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The Doctrine of Imputation

Text: Romans 4:22 “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (see Phil 1:18).

  1. The Importance of the Doctrine of Imputation

In today’s religious world, there is a definite trend towards minimizing sound doctrine and maximizing spurious devotion. Pseudo religious experience-subjective in its composition-is replacing proper righteous edification-objective in its contents. (The charismatic movement is a prime example of this alteration.)

The book of Romans is a classic example of an inspired epistle which emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine and its relationship to daily living. The theme of Romans is “The Righteousness of God,” that divine righteousness which is necessary for entrance into heaven and restoration to the image of God. In chapters 1-8, Paul expounds the principles relating to the righteousness of God. In chapters 9-11, he explains the problems revolving around the righteousness of God, while in chapters 12-16 he explores the practices resulting from obtaining the righteousness of God. In chapters 1-8, Paul defines the doctrinal accompaniments of God’s righteousness. In chapters 9-11, he delineates the dispensational administrations of God’s righteousness, while in chapters 12-16, he describes the devotional actions that flow from experiencing God’s righteousness.

In chapter 4, God’s righteousness is the key theme, being mentioned 8 times (4:3, 4:5, 4:6); specifically the righteousness of God in justification (4:25, 5:1). The doctrine of justification (God declaring us to be righteous in Christ Jesus) is intricately related to the doctrine of imputation (The activity whereby this righteousness is attributed to our being). The word “impute” or its equivalent is mentioned six times in chapter 4 (4:6, 4:8, 4:11, 4:22, 4:23, 4:24) and is thus inextricably linked with the major theme of God’s righteousness. It is impossible to understand the great theme of this epistle (The Righteousness of God) apart from consideration of the doctrine of imputation.

  1. The Identity of the Doctrine of Imputation

The word “impute” means “to ascribe to someone-something they did not antecedently (priorly) possess or have.” Illustrations: (a) A millionaire assigning all his wealth over to an orphan; (b)Howard Baker was named as former President Reagan’s “Chief of Staff”-starting the day as a private citizen in Florida and ending the day in Washington receiving a title and position he did not priorly possess). In Scripture there are four examples where something is imputed to us:

  1. The Imputation of Physical Life at Conception. Although we were in the mind of God from eternity, we did not always exist! Only God has absolute immortality. While I Corinthians 15:51-58 states that believers will possess immortal-incorruptible bodies after the resurrection, only God himself has both no beginning and no ending, (“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 Timothy 5:16)

Marriage is a wonderful God-given institution, and it is unfortunate that the miracle of life takes place so frequently outside its bounds today. When a husband and wife blend their lives together in marriage, the fruit of that relationship is often the conception of “new” life. The moment of conception, the quality of “life” is ascribed to that new being, a quality it did not possess prior to the beginning of the germination process. At conception, life is ascribed to a priorly non-existent human being. (The taking away of that life within the mother’s womb-abortion is a murderous act! The forming embryo (not fetus!) possess human life─Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5, Luke 1:41 & 46.

  1. The Imputation of Adam’s Sin to the Human Race. (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 sinned Romans 5:12). The Scripture states (Gen. 1:26-27 for validation) that man was created in innocency, apart from a sinful nature and sinful actions. One day, however, in that beautiful garden, a drastic alteration in man’s spiritual condition and nature occurred. The intimate relationship with God was severed and the entire human race plunged into the darkness of iniquity, totally separated from its creator. In verses such as I Kings 8:46, Psalm 143:2, Proverbs 20:9, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3:10, 12, 23, the Scripture clearly teaches the universality of sin.

While numerous explanations have been offered concerning the origin and effects of Adam’s sin upon his posterity (some of which are totally unacceptable to Bible-believing Christians; for example-the Pelagian theory), there is general agreement that the Scriptures teach that the sin of Adam was a single and permanent revolt of human nature against God, and that all other sins are the fruit of that sin. There was thus justly imputed to the human race something which it did not possess prior to Adam’s sin: a depraved sinful nature with an inherent “bent” towards unrighteousness. All human beings have a common ancestor─we are all children of Adam and the product of Adam’s seed. Before the fall, the human race was declared to be created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 5:1). After 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 (Romans 2:1). Our natural righteousness is compared to human rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we are described as being totally devoid of divine life without any ability to obtain this divine righteousness by any merit or works of our own (Romans 3:20).

  1. The Imputation of the sin of humanity to Jesus Christ. The essence of Christ’s nature was one of total perfection and purity, without a taint or trace of sin either in his being or actions (Matthew 27:4, John 8:46, John 18:38, Hebrews 7:26).

On that rugged cross, the Lord Jesus 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, 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 entirety in His sacrifice (For confirmation read Isaiah 53:6, II Corinthians 5:21, and I Peter 2:24).

  1. The Imputation of Standing for the believer with God the Father through the Righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2). Because of the atoning blood of Christ shed in his death on the cross, every repentant sinner through faith (the words “faith,” “believe,” and their equivalent are mentioned 16 times in Romans 4) in the risen redeemer now has ascribed to him the righteousness of Christ and a perfect standing in the sight of God the father, a standing he did not antecedently possess. The righteousness of Christ has been imputed to his account (Romans 4:22-25).

III. The Implications of the Doctrine Of Imputation

  1. The imputed standing that the believer possesses with God the Father is solely the result of His grace, being appropriated by faith in the risen Son of God. (“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace,” Romans 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” Romans 5:2.)
  1. This imputed standing that the believer possesses with the Father is eternal in duration and can never be forfeited or lost John 10:28-29.
  1. The declaration that has been explicitly marked in heaven should now be expressly manifested on earth in the believer’s life. The believer’s eternal standing (just one of the gems of the spiritual wealth described in Ephesians 1-3) in Romans 4-5 must be and can be translated into daily sanctification (the scriptural walk delineated in Ephesians 4:1-6 & 9) through submission to the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Word (Romans 6:1-22). (Copied from http://www.fundamentalbaptistministries.com/
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