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On the Doctrine of Imputation by Persis

 13.4.11

A person who throughout this past year and a half has been a blessing in my life, an encouragement, an example of faith and perseverance is my friend Persis. I am grateful for women like her who hold fast to the Word of God no matter what. She has been tried by fire and the Lord has proved faithful to her, and has uphold her with the might of His right hand.



It's one of those Sunday mornings. The kids are doing their utmost to move in slow motion. You put a hole through your only decent pair of pantyhose while getting dressed because your husband made an innocent remark about the few gray hairs you've been trying to hide by changing your part. During breakfast, the puppy pees on the kitchen floor. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the family is in the car rushing to church. There's just enough time to switch on the radio and catch the last verse of a praise chorus to get everyone in the mood. Pull in the parking lot, slap on your all-is-well church face, and plop down in the pew. During the opening prayer, conviction floods your soul. You repent before God of your temper and impatience, making a mental note to apologize to the family when the service ends, but something still isn't right. You're wondering whether you can enter God's presence. These weren't even “big” sins, but petty, selfish ones, which makes it even worse. You're feeling like crud, so the last thing you want to do is sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”. It would be easier to crawl under the pew and hide.

The scenarios may be different, but we've all probably had this sinking feeling, wondering whether we dare approach a Holy God. Whether a “big” or “little” sin (as if there is such a thing as a little sin), this is why we need to understand the doctrine of the imputation.

Like it or not, Romans 3:23 is true for every man, woman, and child. We have fallen short of the glory of God in two respects. We are guilty of breaking the law, which is a capital offense. (Gen. 2:16-17) God cannot sweep our sin under the rug and maintain His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. (Ps. 5:4-6, Heb. 10:26-31) We are also guilty of not keeping the law. (Deut. 5:29-33) God our Creator rightfully demands perfect obedience, but our best efforts are filthy rags. (Is. 64:6) Therefore, these two mammoth obstacles must be dealt with in order for us to be right before God. This is where imputation steps in. Derived from the Greek word logizomai, it means “to charge” or “to reckon” and is the means whereby God can be just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:23-26)

In regard to sin, God takes the sin-debt we owed Him and charged it to the Christ's account. He died the death and bore the wrath of God we deserved. Hallelujah! (Rom. 5:6-11) But is that the only thing Christ accomplished? If so, Jesus didn't need to be born of a woman and live for 33 years. He could have appeared as an adult and gone immediately to the Cross. In doing so, the negative penalty for our sins would have been satisfied, but the problem of our unrighteousness remains. Then is our salvation partial where our sin debt is paid, but we are trying to meet God's righteous standard on our own? No! Praise God the righteousness we lacked and so desperately need has been imputed to us as well. Just as our sin was credited to our Savior, His righteousness has been credited to our account. From His birth to His death, He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:14-16) All God required of man from Genesis 2 and onward was perfectly fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are declared righteous based on His merits alone. ( Rom. 5:12-21)

Imputation gives us hope when the Accuser of the brethren would dredge up the sins of our past. It gives us hope when we are tempted to atone for our own sins by self-invented penance. We can point to Christ's death on the cross and say “My sin - not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul!”

Imputation cuts legalism off at the knees. I have an inner-legalist who loves to heap burdens on my back, tempting me to earn or at least help pay a little for my salvation by my own works. Imputation silences her voice, because I have already been saved by works, but they're not my own. I am saved by the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Fully complete, nothing can be added and nothing taken away.

Imputation gives us hope when we doubt our acceptance before God. We are still in the process of sanctification, so we will sin in this life. But our standing before God is not subject to change because Christ's righteousness will never waver. God has accepted us once and for all, not on a trial basis.

Some may speculate that this doctrine may lead to complacency and grace abuse, but I disagree. If the Holy Spirit enables us to see our utter hopelessness and what God has done through imputation, we will fall on our faces before the Him in worship and embrace His Lordship.

Jesus Christ bore our sins. Jesus Christ is our righteousness. Be encouraged and rejoice!

“And you who have passed from a state of trembling hope into that of lively faith, I beseech you call Him so. Let your faith say, as you see Him suffering, bleeding, dying, “Thus my sins were washed away.” But let not your faith stop there. As you see Him sweating, toiling, living a self-denying laborious life, say, “Thus the Law was kept for me.” Come up to the foot of Sinai now and if you see its lightnings flash and hear its thunders roar, be brave and say like Moses, “I will ascend above those thunders, I will stand enwrapped within the storm-cloud and I will talk with God. I have no cause for fear, there are no thunderbolts for me. For me no lightning flash can spend its arrow, I am perfectly, completely justified in the sight of God, through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”

“Say that, child of God! Does yesterday’s sin make you stammer? In the teeth of all your sins believe that He is your righteousness still. Your good works do not improve His righteousness. Your bad works do not sully it. This is a robe which your best deeds cannot mend and your worst deeds cannot mar. You stand in Him, not in yourself. Whatever, then, your doubts and fears may have been, do now, poor troubled, distressed, distracted Believer, say again, “Yes, He is THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

from Sermon No. 395, The Lord Our Righteousness by C.H. Spurgeon delivered June 2, 1861.


Persis



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If I am happy it is because of God! God, in His sovereign grace, has called me out of darkness into His Admirable light. He has opened my eyes and has shown me the way to Eternal Life. He has set my feet on a journey, and now I am walking Daily on My Way to Heaven. I did not find Jesus, He found me. I did not seek Him, yet He called me. I did not love Him, yet He loved me. I deserved death and He gave me Life. This is the place where I keep a journal of my life under His sun and by His grace!
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"It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven... to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?"

Jonathan Edwards

"I am still pondering God's greatness in His creation. I have so many questions that I would like to ask the Lord about the universe, creation, the fall of man... But when I'm in heaven, I wonder if I will even remember them. At that time, being in the presence of God will be enough. I'm thankful that I can look forward to that day."

-Persis

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- Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart



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