Fight for Joy! Blog
Where Jesus Changes Everything
A Glorious Imputation
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:21-23). I have the privilege of pastoring a wonderful congregation of believers. We are slowly working our way through Paul’s letter to the Romans. We have already answered the question, why the Gospel (see Rom. 1:18). We have thoroughly enmeshed ourselves in the goodness of God (see Rom. 2:4). Next we are coming to chapter three where Paul discusses a glorious imputation. Imputation is a legal term that is used in a variety of ways in Scripture. It appears some forty times in the New Testament, ten times in Romans, alone. The word means, “to set to one’s account.” For example, in Philemon 18 Paul admonishes Philemon to charge (impute) to his account any debts Onesimus may have incurred. Theologically speaking, there are three great imputations in Scripture. First of all, there is the imputation of Adam’s sin to me. “Through one man sin entered into the world” (Rom. 5:12). Because Adam sinned, all are sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Secondly, there is the imputation of my sin to Jesus. This happened at the Cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Finally, there is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all those who believe. This is a glorious imputation that God brings about in the life of all believers—those who through faith believe the Gospel. It occurs at the very moment of salvation when God imputes to the sinner what is not actually his—the righteousness of God—“Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3:22).
Paul describes this righteousness of God as that which is apart from the Law. In other words, the Law cannot save us. The Bible says through the Law all are accountable to God. Furthermore, it is through the Law we have the knowledge of sin. For this reason, at the final judgment the Law will close the mouth of the unbeliever (see Rom. 3:19-20). But thanks be to God for the glorious imputation of His righteousness. The Bible says the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel—“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17). Both Romans 1:17 and 3:22 speak of this imputed righteousness as coming through faith in Jesus. This is the essence of God’s plan of salvation. It is a salvation that is offered “apart from the Law.” In other words, you can’t earn this salvation. It can only be obtained as a gift and it comes through faith in Jesus. Although this is the fulfillment of the New Covenant, this isn’t some new way of saving people but is in perfect agreement with God’s work in times past. This is what is meant by the phrase, “being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Rom. 3:21b). In other words, God has always been in the salvation by grace through faith business. This is demonstrated in the Old Testament through the faith of Abraham. In fact, Paul mentions this in the next chapter, “For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). “Credited” here is that glorious imputation about which I write. And this imputation comes by way of Jesus: “But now apart form the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested” (Rom. 3:21a). It has been manifested in Jesus!
Romans 3:23 declares, “All have sinned.” All here would include you and me. It includes every person who has ever lived from Adam onward. The exception is, of course, Jesus—“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). And it is this Jesus who, although “He knew no sin [He became] sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21). We do not earn this righteousness by faith but we receive it through faith. Think about it. Because Adam sinned you and I are sinners—sorry, it doesn’t matter how good you might think you are because you are still a sinner by nature. But God has taken your sins and imputed them to Christ. Through faith you can have Christ’s righteousness imputed to you. This is the essence of the Gospel message and is the message I believe and proclaim. You don’t have to remain in your sin. You can experience freedom. You can be changed. You can have the righteousness of Christ. You can choose life! If you haven’t done this, what are you waiting for? “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
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