Justification: The Imputation of Righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Much of the apostasy we are witnessing in our time is rooted in a history of generations of ministries in which preachers, because they feared men more than God, preached in such a way that they talked about God or they talked about His Word rather than actually preaching what God’s Word says. In this, they have created their own “god” in their own image who is inoffensive, all love, all grace, and just wants everyone to have a great day. The only ones this “god” ever gets peeved at are those guys who are serious about their theology and preaching what God’s Word says as if it is to be obeyed and believed. Since I began this series on Romans I have had spam comments from a few atheists and one Roman Catholic apologist when I got into Justification. I have yet to get any from any “liberals,” which would include the emergents of all flavors I suppose, but in any case, what these people say and do means nothing. God’s truth is eternal. It is the truth regardless of whether these people believe it or not. 

I grew up as a Southern Baptist. I have written here before that prior to studying it in 2004-2006, I had no idea what Arminianism or Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism was. I had never heard of those terms. I had heard of John Calvin and Martin Luther  in history classes in High School and College, but really didn’t know anything about the theology of either or the rest of the Reformers or the Puritans. However, during those two years I went through an education process on Reformation Theology compared to Arminianism, Pelagianism, and Semi-Pelagianism all of it Biblically based. I came through that as a convinced Calvinist with heavy Lutheran leanings much like John Bunyan and William Tyndale. However, as many of you have shared with me, I still clung to areas in my personal theology that would best be termed as “decisional.” There is a part of all of us that has a problem of turning lose the control and surrendering totally to the Sovereignty of God in our salvation. I heard a Lutheran preacher say it like this the other day, “If we preach the Gospel correctly, when we come to Justification, some will say, ‘but that means I can live any way I want and do anything I want to do!’” What is wrong in those who say that, of course, is that they want that set of rules to live in piety so they can earn their salvation. A correct preaching of the Gospel does away with that and leaves us exposed as sinners who have nothing to offer God, which is, of course, the truth. We are wicked sinners totally undeserving of salvation. However, He has elected some to receive His grace by which they are regenerated, given faith to believe the Gospel, through which they are justified by God as they do. All of this is a gift by God. None of it is of man. This is the essence of Romans 5:6-11 (above). God reconciled these poor, wretched sinners to Himself by grace through faith and it is 100% His doing.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

In this passage Paul sets out to show how one person’s death can provide salvation for many by proving that Adam, because he sinned, passed the inherent propensity to sin to the entire human race. Because of this, all people became sinners by nature. This sin nature is present from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5), making it impossible for man to live in a way that pleases God. In any case, from this passage Paul shows us clearly that the only solution to man’s sin problem is found in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Notice here how the principle of imputation is clearly laid out for us in this passage, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Paul isn’t teaching universalism here. Remember, context is our rule. In v17, only those “who receive” God’s gift belong to Christ, which indicates that only those who have faith with be justified. Also, Paul’s focus is not on the number in each group, but on the method of either sin or righteousness being passed from the representative leader to the whole group.

I receive emails occasionally from people concerning counseling issues. Sometimes it has to do with these very things. The person is agonizing over the fact that they are a horrible sinner. They are convinced they are not elect, et cetera. I heard a preacher address this today in a sermon. He suggested that if you are convinced that this is true then it is a sure thing that it is not true. Those who have committed the unpardonable sin are convinced that they are the ones who are just and right and so go into perdition. On the other hand, those who struggle mightily with their calling and such need much prayer, but should focus on the grace of God and His mercy by reading passages like Romans 5, 6, and 7.

We shall continue with Sanctification starting in Romans 6 in our next post, God willing.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “Justification: The Imputation of Righteousness

  1. Perhaps no other doctrine has been so misunderstood, twisted, and added to than justification by faith alone. In fact, it was the doctrine that had largely disappeared within the visible church which necessitated the Reformation. A rejection of justification by faith alone is in essence a demeaning of Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

  2. “…shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

    “MORE THAN THAT”… “REJOICE IN GOD”…

    THROUGH our Lord Jesus Christ THROUGH whom we have recieved reconciliation.

    Not through decision ( works, mental intellectualism IE: Smarter than someone else who didn’t or couldn’t make the decision we have WORKED to do?).

    I was witnessing to a confessed lost ‘member’ of a ‘church’ and another professing ‘believer’ spoke up at the same table and said, “When I decided to become a ‘christian’… ya da ya da…”

    It made me sick.. this one unbeliever knew he wasn’t ‘good’ and had been playing ‘church member’ etc. even getting baptised because other ‘members’ had told him, ‘it was about time to’ but yet the professing believer thought he was a ‘christian’ because he decided.
    I saw no difference between the two.
    Both were playing ‘christian’ but neither was REJOICING in Christ and resting in the fact that GOD through the Lord Jesus Christ gave us reconciliation!

  3. Jude 1:24-25 (English Standard Version)

    ” Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. ”

    That sums up who is able: God, our Savior
    No one else is mentioned here, not us or our works will ‘keep’ us or saved us.

  4. “I heard a preacher address this today in a sermon. He suggested that if you are convinced that this is true then it is a sure thing that it is not true. Those who have committed the unpardonable sin are convinced that they are the ones who are just and right and so go into perdition. On the other hand, those who struggle mightily with their calling and such need much prayer, but should focus on the grace of God and His mercy by reading passages like Romans 5, 6, and 7.”

    Thanks Mike. Great post.

  5. Hi Mike,
    This was very helpful to my husband and me. Like you, we grew up not knowing any of those terms you listed like Arminianism, etc. This is new to us and we are learning fast!
    Thanks for helping us!

Comments are closed.