The Atonement: What was involved?

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In this episode Brother Jonathan talks about the atonement, Christ's death, what the atonement consisted of, who is accountable for Christ's death, the dual aspect of Christ's death, the idea of imputation, and faith.

The Atonement: What was involved?


Remnant Bible Fellowship

  1. Introduction
    1. I will openly state at the beginning of this episode that I am not a Calvinist or Reformed in any sense of the words. I will also state that I am not an Arminian. I’m not a follower of Pelagianism, Moral Government Theology, or any denomination’s self-made ideology. I’m not a Baptist, and I’m not a Pentecostal. I am a Christian, and that means that I have one authority and reference point: Jesus Christ. You will not get me to identify myself, or this podcast, or any other ministry that I may be a part of in the future, with some term or system that is not itself stated in scripture. I might agree with the interpretations set forth in some of those systems and that are meant by those terms, but I am not bound by them.
    2. You don’t have to be a Calvinist or an Arminian. That’s the fallacy of Bifurcation. The two are not mutually exclusive. I don’t have to go by your definition of words; especially if I can’t find those same words used that way by God Himself. In a time when Christ and the Apostles told us that the majority of people would be following lies, even those who profess to know Him, is it too hard a thought for people to understand that all of these cliques are either partially or mostly incorrect? I don’t think so, and the longer I read and study my Bible the more I am convinced of it.
    3. The very best thing that you can do for yourself spiritually is to stop just believing your pastor, preacher, teacher, friends, family, church, denomination, commentaries, or even what is so-called historical. You are going to be judged, alone before God Himself, by His Word. It is His Word alone that you should start and end with. You cannot be afraid to question, and you cannot be afraid to be separate. You cannot be afraid to be alone and have no friends other than Christ. Christ warned us in John 16:2 that there would be people who would even try to kill true believers based upon the idea that they are doing God a service. Not a false god, but the true God. There are going to be many Christ says, and He says many, that are going to come before Jesus Christ at the judgment who will think that they had served Him and He will correct them. He said that there would be few that truly find eternal life.
    4. I feel like I have to emphasize this because the atonement is something that is very misunderstood by most people. Most professing believers have never sat down and read the entire New Testament writing down every verse and passage that talks about the atonement and put it all together to form their understanding of it. They just…believed what they were told when they first came to Christ. I did that, and most likely you did too. So, in talking about the atonement, if you truly base your beliefs on scripture alone, you are more likely to be called a heretic today than anything else.
    5. That’s what I did preparing for this series. I sat down and read through the entire New Testament writing down every verse and passage that talked about the death and resurrection of Christ. Then, after that, I went back through all those passages again reading the context and just taking a look at what they said while studying certain words and phrases. Then, in preparing for these episodes I’m going over them a third time and trying to put all the pieces together. I didn’t pour over commentaries. I referenced some on certain passages that are a little unclear, and I quote from one or two books in this episode, but I’m not basing anything on them alone. If I’m going to default to anything I’m going to default to the scriptures by themselves.
    6. I say all that to say this: Unless you take the time to do that yourself, and you come to a different conclusion—which I acknowledge is possible, because I’m fallible—then you don’t have any grounds to say that I’m wrong yet. You have to set aside your bias and prejudice when it comes to doctrine. Scripture has to speak for itself as much as is possible. If you find yourself struggling to explain your doctrine with scripture alone then you have a problem. Most people have “proof text” theology. They have two or three verses, like the Romans road, and they base their entire understanding of salvation on that. What you’ll find when you read the rest of scripture, or the first 200 years of Christian writings, is that approach and understanding of salvation is not to be found.
    7. When you’re trying to understand doctrine, there are some buzz words I want you to look for in people’s explanations, writings, sermons, or lessons. They are: “it’s implied” “it seems to be” “possibly” “reading between the lines” and things like that. Unless someone can directly tell you why from the scriptures alone, and you see that exact same thing being communicated directly from the scriptures yourself, then it is by definition unbiblical.
    8. Let me illustrate my point. Here is an excerpt from something that I’m working on writing. Please listen closely:
      1. It is this simple statement then, “God is true, and His Word is true,” that should be the summary of a Christian’s ultimate standard of truth. It should be their plumb-line conviction. Whenever a believer is confronted with new information, or a new argument that is seeking to persuade them of something, it is this premise that they should examine it by. If the information or argument presented to them is in any way contradictory to this plumb-line then it must be rejected. For example, imagine that God said, “The ball is red.” A believer would then have confidence that the ball is indeed red. It would be their firm conviction that it is so, because God is true and He said it. Even if they had never seen the ball themselves, they would believe it on the basis of God’s trustworthiness. Men may come and say: “The ball is blue.” “The ball is actually a square.” “There is no ball!” But if God said it is red, then it is red.
      2. Imagine though, if a believer unintentionally changed their premise slightly by adding to it. What if a believer, maybe by some form of persuasion or deception from someone else, changed their premise from “God is true and His Word is true” to “God is true, His Word is true, and the color red doesn’t exist”? Because their premise has changed, how they interpret the things presented to them would be skewed. How would the person then interpret it if God said, “The ball is red”? Well, they could redefine what “red” meant. “‘Red’ here is used in a symbolic sense, meaning, ‘non-existent’, and the ball therefore is non-existent because it is ‘red’ according to this meaning.” They could set aside the statement totally. “This statement is not applying to believers currently because it contradicts what we know the rest of scripture says: red doesn’t exist, therefore, this passage can’t be applying to us today.” Perhaps some ministers could write books on the “doctrine of the non-existent red.” What if another believer then told them that the ball is actually red because they had not changed their premise from that which scripture truly says it is? They had never added the part that said, “The color red doesn’t exist.” What would most likely result is a debate about what “red” means, or whether or not the statement applies to believers today at all. As far as our believer with the skewed premise is concerned, this other believer has completely missed the point.
  • Does it sound silly? Let me frame it in a different light. Is your “ultimate standard” that “God is true and His Word is true”, or is it “God is true, His Word is true, and my denomination is true”? Could it possibly be “God is true, His Word is true, and my favorite teacher is true”? Does this illustrate the point a little clearer? May I ask you, what is your actual plumb-line? When new information or a new argument is presented to you, what exactly are you measuring it by? Do you think, “Okay, this and this isn’t what my Pastor said…so it must be false”? It is possible to deceive yourself in something like this. Perhaps you think, “This and that is false because the Bible doesn’t teach that,” but in your mind you equate “what the Bible teaches” with “what I believe”. It is more common than you think. Never presuppose that you’ve gotten a corner on the market of truth. God knows all things, the believer knows that God knows all things, and this is where the believer’s confidence rests: in God’s infallibility and not our own.
  1. As I talk about the atonement, and I try to communicate what I believe the scriptures plainly say, I want you to keep that in mind. Are you interpreting everything through what you’ve been taught, or are you solely focused on the scriptures? Let them speak for themselves, and don’t run them through Calvin, or Arminius, or your favorite revivalist.
  • Summarize what Adam did
    1. Wasn’t born from procreation.
    2. Called a “son of God” (Luke 3)
    3. Was tempted by Satan
    4. Disobeyed God
    5. Became subject to death
    6. Died
    7. Became the beginning of all who die
  1. Christ’s Death
    1. God, in His Divine omniscience, knew that man would fall, but at the same time wanted to show mercy, grace, and forgiveness to mankind. God must uphold His holiness and His hatred for all that is wicked, and it must be clear in His actions towards man that He never once compromises it. How then can God show mercy? How can God let the ungodly go free while at the same time demonstrate His hatred of wickedness to those who do wickedness?
    2. One of the problems with the Old Testament sacrifices is that they could not change man. Man is the problem. We are the ones who commit sin. So what God did was to make a sacrifice that would not only erase the past sins of those who would trust in it but that was able to change them. This is stated in the book of Hebrews, speaking of the OT temple, it says:
      1. “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Heb. 9:6-15)
    3. The writer is showing how that the priests under the Law of Moses, the Old Testament, had to offer sacrifices of sin for themselves and then the people. Then He proceeds to show that the problem with the Old Testament sacrifices was that they “could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.” It was all earthly and temporal things. But Christ went into the temple of God in Heaven, after which pattern the earthly one was made, and He brought His own blood to offer for the people. The purpose of it is stated to “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God”. It is “for this cause” that He is the mediator of the new covenant. That’s why He is the head of the body, and He is the one with preeminence.
    4. But you see here that the purpose of what Christ accomplished was not just to keep people from going to Hell. It was to change them. It was to make us obedient saints unto God. It’s the purpose of what Christ accomplished. Before the fall Adam and Eve were obedient. They sinned, and all of us have reaped the consequences. Christ came to undo the fall and to turn mankind back to God. In the atonement of Christ was all that was necessary to make man a loving and obedient servant of God.
      1. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Heb. 7:19)
        1. The bringing in of the better hope of the gospel of Christ can make men perfect before God.
      2. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:3-4)
        1. The Law of Moses was spiritual but man is carnal Paul said in Romans 7. We are born with a weakness. We are more inclined to serve our own desires than God’s. God therefore sent His Son to undo this bondage of corruption, to turn us from the power of Satan unto God, for the express purpose “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” That we might be made righteous. Practically. Actually.
      3. This is the dual aspect of the Atonement. It is two-fold. We read in Romans 4:25:
        1. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)
      4. There is a past work done in the atonement, and then there is provision for the future. Christ was “delivered for our offences”, that is, He died in our behalf that we might be forgiven of past transgressions. Then, He “was raised again for our justification”. He was raised to enable us to live. He indicated this in His earthly ministry when He told the disciples, “because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19) That just as a vine gives life to the branches that draw their sustenance from it even so Christ gives life to those who follow Him as their Lord.
      5. But you see this dual aspect of the atonement mentioned throughout the New Testament. Especially in Romans.
        1. Romans 5:9, “Being now justified by His blood,” the forgiveness of past sins, “we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” That’s the future emphasis of salvation.
        2. Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,” past sense of forgiveness, “much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Again the future emphasis of salvation.
  • Romans 6:5, “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death,” past emphasis of the end of our old way of living, “we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:” Future emphasis of salvation. Notice also that this is a conditional statement.
  1. 2 Timothy 1:10, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death,” Christ undid the state in which we were in, “and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” His resurrection brought life to us.
  2. His death looked to atone for past sins, and His resurrection was to give us life. It is only because He lives that we have the promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the dead. Paul stressed the importance of this in 1 Corinthians 15:
    1. “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1Cor. 15:12-17)
  3. Paul put it very simply referencing two false teachers when he said:
    1. “And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.” (2Tim. 2:17-18)
  • So there is a direct connection between our being raised from the dead and Christ having raised from the dead. So much so that if a man denies the general resurrection of the dead then they deny Christ’s resurrection Paul said. This means that person’s entire faith is overthrown he says. That’s how important this is.
  1. But in respect to Christ’s death itself, it might surprise some of you that some people teach that Christ had to spiritually die on the cross. Some people even teach that Christ was tormented in Hell during his three days of death. Some go so far as to say that God Himself poured out His wrath on Christ when He was on the cross. They say that when the sun went dark for the space of three hours and Christ cried out “my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” that God the Father turned His back on the Son there. None of that is in the Bible. I think that some of us have just heard things like that repeated so many times—and it makes for interesting preaching—that people have just kept repeating it. But the simple fact of the matter is that the New Testament only emphasizes the physical suffering and death of Christ:
    1. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” (Matt. 16:21)
    2. “And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.” (Matt. 17:22-23)
  • “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” (Matt. 20:18-19)
  1. “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31)
  2. “And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.” (Mark 9:12)
  3. “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.” (Luke 9:44)
  • “But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” (Luke 17:25)
  • “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20)
  1. We see here a continual focus on the physical suffering and physical death of Christ as constituting what He would accomplish. We know this, because when we take communion we don’t say, “This is my mystical spiritual death which was given for you.” No. We say, as He instructed us, “This is my body which is given for you…this is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” It was the physical suffering and death of Christ and His physical resurrection that was enough.
  2. Regarding Him supposedly being “accursed from the Father” as some people have said, I have some questions:
    1. When Christ cries out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Does that not show that He understood the Father to hear Him? God couldn’t hear His prayer if He was separated from Him.
    2. In Luke 23:34 we see Christ interceding for men as though they are the ones who are guilty of what is going on. This shows several things:
      1. Christ considered the men guilty of inflicting this upon Him.
      2. Christ prayed as though He was not separated from the Father.
      3. Christ believed that His prayer was to be heard by the Father.
  • In Luke 23:46 we see Christ commending Himself into the hands of the Father. Again, speaking as though He was not separated from God the Father and that the Father was not “pouring out His wrath” upon Him. This also shows that Christ was not going to go to Hell to be tormented as some believe.
  1. John 13:1 shows that Christ was to go out of the world unto the Father, not to go to be tormented in Hell.
  1. In every account of the crucifixion of Christ, He acted as though He was not for one moment separated from God the Father. Furthermore, He never showed any expectation of going to be tormented in Hell—sorry hyper-Charismatics. And He never even insinuated that God the Father was pouring out His wrath on Him—sorry Calvinists.
  1. Who Killed Christ?
    1. A question we must ask is, “Who then is accountable for Christ’s death?”
    2. Let’s look at some scriptures:
      1. Christ is. Christ said that He was laying down His own life as a willing sacrifice for men. This is not some divine act of child abuse like the emerging church movement, and that false teacher Brian McLaren says.
        1. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18)
        2. This shows that Christ knew exactly what He was doing, and He did it for the joy that was set before Him. He was going to bind the strong man, Satan, and spoil his house of those who were taken captive by him at his will.
      2. Christ indicates that He willfully submitted Himself to death because the Father commanded it. God the Father planned for Christ to die. Men sinned and were subject to death. God ordained one to die in their behalf. This is what was meant when Peter spoke on Pentecost:
        1. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:23-24)
        2. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief…” (Isaiah 53:10)
        3. This is also how God the Father was going to glorify His Son and give Him the preeminence.
        4. “Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” (John 13:31-32)
        5. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
        6. “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:30-31)
  • Men are the ones who killed Christ. We see this continually emphasized in the book of Acts:
    1. Acts 2:23, They killed Him, but God raised Him up.
    2. Acts 3:14-15, They killed Him, but God raised Him up.
    3. Acts 4:10, They crucified Him, God raised Him up.
    4. Acts 5:30-31, They killed Him, God raised Him up.
    5. Acts 7:52, they betrayed and murdered Him.
    6. Acts 10:39-40, they killed him, and God raised him up.
    7. You get the idea.
  1. Substitution
    1. Christ did not die for Himself. He did no sin. It was not possible that He should die for Himself. This is what is indicated in the scriptures. Christ could overcome death for men because He was not subject to it. He was sinless in order that He may willfully die for others.
      1. “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:24)
      2. “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:8)
  • “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:” (2Tim. 1:10)
  1. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Heb. 2:14-15)
  2. “And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:10-15)
  1. He died for our sins. He died in our behalf.
    1. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28)
    2. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Pet. 2:24)
  • “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11)
  1. “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Eph. 5:2)
  2. “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Heb. 7:27)
  3. “In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Heb. 10:6-12)
  1. Speaking of Christ as our substitution, Albert Barnes had this to say:
    1. “It was certain that unless there was some substitution the race would perish. Sufferings indescribable and awful—sufferings that would express the Divine sense of the value of law and of the evil of a violation of that law—must come either upon the offenders themselves, or upon some one who should take their place; and God chose that those sufferings should come upon the Redeemer rather than upon the guilty. Thus they might be saved, and at the same time there might be an expression of the Divine sense of the value of law and of the evil of a violation of that law, as clear and as impressive as though the guilty had themselves borne the full penalty of the law.” (Barnes, The Atonement in its Relations to Law and Moral Government, pp.283-284)
  2. The power of the atonement is not only in who died, but it is in considering how sinless and perfect the one was who died, and for what motive He submitted Himself to it.
  • Summary
    1. So let’s sum it all up so far:
      1. Man is born in a state of bondage to corruption and weakness so that by our own power we cannot do that which God requires. We are under the law of sin and death. Because each of us sin, not having the strength in ourselves to break this bondage, we become sinners and accountable to God.
      2. Christ came to break our bondage and set us free from the law of sin and death. He was born of a woman, lived a perfect sinless life so that He would be able to redeem us by willfully submitting Himself to death.
  • God the Father, through His determinate counsel and foreknowledge, ordained that Christ should be a willing sacrifice for our sins. “The lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” He would die, though Himself being innocent, so that He might receive glory.
  1. Christ’s atonement consisted of His physical sufferings and death. This is clearly demonstrated to us by the many scriptures, and by the ordinance of communion wherein we remember the body and blood of Jesus which were broken and shed for us.
  2. Christ’s resurrection is that which guarantees the life of all who commit themselves to Him in faith. It also was that which publicly demonstrated for all time that Jesus is the Son of God, and the only means of salvation.
  3. If we believe that Christ was not perfect and sinless, we will not be forgiven. If we say that Christ did not rise from the dead, then neither will we be partakers of the resurrection ourselves. These things are central points to keep or we deny the Christian faith.
  • Problems with Imputation
    1. There is a theological idea called “imputation”. If you have been a Christian for a while, you’ve most likely been told that Christ’s obedience to the Law, or His righteousness, is written to your account. This is what “imputation” means. It’s when something that is not yours is reckoned to your behalf. This is where the idea of sin and salvation are thought of as an accountant’s ledger came from.
    2. The idea of imputation has three main parts, in some form or another:
      1. Adam’s guilt and sin imputed to all mankind.
      2. Man’s sin imputed to Christ.
  • Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer.
  1. Here are the problems with imputation:
    1. It is not Adam’s guilt or sin that we inherit from him. We are partakers of what he became subject too, and that was mortality; and eventually, the second death as a result of our own sin. We are partakers of flesh and blood and the weakness and bondage that comes with it. We are accountable for our own sins before God, as He Himself says, and are held guilty for our own transgressions, not Adam’s.
    2. If Adam’s sin was imputed to all mankind then it would include Jesus Christ. Christ had to be a “son of man”, a descendant from Adam, in order to redeem mankind. Adam is even specifically mentioned in Christ’s genealogy in Luke 3. There have been many clever, and intricate, “rescuing devices” that have been come up with to try to explain this away. There’s how the “seed of the woman” was trying to be cut-off by Satan before the seed was born. You know, they try to say that Satan plagued the house of David, and Jeconiah was to be written childless, etc. That’s very interesting, but none of it is stated in scripture. There’s also how, sin is transmitted by the blood of the father and that’s why Christ had to be born from a virgin—as if God struggled to overcome biology. Again, nowhere stated in scripture. Let’s just go with what the scripture says, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same…” (Heb. 2:14) There are a dozen or more places where it is directly said that Christ became flesh. If Christ didn’t become just as human as us then He had no legal right to redeem us. This isn’t a problem when you define things biblically. It’s only a problem when you believe that sin is somehow a physical or genetic deformity of your body—which it is not. Sin is described as a voluntary committal of the will in defiance of God’s Law, for sin is the transgression of the Law. (1Jn. 3:4) This is exactly what Christ overcame in living a sinless life. That’s why His life was so spectacular:
      1. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
      2. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2:18)
      3. “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21)
  • If man’s sin was directly and literally imputed to Christ on the cross, that is, in the sense of an exact exchange, as would be the case in an accountant’s ledger, then Christ would have to pay the exact punishment in order to undo it. This would mean that Christ would have to have suffered an eternity in Hell. Since Christ was only dead 3 days, this is clearly unbiblical.
    1. This is not to say that Christ’s death was not in our behalf, or that He didn’t bare the sins of mankind. We are told directly that Christ bore the sins of many. That is very different though than saying that He took the literal punishment for all men’s sins. People often conflate those two ideas when the Bible doesn’t. We’ll talk about that later.
  1. Christ’s obedience to the Law made it POSSIBLE for Him to make an atonement. As a man, Christ had to obey the Law Himself in order to not have a debt Himself to God. It had to be a “spotless” lamb that was sacrificed just as the Old Testament picture of Christ’s atonement was shown in the Passover Lamb.
    1. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1Pet. 1:18-21)
  2. Charles Finney had this to say in his Systematic Theology:
    1. Christ owed obedience to the moral law, both as God and man. He was under as much obligation to be perfectly benevolent as any moral agent is. It was, therefore, impossible for Him to perform any works of supererogation [anything above that which is required of man]; that is, so far as obedience to the law was concerned, He could, neither as God nor as man, do anything more than fulfill its obligations.
    2. Had He obeyed for us, He would not have suffered for us. Were His obedience to be substituted for our obedience, He need not certainly have both fulfilled the law for us, as our substitute, under a covenant of works, and at the same time have suffered as a substitute, in submitting to the penalty of the law.
    3. If He obeyed the law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation/
    4. The idea that any part of the atonement consisted in Christ’s obeying the law for us, and in our stead and behalf, represents God as requiring:
      1. The obedience of our substitute.
      2. The same suffering, as if no obedience had been rendered.
  • Our repentance.
  1. Our return to personal obedience.
  2. And then represents him as, after all, ascribing our salvation to grace. Strange grace this, that requires a debt to be paid several times over, before the obligation is discharged! (Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology, pp. 218-219, original 1878 expanded ed., reprinted 1994, Bethany House Publishers)
  1. In addition to all that, Christ obeyed because Adam disobeyed. In order for Christ to make a sacrifice for others, He had to obey Himself first. So, the saying that people have today, “Christ obeyed so that you don’t have to,” is wrong in that sense. Christ obeyed to be eligible to make an atonement. Christ’s righteousness is not reckoned to our account.
  1. But I want you to think about that for a moment. Could it be called “grace” or “forgiveness” if someone else DID pay for the full amount literally? If you owed a bank money, and someone else paid it all for you, did the bank “forgive” anything? Or did they just take it from someone else? But if the whole world has committed terrible crimes against God, and an innocent man submits Himself to death at the hands of the executioner to endure the same sentence of death, if it impressed upon you the seriousness and awfulness of your crimes so that you turned to live righteously every day after: the judge could show grace in forgiving you your past offences, for that righteous man’s sake. The point of the judgment had been accomplished. You would become a loving and obedient servant, and He could show grace while upholding the rule of law.
  2. Albert Barnes said it well of Christ:
    1. “He effected so much by his voluntary sufferings that it was not necessary, by any demands of justice, to inflict the penalty of the law on those for whom he died.” (Barnes, The Atonement in its Relations to Law and Moral Government, p.282)
  3. Consider the following when thinking about the idea that “all God sees in us is His Son” or the idea that you can be positionally “in Christ” but not practically “in Christ”:
    1. One idea that has resulted from the false teaching of Christ’s righteousness being imputed to us at our conversion is the idea that all of our future sins are already forgiven. They say, “all of your past sins were in the future from the point of the cross.” Sadly, they think—as I did at one time—that somehow that is a biblical answer. If all of your future sins were already forgiven when you were converted then you would never have to ask for forgiveness for anything else that you ever do again.
    2. If Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us at our conversion then you would never be out of fellowship with God again. But in 1 John 1:4-7 it says clearly that fellowship with God is contingent upon our obedience and walking in the light.
  • If Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us at our conversion then Christ Himself could never say, “I know thy works…repent.” He says this multiple to the believers addressed in chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation. And if anyone should argue that those are addressing churches and not individuals I would remind them that individuals are accountable to God for their actions. Groups are made up of individuals.
  1. Also, if Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us at our conversion you would never have a single prayer that is unanswered. You would be seen as perfect, because Christ was sinless, therefore you would never have any reason in the sight of God for Him to not answer your prayers. Prayer is specifically mentioned to be contingent on an obedient relationship with God the Father and not asking anything contrary to His will. Neither of those should be possible if God only sees the perfection of Christ in you. But He does see your sin when you commit it, and if you don’t repent of it He does hold you accountable.
  1. There is only one legitimate use of the world “imputation” in the context of salvation.
  1. Faith as Righteousness
    1. The word “impute” means “to reckon, to consider as”. It is used to mean that God does know our sin but He forgives it and treats us as though we were righteous. Now the question is, why?
    2. Why does God not see our past sin, and what is reckoned to us as righteousness in His sight? Well, it’s not Christ’s obedience being written to your account. This is not an accounting thing. “Impute”, “reckon”, or “consider” has no sense of “transfer” in it. It does not in any way mean that anything of Christ’s obedience is “transferred” to you. That idea is much more in agreement with the false prophets in the Old Testament:
      1. “Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:” (Eze. 13:22)
      2. “They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.” (Jer. 23:17)
    3. They give a false assurance of acceptance with God to those who do evil and walk after the imagination of their own hearts. But what does God say?
      1. “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1Jn. 3:7)
      2. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7-8)
    4. It is funny how that the scriptures have to emphasize deception more than once in this regard. If you live a disobedient life then you will die in your sins. Anyone who says otherwise is—according to the scriptures—deceiving themselves, and you.
    5. So, since it is not Christ’s obedience to the Law that is reckoned to us as righteousness, what is it that makes God choose to forgive us of our past sins? The answer, faith.
      1. “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: 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. 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 offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:19-25)
    6. It is our faith in Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, that God sees as a good reason to forgive our past sins. Because when we embrace Christ as Savior we are simultaneously condemning self-righteousness before God. We are stating our own guiltiness of sin before Him and His just judgment against all unrighteousness. We are yielding to His rightful authority and judgment. That’s repentance.
    7. But how is it that faith is what is reckoned to us while at the same time it says that so much is conditioned on our obedience?
      1. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Rom. 3:22)
    8. It is faith in Christ which enables a person to obey God. It is called the “obedience of faith” in Romans 16:26, the faith that works by love in Galatians 5:6, and the faith that is made perfect by works in James 2. Faith that does not lead to obedience is not saving faith the Bible says.
    9. This is where most people have not recognized from the scriptures that there are two types of works in God’s sight: self-righteous works, and the works of faith. There is the self-righteous work which seeks to earn its deserved place in heaven, as the Jews did:
      1. “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:1-4)
    10. They would not submit themselves to the idea that God was righteous and they were not. They would not submit to a Savior. But the works of faith embrace Christ. They take the side of God against themselves and say, “I was wicked, sinful, disobedient; and God is just in condemning me. I flee for refuge to the only hope that I have: Jesus Christ.” Then they cast themselves upon Christ just like in the Old Testament when men would flee to the temple and grab the horns of the altar weeping. Christ is their life. They say, “I follow that man, He is my Savior, and I will cling to Him as my only hope.”
    11. The scriptures tell us that the saving faith of a Christian is shown in that they obey God.
      1. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (1Jn. 3:10)
    12. Closing
      1. So considering all of these things, Christ said:
        1. “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matt. 12:33)
      2. Christ compared men to trees. You can tell what they follow by their fruit, their works. Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree evil, and your fruit evil. Let no man deceive you: He that doeth righteousness is righteous…and none else. If you call yourself a Christian, or desire to be one: cast yourself on Christ and run whole heartedly after Him. Cling to Him everyday like you’ve jumped out of a plane and He’s the parachute, and cling to Him like that until you’re safely on the ground on the other side of the judgment.

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