GRACE DISTINCTIONS #4 – by Jack Cottrell

IV. LAW COMMANDS vs. GRACE COMMANDS. The fourth distinction is between two kinds of commands given by God: law commands, and grace commands. (The latter can also be called GOSPEL commands.) A command is a grammatical imperative. It is a verbal communication in which someone is ordering or instructing another person to DO something.

Much of God’s communication with us is in the form of commands, and much of our relationship with God consists of responding to these commands. This response can be either positive (obedience) or negative (disobedience).

The important thing to remember is this: God’s commands or imperatives to us are not all of the same kind. He gives us TWO KINDS of commands, depending on which hat he is wearing: his Creator hat, or his Savior hat.

Sometimes God as our Creator gives instructions to us as his creatures. These instructions are LAW commands; they constitute our LAW CODE. As creatures of the Creator, we are under absolute obligation to obey these commands. This obligation never goes away.

On the other hand, sometimes God in his role as Savior gives instructions to us as sinners. These instructions are GRACE commands (or GOSPEL commands). They are God’s answer to the sinner’s question (as in Acts 2:37 and Acts 16:30), “What must I do to be saved?” When God answers such a question with imperatives, these imperatives are not intended to express his lordship over us; they are meant to tell us what we must do to receive the gift of his saving grace.

That such gospel commands exist is the necessary implication of the references to OBEDIENCE to the GOSPEL in Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; and 1 Peter 4:17. One does not obey statements or facts or promises; one obeys commands. Part of the gospel is the commands that tell us how to be saved.

Law commands and gospel commands are very different. An analogy is the difference between imperatives from government representatives (“Stop in the name of the law!”), and imperatives from one’s doctor (“Take this medicine, and lose 30 pounds!”). In both cases these instructions are commands, given in the imperative mode. In both cases, they “tell you what to do,” but for very different reasons.

In summary, when the Creator-God gives instructions to us as his creatures, he is giving us law commands; when the Savior-God instructs us as sinners on how to be saved, he is giving us grace (gospel) commands.

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