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Imputation of Jesus' Life of Sinless Perfection and Righteousness

The Imputation of Christ's Sinless, Perfect Life

Calvinism teaches the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer: Jesus' sinless life is imputed or reckoned to the child of God, so he cannot fall from grace. What does the Bible teach?

Calvinism teaches that the sinless, perfect life of Jesus is imputed or reckoned to the believer so that God does not see the Christian's sins: He sees only the perfect obedience and righteousness of Jesus. This is a fundamental point in the doctrine of "the eternal security of the believer" or the "perseverance of the saints" (also called "impossibility of apostasy," or simply "once saved, always saved"). Does the Bible teach the imputation of Jesus' life of sinless perfection? Are we "saved by Jesus' doing and dying," or is the sacrifice of Jesus' death on the cross all we need for salvation? 

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Introduction:

The purpose of this lesson is to study the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's sinless life.

This doctrine is closely associated with the doctrine of "once saved always saved," so it has long been debated with Calvinists. More recently it has been defended by members of "conservative" churches to justify fellowshiping members who practice error.

In any case, we need to understand the doctrine and what the Bible says about it.

The meaning of "impute" (Greek logizomai)

The word has various meanings. Those relevant to our study include:

"...reckon, calculate ... count, take into account ... count something against someone to punish him for it ... can also mean credit ... a workman's wages ... credited to him ... put on someone's account, charge to someone ..." - Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich.

"...to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over ... to take into account, to make account of ...; metaph. to pass to one's account, to impute ... lay to one's charge ... a thing is reckoned as or to be something, i.e., as availing for or equivalent to something, as having the like force and weight ..." - Grimm-Wilke-Thayer.

When an accountant is keeping a book of records, something is "imputed" or "reckoned" to someone whenever an entry is made in the record. If you have a savings or checking account, amounts are "imputed" to your account whenever money is deposited or credited to you. If you violate civil law, your police record shows the crimes that have been imputed or reckoned to you.

Imputation is a Scriptural word. The question is: What does God impute to us and how? In particular, is the sinless life of Jesus somehow imputed to our account?


I. The Definition and Consequences of the Doctrine


A. The Doctrine Defined

Teaching of Calvinists

Consider the doctrine of inherited depravity.

Regarding Adam and Eve: "They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity ..." - Westminster Confession of Faith (Presbyterian Book of Confessions, Par. 6.033).

Hence, the guilt of Adam's sin is imputed to you. It is put on your record so you must pay the penalty for it just as if you committed the sin. You are counted or reckoned as being guilty of the sin Adam committed.

Now consider the doctrine of imputation of Christ's life:

"Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: ... by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them or done by them ...; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them ..." - Westminster Confession (ibid., Par. 6.060)

"Christ not only bore our penalty on the cross, but in his life he perfectly obeyed his Father. It is the personal righteousness of Christ's sinless obedience that is put to our account, on the basis of which we are declared not guilty" - Calvinist Gordon H. Clark (via Grushon, Searching the Scriptures, 10/74).

"...a man will be justified by faith when, excluded from the righteousness of works, he by faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, and clothed in it appears in the sight of God not as a sinner, but as righteous. Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favour as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ ..." - Calvin's Institutes, Book III, ch. 11, #2.

"To declare that we are deemed righteous, solely because the obedience of Christ is imputed to us as if it were our own, is just to place our righteousness in the obedience of Christ." [He illustrates this by comparing it to Jacob receiving Isaac's blessing because he put on Esau's clothing.] - Institutes, Book III, ch. 11, #23.

So when you become a child of God, He imputes to you the sinless life of Jesus. Jesus' sinless life is credited to your account, just as if you had lived that life. When God looks at the record of your life, He does not see your sins but sees only the sinless life of Jesus, so He rewards you accordingly.

Teachings of some who accept only part of Calvinism:

"The 'just requirement' of the law is the law's demand for a perfect life which man was unable to accomplish because of fleshly weakness. Without doing any violence to the text whatever we could paraphrase Paul in this way: 'You have proven that because of your fleshly weakness you cannot meet God's demand for perfection: therefore, stand aside and let Christ meet this demand for you.' ... Therefore, we can say that the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed to us because the law is fulfilled in us!" - R.L. Kilpatrick in Ensign Fair, quoted with approval by Arnold Hardin in Persuader, 5/28/78, via Neo-Calvinism, p. 218.)

"...faith in Him (Christ) brings to the sinner's account the merits of his perfect obedience (satisfaction of law) and death (satisfaction of penalty for the broken law)" - Arnold Hardin, Persuader, 5/3/77; via Willis, Truth Magazine, 2/9/78.

Hence, sinners need two things to receive eternal life: (1) forgiveness of sins, plus (2) A record of having kept God's law without ever having sinned. Christ, we are told, is our substitute on both counts. He died in our place so we could be forgiven and He lived a sinless life in our place. We are saved by His doing and His dying.

B. The Consequences of the Doctrine

As taught by Calvinists

Calvinists use the imputation of Christ's sinless life to teach "once saved, always saved."

"...the Father embraces us in Christ when he clothes us with the innocence of Christ, and accepts it as ours, so that in consideration of it he regards us as holy, pure, and innocent ... Provided with this righteousness, we constantly obtain the remission of sins through faith. Our imperfection and impurity, covered with this purity, are not imputed, but are as it were buried, so as not to come under judgment ..." - Calvin, Institutes, Book III, chap. 14, #12.

Hence, when the sinless life of Jesus is imputed to the believer, God determines their eternal destiny by looking, not at their actual conduct, but at the sinless life of Jesus, which has been imputed to them. They can never be lost, no matter how the live. Hence, "once saved, always saved."

As taught by some who accept only part of Calvinism:

Some church members use the imputation of Christ's life to excuse, not all sins, but only doctrinal errors that cause division in the church. Hence, we can fellowship such people regardless of the division. It goes something like this (with variations):

When a person is converted (including Scriptural baptism), Jesus' sinless life is imputed to the convert. God will then forgive any sin of ignorance or human weakness, especially doctrinal errors, as long as they are not done in stubborn rebellion. On this basis we can continue to fellowship those who teach and practice unauthorized forms of worship, church organization and centralization, premillennialism, the Social Gospel, support of human institutions, etc.

This is the same argument as Calvinists, but does not go so far. However, it is also not consistent. If Jesus' life is imputed to the Christian, why would it cover only sins of ignorance and human weakness? Why not also immorality and stubborn rebellion? What passage proves this distinction?

Calvinism is a close-knit system. Accepting any part of it compels acceptance of all of it. Why not be consistent and accept "once saved, always saved"? Why not accept the imputation of Adam's sin to us? The arguments brethren make, consistently applied would lead to accepting the whole Calvinistic system. There is no consistent stopping place.


II. The Significance of Christ's Sinless Life and Sacrificial Death


Two major Bible teachings disprove the conclusions that follow from the imputation of Jesus' life. These teachings have been discussed in other lessons.

(1) The Bible clearly teaches that a child of God can so sin as to be lost. If so, the imputation of Christ's life cannot be true. See article on once saved, always saved at our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/ (or see the links at the end of this article).

(2) The Bible clearly teaches us to rebuke Christians who sin. See our article about rebuking people for religious error at our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/ (or see the links at the end of this article).

But why reprove them if they are destined for eternal life and will not be lost? If sins committed through ignorance are automatically covered by Christ's sinless life, then people are better off ignorant. We should not teach them God's will, because they would cease to be ignorant and God would then condemn them!

In this lesson, let us look at what the Bible says about Jesus' life and death, then see applications to the doctrine of imputation.

A. Did Jesus Live a Sinless Life?

1 John 3:5 - In Him there is no sin.
2 Corinthians 5:21 - Him who knew no sin, God made to be sin on our behalf.
Hebrews 4:15 - Christ was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.
1 Peter 2:22 - Jesus committed no sin.

Clearly Jesus was not guilty of sin. But what passage says this sinless life is credited to Christians? He lived a sinless life; but did he live it in our place, so God treats us as if we had lived that life?

[Isaiah 53:9; Matt. 27:4,24; Mark 1:24; Luke 23:22,41; John 8:46; 19:6; Acts 3:14; 4:27; 7:52; 13:28; 22:14; Heb. 7:26,27; 9:14; James 5:6; 1 Peter 1:18,19; 3:18; 1 John 2:1]

B. Why Is Jesus' Sinless Life Important to Us?

Jesus' sinless life is important, even necessary to our salvation. But why is it so important?

Jesus' sinless life gives us a perfect example to follow.

1 Peter 2:21,22 - We should imitate Jesus' example. To show us how to live, Jesus did not sin. This leaves us without excuse when we do sin. [Cf. 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:15]

Jesus' sinless life makes Him an ideal priest and mediator between God and man

Hebrews 4:14-16 - Because Jesus was tempted like we are, He can sympathize with our weaknesses. He experienced first-hand all the kinds of problems we experience. This gives us boldness when we approach God, knowing that we have an understanding high priest. [5:1-3]

Hebrews 7:25-27 - Because Jesus is undefiled and separate from sinners, He does not need to offer sacrifice for His own sins, but just for the sins of the people.

Because He committed no sin, Jesus is able to communicate with God on our behalf. Our sins separate us from God, so He will not hear (Isaiah 59:1,2). Jesus can obtain forgiveness for us because He is sinless.

Jesus is the perfect high priest and mediator between God and man, because He partook of the nature of man and yet lived a sinless life so He can communicate with God. In that way He can maintain a relationship with both God and man. [Heb. 5:8,9; 1 Tim. 2:5]

Jesus' sinless life gives us a perfect sacrifice for sin.

1 Peter 1:18,19 - We were redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus as a lamb without blemish and without spot. Old Testament animal sacrifices had to be without blemish. This was a symbol of the fact our sacrifice had to be sinless. [Lev. 22:18-22]

1 Peter 3:18 - In order to bring us to God, Christ had to suffer as the just for the unjust. Christ died as a sacrifice suffering punishment though He was innocent, so we could go free though we were guilty. To pay this penalty for us, He had to be sinless.

We could not pay the price for anyone else because we are sinners and deserve to die for our own sins. Had Jesus not been sinless, He could not have been punished for our sins. He could suffer in our place only if He committed no sins for which He deserved to be punished.

Christ saves us, not by living a sinless life in our place, but by suffering the punishment of sin for us. His life is not substituted for our life; rather, His death was a punishment that freed us from punishment.

The sinless life of Jesus was essential to our salvation because it was necessary to qualify Him as the sacrifice for our sins. But no passage says that His sinless life is credited to our account as if we ourselves had lived that sinless life.

C. What Does Jesus' Death Do for Us?

We have seen that Jesus' sinless life was necessary in order for Him to offer the sacrifice for our sins. Note how often the gospel emphasizes the importance of this sacrificial death. If we also need Jesus' life as a substitute for our lives, where are the passages that emphasize that His life is imputed to us like these passages emphasize His death was died for us?

Jesus' death was the sacrifice for our sins.

1 Peter 3:18 - He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust.

Isaiah 53:5 - He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.

Hebrews 2:9 - He tasted death for every man.

[1 Peter 2:21-24; 2 Cor. 5:14f; 1 Cor. 15:3; 5:7; Eph. 5:2]

Jesus' blood redeems us from sin, purchasing us, and making us His.

1 Peter 1:18,19 - Animal blood was the price of redemption under the Old Testament, but this could not permanently remove guilt (Heb. 10:3,4). We were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ as a lamb without spot.

Ephesians 1:7 - We have redemption through His blood.

Revelation 5:9,10 - Jesus redeemed us to God by His blood.

[1 Tim. 2:6; Acts 20:28; 2:38,41,47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:25]

Jesus' blood gives forgiveness or remission, cleansing or washing us from sin.

Ephesians 1:7 - Through His blood we have even forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:28 - His blood was poured out for many for remission of sins.

1 John 1:7 - His blood cleanses us from all sin.

Revelation 7:14 - We wash our robes white in His blood.

[Heb. 9:22,25-28]

Jesus' blood gives us peace and reconciliation with God, saving us from His wrath.

Colossians 1:20-22 - We are reconciled to God because Jesus made peace through the blood of His cross.

Romans 5:9,10 - We are saved from wrath because, while we were enemies, we were reconciled through His death.

[Heb. 5:8,9; Eph. 2:12-16]

Jesus' blood justifies us from sin.

Romans 5:6-9 - We have been justified by His blood.

Jesus' blood sanctifies us.

Hebrews 10:9,10 - Under the New Testament we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus once for all. [Heb. 10:14-18; 13:12]

Jesus' blood defeated Satan and delivered us from fear of death - Hebrews 2:14,15.

God's word states again and again that Jesus' death saves us from sin - we are saved by His dying. If we are also saved by His doing - if we also need Jesus' sinless life imputed to us in order to be saved - why is this not similarly emphasized in Scripture?

Illustration based on Revelation 7:14 - Suppose my garment becomes so stained it is worthless, then some benefactor removes the stain. Does he also have to give me his garment to wear? Why do I need his garment, if mine is now free from stain? What was the point of cleansing my garment if I am going to wear, not mine, but his?

We are counted righteous, not because Jesus lived a sinless life in our place, but because He died as a sacrifice for us. His sinless life was necessary, not because it is imputed to us as though we lived that sinless life, but because He had to live a sinless life in order to be qualified to die for our sins.

To claim we need Jesus' sinless life credited to us is to deny that the blood of Jesus is sufficient to save us from sin!


III. Evidence for the Imputation of Christ's Life


Some passages are cited to uphold the doctrine, but most people would never dream these verses taught the doctrine unless they have help. It will be easy to prove that the verses are not teaching the imputation of Christ's sinless life. Proving that they do mean will be more difficult.

Romans 4:3-5

This verse says righteousness is imputed to believers, so some argue this means Jesus' sinless life is imputed. NKJV says "accounted" in vv 3,4 (footnote on v3 says "imputed, credited, reckoned, counted"), but uses "imputed" in v6.

1. The passage says a man's FAITH is imputed to him for righteousness (vv 3,5).

Where does it say Jesus' sinless life is imputed to him? Some folks, whenever they see a verse that says something is "imputed," jump to the conclusion that Jesus' life is the thing imputed. That is assuming the whole thing to be proved! This is like Charismatics who assume Holy Spirit baptism and tongues are meant every time they see "Holy Spirit."

2. HOW is this man counted to be righteous?

Vv 6-8 quote Psalms 32:1-5 to show how. God imputes righteousness (v6) when our iniquities are forgiven and our sins covered, so that sin is not imputed (vv 7,8).

Vv 20-25 - This forgiveness is granted through Jesus' death.

A man is counted or reckoned to be righteous before God conditionally when he believes (this refers to saving faith, which is obedient faith). (See 4:3,5,9,21-22.) Jesus' blood cleanses man from his sins, so his record before God shows that his sins are not imputed or counted against him any longer. He is therefore counted to be righteous.

Hence, a man is reckoned or counted to be righteous (righteousness is imputed to him) when his sins are forgiven by means of Jesus' sacrificial death on the condition of obedient faith. There is no longer any guilt to he held against him, so he is held to be righteous.

Nothing here says Jesus' sinless life imputed to the Christian.

3. In what sense is man saved by faith apart from works (v4,5)?

We have disproved Calvinistic imputation whether or not we can answer this, but consider.

"Works" can mean different things in different contexts. Here it means "works of the law" (3:20) including circumcision (4:9-12) - hence, works of the Old Testament law.

Romans 4:4 is the key - under the old law, one could by justified only by working so that he earned righteousness as a "wage" or a matter of "debt", not grace. The law could not offer forgiveness (grace), because it had only animal sacrifices in which sins were remembered every year (Hebrews 10:3,4). To be counted righteous, one had to live without sin (Galatians 3:10).

But everyone except Jesus did sin (Rom. 3:23,9-18). The law proved everyone was a sinner in need of forgiveness. It made them aware of their guilt, but then it could not really remove the guilt (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:11,12,21-25). Hence, justification by works here means earning a right standing before God, not by forgiveness, but by living your whole life without sinning.

The gospel is a system of grace in that it provides forgiveness, which man does not deserve. Grace is offered to all (Titus 2:11,12), but to receive it one must meet the conditions. The basic condition is a saving faith, not a dead faith [Rom. 4:5,21-25; Gal. 3:24,25; John 3:16; etc.]. But saving faith requires obedience especially baptism (Gal. 5:6; Heb. 10:39 & chap. 11). [James 2:14-26; Gal. 3:24-27; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16. Abraham's example shows that faith must obey to receive God's blessing - cf. 4:3,9; Gen. 15:6; 12:1-4,8; Heb. 11:8-10; James 2:21-24].

So righteousness is imputed on the basis of faith apart from works in that one does not earn salvation by living a life of sinless perfection. Instead, one trusts God to provide forgiveness, and trust requires obeying all Divine conditions. But forgiveness is provided by means of Jesus' death. This passage cannot be used to prove imputation of Jesus' sinless life.

Romans 5:10

We are reconciled to God through Jesus' death and saved by His life. Some argue that "saved by His life" means His sinless life is imputed to our account.

1. Again, it does not say His life of sinless obedience is credited to us.

It says simply we are saved by his life, which could mean several things. We must not assume the thing to be proved! Do not read a meaning into the passage, but try to understand it in harmony with other passages.

2. Jesus' "life" here refers, not to His sinless life before He died, but to His life AFTER He died - i.e., to His RESURRECTION.

Many passages speak of Jesus' death and life (like Rom. 5:10) referring to His death and resurrection.

Romans 6:9,10 - Jesus died. Then "the life that He lives" refers to the resurrection (v9).

Romans 14:9 - Jesus died and lived again (resurrection) that He might be Lord of living and the dead.

Many passages show that Jesus' resurrection was essential to our eternal life:

1 Corinthians 15:13-17 - If Jesus was not raised, our faith is vain and we are yet in sin.

Romans 10:9,10 - To be saved, we must believe Jesus was raised.

1 Peter 3:21 - Baptism saves us by the resurrection of Jesus.

Colossians 2:12,13 (Romans 6:3,4) - We are buried and raised with Christ so we have a new life (born again).

1 Peter 1:3,4 - We are begotten again to the inheritance in heaven by the resurrection of Jesus.

Romans 4:24,25 - Jesus was delivered (killed) because of our transgressions and raised because of (NKJV; "for" - ASV) our justification - i.e., because we needed it.

The "life" that here is essential to our salvation is, not the sinless life Jesus lived before His death, but His resurrection. In any case, nothing says His sinless life is imputed to us.

[Heb. 7:23-25; 2:14,15; 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:20-26; Rom. 8:34]

[3. Even if it could be proved that Jesus' "life" here refers to the fact He lived a sinless life, we have already granted that He had to live a sinless life in order to offer a sinless sacrifice for our salvation. Where does it say His life is imputed to us?]

Romans 5:18,19

Many are made righteous through the obedience of Jesus. It is argued that this means we are made righteous because His sinless life of obedience is imputed to us.

1. The passage does not say Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us.

It says that His obedience was essential to our salvation. Even if this referred to His lifetime of obedience (which it does not), it still does not prove His obedient life is imputed to us. We have agreed that He had to live sinlessly in order to offer an adequate sacrifice (though even this is not what is meant here), so His obedient life was necessary to salvation. But that has no reference to His sinlessness being imputed to us. Again, Calvinists assume what they must prove!

2. Nearly all false doctrine on Romans 5:12-21 can be disproved by observing that whatever some people lost through Adam the same people gained through Christ.

Adam is compared and contrasted to Christ (v14). They are alike in some ways, different in other ways. The key point is this: Whatever people lost through Adam, the same people gain through Christ! Note the chart:

Verse

By Adam

 

By Jesus

V15

the offense (of one man)

"not like"

The free gift (by grace)

V15

many died

"much more"

the grace ... abounded to many

V16

resulted in condemnation

"not like" ... "but"

resulted in justification

V17

death reigned

"much more"

righteousness will reign in life

V18

as judgment came to all men resulting in condemnation

"even so"

the free gift came to all men resulting in justification of life

V19

as many were made sinners

"so also"

many will be made righteous

V20

where sin abounded

"much more"

grace abounded

V21

sin reigned in death

"even so"

grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life

The problem that all men had through Adam, the same people received the solution to the problem through Jesus.

If this means that the sinless life of Jesus is imputed to men, then it also means that Adam's sin was imputed to men.

If we accept the imputation of Christ's sinless life, we are compelled to accept inherited depravity. Calvinism is a unit. Accept part and you are logically compelled to accept it all. Those who argue for Christ's imputed life are compelled to accept inherited depravity! But we have elsewhere disproved inherited depravity; therefore, we cannot use this passage to argue for imputation of Jesus' sinless life. See our article on inherited depravity at our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/ (or see the links at the end of this article).

If this means the guilt and consequence of Adam's sin was unconditionally imputed to all men, then it must mean that Jesus' sinless life is also unconditionally imputed to all men.

Whatever problem Adam caused and for whatever people he caused it, Jesus solved the problem for those same people. If everybody was unconditionally lost through Adam, then everybody is unconditionally saved through Jesus!

Calvinists are logically compelled to accept universal salvation! But this contradicts the Bible, so it must not be that people unconditionally inherit the guilt of Adam's sin.

3. The truth is that the obedience of Jesus refers to a righteous ACT - His death on the cross - not to His lifetime of obedience.

The disobedience of Adam was, not a lifetime of sin, but an act of sin (v17-19). What act? Eating the forbidden fruit. Likewise, the obedience of Jesus was, not a lifetime of obedience, but a righteous act (v18), which justifies men. What act was that? His death! This fits the context and other passages (studied earlier).

This passage does not teach salvation by the imputation of Christ's sinless life, but salvation by Jesus' death - exactly what we have said all along.

4. Whatever we receive through Adam and whatever we receive through Jesus are received CONDITIONALLY.

If the passage is discussing things received unconditionally, then the passage teaches universal inherited depravity and universal salvation. Christ would make as many people righteous as Adam made guilty. But universal salvation is not true (Matt. 7:13,14), therefore men do not receive the guilt or the justification unconditionally.

Adam's sin act brought sin into the world, but we become sinners when we meet conditions - we commit sin - note 5:12. Likewise, Christ's death brought justification into the world (made it available), but we receive forgiveness when we meet the condition: obedient faith.

Again, the obedience of Jesus that saves us is His death on the cross, not His sinless life imputed to us. This is the opposite of what Calvinists teach!

2 Corinthians 5:21

We become the righteousness of God in Christ. This supposedly means that Christ's righteous life is imputed to us.

1. Where does the passage say that Jesus' sinless life is imputed to us?

It says we become the righteousness of God in Him, but how does this happen? Again, the argument assumes what must be proved!

2. Note how this passage parallels others:

2 Corinthians 5:21 - Christ became sin for us (when He died) that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:14,15 - Jesus died for us that we might not live for ourselves but for Him.

1 Peter 2:24 - Jesus bore our sins on the cross that we might live to righteousness.

Romans 6 - We are baptized into Christ's death so we may be justified (vv 3-7), then we become servants of righteousness by not allowing sin to reign in our lives (vv 12-19,22).

So 2 Corinthians 5:21 means we are made righteous through Jesus' death, then we should continue to live righteous lives in Him. We come into Him at baptism (Gal. 3:26,27; Rom. 6:3), thereby becoming new creatures (Rom. 6:4; 2 Cor. 5:17). We should then live as new creatures, not going back to our old lives of sin (Phil. 3:9; Col. 3; etc.).

We become the righteousness of God because Jesus forgives us and teaches us to live a new way of life. There is no reference whatever to Jesus' righteous life being credited to us.

Hebrews 10:5-7

God was not pleased with sacrifices and offerings, so He gave Jesus a body and sent Him into the world to do His will. This supposedly means that, in the body, Jesus' lived a sinless life in our place.

1. Where does the verse say that Jesus' sinless obedience is imputed to us?

We agree that He did God's will in His body. But was that obedience imputed to us? Calvinists assume what they must prove!

2. Again, Jesus' obedience here refers to His death as the sacrifice for our sins.

The contrast is not between animal sacrifices and Jesus' sinless life, but between animal sacrifices (vv 3,4,8,11) and Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (vv 9,10,12-18).

Vv 9,10 - Jesus came to do God's will, but what did He do? He removed the first covenant and replaced it with the gospel in which we are sanctified by the sacrifice of His body. That is the obedience to God's will that is here referred to.

Jesus obeyed God by dying. [See Matt. 26:39; cf. Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8.] His body is significant here, not because He lived a sinless life and imputed it to us, but because in that body He died to bear our sins (1 Peter 2:24).

This passage proves the opposite of what is argued by defenders of the imputation of Jesus' life.

Elements of the Lord's Supper

"We are saved by both the doing and the dying ... The two elements of the Lord's supper remind us of both elements of our redemption: the bread signifies the body in which a perfect life was lived on our behalf (Heb. 10:5ff); the cup signifies the blood shed in atonement for our remission" - Ed Fudge, Firm Foundation, 10/1/74 (via Willis Truth Magazine, 2/9/78).

1. Where does the Bible say that the bread is a memorial to the sinless life of Jesus or that His life was lived on our behalf?

The bread does memorialize Jesus' body. But where is the proof this refers to His sinless life or that the life is imputed to us? Again, this is assumed, but not proved!

2. Eating the bread and drinking the cup BOTH proclaim the Lord's death.

1 Corinthians 11:26 - The bread does not signify the perfect life of Jesus in His body, but rather His death in His body, just as surely as does the cup. [Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24]

1 Peter 2:24 - Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross. That is why we memorialize it.

Again, this doctrine belittles the death of Jesus as the sufficient sacrifice for our sins. It elevates Jesus' sinless life making it a substitute for our salvation along with His death. We memorialize both the body and the blood, but the Bible says both are a remembrance of Jesus' death.

1 Corinthians 1:30

Christ became righteousness unto us. Supposedly this means His righteous life is imputed to us.

1. But again, where does it say His sinless life is imputed to us?

Yes, He became our righteousness. But how? The passage does not say His sinless life is imputed to us. The argument assumes what it must prove!

2. It says He also became wisdom, sanctification, and redemption to us. Is each of these a characteristic of Jesus' that is imputed to us?

Are we credited with having the wisdom of Jesus? Many Calvinists expressly argue that sanctification cannot be imputed from one person to another, but rather sanctification refers to the life the Christian lives for God. If so, they cannot use this passage to teach Jesus' righteous life was imputed to us.

3. The passage simply means that Jesus is the SOURCE of all these things.

He makes it possible for us to receive them all.

Cf. John 11:25; 14:6 - He is the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, and the life. In what sense? He is the source by which all of them are made available to us.

To know how to receive these things, however, we must study other passages. How do we receive righteousness? By having our sins forgiven by His blood, as already studied.

Conclusion

The doctrine of imputation of Christ's sinless life is false.

In order to give us eternal life, God does not need for us to have a record of a life without ever having sinned in addition to being forgiven by Jesus' death. Christ gives us salvation, not by having His sinless life credited to us, but by paying the penalty for our sins in His death.

Further, "once saved, always saved" is not true. A Christian can so sin as to be lost.

The issue of fellowship involves many aspects, but we can know this: (1) Jesus' sinless life does not automatically cover sins of doctrine, worship, church organization, etc. And (2) those who practice such sins must be rebuked and taught to repent.

What we need to emphasize is, not the imputation of Christ's sinless life, but forgiveness through Jesus' death.

But remember forgiveness is conditional.

The person who is not a child of God must believe, repent, confess Christ, and be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.). We must not belittle these conditions of forgiveness but rather preach them.

The child of God who sins needs to repent and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1: Psalms 32:5; Matt. 6:12; Luke 18:13,14; Prov. 28:13). Again, we must not belittle these conditions of forgiveness but rather preach them.

(C) Copyright 1998, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale.  Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.

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Topics for further Bible study

Calvinism and the Gospel
Once Saved, Always Saved (Eternal Security)
Original Sin and Inherited Depravity
Election and Predestination
God's grace and mercy (law & works)
Individual Responsibility in Salvation
Importance of Repentance
The Importance of Obedience
Salvation by "Faith Only" vs. Obedient Faith
Should Babies Be Baptized?

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