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Quotes on Imputed Righteousness

The translator’s difficulty with this passage arises from the lack of a single English verb to express both “do right” and “be right with God”; of a noun that means both “righteousness” and “acceptance with God as righteous”; and of an adjective to describe the man who is both “righteous” and “accepted as righteous,” or to use the Latin, both “just” and “justified.” The resulting obscurities and inconsistencies give aid and comfort to human nature–Paul would say “the flesh”–in its habit of divorcing faith from faithfulness and justification from righteousness. The interpreter has to guard against basing “justification by faith” upon a fictive or imputed righteousness rather than presenting it as an actuality inseparable from the Christian’s present life in Christ. When Paul says that the righteous man who is both just and justified is to live on the basis of faith, he is describing a way of life that is present as well as future. His faith is the determinant of action which makes righteousness actual even now.
— The Interpreter’s Bible on Galatians 3:11

But to him that worketh not – It being impossible he should without faith. But believeth, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness – Therefore God’s affirming of Abraham, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness, plainly shows that he worked not; or, in other words, that he was not justified by works, but by faith only. Hence we see plainly how groundless that opinion is, that holiness or sanctification is previous to our justification. For the sinner, being first convinced of his sin and danger by the Spirit of God, stands trembling before the awful tribunal of divine justice ; and has nothing to plead, but his own guilt, and the merits of a Mediator. Christ here interposes; justice is satisfied; the sin is remitted, and pardon is applied to the soul, by a divine faith wrought by the Holy Ghost, who then begins the great work of inward sanctification. Thus God justifies the ungodly, and yet remains just, and true to all his attributes! But let none hence presume to “continue in sin;” for to the impenitent, God “is a consuming fire.” On him that justifieth the ungodly – If a man could possibly be made holy before he was justified, it would entirely set his justification aside; seeing he could not, in the very nature of the thing, be justified if he were not, at that very time, ungodly. — John Wesley on Romans 4:5

Note that I’m not quoting these as authority for the position, but rather as expressions of this view of imputed and imparted righteousness to spark thought. I do consider both of these statements very good expressions of my own view on the matter.

I would place these expressions alongside what Adrian Warnock quoted from Wayne Grudem.

If I could add my own note, God counted (not “thought of”) Jesus as one of us (sinners), to bring an end to that reality. He counts us as righteous upon our justification, in order to begin bringing an end to the reality of sin in our lives. This is one of the problems I see with making PSA the central metaphor of the atonement. One almost has to see God in error. He sees Jesus as sinful, even though he is not, and he sees us as righteous, even though we are not. I would say that God intentional mixes the categories–counting Jesus as one of us, and then us with Jesus–to bring about the reality. He always knows what he is doing, and I think it’s better to express it in that way.

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  1. Indeed, Henry. I don’t see God as mixing up our status and Jesus’, whether accidentally or deliberately. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where it says that God saw Jesus as guilty of sin – except perhaps in one possible interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21. As for how God sees us as justified without injustice, I can only suggest that God understands us Christians to have already been punished, in that we have died to sin (and need to die to sin daily because of our ongoing sins) and raised to new life in Christ. This is not a complete and adequate description, but it makes more sense to me than the deliberate miscarriage of justice idea which seems to lie behind Grudem’s thinking as quoted by Adrian.

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