I am accounted righteous before God (Romans 5:19)
Imputation is an important part of salvation. It is not really difficult
to understand, but it is one of those aspects of salvation that is rarely
spoken about. It is spelled out in its clearest form in Romans 5:12-21. There
are two imputations spoken of in this passage.
The first is the imputation of sin. When Adam was given the command in the
garden of Eden to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
he stood in our place, as our representative. When he disobeyed God, we disobeyed
God through him because he was our representative. If this does not seem
fair, hang in there, salvation, on the same grounds, would not be fair either.
This doctrine is known as the federal headship of Adam.
If you continue to read in Romans 5, you will notice that there is a second
representative, Christ. Just as Adam was a representative, so also Christ
is the representative of all those who receive salvation. But the representation
of Christ is not one of guilt and death, but rather what is imputed in Christ's
representation is His righteousness. So while in Adam, we receive guilt and
death, in Christ we receive righteousness, His righteousness. If the imputation
of sin from Adam as our representative is not fair, neither is the imputation
of Christ's righteousness. The two stand or fall together.
On the cross, as we commonly say, Christ paid the penalty for our sin. This
was done by imputation. The transfer of our guilt to Him and His righteousness
to us, is by imputation. Again you will find our cleansing from unrighteousness
in 1 John 1:5-10, verse 9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and
righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
His righteousness has now become our righteousness. Our guilt, on the cross,
became His guilt.
The process by which this takes place is by substitution. Christ obeyed and
suffered in our place because our sins were imputed to Him and He became
our substitute by paying the penalty for our sins. "All of us like sheep
have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has
caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." Isaiah 53:6 See also 2 Corinthians
5:21, 1 Peter 2:24.
The imputation of the righteousness of Christ gives pardon of sins to the
believer. The penalty for our sins has been paid in full and now, not only
are we forgiven, we also stand before God clothed in the righteousness of
Christ. This really is amazing. It also secures for the believer all the
promises of God in Scripture.
We don't talk much about this doctrine in the church today and that is
unfortunate. It really is freeing to understand the depths that our salvation
include. The more we understand salvation the more we understand how loving
God is and how complete His mercy is. The imputation of Christ's righteousness
is just another aspect of the great salvation offered to sinners in the gospel.