December 4, 2007

Imputed Righteousness: Whose Righteousness Anyway? Part 1 of 5

I thought over the next couple of days I would like to share a transcript of a sermonette that was given by Pastor Dean Harvey in Rockford, IL. A while back he presented a sermon series on his radio talk show entitled "Whose Righteousness Anyway?". This addresses the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness that is preached in many a churches these days. I think Dean Harvey does a great job of presenting this message in true biblical context. It is my hope this will help folks to see what God considers real righteousness to be and how He defines it.

By Pastor Dean Harvey - A Transcript from his daily radio show "A Voice in the Wilderness"

A young businessman friend, Lars Berntson, preached in our church recently, and had a series entitled Whose Righteousness Anyway?, which, with his permission, I am going to share over the next few weeks. A true Christian has the mind of Christ about sin. That is, with the Holy Spirit's illumination, he sees sin the same way as Christ sees it. Sin is the root of the problem Christ came to solve. His illumination helps us to see how ugly sin really is. But there is a sneaky little doctrine that often causes Christians to be less vigilant about sin-the doctrine of imputed righteousness. This doctrine usually holds that God imputes (accounts, or lays to our account) Christ's righteousness to us. The result is that, no matter the kind of life we are living, no matter what sins are present in our lives, God looks at us and only sees the righteousness of Christ. In other words, this doctrine often says that God does not see us as we are, but as Christ is.

Those who hold to this doctrine are quick to point out that "our righteousness is as filthy rags." This phrase is from Isa. 64:6, and is usually applied without distinction to all men, both Christians and non-Christians. If you read this verse in its context, you will find that it is talking about those who sinned, and continued in them a long time, and it is contrasted with those mentioned in the previous verse, "Thou (God) dost meet him who rejoices in doing righteousness..." So the phrase applies to those who are living in sin, it does not apply to those "who rejoice in doing righteousness," it did not apply to righteous Jews, and it does not apply to Christians who are living up to the light they have today. But many people quote the part of a verse, "all our righteousness are as filthy rags," and apply it broadly.

Is Christ's righteousness credited to our account, no matter how we are living? Can Christ be righteous for us? Can His righteousness be transferred to us? Have you ever heard that God sees saved people through the Righteous One-Jesus Christ? That He doesn't see our sinfulness, He sees Jesus' righteousness. Does God really see us through "Jesus-colored glasses?" Are we to be righteous, or can Jesus be righteous for us? Is Christ's righteousness imputed to us in this way?."

There are two important questions which need to be asked regarding the doctrine of imputed righteousness. 1. Does God want us to be personally righteous? And 2. Can Christ be righteous for us? But in order to answer those questions, we need to look at the word "impute." Impute is a King James word, which means to charge with, to reckon, or to account to. Impute is a bookkeeping term, which has the concept of a ledger entry. The doctrine of imputed righteousness would be seen as God making a ledger entry into our lives. We are actually sinful, but God imputes, or makes a ledger entry, into our lives, of Christ's righteousness. So the Christian who has been taught this doctrine will feel secure in his Christian experience, regardless of his own personal righteousness, because he believes that God sees him through Christ's righteousness. The word is used in 2 Cor 5:19 (KJV), "...God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them..." Since the word "impute" means to charge with, to reckon, or to account to, this verse teaches that those who have been reconciled to God will not be charged with sin. In the Bible, God imputes both sin and righteousness. In checking eight references for the word "impute," four of them like 2 Cor. 5:19, refer to God imputing sin. What does this mean? It means that God would charge those with sin who are sinners because they are guilty of sin, or, that God, in forgiving repentant sinners, would not charge them with sin, but rather count them righteous because they are no longer guilty, they have been forgiven. Hallelujah!

In Psalm 32:2, David says, "How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 4:8. The definition of the word "impute" we often hear today is that God applies His righteousness to the account of the believer, even though they are not really righteous. This definition seems plausible, but if God will impute righteousness to the account of the believer, then how does He impute sin? Righteousness was imputed to Abraham, the father of the faithful. We learn about him in Romans 4 and James 2. Both passages should be read to shed light on the meaning of the word "impute." The reason God imputed (counted) Abraham righteous was because, having believed God for forgiveness and having begun a life of faith, he was righteous. In the same way, we too, when we recognize our need for forgiveness, forsake our sinful ways and sinful mindset, turn to the Savior for forgiveness on the basis of His shed blood on our behalf, and are justified; at that point God imputes righteousness to us. Who can be more righteous than the one who has just been forgiven of all his sins? God imputes righteousness to us because we have become righteous through our salvation experience. That is what Paul meant in 1 Cor. 1:30, "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." After He has canceled the decree against us, removed our sins.

Tomorrow Part 2........


Anonymous said...

Many thoughts on this old post. You said that Abraham was made righteous by his own righteousness, can you support this claim in scripture?

There are verses that clearly state the exact opposite.

James 2:23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Rom 4:20-22 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Both of these verses say that Abrahams's righteousness was imputed to him based on his faith, not his own righteousness.

Further more, the verses contintue to say that we are made righteous the same way.
Romans 4:23-25 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.

Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

This verse says that WE are made righteous by faith and not only that but we are only JUSTIFIED by his resurrection. If Christ did not raise from the dead, you are still in your sins no matter how righteous you think you are.

1Co 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Your only arguement for discrediting imputed righteousness is that people use this as an excuse for sin. Well, people who have not been transformed will find lots of excuses to dismiss their sin but that does not make imputed righteousness any less biblical. Why are contradicting the bible?

Preston said...

Anonymous - Did you even read the other 4 parts of this series?? It would appear that you have a different view of what exactly is evangelical or saving faith than I do. Faith is defined as not only belief, but having a belief in something that one is willing to change their will or heart for and thus take action as a result of that change. I would use the same verses you have stated here to support my position. Abraham is "credited" as being righteous because of the faith (the condition of his will or heart) he had in God. Abraham was righteous because he WAS righteous.

It would appear that you have a view of faith as something that is completely given to us by God and man plays no part in obtaining or possessing it. But faith is defined by the bible as not the sole responsibility of God nor the sole responsibility of man - but is a co-working of God's knowledge and Spirit and mans intelligent response.

I agree that Abraham's righteousness (credited) was imputed to him as a result of his faith - but saving faith is not something that is invisible, but is clearly visible through our actions that are motivated out of faith (heart or will). Abraham was righteous and God credited that to him because of his righteous actions (not that the actions in of themselves were righteous, but that he did so as a result of his heart for God). For example Genesis 22 shows that the actions of Abraham was a result of Abraham's love for God. How did God respond to Abraham? The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time,

"I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." (Genesis 22: 15-18)

If what Abraham did on the Mount was solely a result of God magically giving him "faith" then Abraham and the rest of mankind are neither guilty or innocent as they have no choice in being guilty or innocent.

Paul clearly tells us that we will all be judged on judgment day as a result of what we do here on earth:

2 Cor 5:6-10 "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."

As you can see, faith is action motivated by love for God.

Beside Anonymous - if Faith is solely from God then why doesn't God give everyone faith as clearly this would be a more loving thing to do? I would recommend you read the scriptures without your theological filter and allow the scriptures to speak clearly for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I never said that faith was given to us solely from God. You assumed that. I believe as you do, Faith alone is dead. We are saved by a faith that demonstrates works. But, it is not our works OR our righteousness that saves us, it is our faith alone. You know Titus 3:5, not by works of righteousness but according to His mercy... The Christian life does not end with salvation, that is only the beginning. If the spirit of God has truly come to live within, there will be a life change; that person will desire to turn from sin. But, is it ever enough that you can actually trust in your own righteousness to save you? Let’s say you are suspended over a cliff by a chain of 10 links which represents your righteousness, how many links need to break before you go plunging to the ground? By your own deeds, your chain has already broken. How many times did Adam sin before he was separated from God? Just once. Based upon your own righteousness, you will not stand innocent in the sight of God by His own words. Rom 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. We will all stand before God for the judgment, and both you and I by our own deeds will stand before God as a law breaker. See Gal 3:22 and Romans 3:9 You can’t disagree, if you say you’re not a sinner, you’re liar, now you're a sinner. 1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. It is hopeless to attempt to be justified by your own righteousness. Was Abraham’s righteousness enough to get him to heaven? NO! He still had to wait for Christ. Was his faith enough to get him to heaven? Yes. So, how was Abraham justified? Was his own righteousness enough? You can turn from sin from here on out and it won’t save you, your chain has already broken. Then Christ steps in, and He is ready to catch you and you’re going to say, “No thank you, my righteousness is enough.” Well, then by your own choice, you’re going to fall and hit the ground.

Preston N said...


It alsomost sounds as if your defending sin here. As if your making an excuse for sinning. First, by all means please show me where we are saved by "faith alone"? There is no mention in the bible of this expression. Where in the bible does it state we are saved by "faith alone" - this is a Calvinistic expression and is not biblical. Yes, faith plays a tremendous part in our salvation, but we are judged not by our actions or deeds (works), but God judges the heart. Faith is a condition of the heart and is a state of loving God suprememly in your life. If your sinning then you do not love God - but rather you love yourself. Anonymous you can not have your cake and eat it too here. The scripture makes it clear that no man can serve two masters nor can man be both light and dark at the same time.

To best explain my position here let me put forth the following*:

When a person is imputed righteous God considers them righteous and governmentally treats them as righteous. It is not that the righteousness of Christ is transferred to them. To say that we need the perfect obedience that Christ rendered to the law to be transferred to our account in order to be justified is to say that we are in fact justified by the works of the law. Christ needed to perfectly obey the law in order to be a spotless sacrifice and qualify as a sin offering (Exo. 12:5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Php. 2:8), but justification is by Christ’s blood (Rom. 5:9) and by faith (Rom. 3:28; 5:1; Gal 3:24), but not at all by the works of the law (Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20; 3:28; Gal. 2:16; 3:11; Gal. 5:4). Christ was under obligation to obey the law of love for Himself (Matt. 5:17; Gal. 4:4), just as God is under obligation to His own conscience (Gen. 3:22; 18:25; Job 34:10, 12), so Christ’s obedience to the law cannot be a work of supererogation, there can be no “extra” obedience to be transferred to another. So if Christ was under obligation to the law, His obedience to the law cannot be transferred to another. And if Christ was not under obligation to the law, there would be no obedience to be transferred.

It was not His obedience to the law, but His suffering on the cross, which is credited to us. He suffered and died for us and His suffering was a work of supererogation since He was not obligated to do it. That is the means of justification. Some have supposed that when God looks upon a Christian who is sinning that God doesn’t see the Christian sinning but “see’s the righteousness of Christ” instead. But God clearly saw the good and bad works of the actual Christians in Revelations (Rev 2:2, 2:9;2:13; 2:19; 3:1; 3:8; 3:15), not “the righteousness of Christ”. Imputed righteousness is not some scheme that fools God or blinds Him so that He no longer knows reality as it is, or no longer see’s individuals as they are. That would mean God is no longer omniscient.

Whenever anyone is in sin, our omniscient God sees it clearly and perfectly (Prov. 15:3; Eze. 8:12; 9:9; Mal. 2:17).Imputed righteousness is a gift of God (Rom. 5:17), it comes from God (Isa. 54:17; 2 Cor. 5:21) by His grace and mercy, not earned or deserved by anything that we have done. It is “the righteousness of God” as opposed to the righteousness of man, since it
comes from God and not from man. It is a gift from God, through Christ, to man. Christ is our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 1 Cor. 1:30) because it is only through Him, what He did for us on the cross, that God is able to treat us as if we were righteous, treating us as if we were never unrighteous. Imputed righteousness is not the transfer of Christ’s
righteousness, neither is it a scheme that blinds God the Father so that He does not see our true condition, but it is rather the same thing as forgiveness and justification, it is when God set’s aside the punishment that we deserve for our unrighteousness and treats us as if we had always been righteous, when God reckons or considers us as righteous,
because Christ shed His blood for our sins. Forgiveness, justification, and imputed
righteousness are expressions of the same event, when God forgives our sins and remits our penalty, letting our iniquities go as if they had not been committed(forgiveness), thus treating us as if we were just (justification), treating us as if we were righteous (imputed
righteousness), because of the blood of Jesus.

But let it be clear that forgiveness, justification, or imputed righteousness is conditional upon an attitude of heart repentance (Isa. 55:17; Eze. 18:32; Mk. 1:4; Lk. 13:3; 13:5,24:47) and faith from the heart (Jn. 3:18; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9; Eph. 2:8-9). And final salvation is ultimately conditional upon perseverance unto the end (Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mk. 13:13; Acts 13:43; Acts 14:22; Heb. 3:6; 3:14; 2 Pet. 2:20). Repentance is when a person changes their mind about sinning and makes up their mind to sin no more (Isa. 1:16; 55:7; Jn. 5:14; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:34; Eph. 4:22-28), and faith is the hearts embrace and obedience to the truth (Lk. 24:25; Acts 8:37; 15:9; 26:18; Rom. 10:10; 1 Pet. 1:22). The notion of being righteous in our position but unrighteous in our practice is absolutely contrary to scripture (1 Jn. 3:7; 3:10), and it over looks the conditions of forgiveness and the nature of saving faith. Such a concept is false doctrine and d**nable heresy (2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1:4-5). Jesus is the author of salvation to all them that obey Him (Heb. 5:9), the
Gospel must be obeyed (Rom. 2:8; 6:17; 10:16; Gal. 3:1; 5:7; 2 Thes. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17).

Christians are those who keep God’s commandments (1 Jn. 2:3; 3:22; 5:2-3). Only those who keep God’s commandments will enter through the gates into the Heaven (Matt. 7:21; 19:17; 25:21, 23, 46; Lk. 10:28; Heb. 12:14; Rev. 22:14), while all sinners will be left outside the Holy City (Matt. 7:23; Lk. 13:27; Rev. 22:15). God will kill and destroy all sinners and rebels (Amos 9:10; 2 Cor. 10:6; 2 Thes. 1:8; Heb. 10:27; 1 Pet. 4:8; 4:17).

Remember, the wrath of God is impartial (Ex. 32:33; Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:9; 2 Cor. 10:6; Col. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:17; 1 Jn. 3:15; Rev. 21:8; 22:15), so anyone who consciously or knowingly sins or rebels is under condemnation (Jn. 3:19; Rom. 1:18, 2:6-11; Heb. 10:26-31; 1 Jn. 3:8, 3:15, 3:20; 2 Jn. 1:9). God is utterly against all those who sin every day (Isa. 52:5; Hos 13:2; 2 Pet. 2:14). God must condemn all those who do not stop sinning since God is absolutely benevolent and therefore always enforces His laws which protect the well-being of all. And remember, Christians are those who were formerly disobedient (Tit. 3:3; 1 Pet. 3:20) but are no longer disobedient (Rom. 6:17; Php. 2:12).
Christians make the daily choice to obey God (Lk. 9:23; 1 Cor. 15:31). Christians are not sinners (Ps. 66:18; Jn. 9:31; 2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Tim. 1:9; Jas. 5:16; 1 Pet. 3:12; 4:18; 1 Jn. 3:22) unless they backslide (Jas. 4:8; 5:19-20), all Christians are saints (Acts 9:13; 9:32; 9:41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25-16; 15:26; 15:31; 16:2; 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:1-2; 14:33; 16:1; 16:15; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1; 9:12; 13:13; Eph. 1:1; 1:15; 1:18; 2:19; 3:8; 3:18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18; Php. 1:1; 4:22; Col. 1:2; 1:4; 1:12; 1:26; 1 Thes. 3:13; 2 Thes. 1:10,1 Tim. 5:10; Phm. 1:5; 1:7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jud. 1:3; 1:14; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:7; 13:10; 14:12; 15:3; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8; 20:9). As saints, Christians are sanctified (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:11; Heb. 2:11; 10:10; 10:14; Gal. 5:24; Jud. 1:1), that is, Christians are free from deliberate rebellion or intentional sin (Jn. 8:34-36; Rom. 6:2;6:6-7; 6:11; 6:18; 6:22; 8:2; Gal. 5:24; Eph. 6:6). Christians have pure hearts (Matt. 5:8; Rom. 6:17; 1 Pet. 1:22), so they keep God’s commands (1 Jn. 2:3; 3:22; 5:2-3).

When men turn from all their sins and put their faith in the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed for them, God forgives them of their sin, remitting the penalty of the law, and God considers them righteous, governmentally treating them just as if they had never sinned.

*Exerp from "The Vicarious Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Jesse Morrell.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not defending sin at all. There's no excuse for it in the life of the believer, like I said, a true believer's desire is to turn away from it and it is heartbreaking to them when they fall into it. Actually, I was only trying to illuminate the reality of it and it's existence in every person on earth. I'm getting the feeling that you believe your are sinless because that is the only way to get to God. (If so, what of grace?) If I show you a verse that says Gal 3:22 But the Scripture hath concluded all under sinthat the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe...and you still do not believe that you are under sin, what good will it do me to show you the verses that teach us about faith? I searched for hours to find them for you but it seems you have chosen your truth and you fail to see the scripture as it is but you are seeing it through the eyes of someone else who is telling you that you don't have sin. Well, regarless of whether or not you recognize it in your life, it is there and just because you believe it isn't, doesn't make it so. How do I know with certainty? Rom 3:23 For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God . That includes you and me. Do you have eyes to see it?
King David admitted it: Psa 32:5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah. His prayers of cofession are all over the place and this was a guy after God's own heart!!

The prophet Daniel admitted it: Dan 9:20 And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God...

Paul admitted it, he's a jew: Rom 3:9 ...for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are ALL under sin;

Do you think you are better than they, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit? How can God forgive your sin, if you don't acknowledge it? There can be no forgiveness. I was trying to point out before that you can't get to God by your own righteousness, the jews tried it and failed. Rom 9:31-32 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; Do you still think you can do it? You have an example of people who failed to get to God through their own righteousness and the BIBLE tells us they FAILED! Why do you think can do it? They are God's example to us to show us that we can't??

Who told you justification by faith was not in the bible???

Gal 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Gal 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

Gal 5:5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

And I KNOW you know this verse...Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God lest any man should boast. How does this verse say we are saved?

There are many more but for the sake of brevity, which clearly I have already missed, I'll leave it at that.

CF said...

Read the book of James about faith and works. They, Faith and works, are coupled to gether as proof of your complete and total love for God. Most importantly with he right attitude of heart.