Imputation: How the New Covenant
Transfers Christ's Spiritual Benefits
To The Church
By William Handschumacher
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
"Likewise He also took the cup
after supper, saying, 'This cup
is the new covenant in My blood,
which is shed for you.'"
(The Words of Jesus - Luke 22:20)
God's 'Imputed' Benefits:
Why The New Covenant Is Called
'A Better Covenant Established
On Better Promises'
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"In that He (Jesus Christ) says, “a new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
Occasionally, we insert a special commentary that provides additional insight into an important Biblical truth. In order to properly understand the unique way the New Covenant of Christ operates, we must first understand the principle of 'imputing or imputation'. The salvation provided by the New Covenant is revealed in the epistles of Saint Paul, where imputation is first introduced. Contrary to some popular church teachings, the cross of Christ changed all the previous rules that governed salvation under the Old Testament program ... which is also referred to in Scripture as 'the first covenant' ... or the Mosaic covenant. This is why Hebrews 8:13 states that Christ's New Covenant has made the first covenant obsolete. Yet, a vast majority within Christendom continues to use these obsolete Old Testament principles to obtain Christ's New Testament salvation. This is a disaster waiting to happen for many professing Christians who are unaware of the danger. (Note: we use the word obsolete, not to be controversial, but because the Bible uses the exact same word.)
New Covenant imputing or
imputation is described in
the following way:
To assign (or credit) a benefit, blessing or spiritual condition to someone who doesn’t deserve it or is otherwise unable to receive it. Under New Testament salvation, imputing (or imputation) operates in two directions (it's bi-directional) and is often referred to as “The Substitutionary Death of Christ”. Some call it “The Divine Exchange”, which is a 'New Covenant term'.
(Note: After the cross our salvation is provided by a "new and living way" (Hebrews 10:19-23), which Jesus refers to as “The New Covenant in His blood” (Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, 2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 7:11-22, Heb. 8:6-13, Heb. 9:15, Heb. 10:19-23, Heb. 12:24).
It transfers (or imputes) God's perfect righteousness to the believer (See 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5:17-19 quoted below) - while, at the same time transfers (or imputes) all of the believer’s sin to Christ, which is made possible by His 'blood payment' for their sin at the crucifixion. God declares that this transfer, both to and from the believer, happens only once at their initial salvation and is not dependent upon their works, behavior or merit. (Read Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:29, Romans 10:8-13, Romans 11:6, Romans 4:4-8, Romans 3:24-26, 1 John 1:7, Titus 3:5-7)
After the transfer is complete,
God sends His Holy Spirit to
indwell the believer. The
Apostle Paul calls this Divine
'The Sealing of the Holy Spirit'.
"In Him (Jesus Christ) you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14) (Also Read About “God’s Guarantee” In 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5)
The 'sealing of the Holy Spirit' is performed to preserve our inheritance (salvation) until Christ returns to redeem His purchased possession (all those who received His salvation on earth). This event is known as 'the rapture of the Church' and occurs on 'the day of redemption'. The 'sealing' is only performed once and exists as 'God's guarantee' - that we will remain 'sealed and saved' until the day that Christ returns to claim His blood-bought people. Contrary to popular church teaching, God does not unseal the believer when they sin ... and then 'seals them again' when they repent. According to Scripture, the 'sealing' is a one time event where the Holy Spirit comes to indwell/seal the believer ... and will never leave.
Jesus describes the yet future New
Covenant 'Sealing of the Holy Spirit'
that His cross would provide ...
"And I will pray the Father, and He will
give you another Helper, that He may abide
with you forever — the Spirit of truth,
whom the world cannot receive, because it
neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you
know Him, for He dwells with you and will
be in you."
(The Words of Jesus in John 14:16-17)
As a result of the transfer of
our sin to Christ and the
receiving of His imputed gift
of righteousness ...
God now refuses to charge sin to
the believer's life. As a result,
all sins (past, present and future)
will never be held against them
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of the requirements that was against us (the Law), which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." (Colossians 2:13-14)
God imputes all sin to Jesus Christ as the believer's substitute and sin bearer. Therefore, it is a denial of the redemptive work of Christ for any church leader to claim that these same sins will be held against the believer, in any measure in the future. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and Romans 4:4-8 quoted below).
The Bible refers to the permanent
nature of 'imputation' as being;
"Eternal and Everlasting"
The word 'eternal' means uninterupted
and forever. As a result, 'eternal life'
is not something we possess only until
we sin again.
Contrary to what some preachers say; the
believer does not transition in and out
of eternal life every time they sin and
The popular belief - where a Christian,
depending on their behavior or lack of
holiness, continually loses and regains
salvation - is embraced as a fundamental
truth in some churches. But, according
to Scripture and the words of the Lord
Jesus Christ - it represents a false
form of religious faith that leads
them astray without their knowledge.
God does not change His mind about the permanent nature of eternal life ... where He revokes it when we sin or misbehave. It's an "everlasting" part of our salvation, which was fully paid for by Christ's blood at the cross. As a result, God is able to give uninterrupted eternal life to the believer - not because of their acceptable merit, work or behavior - but because it is based only on the work Jesus finished at the cross. The Bible refers to the giving of these free and unconditional benefits as ...
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"For God's gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His Grace or to whom He sends His call.]" (Romans 11:29 Amplified Bible)
"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His Grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)
These truths reveal a tremendous blessing. After the cross, God considers (or reckons) the believer to have never sinned ... despite the fact that they did sin and will, in some measure, continue to sin for the remainder of their physical lives. After the cross - When a believer sins - God handles it in an entirely different way than He did under the previous Old Testament program. The cross of Christ cancels (and blocks) the sin from being charged (imputed) to the believer's life.
As a result of the cross, God declares
that He will never remember their sin
again ... even when they do sin.
(2 Corinthians 5:17-19, Hebrews 8:8-13).
Through these bi-directional characteristics of imputation ... the believer can enjoy total assurance of salvation and the confidence of possessing an uninterrupted righteous standing before God. The Bible refers to this condition, where God treats the sinner as if they had never sinned ...
"Justification by Faith"
"...Being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:24-26)
Jesus takes the undeserving believer's sin (becomes their substitute and sin-bearer) and, in exchange, freely and permanently assigns (or imputes) His very own righteousness to their life. This is the reason righteousness (or worthiness), under New Covenant salvation, can never come from our 'good works, behavior and spiritual performance', which are things all believers should seek after ... but for reasons other that trying to achieve God's gift of righteousness. Righteousness is now imputed as God’s unmerited gift, which is a direct result of the sacrificial death of Christ as our substitute (Romans 5:17-19, Philippians 3:9).
It's also important to know that Christ's sinlessness and righteousness are not the only spiritual benefits that God imputes to the believer's life. When we accept Jesus as our Lord, sin-bearer and substitute - a 'Divine exchange' takes place. Every character attribute and every spiritual benefit Jesus possesses is imputed to us. As a result, we become "joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:15-18) of everthing He owns. From God's perspective, this is an established fact, whether your church teaches it or not. It's part of the believer's transformation that takes place when they initially receive the "new birth". It's also referred to as, "the believer's position In Christ". Paul used the term "in Christ - with Christ - in Him - and in whom" over 120 times in the New Testament to communicate this amazing truth. The 'Divine exchange', where God reckons the believer to be "In Christ" is one of the most maligned and ignored truths within Christendom. You can learn more about it HERE.
Paul reveals the power of
imputation in the following
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:4-8)
"....And be found in Him (in Jesus Christ), not having mine own righteousness (or self-earned worthiness), which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:9)
“For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of Grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man's (Adam's) offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one man's (Jesus') righteous act the free gift (righteousness) came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience (Adam) many were made sinners, so also by one man's (Jesus Christ's) obedience many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
Important Information About Good
Works and Christian Behavior
Critics who say that Grace (or the unmerited and undeserved favor of God) “improperly removes the effort and work from Christian life” ... are dishonestly handling the Scriptures. It represents an attempt to replace the New Testament version of the word 'Grace' with the same word that carries a different meaning. This popular denominational tactic radically changes God's original intention involving salvation and represents a denial of the finished work of Christ at the cross. It is often used by ministers, churches and denominations that embrace Calvinism, Reformed theology and various expressions of Christian fundamentalism. You can get more information on this subject HERE.
Some church leaders insist that the word “grace” carries a different meaning than what most people think - and, of course, they are more than happy to provide the correct definition. Yet, the type of “grace” they teach illegally mixes principles of Old Testament Law with Christ’s New Testament redemption. The apostle Paul warned that this brand of theology "perverts the gospel" (Galatians 1:6-8). This effort is designed to deceive and confuse the Church by changing the definition of a word that governs our salvation in Christ. As a result, if you change the definition of 'grace' you change the principles of salvation. You can get more information about this popular deception HERE.
Obtaining salvation through Grace, or the unmerited and undeserved favor of God, does not release us from the task of avoiding sin, doing good works, adopting Christ-like behavior and holy living. God instructs all christians to seek after these things for reasons other than obtaining His gift of eternal life. He tells all believers that seeking these character attributes is the right thing to do ... because they represent Christ on earth. The unbelieving world often forms their beliefs and opinions about God by observing the conduct and behavior of His representatives. However, God also sternly warns (Read Ephesians 2:8-9, Galatians 2:19-21, Galatians 3:10-12 and Galatians 5:4), that our attempt to achieve these character attributes (which involves work and effort) is never to be used as requirements or pre-conditions to obtain (and keep) what Scripture calls, God’s unmerited gift of eternal life.
Contrary to popular beliefs and religious tradition, under the New Covenant that began after the cross, God condemns any effort to hold a believer’s salvation hostage until a certain level of Christian character or behavior is achieved. Yet, we are still expected to desire and apply “Christ-like character” to our life (Romans 6:1-4 and Titus 2:13-14). Everyone will have a different measure of success in this effort, which is why God never establishes eternal life on these pursuits. If we fail or refuse to 'rightly divide' God’s Word concerning these two imperatives (as Paul commanded in 2 Timothy 2:15), God is made to look like a liar and His gift of eternal life becomes nonsensical. When the critics claim that the Gospel of Grace (some call it “easy-believism" - and others use the newer label of “hyper-grace”) “improperly removes the effort from Christian life”, they are misleading their audience with deceptive terms and labels.
A detailed Bible study concerning the
recent attacks on Christ's Gospel of
Grace is available at the following link:
The Battle For God's Grace
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