“And therefore it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” - ROM. 4:22
Introduction: We are living in an age of unprecedented explosion of religious cults, many of which come under the banner of so-called “Christianity.” The spiritual tragedy is that a sizeable percentage of cultic converts are ex-Baptists. Why is this so? Obviously, many of these former Baptists were never genuinely converted.
But even among real Christians, the spiritual ignorance today is appalling. Many believers have little comprehension about the meaning of the great doctrines of the faith. One doctrine, vastly neglected and overlooked, but that is of supreme importance to our Biblical faith is the doctrine of IMPUTATION.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS DOCTRINE
In a religious world that is minimizing the importance of sound doctrine and maximizing spurious devotion, there is a desperate need for Fundamental Baptists to clearly proclaim the underpinning doctrines of our Biblical faith. The word “doctrine” itself is almost an automatic turn-off for some Christians, since they associate it with dead-dry-dull instruction that has little/no practical insights for daily issues and problems. However, this is not the case, when these doctrines are correctly presented and this vital doctrine is no exception.
THE GREAT THEME OF ROMANS
The context of this great doctrine is set in the book of Romans, an inspired volume which emphasizes the importance of doctrine and its intrinsic relationship to daily living. The basic theme of Romans is “The Righteousness of God,” that divine righteousness which is necessary for genuine salvation.
THE OUTLINE OF ROMANS
In chapters 1-9, the Apostle Paul (a) expounds the principles that relate to God’s righteousness. In chapters 9-11, he (b) explains the problems that revolve around God’s righteousness, while in chapters 12-16, he (c) explores the practices that result from obtaining this righteousness.
To put it another way, in chapters 1-8 Paul (a) defines the doctrinal accompaniments of God’s righteousness. In Chapters 9-ll, he (b) delineates the dispensational administrations of God’s righteousness, while in chapters 12-16, he (c) describes the devotional actions that flow from experiencing God’s righteousness.
To put it in even simpler terms chapters 1-8 are DOCTRINAL, chapters 9-11 are DISPENSATIONAL, while chapters 12-16 are DEVOTIONAL.
THE FOUR GREAT DOCTRINES IN ROMANS 1-8
The passages in Romans four dealing with IMPUTATION are in the doctrinal section of the book. In chapters 1-8 Paul concentrates on four major doctrines: (a) CONDEMNATION—1:1-3:20. (b) JUSTIFICATION—3:21-5:21, (c) SANCTIFICATION—6:1-8:15 and (d) GLORIFICATION—8: 16-39.
The doctrine of imputation is intrinsically related to the doctrine of justification. As a matter of fact, you cannot discuss without one without discussing the other. Therefore Paul includes the doctrine of imputation in his presentation on Justification.
THE KEY THEME: GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS
In Romans chapter four, righteousness is the key theme, being mentioned eight times—4:3, 4:5, 4:6, 4:9, 4:11, 4:13, 4:22. This righteousness is inherently connected to the doctrine of justification. In justification, God declares believing sinners to be righteous—justified freely and fully—via Christ’s atoning work on the cross whereby he completely satisfied God’s justice which required the full ransom payment for sin.
GOD’S METHOD WHEREBY THIS RIGHTEOUSNESS BECOMES OUR POSESSION
Justification is a forensic (legal) term. In justification, God declares us to righteous in His sight, via the righteousness granted us by/in His Son, who is perfect incarnate righteousness—I Cor. 1:30.
Imputation is the forensic (legal) activity of God whereby He attributes this justification to our spiritual state. The word impute or its equivalent is mentioned six times in Romans four—4:6, 4:8, 4:11, 4:22, 4:23, 4:24. Righteousness, justification and imputation are thus intrinsically tied together.
It is thus impossible to consider any one of the three themes apart from the other two doctrines. The importance of imputation as related to God’s righteousness and the believer’s justification can thus not be underplayed in this passage.
THE IDENTITY OF THIS DOCTRINE
The word impute means “to ascribe to someone, something they did not antecedently (priorly) possess or have”. A human illustration might be a millionaire giving all his wealth to a penniless orphan. Although the orphan woke up that day penniless, via the graciousness of a beneficent guarantor, he concludes the day with a position and privilege he did not priorly possess-a millionaire! .
Another human illustration is the president of the U.S. naming a private individual to an ambassador’s government post. The specific person wakes up in the morning as purely a private citizen, but by nightfall, a position and title he did not priorly possess has been ascribed to him by the U. S. president. By an act of someone else, he receives a title he did antecedently possess that of an "Ambassador". In the Scriptures, there are actually four types of imputation
A. The Imputation of Physical Life at Conception: Although each one of us was in the mind of God from eternity, we did not always exist! Only God has absolute immortality. While I Cor. 15:51-58 states that believers will someday possess immortal bodies after the resurrection of the just, only God himself had no beginning: “Who only hath immortality , dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honour and power everlasting Amen” I Tim. 5:16.
Marriage is a wonderful God-blessed institution. It is unfortunate that so many of the miracles of pro-creation today occur outside the fences of its boundaries. When a husband and wife blend their lives together in physical union, in terms of that relationship, the result is the conception of new human life.
The moment of conception, the quality of life is ascribed to that new human being. That infant in a mother’s womb possesses a quality it did not priorly posses: human life. Unfortunately, in our modern society, many times, that new life is aborted so far as human living is concerned. According to God in Ps. 139:13-14, Jer. 1:5, Luke 1:41 & 1:46, the forming embryo actually possesses human life. That forming infant is not just a “fetus,” but a real living soul.
B. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin to the Human Race: Rom. 5:12 states: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinner.” This verse makes it plain that when Adam sinned he passed on to his posterity something that humanity did not priorly possess: a sinful nature.
In Gen. 1:26, we know that Adam was created in innocence, apart from any depraved sinful nature. One day, however, in that beautiful garden that God had created, a drastic alteration in Adam’s nature and spiritual condition occurred. Via sin—disobedience to God’s Word—the intimate relationship Adam and Eve experienced with God was severed and the entire human race plunged into the darkness of iniquity, totally separated from their benevolent creator.
In verses such as I Kings 6:45, Ps. 143:2, Prov. 20:9, Ecc. 7:20, Rom. 3:10, 12, 23 and many other Biblical passages, the Scriptures clearly teach the universality of sin, sin that was ascribed to humanity after Adam sinned, a condition this couple did not possess prior to their sinful disobedience.
While theologians grapple with explanations concerning the origin and effects of Adam’s sin upon his posterity, there is general agreement among Bible-believing Christians that Adam’s sin constituted a permanent revolt of human nature against God and that all other sinful actions can ultimately traced back to this action in Genesis chapter three.
When Adam sinned, the human race had justly imputed to its account and nature, a condition it did not priorly possess. Human nature now is both depraved and sinful and now possesses a natural bent to unrighteousness and sin, a condition that it did not possess prior to Adam’s disobedience.
All human beings are the children of Adam and the eventual product of Adam’s seed. Before the fall, the human race—via Adam—possessed the image and likeness of God—Gen. 5:1: “In the day that God created man, in the image of God made he him.” Since the fall, the Scripture records that Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image—Gen. 5:3.”
We cannot justly blame God for our condition, nor can we excuse ourselves for our plight or claim that we are better than others—Rom. 2:1. Our natural righteousness is compared to human rags—Isaiah 64:6. We are described as being totally devoid of divine life, apart from any ability to obtain this righteousness by any merit or work of our own—Rom. 3:20: “Therefore by the deeds of the flesh shall no man be justified in his sight…”
C. The Imputation of the Sin of Humanity to Jesus Christ: The essence of Christ’s nature and life was one of complete perfect obedience to the will of God, in total purity, apart from any taint or trace of sin in his being: “Which of you convinceth me of sin?...John 8:46, “…I do always those things that please him”—John 8:29, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners…” Heb. 7:26.
On that rugged cross, our Lord took upon himself the sin of all humanity, of the entire human race. Just as the sin of all humanity had previously been imputed to Adam and his descendants, in that sacrificial act on the cross, sin was imputed to Christ. In that awesome hour, that which Christ did not antecedently possess—the sin of the entire human race—was ascribed to our blessed Saviour in its totality via his sacrificial atonement on Calvary.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all—Isaiah 53:6." “For he hat made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him—II Cor. 5:21.” “Who his ownself bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed—I Pet. 2:24.
D. The Imputation of Christ’s Perfect Righteousness to Believing Sinners via God’s Act of Justification When We Place our Faith in Christ. Because of the atoning blood of Christ on the cross, every repentant sinner through faith in Christ is declared to be justified in God’s sight: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ—Rom. 5:1.”
Justification is the act whereby God declares us to be righteous in His sight. In justification, God imputes to us an undeserved eternal virtue—Christ’s perfect righteousness—a divine verity we did not priorly possess! Justification and imputation are thus intrinsically related and cannot be separated.
It is interesting to note the relationship between the internal subjective experience of faith in Christ and the external objective fact of justification in that verse. While justification is the legal (forensic) act of God whereby he declares us to be righteous in His sight, this verity occurs only when we place our faith totally in Christ for salvation.
We must abandon all hope of righteousness by our merits and works—“God imputeth righteousness without works”—Rom. 4:6, and trust solely in Christ’s atoning, redemptive sacrifice on the cross—Rom. 3:24-25. Justification—the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us—never takes place apart from genuine belief-faith-trust in Christ. In this classic passage on imputation—Romans chapter four—the words faith, believe or their equivalent are found 16 times!
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS DOCTRINE
A. Grace: The FOUNDATION of Imputation: The imputed standing of righteousness that the believer possesses is solely the result of God’s grace, which serves as the foundation stone of the believer’s salvation. Grace, God’s unmerited favor extended to human beings, is extended to us in the person of Jesus Christ, who is grace incarnate and the sole foundation upon which God’s righteousness is built: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”—John 1:17. “For other foundation can lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”—I Cor. 3:11.
Faith in Christ personally appropriates this grace: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace…” Rom. 4:16. “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”—Rom. 5:2. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast”—Eph. 2:8-9.
B. Eternal Security: The FACT in Imputation: In the act of justification, God’s righteousness is forever ascribed to the believer. There is never any recantation on God’s part because as the songwriter expressed it “The old account was settled long ago.” Christ’s single sole atonement perfectly satisfied God’s righteous demands as the complete and full payment for our sin—Rom. 3: 24-25, Heb. 1:3.
Believers posses an eternal standing with God that can never be forfeited or lost, being positionally seated with Christ in the heavenlies far “above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”—Eph. 1:21.
C. Sanctification: the FRUIT of Imputation: The declaration that has been un-equivocally declared in heaven must be manifested on earth in the believer’s life via a righteous life. The believer’s wealth so richly delineated in Eph. chapters 1-3 must now be expressed in the believer’s walk in Eph. chapters 4-6 by a practical life of sanctification via submission to the Holy Spirit and obedience to God’s Word, which is the essence of Romans chapter six.
While imputation is not a widely proclaimed doctrine that receives great emphasis, it is an imperative and important Bible doctrine that needs more exposition in Biblicist Fundamentalist churches. It should be noted that Bible doctrines never go out of date, and imputation is a vital N.T. teaching that must not be ignored in exegesis, exposition or evangelistic preaching.
Editor: This sermon is the logical doctrinal follow-up to the sermon published in the last issue entitled “Justification by Faith”