In my previous articles in this series, we looked at the words justification, or justified and propitiation. In this last article, we’ll consider another very important, big, “churchy” word that all Christians should know: imputation.
You may recall that one of the comments made by a Christian pastor was, “The doctrine of imputation is not very important to my ministry. I don’t use that term but do discuss the issue. I have to bring it down to people’s level, how it fits into day to day life.” That’s interesting, but it’s clearly not how God intended us to understand this concept. Furthermore, since God did use that term (unlike this pastor), it’s obvious that He wants us to know that term as well, since that is the word He placed in Holy Scripture. Rather than dumbing it down (i.e., “bring it down to people’s level, as if the Holy Spirit can’t make believers understand His word), since God used this particular word it’s apparent that He desires us to understand it.
From a salvation perspective, one of the first places we encounter this word is in Genesis 15:6, speaking about Abraham says, “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Here, the word is “reckoned”. We see this same word in Psalm 32. Verses 1 and 2 read, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!” The Hebrew word is chashab (pronounced khä·shav'), and it means to charge, impute, reckon, count. It can also mean to think, which gives a scholarly tone to us here in Texas when we say things like, “I reckon I’ll read my Bible.”
In the New Testament, we see this word used in a similar way. The Greek word for impute is ellogeō (pronounced el-lo-ge’-ō), which means to reckon, set to one’s account, lay to one’s charge, impute. Another word used for imputation (and is used much more than ellogeō) is logizomai (pronounced lo-gē'-zo-mī). This is similar, and means to reckon, count, impute, to pass to one’s account.
Perhaps one of the most important (and joyful) passages in all of Scripture is found in Romans 4. Here, we see Paul quoting the verses from the Old Testament we mentioned above: “3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. 8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.””
Beloved, this is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Why, then, would we not want to know the very words of God so that we may fully understand this good news? It makes no sense.
Following on this great passage in Romans 4 is another great passage in chapter 5. Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to us through the Fall, Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed to us by faith. Romans 5 puts it this way, “18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” How are we made righteous by Christ’s obedience? By God crediting it to us by faith.
Going back to the pastor’s comment, one might ask how this fits into our every day life. Well, knowing what imputation means should flood your mind with the understanding of the passages mentioned above (as well as the many others in Scripture that use this word). Just calling this word to your mind should cause you, on a daily basis, to rejoice. Because our names are in the Book of Life due solely to Christ’s propitiation for our sins and His righteousness credited to us, both by faith, we are to rejoice.
This is why Paul says in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If that doesn’t affect your everyday life, then you’re doing something wrong.
From this article series, you now have three important words in your Christian vocabulary. If you have a pastor who thinks like the pastors whose comments we mentioned in Part I, then let him know that you desire to understand the words God uses, the meat of His word. Of course, we are to do this gently, lovingly, just as we’d do to our own brother. When we study the words God uses, then we can grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.