Imputation: The New Covenant Way
God Transfers His Spiritual Benefits
To The Church
Rock of Offence Special Commentary
The following is a special insert dealing with the misunderstood
subject of the unmerited and undeserved "imputing" of spiritual
benefits to the believer in Christ found in New Testament
salvation. It will repeat some things previously covered,
but may also provide some additional insight.
God's Imputed Benefits: A Characteristic
Occasionally, we insert a special teaching in our commentaries that provides added information. To properly understand the unique way the New Covenant of Christ operates, it is necessary to grasp the principle of “imputing” or as some call it, “imputation”. In New Testament salvation (mainly revealed in the epistles of Saint Paul), God uses the principle of “imputing”, which carries the following definition:
Of The Authentic Gospel of Christ
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 “covenant” term (Note: After the cross our salvation is provided by a "new and living way" (Hebrews 10:19-23) that Jesus calls “The New Covenant” (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 (the blessing) to the believer (See 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5:17-19 quoted below) - while all of the believer’s sin (the curse) is imputed to Christ as a result of His crucifixion. God declares that this transfer to the believer is permanent and does not depend on 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)
As a result of the transfer of our sin to Christ ...
GOD NOW HAS A LEGAL OBLIGATION
TO BLOCK - AND REFUSE TO
IMPUTE SIN TO THE BELIEVER. AS
A RESULT, ALL SINS (PAST,
PRESENT AND FUTURE) WILL NEVER
BE HELD AGAINST THEM AGAIN.
God imputes all sin to Jesus Christ as the believer's substitute and sin bearer. Therefore, it is a blatant denial of the redemptive work of Christ for these same sins to be held against the believer, in any measure - in the future. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and Romans 4:4-8 quoted below).
THIS PRINCIPLE, WHERE GOD
IMPUTES OUR SIN TO CHRIST
IS PERMANENT - OR WHAT THE
"ETERNAL AND EVERLASTING".
Eternal means forever. Contrary to some popular church teachings, eternal life is not something we possess only until we sin again.
THE BELIEVER DOES NOT TRANSITION
IN AND OUT OF ETERNAL LIFE EVERY
TIME SIN IS COMMITTED - AS MANY
The belief where a Christian continually loses and regains salvation depending on their behavior might be popular in some churches, but according to Scripture and the words of the Lord Jesus Christ - its a false teaching. You can discover why in the following commentary;
The Holy Spirit's Role in Salvation After the Cross
God will not change His mind about the permanent nature of eternal life and revoke it when we misbehave. It is an "everlasting" part of our salvation, which was fully paid for by Christ's blood spilled at His crucifixion. As a result, God gives eternal life to the believer as an unmerited and undeserved gift without any work or religious performance requirements. The Bible refers to this kind of freely-given and unconditional blessing as GRACE.
"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 - Emphasis Added)
"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 - Emphasis Added)
"...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 - Emphasis Added)
These truths reveal a tremendous blessing. AFTER THE CROSS, God considers (or reckons) the believer to have never sinned, even though they did sin and will, in some measure, continue to sin during 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 to the believer's life. As a result, God declares that He will never remember it again (2 Corinthians 5:17-19 and Hebrews 8:8-13). This benefit of "imputation" not only gives us total assurance of salvation, but also ensures an uninterrupted righteousness before God, especially when we fail to perfectly live up to God's standards (an endeavor that the Bible says is actually impossible). The Bible calls this condition, where God considers (or reckons) the believer to be sinless; "justification by faith" AND IT IS FREELY GIVEN THROUGH THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
"...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 - Emphasis Added)
Jesus takes the believers sin (becomes their substitute and sin-bearer) and, in exchange, freely and permanently assigns (or imputes) HIS VERY OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS to the undeserving believer’s life. This is the reason our righteousness under Christ’s New Covenant salvation does not come from our “righteous works and spiritual performance”, which are good things all believers should desire FOR REASONS OTHER THAN OBTAINING AND KEEPING ETERNAL LIFE. Righteousness is now imputed as God’s free gift, which is a direct result of the sacrificial death of Christ as our substitute (Read Romans 5:17-19 and Philippians 3:9). Yet, it's also important to know that righteousness is not the only spiritual benefit that God imputes to our life. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, sin-bearer and substitute - a "Divine exchange" takes place. Every character attribute and every spiritual benefit He possesses is imputed to us and we become "joint-heirs" with Christ (Romans 8:15-18). As far as God is concerned, it's an established fact, whether your church teaches it that way or not. It's part of the believer's transformation that takes place when they receive the "new birth". It's called, "our 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 truth. This "Divine exchange", where God reckons the believer to be "in Christ" is one of the most ignored and maligned Bible teachings in the institutional church. You can learn more about it HERE.
Paul reveals the power of imputation in the following Scriptures:
"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 -- Emphasis Added)
"....AND BE FOUND IN HIM (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 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 OBEDIENCE (JESUS CHRIST) 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 - Emphasis Added)
“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 - Emphasis Added)
Important Information About Good
Works and Christian Behavior
Many of the religious critics, who claim Christ’s salvation obtained through Grace (or the unmerited and undeserved favor of God), “improperly removes the effort and work from Christian life” - are practicing a dishonest method of Bible interpretation. These deceptive Bible teachers attempt to REPLACE the New Testament version of the word "grace" with the same word that carries a different meaning. This popular tactic radically changes God's original intention in salvation and represents a covert attack against the finished work of Christ at the cross. It is commonly 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. These preachers claim 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, their type of “grace” quietly and subtly reinserts (and mixes) principles of Old Testament Law with Christ’s New Testament Gospel. The apostle Paul warned that this brand of theology "perverts the gospel" (Galatians 1:6-8). You can get more information about this popular deception HERE. It is designed to deceive and confuse the Church by failing to properly define certain terms (or by redefining these terms).
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 are Christ's representative on earth. The 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 belief 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 DOES NOT ESTABLISH ETERNAL LIFE UPON 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), His gift of eternal life becomes nonsensical and God is made to look like a liar. When the critics claim that the Grace Gospel (some try to discredit it as “easy-believism" - 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
surprising source of the current attacks
on Christ's Gospel of Grace is available
at the following link:
The Battle For God's Grace