Saturday, February 4, 2012

God's Big Credit card of Justification


The Central Issues in Biblical salvation
When you study the first three chapters of the Book of Romans, you discover that humanity as a whole has three problems that can only be addressed by Justification: a relational problem, a moral problem and a debt problem.  Relationally I'm termed an enemy of God (Romans 1:18-31); Morally I'm guilty before God (Romans 2:1-16) and I am in debt to the Law of God (Romans 2:17-3:20).  In short when you and I are born into this world, we are in the spiritual, moral and relational equivalent of a credit crisis.  Unless our spiritual bank account is radically credited with righteousness, no amount of right living will balance out what is owed to God. 

Abraham is used to illustrate the kind of righteousness that was credited to Him at the moment of saving faith.  This type of righteousness, called "imputed righteousness" is at the heart of understanding Justification by faith. 

Computers, Disputes, Reputations and Imputation
Perhaps the term "imputed" or "imputation" may be new to you.  Like "imputation", other words in our English language have the same Latin root "putare" (peu-ta-ray) which means "work that is accomplished".  I'm sure you have heard of a "computer"?  The word "computer" comes from two latin words: "com" meaning "with, together" and "putare" meaning "work accomplished".  Thus this blog that I am typing was accomplished by working together with a machine.

Or how about a "reputation"?  A reputation is what others are "repeating" (re) about the work your accomplished (putare).  Everyone desires a good reputation.  Or perhaps you have gotten into a "dispute"?  That is, you "disagreed" (dis) over what exactly was accomplished (putare). All these words derive from the same root word "putare", and are concerned about the nature of a given accomplished work.

Imputation means you get the credit for work you did not accomplish
So what about the work of salvation?  How is Christ's life, death and resurrection transferred to you at the moment of saving faith?  It is done by "imputation".  That is, the "work accomplished" (putare) is done in your place by another (in) resulting in you getting the credit.  When you go to a store and swipe your credit card, the cash register will display the message: "card accepted", issuing you the credit to purchase your item.  The store "imputes", "credits" you with the funds to buy the item, even though those funds had been previously secured by the credit card company.

Why was imputation at work at the cross?
In order for sinners to be "credited" with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputation had to be at work at the cross.  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us: "He who knew no sin became sin for us".  The believer's sin was "credited" or "imputed" to Jesus Christ on the cross.  He who never sinned was treated by, "credited" by God as if He had done our sin.  On the cross, Christ the "New Adam" (Romans 5:14) was treated like the "original Adam" who had sinned in Genesis 3.  Why?  The second part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains: "so that we might be the righteousness of God in Him". 

So at the cross, my sin was "imputed to Christ", because God had made a decision to set His affection on me to rescue me, convict me of my sin, and position me to trust in Christ's life and saving work.  The moment I did that, all of Christ's identity and work was "imputed" or "credited" to me.  This is God's Big Credit Card of Justification.  Unlike the credit cards we use, there is no bill that comes in the mail at the end of the month.  God did this on the basis of His grace and love.  Truly we can praise God for justification!


  1. In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English Bible term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” and when I look up that term in a popular Bible lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”


    The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:


    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.

    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

  2. Dear Friend: I appreciate your comments. When God declares the sinner at the moment of saving faith to be "right" or "righteous", this is no legal fiction. The issue at stake of course is: whose righteousness? By way of illustration, if I were to purchase a computer using "store credit", would you "reckon" me "paid in full" because I handed you money? No. By me accepting "store credit", it is understood I had no money to give towards the purchase. Rather it was because of credit paid by you in advance on my behalf. Now when I walk out of the store with that computer, are the sops going to arrest me for shop lifting? No because my actual ability to practically carry out the computer is based upon something someone else had done for me. In the eyes of the law I'm innocent. My freedom to carry out the computer was applied to me when I received the terms. Thus I would be an actual computer owner based upon something you had done. "Logizomai" comes out of the world of ancient finance, and amazingly much of the terms we use today in the world of business reflect what would had been the case back then.

    If you deny the doctrine of imputation as it pertains to Christ's righteousness credited to the sinner at saving faith, then you also have to deal with what took place at the cross itself. When you read onward to Romans 5 and 6, Paul deals with what took place on the cross. 2 Corinthians 5:21, an excellent verse that summarizes Romans 4,5,6 reads - "He who knew no sin became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

    So on the cross, was Jesus an actual sinner? If He was, then our salvation is in jeopardy. The Bible says He was sinless. (1 Peter 2:22) Christ had to be actually sinless in order to be the sinner's Savior. (1 Peter 1:17-18) So when Jesus Christ died on the cross, God was not punishing him for sins He had done, rather it was for our sins. (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24) God "reckoned" Jesus to be a sinner, not because He was actually a sinner, rather He was declaring Him to be "as if" He had done "my sin". My "alien" unrighteousness was imputed to Christ, so that by faith His Righteousness could be imputed to me.

    The term "reckoned" in the Greek Lexicons is dealing with the legal status of that person. I think your concern is "how can the crediting of someone else's righteousness count as such without making God a liar?" Answer: Other doctrines, such as sanctification, communicate how my growing practical righteousness as a Christian is rooted in the declared righteousness of Christ in justification.

  3. Hello,

    I am saying the Greek word Logizomai does not function the way you're using it; that's not how Scripture understands the term.

    When 2nd Corinthians 5:12 says Jesus was "made sin," this is a Hebraic way of saying Jesus became a 'sin offering'. The OT sacrifices used the same word for 'sin' and 'sin offering'.

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  5. Actually when we look at Paul's quotation of Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:3, he is using a Greek version of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. In the Greek text of that version we find our word "logizomai". When one compares that version to the Hebrew original of Genesis 15:6, we discover that the Hebrew term pictures God "deeming" or "considering" Abraham to be righteous. Thus the Hebrew word for to "reckon, consider, to think a certain thought towards, to regard" was in the thought of the Septuagint translators when they rendered the word in the Greek Old Testament "Logizomai".

    In regards to what you mentioned about the concept of "sin-offering", you're exactly right. Whenever an Israelite would bring a sin offering to the door of the tabernacle or the temple, the priest would meet them. The offerer would then place his hands on the head of that sheep, confess his sins, hence "transferring" what he had done on the sacrificial animal. Meanwhile in the eyes of God and the law, the animal's life would be "reckoned" now be the offerer. The priest would then hand the offerer a bronze knife, at which point he would slice the jugular vein of the lamb, with the blood pouring into a bowl held by the priest. The priest would then pour the blood around the base of the altar and sprinkle the rest. As the sacrifice was being offered, the smoke rising up into the glory cloud of God would be deemed accepted. The offerer by faith received all the benefits conferred to him.

    Imputation (crediting as righteous) is central to every sacrifice in the Old Temple system. It's good to hear from you friend. What we are discussing here is a central teaching of the gospel

  6. Hello,

    Sorry for the delay.

    I agree with your first long paragraph but I don't see how that definition of logizomai you give there supports your prior definition of logizomai. In other words, logizomai does not mean something akin to 'transfer', but rather a mental evaluation of something.

    As for the second paragraph, where do you get the idea that placing hands on the head constitutes "confessing sins" and "transferring"?

    A few other bits of biblical data I'm considering:

    (1) The Peace Offering of Leviticus 3:2 (different from the sin offering) includes the instructions to lay hands on and kill, yet the Peace Offering wasn't about atoning for sin, nor are such terms used in Leviticus 3.

    (2) The sins that required a "sin offering" were sins not requiring the death penalty, and instead were only minor/unintentional sins. Sins requiring the death penalty could not be atoned for. So I don't see how a sin not requiring death could be atoned for by transferring the punishment of death to an animal.

    Lastly, you said:
    >>Imputation (crediting as righteous) is central to every sacrifice in the Old Temple system.>>

    Could you show me how you got to that conclusion when the term logizomai is never used to describe any Levitical sacrifice?

  7. To answer your questions in order:
    1. The laying of hands upon the sacrifice is found in Exodus 29:10; Lev 1:4; 3:2; 4:4; 16:10. The meaning of transferral of guilt to an innocent sacrifice began in Genesis 3:21 and is expounded most fully in Isaiah 53, the prediction of Christ's sacrifice.

    2. Bauer, Ardnt and Gingrich's Lexicon, page 474, lists "logizomai" as meaning "to credit, to charge someone (as in a commerical account). The crediting is a legal, commerical declaration, distinct from the person's actual status.

    3. In the Greek Old Testament, "logizomai" is used in passages such as Leviticus 7:18, 25:31, 27:23, 18:27 and 18:30 for "crediting" people negatively or positively in sacrifices for sin or for thanksgiving.

    4. Since "logizomai" is used in the Levitical system, Isaiah 53 uses that background in predicting the sufferings of Christ. In Isaiah 53:12, the text states: "He was numbered with the transgressors". That word for "numbered" is our word "logizomai" in the Greek Old Testament. Question: would the Messiah be an actual transgressor, or be legally regarded as one? Answer: The Messiah was to be "legally regarded" as a transgressor.
    Christ being "credited" with my sins meant that I, by grace through faith, could be credited with His righteousness. (Thus the whole point of 2 Cor. 5:21)

    From the Old Testament usage of "logizomai", the Holy Spirit influences Paul to it in discussing Abraham's righteousness as being "reckoned". (Romans 4:3) Legally God applied righteousness to Abraham, even though he was not yet actually righteous. Abraham's faith was not the cause of God's reckoning, but rather the means of receiving such a declaration. The presence of faith, and Abraham's excercise thereof, points to the work of grace that was operating in Abraham's heart. (Acts 7:2-4; Ephesians 2:8-9)

    Question: When then did Abraham start being actually righteous? Answer: The process issuing forth from saving faith termed "sanctification". In sanctification I grow in actual righteousness. My standing before God is rooted in Christ's righteousness, credited at justification.

    It is vital to keep in distinction the concept of "applied legal righteousness" (justification) and "actual righteousness" (sanctification) when speaking of biblical salvation.