Justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11 (NASB) 

Much of the apostasy we are witnessing in our time is rooted in 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 a leaning toward theology comparable to that of Martin Luther 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, “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.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21 (NASB) 

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, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness 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 in a sermon once. 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, and they should focus on the grace of God and His mercy by reading passages like Romans 5, 6, and 7.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “Justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness

Comments are closed.