•••by Russell Young
Many rest their eternal hope in the understanding that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to them; consequently, they accept that their personal righteousness is no longer a relevant issue. A common refrain is that ‘Christ has done it all,’ that the Lord’s imputed righteousness will bring about their eternal salvation. Such thinking is error and one day they may be left greatly disappointed.
“Imputed” is translated from the Greek logizomai. The KJV translates it as “imputed” 8 times of its 49 usages. Most often it is translated as counted, reckoned, or to think. That is, it refers to an attitude or behavior that God has identified as equating with satisfying the righteous requirements of the law. It is because of attitude that respects His Being with appropriate humility, that God is prepared to offer a second chance or a new opportunity. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17, NIV)
Romans 4:20-25 clarifies the attitude that God requires in order to have the righteousness of Christ imputed. “Yet he [Abraham] did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being persuaded that God had power to do that which he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. The Lord’s words ‘It was credited to him were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead for our sins and was raided to life for our justification.” (NIV)
The “power” that we must believe in in order to be credited with Christ’s righteousness is that God can raise us from the dead as He did His Son…that He has the power to accomplish His promises. Righteousness is credited to or imputed to the one who believes (is believing) that God has raised His Son from the dead for our justification; it is for a purpose…to give a second chance or a new opportunity.
Our “justification” comes through the Lord’s “resurrection,” not His death. Eternal justification was not accomplished through the Lord’s sacrifice, although cleansing of “sins committed under the first covenant” was accomplished, and with that one’s justification concerning them. (Hebrews 9:15) To the Galatians Paul wrote, “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Galatians 5:5, NIV) His resurrected life (Romans 5:10) “in” the believer must accomplish the believer’s eternal hope. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV) James wrote, “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, NIV) Faith, exercised through the practice of obedience (Hebrews 5:9), will bring about one’s eternal justification.
The imputation or credit of righteousness through acceptance that God has the power only provides the imputation of Christ’s righteousness for sins under the first covenant. Sins following that point must be repented of and confessed (1 John 1:9) if righteousness is to be maintained. Paul taught that the believer was not to offer his body in slavery to impurity any longer but was to offer it in slavery to righteousness “which leads to holiness,” (Romans 6:19, 22) giving him eternal life. If slavery to righteousness is needed for eternal life, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness must not have met the believer’s need.
The imputation of Christ’s righteousness only brings the believer back to God who empowers him with the Holy Spirit to live a godly life. (1 Peter 1:3) It is this “power” that can satisfy God’s righteous requirement concerning the law (Romans 8:4) and that will bring the dead back to life.
Many rest their hope in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to them, not realizing that they must live by the Spirit after the point of confession of sin. Eternal salvation is a two-part process. (Romans 5: 9-10) The sinner becomes a believer and is cleansed (justified) by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness following which he is given the Spirit to enable him to develop holiness in state through obedience as his faith is exercised.