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!