Input on imputation

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Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Let me try to answer your question with a question.

I would propose that "works" and "doing the Father's will" are synonymous. Isn't doing the Father's will synonymous with fulfilling all righteousness? Isn't fulfilling all righteousness synonymous with fulfilling the law and prophets? If Christ came to do the Father's will then is that work one and the same as righteousness? If Christ's works fulfill all righteousness then how can they be one and the same? The same is with obedience. Obedience is an expression or good and necessary outpouring of righteousness. Obedience fulfills righteousness. There is an experiential nature to it. But they cannot be one and the same. I perceive that this is why God does not say that "works" are imputed, but rather that righteousness is. In other words, if I'm even understanding my own thoughts correctly, I perceive imputation as encompassing what Christ has accomplished through His vicarious work on our behalf, but not encompassing what He actually did. Does that make better sense?
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Well, I suppose. Again, I think I hear you saying that you have a problem with imputation of works because you suppose that, by saying that, people are speaking of the precise works that Christ did. In other words, He was a carpenter and in His sinless work as a carpenter, we specifically fulfill the Law because His carpentry work is imputed to us.

That's not the view of the imputation of Christ's works that the Reformed have in mind when they speak of Christ's works. The point of it is that, in every way, Christ was obedient to the Father, not merely in what He suffered but in the way He fulfilled all righteousness. He came to do the Father's will, He fulfilled the Law in its letter and intent - those are the works.

You cannot separate His righteousness in the abstract from His work (perhaps you're not trying to) and so what I'm thinking is that you might not have as big of a problem with the idea that Christ's works are imputed but mainly with a perception in you mind that, when that is spoken of, His "specific works" are imputed.

In other words, Christ's works are not imputed as if God looks at us and sees us walking in Palestine, going to the Temple when we were 12, etc.

I'm not trying to be patronizing but I'm trying to repeat what I think you're saying to get more clarity.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
Well, I pulled Owen from my bookshelf, (as I have a few of his works), Volume 5, and he deals with imputation extensively in Chapters 7-12, from pp. 162-251. I'm reading through it here and there throughout the day. If you have it available to you Joe, it would be worth your time to take a look at it. A couple of quotes are below from pp. 168-169.

"The imputation of that which is not our own antecedently unto that imputation, at least not in the same manner as it is afterward, is various also, as unto the grounds and causes that it proceeds upon. Only it must be observed, that no imputation of this kind is to account them unto whom any thing is imputed to have done the things themselves which are imputed unto them. That were not to impute, but to err in judgment, and, indeed, utterly to overthrow the whole nature of gracious imputation. But, it is to make that to be ours by imputation which was not ours before, unto all ends and purposes whereunto it would have served if it had been our own without any such imputation.

It is therefore a manifest mistake of their own which some make the ground of a charge on the doctrine of imputation. For they say, "If our sins were imputed unto Christ, then must he be esteemed to have done what we have done amiss, and so be the greatest sinner that ever was;" and on the other side, "If his righteousness be imputed unto us, then are we esteemed to have done what he did, and so to stand in no need of the pardon of sin." But this is contrary unto the nature of imputation, which proceeds on no such judgment; but, on the contrary, that we ourselves have done nothing of what is imputed unto us, nor Christ any thing of what was imputed unto him."

And, from p. 173, "It is not the transmission or transfusion of the righteousness of another into them that are to be justified, that they should become perfectly and inherently righteous thereby; for it is impossible that the righteousness of one should be transfused into another, to become his subjectively and inherently: but it is a great mistake, on the other hand, to say that therefore the righteousness of one can no way be made the righteousness of another; which is to deny all imputation...wherefore, this imputation is an act of God, of his mere love and grace; whereby, on the consideration of the mediation of Christ, he makes an effectual grant and donation of a true, real, perfect righteousness, even that of Christ himself, unto all that do believe; and accounting it as theirs, on his own gracious act, both absolves tehm from sin and granteth them right and title unto eternal life."

As any other quotes stand out that I think might fit what you're looking for, I'll try to share them.

Blessings!
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I've heard some say that Owen thought in Latin when he was writing in English. I have to really concentrate on the first paragraph but he basically noted what I just said, if I read him properly. That is to say, imputation doesn't mean that we precisely are said to have done what Christ did. I think that follows from Romans 5 because we are judged in Adam even though we did not sin in the likeness of Adam.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Thanks Charles. I WISH I had Owen. Maybe some day. Great quote! But it doesn't actually change anything. He refers to imputed righteousness - not works. I can accept what he states.
Also, Rich, you said that the reformers refer to the imputation of works. I would love to see where you've read that (those words, specifically). I see imputed righteousness, even imputed obedience, but not imputed works. As you seem to have grasped what I'm wrestling with to some degree (thank you, by the way), can you see how the wording, "Christ's works of righteousness are imputed to the believer," could be problematic? If you struggle with what I just asked, please try to read it in light of my last post.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I offer this post to adduce one possible text that could be read as a description of the imputation of Christ's "righteousnesses" (plural), although leaving it at that would actually be an impoverishment of the text. It is so much richer. And stupidly obscured by poor modern translations.


Gill (although I seldom rely on him; he's just not my cup of tea) has an pretty good treatment of Rev.19:8. He leaves only one thing out, which is: that "righteousnesses" could possibly refer to the plenitude of Christ's obedience/works, besides the "plurality of excellence" to which he partly/finally alludes.

In preaching it, I was previously best inclined to the nuance Gill describes: "...partly because of the many persons that are justified by it;..." but almost every one of his suggestions has merit.

That which is "granted" in the verse is accurately everything that follows from the ἵνα to the punctuation break, but IN PARTICULAR the DIRECT OBJECT of the sentence--the linen. Sometimes this fact is almost totally obscured in the various translations, which is deplorable.

Rev.19:8 is a text for which there seems to be precious little consensus these days on how best to render it in translation. And therefore it is frequently overlooked in these discussions of justification. Modern renditions of the text have slanted opinion away from the older view.

The Old KJV had it just about right, although I think even there it bears improvement. Other translations get it only partly right, and some are downright horrible, especially as the modern tendency has been to translate "righteousnesses" (it is a plural, but see Gill) as "righteous deeds of the saints."

I found in Kistemaker's (Baker/Wm.Hend.) Revelation the translation that most closely accords with my own independent translation that I did in preparation for preaching.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

I'm not arguing for a word but a concept. If you agree with the idea that Christ's obedience to righteousness is what is imputed to us then I don't really care what a person calls it. It's not the words that are always important but how one uses the words in sentences and paragraphs. The normal terminology is that Christ's active obedience is imputed along with His passive obedience. If you don't like the term "works" in connection with obedience then...OK.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
That's interesting Bruce. I've not worked through that passage and was unaware of the imposition. It's interesting that the NKJV ads "acts" (rather than deeds), but fails to put it in italics. Obviously they are very convinced that there is no alternative. But, as you noted, it's hardly conclusive in regard to imputed righteousnesses.

Thanks Rich. I'm not arguing for a word either. I'm pursuing purity in my understanding of imputation and the way it is expressed. God is precise, and I desire to precisely understand Him. Obviously I will not ever fully comprehend this. But we must keep in mind that words have meaning, and lead to certain understandings.

As you have stated, in the end, as we have discussed it, it probably doesn't matter, or matters little. It has been a great exercise of my mind, and quite exhausting in many ways. I think I see more clearly the inseparability of Christ's righteousness and His works. I think it is shy of accurate to say "imputed works," but understand the premise behind it. In imputed righteousness there is little to no room for error. In imputed works there is much room for erroneous ideas to develop. Perhaps this is why the terminology has been historically avoided. But I haven't lost sleep over it. Pondering Christ is a rich experience that I hope to never weary of.

Thank you for the interaction gentlemen. It has been thoroughly enjoyable and, as far as I'm concerned, edifying.


Blessings,
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Joe,

It has been good for me to attempt to articulate (and even research a bit) what it is this imputation entails. There is much mystery about the Incarnation that I'm just scratching the surface of.

There may be pedagogical reasons to emphasize that Christ achieved righteousness and calling it "work" is something that Christ Himself does even as I was hearing in the Preaching of John 4 today. There may be other reasons, however, to avoide a misunderstanding that imputation of "works" implies a precise "one for one".

It is an obedient life that we're united to and that obedience in the flesh makes a difference. There are those that might merely assume an imputation of righteousness can be abstractly separated from His obedient life (works) and so I think the retention of the term guards against a particular error while perhaps creating another if it is not explained.
 
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