In the structure of the epistles within the Pauline corpus, the Apostle Paul will always classify his writings into two major sections. He begins with the doctrinal sections where he elaborates the indicatives. The indicatives refer to what God has done in Christ Jesus; what has happened in Christ, in His work for humanity as a whole. Thus, it refers primarily to what has already happened, that is to say, what is already true. Then, there are the imperatives of the gospel, our response to doctrine. The imperatives refer to the practices that we are to learn. It answers the question “how then are we to live in response to what is already true of us in Christ?”
Philippians 4: 9 KJV
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
The term “learn” is the Greek word “manthano”, which refers to the practices that we learn by following someone who is a figure of authority; we practice them because we have seen them in the person. The term translated as ‘receive’ is the Greek word “paralambano”, which refers to a transmission, something that is given over to you. Paul is implying that in the education of God, we will have certain things transmitted to us in terms of the teaching, but there are other things we must be keen to observe. It is required of us to assemble, to associate and identify with the revelation of Christ and in the course of so doing, there many things that occur in our lives. It would require you being corporately assembled with your brothers and sisters in Christ because there are certain things you can only learn if you come to the local church.
There are certain things we have to learn to practice. These are things we are to do, actions that are continuously repeated, not things we do occasionally. For example, you do not pray once and for all. These are the imperatives of the gospel, and are done continuously, repetitively. You learn to become more accurate in doing them. Christian generosity and giving, walking in love, assembling as the church of Jesus Christ are all imperatives. We must learn to practice the imperatives. No matter how much you listen to teachings on prayer, it does not replace prayer itself. No matter how much you listen to teachings on giving and generosity, it will never replace giving itself. No matter how much you listen to teachings on ministering and bearing witness to Christ, it does not replace actually bearing witness to Christ.
Learning to Practice the Peace of God
Philippians 4:6 -7
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Be careful for nothing” is a command and not a suggestion. The worry-free life is not only possible, it is commanded as the life of the believer in Christ Jesus. Worry is offensive in the side of God because it is entertaining the thought that He is unable to take care of you or that He will refuse to take care of you. It is an offence against the true character and nature of God.
Worry introduces itself when you acknowledge that there is a sacred and secular divide, thinking that God is not interested in what you may consider to be the commonality of your life, the ordinary part of life. It is thinking that these have no relation with your association in Christ; for instance, your marriage life, your family life, your social life, your professional life. As long as we live on this planet, we will always have necessities of life. Anxiety will always seek to come in various forms based on our perspective of what is happening around us. There will always be circumstances and situations that will apply pressure on you from the external world, seeking to influence the internal world. Unless you learn to practice the peace of God, you will be someone who is always in worry, always seeking for a solution.
The word “prayer” is the Greek terms “proseuche”, which speaks of bringing out what you have put in. This implies you cannot pray accurately without investing the word of God in you. The efficacy of what you pray for is determined by what is within you; not just in the words spoken, but in the disposition you remain in after speaking them. You have to receive what you prayed for when you pray, after you prayed.
“Supplication” is the Greek term “deisis” which refers to an entreaty, a petition, something that is presented officially. It means once it is officially presented to God, if truly presented, it’s not to be done again. After petitioning God, it is then translated into gratitude, thanksgiving. When we begin to effectively thank God, our consciousness will become aware that what we have petitioned God for is ours already. When you enter into thanksgiving, to recognize that the external circumstances and situations of life should not affect your mind, the peace of God, which is already in you, will arise beyond your mental capacity to keep your heart and mind.
* This article is an extract from the message titled “Learning to Practice the Imperatives” by Dr. Shawn Smith.