Constatives vs. Performatives

However, as constatives have their functions, we have to understand that constatives are not as powerful as performatives. There are people who simply said, and then there are the people who went on and did. The impact of this is powerful and life changing.

Anyone can speak a lot of words and act smart and knowledgeable. Yet we believe what is spoken if we see in the life of the person how he does and serves other people – how he lives out what he says. As such, the disciples were commissioned by Jesus to not just speak, but to also do:

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere. (Luke 9:1-6)

There is a power in doing as you are saying. Here, we can see that the disciples proclaimed and healed, putting together performatives and constatives in a very powerful and mighty way. They were also warned of the things they were not to do, and they didn’t do those things.


In another passage, Jesus spoke out a performative and the disciples went on to perform what Jesus said:

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world. Preach the good news to everyone. 16 Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who does not believe will be punished. 17 Here are the miraculous signs that those who believe will do. In my name they will drive out demons. They will speak in languages they had not known before. 18 They will pick up snakes with their hands. And when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all. They will place their hands on sick people. And the people will get well.”

19 When the Lord Jesus finished speaking to them, he was taken up into heaven. He sat down at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere. The Lord worked with them. And he backed up his word by the signs that went with it. (Mark 16:15-20)

Jesus told them to go into the world and preach, and they did. Out of a performative spoken by Jesus to them, they went on to preach and do signs and wonders. What’s even more amazing about this verse is that it speaks of how the Lord backed up his word by the signs that went with it.

In the same way, if we are going to disciple people or teach people and instruct them in the ways they are to go about life, we must also be able to back up the things we say by the things we ourselves our doing. If we want our lives to speak to others in a powerful way, we must learn how to use not just constatives but also performatives – if not more so.



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