“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”—Romans 5:19
In our last article, “Imputation: the How of Justification,” we ended that particular lesson with an illustration of just how justification is accomplished by the heavenly Father’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness unto those He has saved by grace.
As a reminder, I will post it again here, especially for the sakes of those who have not read it (if you have read it already, just skip that portion in the next three paragraphs).
Imputation means, “to credit to the account of another,” or “to consider to the charge of another.” I want to illustrate it in a way so as to make it a little easier to understand—
Now, let’s say that I’m the principal of your school (even if you home school your child, that’s okay; just follow me for a moment). I have decreed that in order for your child to go to college (even if it’s many years away), he must take and pass a 613-question essay test on doctorate-level astrophysics. He must score a perfect 100%. I give your child two weeks to study but no matter how hard he studies he still does not get it. Every practice test he takes receives a failing grade because, though he gets some questions partially right, every answer must be 100% completely correct. When the day of the test arrives, instead of handing your child the test, I give it to Dr. Albert Einstein, who not only is a genius and pioneer in physics, but he also wrote the test. Dr. Einstein takes the test and then hands it to me. I take out a huge red marker and I write 100% on the paper. I take another red pen and write 100% in the grade book next to your child’s name. Then I turn at your child and say, “Congratulations, you scored a perfect 100%. You’re going to college… tuition free.”
Did your child actually score 100%? No. Your child didn’t even take the test because you know he’d fail. That’s kind of how imputation works. IMPUTATION is the “how” of justification.
The imputation from God’s declaration to justify the sinner doesn’t remove the saved sinner’s responsibility to act and respond to God’s declaration. Even in our illustration, the child in question must still go to college. That would be an evidence in his trusting by faith in the flawless test taken by Dr. Einstein. The child enters university and attends classes and works hard because of an entrance that was made possible by another.
Likewise is our faith unto salvation. By faith we have access to God through the sinless life, the righteous obedience, the perfect sacrifice, the precious blood, and the beloved soul of Jesus Christ. In His blessed death we have been granted life. An evidence that I have trusted by faith in the access His life has granted is that I read His word, I pray to the heavenly Father in Christ’s name, I attend the university of His church, and I endeavor joyfully to please Him who has given me access to Himself.
Remember, although justification is a legal, forensic declaration by God, we must recognize that, simultaneously, we have received the sanctifying grace of regeneration. The reality is that we are new creations in Jesus Christ, as cited earlier according to 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Now, the illustration I used with Dr. Einstein is still a bit clumsy because it cannot possess all the majesty of the eternal truths. Again, since the truths of justification, sanctification, imputation, and so forth are divine and eternal, there’s no way that our pictures can capture its wide panorama (for its panorama is literally infinite, having its origin in God). In my illustration, we may know of Dr. Einstein, but it does not necessarily mean that I know Dr. Einstein in a personal relationship. This is where our illustration fails. Justification by grace through faith, however, also provides the recipient of imputed righteousness the benefit of, not only graces of justification and sanctification, but also the benefit of adoption as sons as well. We’re actually getting a little bit ahead of ourselves here, for we will see much more of this in Chapter 8; nevertheless, it is a blessed truth to rejoice in.
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Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 5:12-21, “The Reign of Grace: the Blessed Truth about Imputation,” on November 1, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.
Read the previous article in this series, “Imputation: the How of Justification” (Romans 5:12-21).