Posted by: fatherof11 | May 30, 2008

Present Passive Imperative

I am reading through a book by Jerry Bridges called Growing Your Faith: How to Mature in Christ.  I am considering using it as part of the Fundamentals of the Faith class that I teach at our church. First of all, let me say that it is an excellent book which has challenged me in several areas.  But what I wanted to talk to you about from the book started with his discussion of Romans 12:2:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Rom 12:2 NASB)

The interesting point is that the Greek word translated be transformed is in the present passive imperative form.  OK, so maybe you slept through high school grammar.  Let me explain the point.  Let’s start at the end and work forward.

First of all, the word is in the imperative mood, which means it is a command. Something to for us to do.  Something to obey.  OK, so far so good. Right?

Well, here is the strange thing – it is in the passive voice. Yeah, yeah,  I know you slept through grammar.  OK, passive voice means that the action of the verb is done to the subject.  Which, by the way, is you and me.  So we have a command to be transformed by someone else.

Here then is the point.  This is the way God works.  He gives us a command and then He is the one that causes it to happen.  This describes well the work of the Holy Spirit.  We obey, He does the work to make it happen.  Of course the means of His work in this case is obviously His Word.  We read, He transforms our minds through it.

Finally, there is the present tense.  Oooh, oooh, you know that one right?  That means right now.  Well, not really in the Greek.  The present tense in Greek more describes the nature of the action at the time, especially in the imperative mood.  Right, it was boring in high school, too.  Anyway, the point of the present tense in Greek is that is happening continuously.  So we are to be continuously being transformed.

What does this have to do with parenting older foreign adopted children?  Well, I am glad you asked.  In fact, I thought you might never ask, that’s why I asked for you.

The point is that the raising of these children is a cooperative effort between us and the Holy Spirit.  He is the one that ultimately does the work, but we and His Word are the means He works through.  We must be faithful to obey and bring His Word into their lives and we must ask Him to work as well.  However, we must remember that He is Sovereign and works in His own time and for His own reasons.  He may have as much to teach us through the process as He does our children.  Thus, we must continually seek His help through His Word, in our prayers, and in our obedience.



  1. Great post. I did a Google search for “Present passive imperative” cause that’s what Robertson’s Word Pictures told me about this verse and your site came up! It’s going into a Bible study that’s going down tonight.

    Thanks, man!

  2. Recently was lead to wonder about “Let this mind be in you” had a distinct sense that I needed to dig into the Greek – so came across Present Passive Imperative – and from google your blog above.

    This is being very helpful – learning to “let it be” – the work of the Holy Spiirt rather than me trying to make it be.

    apparantly there are 48 forms of verbs in the NT – it sis God that works in us – but we do have to allign ourselves with what He is seeking to do.

    every blessing

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