, while we agonize with over yet another health crisis and that bumpy transition into downsizing with necessRy changes n challenges, I love the truth of His “glorious distractions” which remind us again n again of His never ending goodness, comforts in the midst of losses,and the precious value of people over possessions and even health. Keeping you all in our prayers!


  9. So blessed to be with you,Shep , yesterday, and with the Body of Christ at ?Hebron, enjoying the blessed fellowship we have always known there.


  10. Amen! I too never feel like I do enough to warrant God’s good graces. Thanks for reminding me that the work has been done in Jesus.


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