THE BEAUTY OF IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS

Dr. Shawn Merithew

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  Salvation is not our doing, it is God’s doing.  I had the privilege to preach this marvelous truth as we considered the story of the Rich Young Ruler this past Sunday.  He came to Jesus seeking the key to personal goodness and eternal life.  What Jesus told him was that the goodness and life he sought belonged to God alone, and if he wanted that goodness and life, he had to turn from his sinful idolatry of wealth and follow Him.

The same is true for all of us.  None of us has the capacity to be good according to God’s standard.  He requires perfection:  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)  Due to our sinfulness, we are constantly falling short of that standard of perfection: “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” (Rom 3:10-12)  Therefore, if we are ever going to meet God’s standard of perfection, we must be declared perfect according to the righteousness of another.  We require a perfect substitute who will impute to us His righteous standing.

And that is exactly who Christ is: our righteous substitute.  He perfectly kept the law on behalf of all who believe, and He died as the perfect sacrifice for the same.  We repent and believe, God declares us to be righteous on the basis of what Christ has done.  His righteousness is counted to us, and His life is given to us.  Consider these wonderful texts:

“He made Him who knew no sin {to be} sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21)

“With respect to the promise of God, he {Abraham} did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.  Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 4:20-5:1)

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Phil 3:8-9)

These are beautiful truths, brothers and sisters.  We who are intrinsically sinful now stand justified before our holy God because Christ’s perfect righteousness has been imputed to us.  Unfortunately, there are many (like the Rich Young Ruler) who reject God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life.  We all would if God had not changed our hearts.  Even worse, there are some today who claim to be Christians and Theologians and Pastors who reject this truth of imputation.  One particular heresy is called the New Perspective on Paul.

Briefly, these theologians deny what was recovered in the Protestant Reformation.  Scripture teaches that God graciously empowers the individual to the faith which results in salvation and subsequently to the fruit of good works.  Those of the New Perspective contend that God graciously empowers individuals to the faith and good works which lead to salvation.  In other words, they make works part of what accomplishes salvation rather than works being a fruit of salvation.  The New Perspective denies the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and teaches instead a future justification upon the basis of the believer’s whole life lived (Faith + Works = Final Salvation).

Sadly, this perspective has been espoused by some in evangelical circles, and among them, the doctrine of justification has been fundamentally maligned.  The truth of Scripture, and more specifically, the truth of imputation, is central to the Scriptural teaching of justification by faith alone through the grace of Christ alone, “not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”  May we glory in Christ alone who has reconciled us to God through His blood sacrifice.  May we boast in His works and His righteousness, which have been made ours in accordance with our faith.

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