Understanding Justification: The Necessity of Double Imputation

The Illustration

Double Imputation

His mom had laid out the situation. The room was to be clean by 4:00 p.m. If he completed the job on time, his mom would buy him movie tickets so he could go out with his friends. If he did not finish on time, he would be grounded for a week. At 4:00 p.m. he had not even started to clean the room, and he was grounded. What was astonishing was what he did when he finished serving his time. He walked up to his mother and said, “my punishment has been paid, now give me my movie tickets.” The request was absurd. Even though the penalty had been paid, he never fulfilled what was required to receive the reward.

The Explanation

We have all come into this world under certain requirements. We are called to live a righteous life. If we accomplish it, there is blessing, and if not, there is cursing. The problem is that Adam was unsuccessful, along with everyone who came after him. You and I have failed to inherit eternal life and have merited nothing but wrath. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

No one had been successful until Jesus took on flesh and walked among us. He came, lived a perfect life and fulfilled the law. Then he went and died for our sins. He took our sins upon himself on the cross, becoming a curse for us. He bore the wrath that we deserved, but bearing our sins is not all he did. If it were, we would be like the young man asking for the reward after our punishment had been paid but having no claim to it. This shortcoming is why it is so important to understand that our justification involves two imputations: for those who have faith, our sins are imputed to Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us.

Righteousness is more than guiltlessness. As our representative, Jesus not only bore our punishment and forgives us of our sins, but he also earned the reward by fulfilling what needed to be done. His righteousness is counted as ours. Because of this, we are not simply sinners who can no longer be punished. Instead, we are counted as those who had fulfilled the law, and we become co-heirs with Christ. Even now there is an inheritance being kept for us: one that can never perish, spoil, or fade.

When we stand before the Lord one day, we will have no merit of our own. We will stand and say, “it is because of what the Lord Jesus did in my place that I am declared righteous.” It is true that we will grow in righteousness as believers here and now, but the righteousness we attain in this life will never be the basis upon which we have a right standing before the Lord. Like Abraham, it is through faith that we are declared righteous, and it will always be Christ’s righteousness.

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.-Romans 5:19

D. Eaton

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