The "Christian landscape" in Denmark was a very bleak place to survey. What was I doing here? Amidst all the negatives (see part 4) I venture to see that God's providential hand in all of this was to sharpen my understanding of the Gospel, and my ability to discern between the true Gospel and the myriad of false ones (many of which thrive in modern evangelical churches).
At the core of this season of discovery was immersing myself in the wonderful doctrine of double imputation. John Macarthur says that this is the doctrine that clearly separates Christianity from all other works righteous religions. Avatar is boring. "Your Best Life Now" – yaaawwwwn! But becoming a Christian is a supernatural transforming work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:21 is exhilarating! It is about double imputation – what is that I hear you ask? Imputing the sinners sin to Christ and imputing Christ’s righteousness to the sinner. It is about God treating the righteous as if he lived the sinners life so that He can treat the sinner as if he lived the life of the righteous one. That is unbelievable good news. As grace is favor that we don't deserve, so double imputation is a credit to our account earned by Christ and a debt laid upon Christ's account owed by us. It is a system where God gets all the glory and we should give all the praise.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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 5:17-21).
So I'll leave you the reader with an investigative assignment in your own local church to see how they measure up. 8 signs of a gospel without double imputation and 8 signs of a Gospel with double imputation at its core:
What Does a Gospel Without Double Imputation Look Like
1. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where God forgives us because we tell Him we're sorry. God is bound by His character and nature - He cannot violate His demand for justice. All of mankind must suffer the just wrath of God for eternity in hell unless . . . a substitute stands in our stead!
2. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where Jesus died to give us a second chance. A man who is unregenerated by the Holy Spirit is a man dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). A second chance is no use to a corpse. He needs the Divine intervention of resurrection power!
3. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel with a god who loves us but requires no justice. If God were unjust He would not be loving.
4. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where Jesus is an example but not a substitute. Passages such as Phillipians 2 certainly teach us that Jesus set an example how we should live. But it is His role as a penal substitute that only makes that possible. Jesus came to do something we are incapable of doing - fulfill the law without sinning. Jesus came to suffer what we cannot endure - take the punishment of God's wrath in the place of sinners. It is only possible to follow Him as your example after you have trusted Him (in repentant faith) as your penal substitute. Modern catch phrases like "live the gospel" and "you are the gospel" are ludicrous in the light of the fact that we should be proclaiming the One Who is completely unlike we are as fallen men.
5. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where conversion requires a decision but not a transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Does your salvation hinge on the prayer you pray or on the finished work of the One you are praying to?
6. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where people are victims but not guilty criminals. Therapy and self-esteem are hindrances to true repentance. It is only when we see ourselves in the true light of our wretched depravity that we can see the kindness of God demonstrated in sending Jesus to die for sinners. Sinners who need forgiveness more than social justice. Sinners who need imputed righteousness more than hedonistic happiness.
7. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel where repentance is an option but not a command. "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:30-31)
8. A gospel without double imputation is a gospel that says plenty about "global warming" but is silent about "global burning". A gospel without double imputation is a gospel that frightens lost men with the ecological plight of this world but neglects to warn of their eternal plight in the world to come.
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).
So have a good listen to the preaching in your local church through the filter of these 16 points I have laid out. Needless to say that hearing about double imputation in a Danish church is like an Elvis sighting . . . only more rare!
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A La Carte (March 31)
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