Monday, April 12, 2010

The Exhilaration Of Double Imputation (Part 4)

In Part 3 I gave eight points of what a gospel devoid of double imputation looks like. Today, in the final installment, I am giving eight points of what a Gospel with double imputation looks like.

Also, in Part 3, I asked the following question.

100 years ago someone spoke prophetically about today when he said:

I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.

Did you guess who said that? It was William Booth, the founder of the salvation army. Obviously, a denomination can change a lot in a hundred years!

What Does a Gospel With Double Imputation Look Like

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17a).

1. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel where conversion is a miracle. You are not an upgraded model, but a new creature, regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

The old has passed away; (2 Corinthians 5:17b)

2. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel where, prior to conversion, we are described as dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). And dead men need a lot more than a second chance - they need resurrection power. It doesn't mean that we stop sinning but it does mean that we have a new relationship with sin. The sin we once embraced we now despised. The peace that held sway between our spirit and our flesh has now given way to full scale war!

behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17c).

3. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel where God gives a new heart with new desires (Ezekiel 36:25-27) - a love for righteousness and a hatred for the sin we once loved.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:18)

4. A Gospel where conversion is totally a work of God and not of the human will. Any gospel based upon a human decision fails to understand Who does the converting and the miraculous nature of that conversion.

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5:19a).

5. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel where Christ is infinitely more than an example but a propitiation (Romans 3:25). Paul Washer believes that Romans 3:25 is the greatest verse in the Bible because it talks about Christ as a propitiation. Propitiation describes a sacrifice that takes away sin and satisfies wrath. God has wrath and you can't solve the problem by denying this explicit truth (as many vainly try). Every time you break God's law by lying, stealing, sex outside of marriage, or even a lustful thought, or any other part of God's law - God cannot violate His demand for justice because He is good. Most people try to reassure themselves as they face eternity with the thought that God is good and loving. Yes God is good and loving - and that is exactly the problem. If God overlooks sin He stops being good and loving and becomes corrupt. So either we must burn in hell for all eternity to satisfy His wrath or a substitute must endure God's wrath in our place. Here is where we find God's love.

How often do you hear Jesus referred to as an example to follow. While there is truth to this idea (Phillipians 2:5-9), it is transcended by Christ's role as a penal substitute. We need the imputed righteousness of Christ before we can even be able to follow Him as an example. Furthermore, the major reason Jesus came, to bring salvation, was because He is not like anybody and nobody can really be like Him. No one could keep the law, and no one could suffer God’s wrath. There are some ways in which I try to follow Jesus’ example but I am a hundred times more greatful that He fulfilled the law that I had broken and suffered the punishment that I deserve. There is the real good news.

As a footnote commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:19 it is wothwhile responding to universalists (people who believe that everyone will be saved) who try to use this verse to support their heresy. When Paul says that God was "reconciling the world to Himself" he clearly does not mean that everyone is reconciled to God as Rob Bell teaches:

So this reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making. (Velvet Elvis p146, emphasis mine)

We need to remember that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture and other places clearly teach that God divides people into "sheep and goats" (Matthew 25), some will be saved and go to heaven, and others will be damned and go to hell. They are places God has made, not "realities of our own making". Another point is that if everyone is already reconciled then why are Christians given the "ministry of reconciliation" as seen in the prior verse. We also need to remember that Pauls context in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is "if anyone is in Christ" - he is clearly not teaching universalism. The meaning of "world" in 2 Corinthians 5:19 actually refers to:

the entire sphere of humanity (Titus 2:11, 3:4), the category of beings to whom God offers reconciliation - people from every ethnic group, without distinction. The intrinsic merit of Christ's reconciling death is infinite and the offer is unlimited. However, actual atonement was made only for those who believe (John10:11,15). (John Macarthur, commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:19)

and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19b).

6. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel where, because of what Christ has done for us, we are given the responsibility to preach that message to every person.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 corinthians 5:20).

7. A Gospel with double imputation is a Gospel with the responsibility to tell it to others. What a priveledge. God does not need us but has blessed us with a part to play in His redemption plan. I know that Rick Warren says "preach the Gospel, if necessary use words". That's like saying "wash always, if necessary use water". Every time the word "preach" appears in the new testament it means loudly spoken. It is a verbal message. Being salt and light backs up the message but it isn't the message. We cannot live out the Gospel because Christ came to do what we cannot do. We are called to speak about the One Who lived the life that we cannot live, and live a life that bears witness to the work of the Holy Spirit.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

8. A Gospel where, in the words of John Macarthur:

Christ was not a sinner, but was treated as if He were, so believers who have not yet been made righteous are treated as if they were righteous. Christ bore their sins so that they could bear His righteousness. God treated Him as if He committed believers’ sins, and treats believers as if they did only the righteous deeds of the sinless Son of God (John Macarthur, commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21).

If that doesn't excite you then you need to spend more time thinking about God's righteousness and your sinfulness. And then look to the glorious cross.

Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1


Nick said...

The term "impute" appears 40 times in the NT, so Paul was well aware of it, yet never was it used to describe those things. For something as important as three critical imputations, the fact Scripture doesn't use those terms should be cause for pause.

I recently wrote an article on my blog about how the Bible uses the term "impute."

Cameron Buettel said...

Hi Nick, could you please tell me what the correct understanding of that passage is?

Nick said...

Which passage in specific were you asking my input on? The only text you quoted where "impute" (in Greek) occurs is 2 Cor 5:19, but that's not in any of the three ways you're discussing imputation.

Cameron Buettel said...

I'm describing the transaction taking place in 2 Cor 5:21 as double imputation. Our sins imputed to Christ and Christ's righteousness imputed to the believer. When I use the word impute I am using it to differentiate from the Catholic idea of infused righteousness. It is a gracious credit, not an injection. This is a righteousness that is a gift that the newborn Christian cannot take any credit for.

Nick said...

Ok, I see what you're saying. I'd say the biggest argument against that is that the Bible doesn't speak like that, it doesn't use "impute" in that way. Paul used the word 2 verses earlier but not in v21...interesting if "double imputation" is so critical for an orthodox Gospel.

Cameron Buettel said...

Nick, I am currently reading the highly esteemed (endorsed by John Piper, DA Carson, and David Wells)and recent scholarly work on the atonement "Pierced For Our Transgressions" by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach who are all Phd theologians. Here is what they said on page 143 while commenting on 2 Cor 5:21:

"This emphasis on the imputation of our guilt to Christ, and His righteousness to us amounts to a statement of penal substitution. If we sideline it we risk distorting the biblical picture of reconciliation".


Nick said...

Hi Cameron,

I have read that book myself. I noticed many of their answers came from presuppositions rather than convincing proof.

All they are doing is assuming and asserting "imputation" is going on here, when the term simply doesn't appear and is never used like that.

For a more thorough treatment of some very serious exegetical problems given in Pierced for Our Transgressions, I invite you to read this essay, which focuses strongly on why Bible does not teach Penal Substitution: