Input on imputation

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Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
I've been in a conversation with a friend in regard to imputation. There's a nuance of it that we can't seem to agree with, so I'm going to simply provide a couple of statements here and ask for responses. Assume, regardless of whether or not you see anything wrong here, that other soteriological understanding is accurate.

"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I've been in a conversation with a friend in regard to imputation. There's a nuance of it that we can't seem to agree with, so I'm going to simply provide a couple of statements here and ask for responses. Assume, regardless of whether or not you see anything wrong here, that other soteriological understanding is accurate.

"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

What is the connection between that 'record' and the day of judgment? Is it that the 'record' is in the possession of the Judge on the day of conversion but is made public on the day of judgment?
 

Zeno333

Puritan Board Freshman
I've been in a conversation with a friend in regard to imputation. There's a nuance of it that we can't seem to agree with, so I'm going to simply provide a couple of statements here and ask for responses. Assume, regardless of whether or not you see anything wrong here, that other soteriological understanding is accurate.

"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

There is a small amount of room for some confusion....when you say "We have a new nature, we are a new creation", that can be referring to Sanctification, which is a "different" thing from the Imputation itself in its actual being...If you statement is meant to be a "definition" of "only the Imputation" itself, then mixing Sanctification into that mix can cause some confusion. However, as pointed out in the Westminster Larger catechism, Sanctification is "inseparable" from "Justification". The 2 most be joined together, but the necessary resulting Sanctification is not part of the Imputation itself, and perhaps should not be mentioned like it is in your statement if your statement is meant to only be a definition of Imputation.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I've been in a conversation with a friend in regard to imputation. There's a nuance of it that we can't seem to agree with, so I'm going to simply provide a couple of statements here and ask for responses. Assume, regardless of whether or not you see anything wrong here, that other soteriological understanding is accurate.

"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

I dont' think I find anything problematic in it at all. Right in accord with the orthodox reformed doctrine of the imputation of Christ's complete (passive and active) righteousness to us.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

The only things that stands out to me that I would say different, is that which regards our "new nature" and our being a "new creation". Imputation does not really provide us with a new nature, and it does not truly make us a new creation. I can add gold to a lump of butter, and it's still a lump of butter. But, a new creation comes when the butter is transformed by a supernatural process into something new. So, what makes us become a new creation and have a new nature is the act of being born again, the regeneration of us caused by the implanting of a new principle of holiness within ourselves, being born again by the Spirit of God.

The other thing that I would say is that, his words about imputation can sort of be read to make it seem like Christ and I are like two separate buildings, and that the one building becomes holy because something is transferred over to it. But, this analogy sort of leaves out the idea of unity and the illustration of being engrafted into the tree. Our right standing happens because we stand in Christ, not because we stand outside of Christ with something new added to our characters. We stand as righteous because Christ stands as righteous, and we are now in him. I would also want to emphasize that, Christ has so united us to himself, that we are now viewed as one, just as he and the Father are one. And so, we can stand before the Father now because we are now engrafted into Christ, so much so that, if the Father rejects us now, he rejects the Christ who he has joined us to. We are so much joined to him, so much connected to him, that the analogies of the head and body illustrate it, and communion with the bread and wine illustrate it, most perfectly. The bare analogy of our bank account now having something special added to it doesn't quite grasp the whole picture of what happens in salvation, unless it is in the context of being joined to Christ. Imputation occurs in that context.

And, the last sentence, involving sanctification, justification, and glorification, I would say fit in a "general" sense of the words. In other words, I know what point he's getting at by saying that Christ represents these three things in these three different ways, and it all fits into a nice little cliche when worded like that, but there's more to it than that also. The totality of what our sanctification, justification, and glorification are and involve go beyond just saying, well here they are........look at Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

And also, his next to the last statement almost makes it seem like Christ has imputed to us sanctification, justification, and glorification. I don't think anything is imputed to us besides his righteousness. The former three are not a matter of imputation at all really. And, the imputing of them, if that were possible, is not what makes us new creatures. But again, I think I sort of know what he might be getting at.

So, in general, I agree with what he's trying to say....sometimes poeple have a hard time expressing what they mean, as I do. I'm sure many people can pick apart lots of my statements, and those of many others as well, but often, general thoughts are only what are intended to be expressed in general expressions. It's hard to convey many concepts in few sentences, so as to include all facets of thier meaning. However, we should strive for accuracy as best as we can. Didn't mean to be overly critical, as I don't like to be such, but I thought that was what you intended.

Which part were you having a hard time agreeing with?

Blessings!
 
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greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

The only things that stands out to me that I would say different, is that which regards our "new nature" and our being a "new creation". Imputation does not really provide us with a new nature, and it does not truly make us a new creation. I can add gold to a lump of butter, and it's still a lump of butter. But, a new creation comes when the butter is transformed by a supernatural process into something new. So, what makes us become a new creation and have a new nature is the act of being born again, the regeneration of us caused by the implanting of a new principle of holiness within ourselves, being born again by the Spirit of God.

The other thing that I would say is that, his words about imputation can sort of be read to make it seem like Christ and I are like two separate buildings, and that the one building becomes holy because something is transferred over to it. But, this analogy sort of leaves out the idea of unity and the illustration of being engrafted into the tree. Our right standing happens because we stand in Christ, not because we stand outside of Christ with something new added to our characters. We stand as righteous because Christ stands as righteous, and we are now in him. I would rather emphasize that, Christ has so united us to himself, that we are now viewed as one, just as he and the Father are one. And so, we can stand before the Father now because we are now engrafted into Christ, so much so that, if the Father rejects us now, he rejects the Christ who he has joined us to. We are so much joined to him, so much connected to him, that the analogies of the head and body illustrate it, and communion with the bread and wine illustrate it, most perfectly. The bare analogy of our bank account now having something special added to it doesn't quite grasp the whole picture. Rather, our personal bank account has now been closed, and reopened in a totally different bank building, under a new name, that of the name of Christ's personal bank account, not our own. And so Paul says, "our life is hid with Christ in God."

And, the last sentence, involving sanctification, justification, and glorification, I would say fit in a "general" sense of the words. In other words, I know what point he's getting at by saying that Christ represents these three things in these three different ways, and it all fits into a nice little cliche when worded like that, but there's more to it than that also. The totality of what our sanctification, justification, and glorification are and involve go beyond just saying, well here they are........look at Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

And also, his next to the last statement almost makes it seem like Christ has imputed to us sanctification, justification, and glorification. I don't think anything is imputed to us besides his righteousness. The former three are not a matter of imputation at all really. And, the imputing of them, if that were possible, is not what makes us new creatures. But again, I think I sort of know what he might be getting at.

So, in general, I agree with what he's trying to say....sometimes poeple have a hard time expressing what they mean. I'm sure many people can pick apart lots of my statements, and those of many others as well, but often, general thoughts are only what are intended to be expressed in general expressions. It's hard to convey many concepts in few sentences, so as to include all facets of thier meaning. However, we should strive for accuracy as best as we can.

I don't disagree with the idea that union grounds imputation. I just have a question, however: are you saying that imputation is not a transfer term? Is something transferred or not? Yes, we are united to Christ, and are therefore in Him. However, we are still distinct people from Jesus. Therefore, the bank account transfer metaphor is entirely accurate and biblical, being the point of the first part of Romans 4.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
[I don't disagree with the idea that union grounds imputation. I just have a question, however: are you saying that imputation is not a transfer term? Is something transferred or not? Yes, we are united to Christ, and are therefore in Him. However, we are still distinct people from Jesus. Therefore, the bank account transfer metaphor is entirely accurate and biblical, being the point of the first part of Romans 4.

I'm with you 100% on that! It's a transfer term. In conveying the meaning of the term, people often use the analogy of the bank account. I just usually walked away from that analogy without the explanation of us being "engrafted into unity with Christ". And so, here I stand apart from Christ with this new resume that's been given to me, and so now I'm accepted. In viewing it as a Venn Diagram, the circle of imputation lies inside of the circle of being united and engrafted into Christ. It's not a seperate circle outside of it. In making that point, I didn't mean to lose the definition of the term itself. And, I agree with you as well, we don't lose our identy at all. Hope that clears up my thoughts a little. I went back and reworded a few things, so as to not convey the wrong idea.

Blessings, and thanks for your input regarding my post!

-----Added 1/15/2009 at 05:03:29 EST-----

I've been in a conversation with a friend in regard to imputation. There's a nuance of it that we can't seem to agree with, so I'm going to simply provide a couple of statements here and ask for responses. Assume, regardless of whether or not you see anything wrong here, that other soteriological understanding is accurate.

"I believe we need a record of perfect obedience to give to God. That perfect record of obedience only comes from Christ's active obedience placed on our account or in other words His perfect, righteous works imputed to us. We have a new nature, we are a new creation all because of His all righteous works (His life and death and resurrection) which He did on our behalf and imputed onto us. His life represents our sanctification, His death our justification, and His resurrection our glorification."

Supportive Scriptures provided: Hebrews 2:17-18, 1Cor 10:12, Phil 2:12, Gal 3, Deut 9:4-6, Ps 4:1, Matt 3:15, Matt 5:6, Rom 5, 1Cor 1:30, 5:21, 9:10 Gal 3:21, 5:5, 6:14 Phil 1:11, 3:9 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13 James

What think ye?

I just realized that your quote in the OP could have been your thoughts to your friend instead of your friend's thoughts to you. If it was, then I hope I didn't come across as too disecting or overly judgmental of your statements, brother. I would have answered you differently had I known that this was your quote and not his, if in fact it was. So, anyway, please filter my thoughts in that light. I respect your posts greatly, and am glad for your input on the board. Blessings to you!
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Thanks for your thoughts gentlemen. Charles, the words were not mine. But I do appreciate your thoughts and graciousness.

Now, here's what I'm struggling with. I've spoken to others as I attempt to grasp it, but it seems that my mind can't quite get a hold of it well enough to a) articulate what I'm seeing, or b) grasp this particular nuance. I'll throw some thoughts out and if you can help me see it clearly, or if you agree with me, please bring more light to the discussion. I do think Charles hit on this a bit, but am not sure he meant the same thing.

So as to avoid any sort of confusion, understand that I fully embrace imputation. Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. Our sin is imputed to Him. That is not the issue. But the statement is that "Christ's righteous "works" are imputed to us" and, for some reason, I just can't embrace that particular nuance of what's said. I have poured over Scripture; I've poured over WCF; I've poured over commentaries and systematics. I can't find anywhere where someone says that the works themselves are imputed. It doesn't even really come up. Whenever imputation is discussed in Scripture it's either iniquity (what we deserve) or sin (singular) or righteousness (singular).

Now, please try to follow me on this. If Jesus' works, themselves, are imputed to us, does not that contradict the vicarious nature of Christ's ministry? Didn't He do it in our place? Weren't His works a result of that which is imputed to us? And, if the works themselves are imputed to us, does that not make us righteous (not seen as righteous, but actually righteous)? The only verse I could find that might be construed as us actually being righteous now is Romans 5:19. But even that seems to have a glorification aspect to it.

For clarity in the discussion, please understand that it is the imputation of the works themselves that I'm trying to understand. Please try to keep the discussion focused on that aspect as much as possible.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
It might help to take a look at some works on the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ - for that is what you're asking about, Joe. John Owen deals with this in his treatise on Justification by Faith, and John Brown does in his work on Justification (but I'm nowhere near getting there in my blogging through his work). You should check out the writing on this topic in the most recent Confessional Presbyterian Journal, too.

Calvin writes (I can't recall the citation, and I may be wrong in that it's not Calvin but someone else whose work I'm reading at the moment) that we must be imputed fully with righteousness of Christ because God does not declare that which isn't. I.e. when God declares us righteous, we actually ARE. We actually do possess the righteousness of Christ - a current possession, a REAL possession. When God declares us righteous, it is because we have been imputed with the righteousness of Christ. This doesn't deny the fact that we still sin, or that we are being conformed to the image of Christ in our walk in this life. A helpful way of putting this is that we are in our sanctification becoming what we are in our justification. We have the righteousness of Christ - as we walk in this life we are becoming more and more conformed to that which we already possess.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
One of the many things that Hebrews draws out about the Priesthood of Christ is that He came to do the Father's will. It is in the nature of His keeping the Father's will that is part of the perfection of His Priesthood and is one of the factors that allows us access to the heavenly sanctuary through the veil of His flesh:

Hebrews 10:
6In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure.

7Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

8Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;

9Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.

-----Added 1/16/2009 at 10:57:50 EST-----

Incidentally, it is because we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection that God not only reckons that we have not sinned but is pleased, also, to call His sons. We are not united to part of Christ but Him fully.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Is this statement true?
Many people believe justified means ‘just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.’ In other words, God says, ‘I count you righteous even though you’re really not.’ It is true that God makes that declaration, but there is also a reality of righteousness. We are not only declared righteous; we are made righteous.
Paul's usage of the word justify was drawn from the Old Testament concept. The equivalent in the Hebrew is the verb tsadeq, which primarily means "to cause someone to be righteous." God doesn't say, "I'm going to pretend you are righteous" - He makes us righteous. It is the opposite of condemnation. It is a transformation. If we believe that God is saying we are righteous when we are not, the conversion isn't a transformation. But justification makes us righteous. And I believe we are made right with God - that we receive an actual acquittal, an actual imputation of the righteous nature granted to us.
God actually credits righteousness to our account. He imputes righteousness to us; he infuses divine life into us. He regenerates and sanctifies us. He makes the unholy holy, and therefore declares that we are righteous.... There is a reality--God gives us righteousness, and thus he can declare that we are righteous
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think that bit there about the OT tsadeq primarily meaning "to cause someone to be righteous" is gratuitous, and requires some serious nuancing or qualification. The judge can cause a prisoner to be righteous in the courtroom, "in the eyes of the court." People try to push the existential over the declarative, but that is prejudicial.

To make someone righteous has an end in view, or a final state. But the declaration often precedes that actual state in the body of the person. And that requires a different sort of basis for such a declaration than the actual being of the person.

The WORD of God creates its own reality. But from our experiential standpoint, it isn't always felt instantly.

Yes, we are made righteous... eventually, in our person. Through union, now, with Christ, we are "definitively sanctified." But that's a product of our union. We are righteous now because we are IN Christ, and HE is righteous right now.

And I'm afraid there could be a mixing of categories in that quotation. JUSTIFICATION is not TRANSFORMATION. The "opposite of condemnation" is not TRANSFORMATION. We MUST distinguish between justification and sanctification.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Is this statement true?
Many people believe justified means ‘just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned.’ In other words, God says, ‘I count you righteous even though you’re really not.’ It is true that God makes that declaration, but there is also a reality of righteousness. We are not only declared righteous; we are made righteous.
Paul's usage of the word justify was drawn from the Old Testament concept. The equivalent in the Hebrew is the verb tsadeq, which primarily means "to cause someone to be righteous." God doesn't say, "I'm going to pretend you are righteous" - He makes us righteous. It is the opposite of condemnation. It is a transformation. If we believe that God is saying we are righteous when we are not, the conversion isn't a transformation. But justification makes us righteous. And I believe we are made right with God - that we receive an actual acquittal, an actual imputation of the righteous nature granted to us.
God actually credits righteousness to our account. He imputes righteousness to us; he infuses divine life into us. He regenerates and sanctifies us. He makes the unholy holy, and therefore declares that we are righteous.... There is a reality--God gives us righteousness, and thus he can declare that we are righteous

To follow up on what Bruce just noted, the Reformed doctrine of justification is that our justification is forensic and not analytical.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God justifies the Godly - those that are actually righteous. The Scriptures teach that God justifies the unGodly - we are reckoned righteous in Christ. We are clothed in Christ but it's an error to say that we are justified on the basis of our righteousness.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
Sometimes I think we forget the declarative power of God. He spoke - and there was light. He spoke - and Lazarus came forth. He spoke - and we ARE righteous in Christ, as Bruce has said, because of the union forged between us and Christ in the decree of God. Sanctification is the life-long process of becoming what we are - becoming conformed in life to the righteousness of Christ that we already possess in Him.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Is this quote accurate?
the nature and operation of justification are determined by the infusion of sanctifying grace. In other words without the aid of other factors, sanctifying grace in itself possesses the power to effect the destruction of sin and the interior sanctification of the soul to be justified. For since sin and grace are diametrically opposed to each other, the mere advent of grace is sufficient to drive sin away; and thus grace, in its positive operations, immediately brings about holiness, kinship of God, and a renovation of spirit, etc. From this it follows that in the present process of justification, the remission of sin, both original and mortal, is linked to the infusion of sanctifying grace as a conditio sine qua non, and therefore a remission of sin without a simultaneous interior sanctification is theologically impossible.
or this one?
Although the sinner is justified by the justice of Christ, inasmuch as the Redeemer has merited for him the grace of justification (causa meritoria), nevertheless he is formally justified and made holy by his own personal justice and holiness (causa formalis)." Although internal and proper to the one justified, this justice and holiness are still understood as a gift of grace through the Holy Spirit rather than something earned or acquired independently of God's salvific work.

How would your answer relate to imputed works? I'm not striving for argument's sake. I'm really wrestling with this. Most of what's been said here I fully understand and embrace. The challenge is in a small area centered around works, not the entire doctrine of imputation, justification or sanctification. It's like putting something together. You have all the pieces lined up, or at least think you do. It's all put together, but the last screw won't go in. The threads don't line up. Chances are you have the right screw in the wrong hole somewhere. But it sure takes a lot of work trying to figure out where that one screw went, or what screw goes into your hole, or if you should just take a die and make it fit. :)
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The first quote is not beneficial at all. It speaks of the "operation of justification" and "precess of justification." Those are not Reformational statements, in my opinion. "Mortal" sin? That sounds distinctly Roman.

The second quote is pure RC. The formal cause of his justification is his personal righteousness and holiness? No. Absolutely not.

It is certainly true that remission (forgiveness) of sin is going to be accompanied by "interior" holiness, but not "simultaneously" in our persons. We ARE definitively sanctified but this is a product of our union with Christ. We are progressively sanctified in life. And we are finally sanctified in glory when we leave this body behind.

But our Justification is God's declaration for us on account of Jesus Christ being for us everything we are not. And my "works" do not themselves "contribute" in any constructive way to my sanctification--they exhibit my sanctification, as Christ lives in me. But the works he already did himself, in his own human body--those were the things accepted as the things I "should have done" in order for my justification. If I am in Christ, I am a new creation right now.
 
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toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
not only do they sound RC ( I was going to ask if they were drawn from some papal statement on justification ) but they fail even the most elementary tests of reason if Scripture is our guide. "The process of justification" is a phrase that is completely improper if Scripture is to be what defines justification. It's a point act - a single declaration - a one-time event. There's no process. Second, "Since sin and grace are diametrically opposed, the mere presence of grace drives sin away completely"? Hello? Christ was the presence of grace on Earth in the most extreme sense, and yet sin abounded while he was here. If the complete absence of sin in us is the expected effect of the grace of justification, then none of us is saved, sorry to say. I could go on, but what you've quoted is truly fanciful hogwash, wrong on so many counts.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Thanks guys. You've rightly identified it as RCC dogma. The earlier quote was from MacArthur, years ago, a statement he has retracted since then because the position necessitates infused righteousness. Such a position logically flows into the quotes from RCC dogma that follow (maybe not hook, line and sinker, but overall). I was hoping that sharing these quotes would help illustrate this hangup of mine.

Now, in my mind at least, if I'm grasping this challenge correctly, I am having a hard time separating infused righteousness with imputed works. At least that's what I think is going on. I'm not having a hard time separating imputed righteousness, so I don't need that explained any further. But it does seem to me that imputed works necessitates infused righteousness. I'm not arguing for it. I'm just stuck with this thought process and I can't see the logic that argues otherwise. Bruce has graciously tried to help privately, as have a couple others. But there I sit, scratching my head. It's not for lack of brotherly effort.

Also, I'm not discouraged at all. I'm just left wondering if I'll be able to come to grips with this. And I refuse to simply accept it without understanding it in this case. Imputed righteousness, yes, because God clearly states so (though I think I understand it fairly well). Imputed works is language foreign to Scripture and difficult and requiring more effort. And I can't help but wonder why none of the confessions seem to deal with this directly. This tells me that, more than likely, I'm just not thinking rightly. Honestly though, I have been working on it so long, and my mind has become so fatigued on this, that I'm not sure I'm making much sense anymore anyway. It may simply be a conceptual hurdle lodged somewhere in my gray matter. But I just can't seem to get over it.

Thanks again for your efforts.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

If it helps then what you need to realize is that we are justified in Christ alone. We are hidden in Him and united to Him by the Holy Spirit, which enables all of those other benefits.

Where I think your hang up might bear a distant similarity to how RCC apologists have accused the Reformed of having God lie to Himself about whether or not we have actually accomplished righteousness. Yet, where their wheels fall off is that they have this sense of infused grace where Christ's merit is almost viewed as some substance, along with other Saint's excess merit, that we get to "borrow" in order to cooperate with it on the "journey" to salvation. Enough infused merit, enough to save. God justifies the truly righteous.

But the Biblical view is that we're justified and sanctified on the basis of personal and vital union with Christ. Faith is an instrument that God gifts us by which we lay hold of Christ but the substance of our salvation is the person of Christ. Even the means of Grace are those things by which the Holy Spirit communicates the person and work of Christ to us and sanctifies us toward the end that we are inevitably intended for if we have faith in Christ. Grace is not an impersonal substance then, in the Reformed view, that God either infuses or, as it were, "pastes" on top of us as if that's what imputation implies.

I think focusing on imputation as God imputing works in some sort of sense of "filling us up" with Christ's righteousness is sort of another version of the above. God knows precisely who we are but, in Christ, we are His because He's elected us toward that end. I think the real point of Christ's active obedience for us isn't so much that we stand with Christ's works in the abstract (as if they can be separated from His person) but that we are united with His person as His own. This is why I quoted the Hebrews passage because I believe His Priesthood is tied up in both His active and passive obedience and we are tied up in Him as our Mediator.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
I'm not sure, but it seems like the help I'm getting is focused elsewhere. Maybe it's just my inability to connect the dots.
Rich, infused righteousness is rejected by reformed theology. It is RCC dogma that claims that one becomes righteous - able to perform their own righteous works. It cannot be equated with imputation. That seems to be what the last sentence in your second paragraph stated, though you rightly referred to it in your first paragraph. Please forgive me if I misunderstood.
I'm not arguing for Roman dogma at all. I'm fighting against it. That's why I'm struggling with the idea that "works" were imputed. I really think that I'm not able to divorce imputed works from infused righteousness.
Pondering...
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

That's what I was trying to get you to see. Read my post again. I'm saying that I think you're conceiving of "works" in the abstract as some sort of "thing" or "substance" or "merit" that is given to another person. Thinking of this in the abstract is akin to the Roman Catholic idea of grace as an impersonal substance. I'm not saying you are erring precisely in that fashion but what I am suggesting is that you should not view "works" or "merit" in the abstract.

Christ's works cannot be distinguished from His person as if they are given to us apart from His person. Rather, as I note above, the key is to view the believer's status in Christ and His whole work. Faith unites to Christ whose Priesthood includes an imperishable life, obedience to the Father's will, propitiation for Sin, and intercession that makes our sanctification definitive.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
That's why I'm struggling with the idea that "works" were imputed. I really think that I'm not able to divorce imputed works from infused righteousness.
Pondering...

Joe,

What makes you think that Christ's works are imputed to us at all? His righteousness is what is imputed. His works of healing people, raising Lazarus, casting out demons, honoring his mother and father, etc, are not seen as my works by the Father. His works are what displayed that he was righteous, but they are not what is imputed to me. His rightness and perfection is. And, I am seen as righteous as he is because I am seen as one with him, and so his righteousness is said to be imputed unto me. For, apart from him I am unrighteous, but in him I am righteous.

It's like me adopting a child into my family. My works do not become those of the adopted child, but my name does. He is now under my banner, and is seen as one of my own. And so, he wears my status, not because he possessed it before I adopted him, and not that he even lives up to it, but he wears my status because it was given to him via his oneness with me through adoption. And so, we wear the righteousness of Christ by being connected and united with him by faith. We are reckoned as righteous, because we are connected to Christ that is truly so. This is the essence of imputation.

Is this what your fishing for, or am I off base?

Blessings and prayers!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Charles,
Christ's obedience (that would be his earthly life of constant conformity to the Father's will, i.e. the "works" of Christ) are not vital for HIM to earn a place in heaven. However, I have a blank sheet where I was supposed to DO a whole lifetime of "works" for God, which time I've spent on myself. He doesn't lose anything he "needed" by donating them to those who desperately need them.

Not just (or even especially) his "miracles" (although there's no real need to exclude them), but in fact his obeying his parents, his loving God and his neighbor--all that--yes, they were all given to me, and YOU, and Joe, for all the times I (we) failed to do them perfectly.

Jesus died for my sins, and he lived for me too. I NEED the "active" obedience of Jesus FOR me, not just his abstract righteous character or perfection, absent any function of it.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Calvin:
Section 1. Christ not only the minister, but also the author and prince of salvation. Divine grace not obscured by this mode of expression. The merit of Christ not opposed to the mercy of God, but depends upon it.

A question must here be considered by way of supplement. Some men too much given to subtilty, while they admit that we obtain salvation through Christ, will not hear of the name of merit, by which they imagine that the grace of God is obscured; and therefore insist that Christ was only the instrument or minister, not the author or leader, or prince of life, as he is designated by Peter, (Acts 3: 15). I admit that were Christ opposed simply, and by himself, to the justice of God, there could be no room for merit, because there cannot be found in man a worth which could make God a debtor; nay, as Augustine says most truly[1], "The Saviour, the man Christ Jesus, is himself the brightest illustration of predestination and grace: his character as such was not procured by any antecedent merit of works or faith in his human nature. Tell me, I pray, how that man, when assumed into unity of person by the Word, co-eternal with the Father, as the only begotten Son at God, could merit this." - "Let the very fountain of grace, therefore, appear in our head, whence, according to the measure of each, it is diffused through all his members. Every man, from the commencement of his faith, becomes a Christian, by the same grace by which that man from his formation became Christ." Again, in another passage, "There is not a more striking example of predestination than the mediator himself. He who made him (without any antecedent merit in his will) of the seed of David a righteous man never to be unrighteous, also converts those who are members of his head from unrighteous into righteous" and so forth. Therefore when we treat of the merit of Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us.
and
Section 3. Christ by his obedience truly merited divine grace for us.

That Christ, by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he appeased God by his obedience; in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust, salvation was obtained for us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting. Now, Paul's testimony is, that we were reconciled, and received reconciliation through his death, (Rom 5: 11). But there is no room for reconciliation unless where offence[4] has preceded. The meaning, therefore, is, that God, to whom we were hateful through sin, was appeased by the death of his Son, and made propitious to us. And the antithesis which immediately follows is carefully to be observed, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous," (Rom 5: 19). For the meaning is - As by the sin of Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the obedience of Christ we are restored to his favour as if we were righteous. The future tense of the verb does not exclude present righteousness, as is apparent from the context. For he had previously said, "the free gift is of many offences unto justification."
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Rich,

You might be on to something. I'll chew on that a bit.
That's why I'm struggling with the idea that "works" were imputed. I really think that I'm not able to divorce imputed works from infused righteousness.
Pondering...

Joe,

What makes you think that Christ's works are imputed to us at all? His righteousness is what is imputed. His works of healing people, raising Lazarus, casting out demons, honoring his mother and father, etc, are not seen as my works by the Father. His works are what displayed that he was righteous, but they are not what is imputed to me. His rightness and perfection is. And, I am seen as righteous as he is because I am seen as one with him, and so his righteousness is said to be imputed unto me. For, apart from him I am unrighteous, but in him I am righteous.

It's like me adopting a child into my family. My works do not become those of the adopted child, but my name does. He is now under my banner, and is seen as one of my own. And so, he wears my status, not because he possessed it before I adopted him, and not that he even lives up to it, but he wears my status because it was given to him via his oneness with me through adoption. And so, we wear the righteousness of Christ by being connected and united with him by faith. We are reckoned as righteous, because we are connected to Christ that is truly so. This is the essence of imputation.

Is this what your fishing for, or am I off base?

Blessings and prayers!
Charles,
This is exactly what I'm saying. The quote I shared in the OP says that Christ's works are imputed to us. This is something I cannot (or have not been able to) accept. Imputation I can. But not imputed works. But when I bring it up it seems that others do not have a problem with the language and agree that the works themselves are imputed. You seem to be saying the same thing I am.

The response I receive is basically what Bruce has stated; and stated well. But I fail to connect imputed righteousness with imputed works. Were obedient works necessary for righteousness? Yes. But in fulfilling all righteousness Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets, accomplishing in our stead what we could not. That is the vicarious nature of Christ's mission. But vicarious works do not necessitate imputed works either.

Thanks for Calvin Rich. He does approach this subject, both in his Institutes and his commentary on 2 Cor 5:21. And he seems to state that works are imputed. But he doesn't seem to be clear on his own understanding of what exactly that means. He ties it together philosophically, but I'm not sure he does so biblically. I read through and came away unconvinced. In fact, his last couple of sentences would seem to support my dilemma.

As by the sin of Adam we were alienated from God and doomed to destruction, so by the obedience of Christ we are restored to his favour as if we were righteous. The future tense of the verb does not exclude present righteousness, as is apparent from the context. For he had previously said, "the free gift is of many offences unto justification."
Note that he says "as if." However, if works themselves are imputed to us then doesn't that necessitate present righteousness? Let me propose it this way, "Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner. However, if His works are imputed then the sinner is now righteous and no longer needs the imputation of righteousness. He becomes righteous on the merits of the works imputed to him."

Two concerns:
  • We have a preconception of imputation and impose our understanding on the text, failing to grasp the implications today to the detriment of those who follow tomorrow. This could happen easily and be fought for right now in the interest of reformed doctrine's adherence over Scripture's. Obviously we want to avoid this.
  • I am holding on to a wrong premise that I cannot overcome at this time. If such is the case then my argumentation for it may solidify my position in regard to it, rendering change more difficult. But God is able. On the other hand, continued discussion may bring light and clarity. Again, God is able.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
Charles,
Christ's obedience (that would be his earthly life of constant conformity to the Father's will, i.e. the "works" of Christ) are not vital for HIM to earn a place in heaven. However, I have a blank sheet where I was supposed to DO a whole lifetime of "works" for God, which time I've spent on myself. He doesn't lose anything he "needed" by donating them to those who desperately need them.

Not just (or even especially) his "miracles" (although there's no real need to exclude them), but in fact his obeying his parents, his loving God and his neighbor--all that--yes, they were all given to me, and YOU, and Joe, for all the times I (we) failed to do them perfectly.

Jesus died for my sins, and he lived for me too. I NEED the "active" obedience of Jesus FOR me, not just his abstract righteous character or perfection, absent any function of it.

Thanks, Bruce! As always, I'm willing to submit and learn. Please continue to correct my thinking as you see fit. I'll try to study this topic some more. I know we use the expression that we need his active obedience for me, but, what are we really meaning when we say that? We say things like, "he obeyed in my stead", but what are we literally saying here? Do we personally need our own literal collection of obediences to list on our resume so that we can stand as fulfilling the law? Or, do his obediences display before the Father that he passed the test where Adam failed, and we stand in his victory? What makes us stand in his victory? Is it the idea of him imputing his literal works to us, so that we can be judged as victorious as well, or is it the idea of him attaching us to himself, so that his success in his obedience is seen as our own?

Nascar analogy: If he drove the 500 laps to win the victory, are we saying that those 500 laps in every literal facet of how he drove them and when he spun somebody out and how he pitted, get credited to my account literally, so that I can be judged a winner also, as if I drove the same exact race as he drove, or are we saying that we stand in the success that his race procured, and so we stand in the winner's circle with him as if we were winners also. In other words, am I now viewed as one who raised Lazarus from the dead? Does my resume say that I honored Joseph and Mary when I was a youth in the temple? Am I credited with the action of driving out the money-changers and so displaying my love for the Lord.? Do his literal works become credited as now being my own? Because, that's what I would tend to understand the imputation of works to mean. Or, is that a figure of speech, to where we don't literally mean that his literal works were imputed to be viewed as my very own, but rather that his works were imputed in the sense that they procured a judgment of success for him in obeying the commandments that is seen as my own, as if I had done the same works and earned the same judgment as well. Is it that I am viewed as having obeyed Joseph and Mary, and so now I fulfilled the 4th commandment, or that his obedience to Joseph and Mary fulfilled the 4th commandment, and so he imputes his success in fulfilling the commandment to me, so that I am now credited with it as if I were a fulfiller of the 4th commandment? Is he imputing the literal work, or the success of that work?

Does that make any sense? I guess I take things pretty literally and disect it to the bone sometimes. I'm willing to accept whatever is true, so, help me to see in what fasion I should view his works as being imputed unto me. Is it a literal statement, or an expression that means something else that is literal?

Thank you for attending to my post and my thoughts. It is greatly appreciated Bruce! Blessings!
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

I'm curious, what do you think Romans 5:19 is speaking of if not present? In other words, the balance of the chapter is to compare a people who belong to the federal guilt of Adam and those, in Christ, who belong to His righteousness. How do you understand the imputation of Adam's sin on the other hand if you reject the imputation of Christ's righteousness on the other?

-----Added 1/17/2009 at 10:45:28 EST-----

Wannabee said:
Note that he says "as if." However, if works themselves are imputed to us then doesn't that necessitate present righteousness? Let me propose it this way, "Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner. However, if His works are imputed then the sinner is now righteous and no longer needs the imputation of righteousness. He becomes righteous on the merits of the works imputed to him."
It does not necessitate present righteousness because the consistent presentation is that we are reckoned or declared righteous. We are righteous as we are in union with the Head and Fount of righteousness and not apart from it. It is by our laying hold of Christ and not merely works apart from Chirst that we are declared righteous. You keep wanting to make His works stand as some sort of treasury of merit and this is why I'm comparing it to the RCC. Imputation does not imply that there is an endless treasure full of merit that God gives to those that trust in Christ so that, in their own person, they now have grace inhering where God can look at the person, apart from Christ, and analytically say the person is righteous.

The obedient life is not detachable from His person and so we believe that we are united to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We die with Him in His resurrection and rise to newness of life. I think what you think is "missing" from Calvin is right there in the language that he uses about Christ being our Head. It is a mystery and I do not claim to understand it fully or give adequate language to what we do know from the Word but imputation cannot be understood apart from a vital union with His Person.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Still banging my head.

Bruce, you seem to be expressing my thoughts well. I hope that doesn't scare you too badly.

Rich, Roman's 5:19 is little help in alleviating the challenge. It's a future indicative. We will be made righteous. I perceive this as glorification, which fits well in the context (not necessitated, but a fully acceptable understanding). We will truly be made righteous when we are glorified. Our works will be righteous works because we will be made righteous. So, are you saying that our works are imputed in a "not yet" sense, to be realized in glory? I would find that much more understandable than the idea that current imputed righteousness equals current imputed works, for the reasons I've stated. But still find the concept foreign to Scripture.

You err in regard to me rejecting imputed sin. I have never rejected the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Look at my posts. I've avowed it over and over. I beg you, please be more careful with my statements, for that is clearly heresy, and a denial of our oneness with Christ. And I've interacted on the board long enough for such a lack of understanding to be evident. Honestly, I don't think that the interaction on this has grasped the nuance of the challenge I'm trying to work through.

I understand and fully embrace imputed sin and righteousness. It is the imputation of "works" that I wrestle with. Charles really seemed to grasp this challenge in his post, and may be facing it himself. But in embracing imputation, the sin (singular) of Adam is inherited, not the sins (plural). We sin because we're sinners rather than becoming sinners because we sin. On the other hand, we are imputed with Christ's righteousness (singular), not His righteousnesses (pl).

Perhaps this has a bearing on my thought process: I wrestle with the federal/seminal aspect of imputed sin. In fact, I tend to see it as both. This may be where part of my struggle lies. I'm not sure. I put it on the table for examination, not to propose something that this board does not embrace.

We are reckoned/declared righteous - agreed.
Our righteousness is from Christ - agreed.
We lay hold of Christ's righteousness - agreed.
We are declared righteous on the basis of Christ's righteousness - agreed.
We are united to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit - agreed.
We die to our slavery to sin and live by the power of the resurrection - agreed.

And I need to clarify your assertion: I don't see Christ's works as a treasure of merit. Whether I am not explaining myself well or you are misunderstanding, that is not my intention. You encouraged me to re-read your statement earlier. I would encourage the same consideration. I perceive that you've imposed a Romish perception on my understanding rather than seeing my concern that imputed "works" could lead to a Romish position. However, I do think you're statement earlier did show some insight that I'm still wrestling with.
That's what I was trying to get you to see. Read my post again. I'm saying that I think you're conceiving of "works" in the abstract as some sort of "thing" or "substance" or "merit" that is given to another person. Thinking of this in the abstract is akin to the Roman Catholic idea of grace as an impersonal substance. I'm not saying you are erring precisely in that fashion but what I am suggesting is that you should not view "works" or "merit" in the abstract.

My concern is that the idea of the imputation of the works of Christ is foreign to Scripture and could logically lead to error. I'm not saying that it does. I am saying that it can, if misunderstood (or abused). Ultimately, I want to know and understand the truth in regard to this. I may not grasp it. But that doesn't mean that I don't fully embrace imputation of sin and righteousness. It is the nuance of "works" that eludes me (again, the language is not used anywhere in Scripture, or in the confessions). I do not perceive the RCC nuance as you have stated it. I see it as a logical conclusion if one were to embrace the imputation of works. I don't think it's a necessary conclusion, but does seem logical. Perhaps this is partially why nobody makes the statement "Christ's works are imputed."

I don't think I have any problem with union with and in Christ. It may be part of the equation, but I fail to see how it relates to my struggle. In fact, from the interaction I'm getting, I can't help but wonder if Charles is the only one who has understood what, exactly, I am trying to understand. It is not soteriology. It is not justification. It is not regeneration. It is not imputation, itself. It IS the idea that the works of Christ (not His righteousness) are imputed to the elect.

How about this?
We are required (commanded) to cross a crevice. But we don't have the ability to bridge the gap. Jesus built a bridge. We are not credited with the work of building the bridge. But we do get all the benefits of the bridge being built. Only those who have a map can find the bridge. Only those who don the righteousness of Christ can use the bridge. They are accounted as righteous, giving them all the blessings of crossing. But not one of us is imputed the work of the construction.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

I'm sorry if I seem obtuse. This thread has taken a lot of turns to try to get to what you're really after. It seemed to me that you were denying the imputation of Christ's rigteousness when you wrote:
Note that he says "as if." However, if works themselves are imputed to us then doesn't that necessitate present righteousness? Let me propose it this way, "Christ's righteousness is imputed to the sinner. However, if His works are imputed then the sinner is now righteous and no longer needs the imputation of righteousness. He becomes righteous on the merits of the works imputed to him."
I think I finally discerned where we are different (and I apologize because, due to busy-ness, I've mainly been reading your responses and not others thoroughly).

You differentiate Christ's righteousness from His works (and so it seems does Charles after I read again). I do not. Oddly, in one place Charles notes Christ's obedience to all righteousness but these are somehow not works.

Perhaps it would help me understand how you differentiate Christ's righteousness from His work. My very first post in this thread noted that Hebrews ties up His Priesthood to His obedience and His very purpose was to do the Father's will. What is the difference between "works" and "doing the Father's will"?
 
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