The Imputation of 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 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 not offensive, 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. Those who believe that and preach that who then follow through by protesting when those of us actually do obey our God by teaching and preaching His truth correctly as He has commanded are compeltly irrelevant. What they 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 bit of a Lutheran leaning 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 not long ago. 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!

17 thoughts on “The Imputation of Righteousness

  1. Mike – very good, my brother! Always pointing your readers to the Biblical Jesus.

    Regarding imputed righteousness, what do you think about the view that Christ’s obedience is imputed to believers? The text says by His obedience His righteousness is imputed; but many in the reformed camp claim His obedience is.


  2. I see His active obedience being Jesus gaining righteousness as a man so He could offer Himself up for us; His passive obedience as the Son of God paid the price we owed as He suffered the wrath due us. But all that was imputed to us (and it is sufficient!) was His righteousness.


  3. Thanks for the link, Mike. Apart from the “probation” for Adam (which the Bible knows nothing about) I have no problem with it.

    However – nothing in that article (unless I failed to see it) asserts, much less proves, that Christ’s obedience is imputed to us. His obedience is necessary, as I’ve agreed; but where is it said that it is imputed?


  4. Believing in it or not changes nothing. I do believe it because those I follow believe it and so forth. They believe it because they know that without the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (both His active and passive obedience) then we are left with righteousness that is not greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees. If you don’t believe that then it changes nothing as long as you know that your righteousness, that which you have outside of Christ, gains you nothing as far as gaining salvation. I see no reason to get defensive or cut off fellowship from those who believe what I shared is true. On the other hand, those like Rick Warren who posts idiocy that I shared in that other post need to be shunned and exposed for the charlatans they are for refusing to believe that the doctrine of imputation is necessary for our salvation.


  5. It seems you are equating Christ’s righteousness with His obedience. The latter provides the former, which is imputed to us. It seems to me that if Christ’s obedience were imputed to us our flesh would be righteous, as was His. I don’t see that in this age.


  6. Yes, why was Christ perfect Righteous? He is God? How is this proven to us? Through His perfect obedience to the Law. This perfect obedience is imputed to all believers. Therefore, we are not in way shape or form called upon to keep it. We don’t have to because He did. Now do you understand?


  7. I agree with your first three sentences. The 4th sentence loses me. I’ve not said we would have to keep His obedience if it were imputed; I said it seems our flesh would be righteous due to that imputation. I see in Scripture – as you quoted – that His righteousness is ours, imputed – just as our sin was imputed to Him. That’s it.


  8. I appreciate you, my brother. I violently agree with Sproul’s article. By His obedience, Christ earned the right to grant us His righteousness. Sproul does not assert that Christ’s obedience is imputed to us.


  9. I go through cycles of struggling with what you mentioned in your last paragraph. I remember clearly as a new believer….and then a newly convinced Calvinist that I did NOT deserve to be picked! But that made me praise and worship and be in awe of God all the more. I am assuming you are *not* saying the inverse is true; that when we have assurance through the Holy Spirit that we are indeed saved, that we actually aren’t. You are saying that those who NEVER feel unworthy, are the ones who have committed the unpardonable sin? Right? Sometimes I struggle, sometimes I am more confident….


  10. 🙂 Jennifer, sounds like you are right where the rest of are. Some of the most unChristlike “professing christians” I have ever dealt with had 100% assurance, but acted nothing like Christ. They would attack everything I taught that offended them even though they could not do so Biblically. They would try to use worldly tactics like trying to bully or intimidate me or they would rip passages of scripture totally out of context and insist that God told them it was okay to do that so they could stand against what I was teaching. On the other hand, I have come across more godly Christians than I can count who, like you, would humbly ask honest questions and stay in the boundaries of scripture and depend on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God for answers all the while exuding Christlikeness… Yes, do you see the difference? I feel unworthy. I will fell unworthy of this salvation as long I am on this side of eternity. Why? I am still in this sanctification stage and I have to live with my flesh and sin nature, etc. We are in process. On the other hand, God keeps us going by encouraging us from His Word and showing us from it and from encouragement from the others in the Body through fellowship how we are growing in grace and becoming teachable and more Christlike even though we still struggle so much. Yes, you are on the right track.

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