Jan 31, 2018
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Let me illustrate my point. Here is an excerpt from something
that I’m working on writing. Please listen closely:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Wasn’t born from procreation.
- Called a “son of God” (Luke 3)
- Was tempted by Satan
- Disobeyed God
- Became subject to death
- Became the beginning of all who die
- Christ’s Death
- 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?
- 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:
- “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)
- 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.
- 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.
- “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)
- The bringing in of the better hope of the gospel of Christ can
make men perfect before God.
- “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)
- 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.
- This is the dual aspect of the Atonement. It is two-fold. We
read in Romans 4:25:
- “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for
our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)
- 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.
- But you see this dual aspect of the atonement mentioned
throughout the New Testament. Especially in Romans.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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:
- “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)
- Paul put it very simply referencing two false teachers when he
- “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.”
- 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.
- 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:
- “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)
- “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)
- “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)
- “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)
- “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.”
- 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.
- Regarding Him supposedly being “accursed from the Father” as
some people have said, I have some questions:
- 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.
- 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
- Christ considered the men guilty of inflicting this upon
- Christ prayed as though He was not separated from the
- Christ believed that His prayer was to be heard by the
- 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.
- John 13:1 shows that Christ was to go out of the world unto the
Father, not to go to be tormented in Hell.
- 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
- Who Killed Christ?
- A question we must ask is, “Who then is accountable for
- Let’s look at some scriptures:
- 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.
- “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.”
- 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.
- 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
- “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)
- “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to
grief…” (Isaiah 53:10)
- This is also how God the Father was going to glorify His Son
and give Him the preeminence.
- “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)
- “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)
- “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:
- Acts 2:23, They killed Him, but God raised Him up.
- Acts 3:14-15, They killed Him, but God raised Him up.
- Acts 4:10, They crucified Him, God raised Him up.
- Acts 5:30-31, They killed Him, God raised Him up.
- Acts 7:52, they betrayed and murdered Him.
- Acts 10:39-40, they killed him, and God raised him up.
- You get the idea.
- 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.
- “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:
because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts
- “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)
- “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)
- “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.
- He died for our sins. He died in our behalf.
- “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.
- “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
- “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)
- “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)
- “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;”
- Speaking of Christ as our substitution, Albert Barnes had this
- “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)
- 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.
- So let’s sum it all up so far:
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Problems with Imputation
- 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
- The idea of imputation has three main parts, in some form or
- Adam’s guilt and sin imputed to all mankind.
- Man’s sin imputed to Christ.
- Christ’s righteousness imputed to the believer.
- Here are the problems with imputation:
- 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,
- 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
- “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)
- “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able
to succour them that are tempted.” (Heb. 2:18)
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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)
- Charles Finney had this to say in his Systematic Theology:
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- The obedience of our substitute.
- The same suffering, as if no obedience had been rendered.
- Our return to personal obedience.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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
- Albert Barnes said it well of Christ:
- “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)
- 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”:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- There is only one legitimate use of the world “imputation” in
the context of salvation.
- Faith as Righteousness
- 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?
- 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:
- “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)
- “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.”
- 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?
- “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth
righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” (1Jn.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.”
- 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.
- 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?
- “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)
- 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.
- 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:
- “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)
- 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.”
- The scriptures tell us that the saving faith of a Christian is
shown in that they obey God.
- “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)
- So considering all of these things, Christ said:
- “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)
- 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.