IMPUTATION & JUSTIFICATION
To illustrate the doctrine of reconciliation, we see man and God hopelessly separated by an impassable barrier. This barrier, which we have termed “The Wall” constitutes MAN’S PROBLEM. In this section of our study we will examine the fourth brick in the “The Wall” and learn how GOD’S SOLUTION removed it at the cross. But there is a turn in the road here. As I said before, the first three bricks were removed by Jesus Christ. You weren’t there. No one that is hearing this was there. He was alone, hanging on a cross, abandoned. God the Father wept as He watched what they did to Him. The holy angels screamed, “Please, Father, let us go down there and stop this! They are desecrating our Lord! Please, God, Father, give us permission to stop this!”
But He, God Almighty, our Father in heaven said, “No! It is written. It is necessary. He is my legacy, and through him I will have a family; I will have children.”
Children; have you ever thought about how they come to us? They come through extreme pain. Guys, we all know that making babies is fun. But for women, it’s a different story. Any guy who has been there, in the delivery room knows this; having babies hurts, a lot!
But as any mother will tell you, “It was worth it!”
I know that this may seem like bunny trail, but, as long as I am on the subject of babies, please let me give you some assurance of something I know to be true.
Babies who die before the age of accountability go to heaven; period; no discussion! That’s what the Bible says, “He (David) answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22). David, he was a pretty complicated guy, but after all that, he was inspired by God the Holy Spirit to tell the world something in the twenty-third Psalm. This is what he wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LordForever.” So, where is David today? And where is his illegitimate son? This ain’t rocket science here folks. If you don’t get it, then you are on the wrong site. See ya! But if you do, then hang in there, because we are moving to higher ground.
THE BARRIER, MAN’S PROBLEM:
The fourth brick of the barrier is man’s relative righteousness. This brick is, to some, the most confusing aspect of the barrier. Why? Because in this lesson we are not going to focus on man’s sin. No, we are going to focus on his goodness. Many people are very good. They live a righteous lifestyle. They are honest, polite, responsible, relaxed, individuals who are delightful to be around.
On the other hand, some people are scheming, slandering, lying, irresponsible, uptight, and in general, people we tend to avoid. From this perspective, many unbelievers are good people. All of us can testify to that fact. To complicate the issue, many of these “good people” may even live a more upright lifestyle than some Christians.
Here, then, is the issue of relative righteousness. Obviously, some people are very good. They are respectable, honorable and above reproach. Let’s face it, many of those with whom we associate are just better than others, and that is the real problem. We often establish the fact that a person is good or righteous because he or she appears, on the outside, to be better than other people. This is what we mean by relative righteousness.
Now let’s compare these systems of morality with God’s standards. A person may have honorable characteristics and we enjoy his or her company; but with all their noble qualities, they are still only relatively righteous. What I’m saying is that they do not even come close to the righteousness of God, “There is no one holy like the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:2; Psalms 22:3, 47:8, 111:9). In addition, God is immutable, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). If He, God, were to enter into fellowship with relative righteousness, He would have to compromise His holiness (Romans 8:8; cf. 1 John 1:5-6). It is impossible for God to lower His standards (Hebrews 1:12).
In light of what God says about His own righteousness, let’s see how man measures up: “For all have sinned and, come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For there is not a just man upon the earth, that does good, and sins not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 cf. Psalms 14:1-3). Isaiah was inspired, by God the Holy Spirit, to describe human good in this way: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags. Literally translated, filthy rags, in the Hebrew means, “garments soiled by menstrual flow” (Isaiah 64:6).
Paul described human good like this: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8). The Greek word for rubbish is skubala. The word means dung, feces or excrement. I know that these words are going to hurt some of your delicate little egos, but that is what the Bible says in the original language. Some fear to not translate the Bible it literally, so as not to offend people. I, on the other hand, fear to translate Scripture any other way, but literally, so as not to offend God.
Relative righteousness (human goodness), therefore, forms a tremendous barrier between man and God because it often leads to religious or sanctimonious illusions. Even though God is love, He will not compromise His divine integrity in order to enter into a personal relationship with anything that is less than holy, as He is holy. As a result, man has a problem.
The solution to man’s problem of relative righteousness is imputation and justification. The word imputation comes from the Greek verb, logizomai. It means to take money from one account and place it into another. It only takes the click of a mouse to move money from one account into another, but it took infinitely more for God to transfer or impute His absolute righteousness to our bankrupt soul.
“For He (God the Father) hath made Him (Jesus Christ), who knew no sin (literally: the one having never known sin), to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
On the cross, our sins were charged to Christ. He paid our debt to God in full. Because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, God the Father has a gift to give to each member of the human race. That gift is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.
What makes a gift a gift? Before a gift can fulfill its purpose it must be received. This demands three things on the part of the receiver: faith, humility, and desire. What this means is that: First, the receiver must believe the gift is real. Second, he must accept it as something given and not earned. Third, he must desire to receive the thing being offered.
Salvation is a gift. It was bought and paid for with the blood of Christ and offered to man as a gift. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that, touto, (literally: this thing i.e. salvation) is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) Note: touto, because of its neuter gender, can only refer to salvation. It cannot refer to either “grace” or “faith” because they are feminine nouns.
Because it is a gift, salvation must be:
1. accepted by faith.
First, we believed in the giver: “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to Him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3 cf. Genesis 15:1-6).
Second, we believed in the gift: “the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). In order to received the gift of salvation it must be accepted by faith, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
2. received in humility.
We cannot earn salvation since it is “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9) It was purchased by Jesus’ spiritual death on the cross, “you were not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1: 18-19). The only way salvation can be attained is to humbly receive it as a gift that was purchased by someone else. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
3. as something to be desired.
At the point of God consciousness we begin to make a series of decisions. The decisions, in view here, center around the desire to know the God of Heaven and Earth that is revealed to all. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (qeioths, literally: divine nature) so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Those who desire to know Him, He will draw to Himself (John 6:44; James 4:8). Those who do not, are blinded to the truth by Satan (Romans 1:21 cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). In his blindness man tries to earn salvation by works, “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? (Literally: Why not?) Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law” (Romans 9:31-32). It is man’s responsibility to respond to God’s offer of salvation as a gift to be desired and received by faith.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Their response was simple. They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).
Why faith? Faith is an expression of the will that gives all honor and merit to the object rather than the subject. As a result, an expression of faith gives glory to the object (God) rather than the believer (man). Therefore, in God’s plan of salvation faith is not considered works, but obedience to His declared will, “Therefore, we conclude that man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28; also: 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Titus 3:5).
Conclusion: Whenever a person chooses to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, God is free to impute the righteousness of Christ to that believer (Romans 3:22; 4:3; 5:17; 9:30). On the basis of imputed righteousness, God declares this new believer to be justified.
This part is always so fresh to me. Please be patient, but I feel a story coming. Yes, I’m going to tell you a story, but I promise, it will be short. You are standing, weary, at the end of a very long day. You are broken, staring at your feet. Then Someone speaks to you. It’s a man’s voice, so masculine, so engaging. You look up, but there is no one there. Just then a gentle breeze strokes you gently across your cheek and you look down. There on the dirty pavement is a soiled piece of paper. You don’t know why, but you bend down and pick it up. It’s a flier, and as you soon as you look at it, you grimace. This was was left here by some Jesus freak. But you have nothing else to do, so you read it, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16). You crush the paper in your hand, but your emotions deny your actions. A tear runs down your face. And you, know, nothing will ever be the same.
And then God steps forward to embrace you, as family. By one simple act of faith, you have been born again, and now possesses the righteousness of God.
What is the significance of justification? Until man receives the imputed rightness of Jesus Christ by faith, God is not even justified to have fellowship with him, let alone to enter into him (indwell him) and call him family. But once the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the new believer on the basis of his faith, God is, as a result of this imputation, is justified, not only to enter into a holy bond with this person, but, through regeneration , make him his child for eternity.
Simply put, it is the through the imputation of God’s righteousness, received by faith in Christ, apart from works, that God is justified to indwell the believer and bring him into the Royal family of God forever. Therefore, only through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is God justified to enter into a personal relationship with a person without compromising His holiness which is an intrigal part of His divine essence or integrity (see Doctrine of Divine Essence).