Paul's Passing Thoughts

For the Sake of the True Gospel STOP Saying that Christ’s Righteousness is Imputed to Us

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on December 26, 2014

PPT HandleOriginally published December 3, 2013

Please stop picking up on every little jingle that sounds good and mindlessly repeating it. In Christian circles, every hour on the hour, whether on TV, radio, or a blog, we see or hear, “the imputed righteousness of Christ,” or “we have the righteousness of Christ” etc. Is this technically true? And why does it matter? The fact is, the Bible never states that the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us, but rather states in many, many, many places that the righteousness of God the Father has been imputed to us. Is that distinction, or if you will, technicality, relevant? Yes it is; very much so.

Why the constant emphasis on the righteousness of Christ being imputed to us when the Bible emphasizes the righteousness of the Father instead? Well, this is a tradition originally promoted during the Reformation out of necessity. It is the righteousness of Christ that must be imputed to us because the Reformers taught that Christ had to keep the law perfectly during His life in order to secure our justification. Hence, righteousness had to be secured by someone fulfilling the law. So, since the righteousness had to be earned or established by Christ, it can only come from Him. If this approach creeps you out—it should.

Reformed types call this the active obedience of Christ.  His death on the cross is the passive obedience of Christ. This makes Christ the primary procurer of our salvation and devalues the role of God and the Holy Spirit. God calls and declares us righteous (imputation), Christ died for our sins (the imputation of our sins to Christ), and the Holy Spirit regenerates (the new birth). Salvation is Trinitarian. If God doesn’t call and impute righteousness, no salvation. If Christ doesn’t die for our sins, no salvation. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t regenerate, no salvation.

A Trinitarian view of salvation keeps law in its proper place, a Christocentric view of salvation causes all sorts of problems with the law. It posits the idea that the law had to be fulfilled as a standard for justification—that’s a huuuuge problem.

We are justified APART from the law. This makes it possible for us to aggressively obey the law in sanctification without it affecting our justification.

Adding to the creepiness is the idea that since the law is a standard for our justification, and we can’t keep it perfectly, the perfect obedience of Christ is continually applied if we live by the same gospel that saved us. This also necessitates the death of Christ being perpetually applied to our lives as well (the Calvin Institutes 3.14.11).

When Christians speak of the imputed righteousness of Christ, they are unwittingly partaking in a distortion of the Trinity. Because the Reformers were Platonists, they believed that Christ was the true, good, and beautiful, and everything else, and everyone else, are shadows. And I do mean everyone else, including the Father and the Holy Spirit. Consider these quotes by Reformed teachers:

Christ alone means literally Christ alone, and not the believer. And for that matter, it does not even mean any other member of the Trinity!

~ Geoffrey Paxton

The pastor who makes anything or anyone other than Christ the focus of his message is actually hindering the sanctification of the flock…We don’t ‘see’ Christ literally and physically, of course (I Peter 1:8). But His glory is on full display in the Word of God, and it is every minister’s duty to make that glory known above all other subjects.

~John MacArthur Jr.

And in regard to the Holy Spirit:

But to whom are we introducing people to, Christ or to ourselves? Is the “Good News” no longer Christ’s doing and dying, but our own “Spirit-filled” life?

~Michael Horton

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