May 14 – IMPUTATION: a $50 word of immeasurable, eternal value

May 14, 2022 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21,22). 

The book of Romans has been called Paul’s theological magnum opus.

What is surprising to me is that Paul uses the word cross 10 times in his epistles, but it does not appear once in the 16 chapters of Romans.

However, the once-for-all sacrifice as Christ as the Lamb of God dying by crucifixion to remove forever the sin of His people backstops every verse.

In chapter 3, the Apostle is dealing with this issue: how do we obtain righteousness?

The Law of Moses which had provided Israel’s holiness code for 15 centuries, was not successful in producing righteousness in a single life. Consequently, because the Law was never about supplying righteousness, Paul is explaining God’s provision of righteousness apart from law.

And that brings us to imputation – a $50 word with immeasurable eternal value.

Imputation has a somewhat contrived definition: to declare to be true of one of whom it would not be true without said authoritative declaration.

Clearly time for a simple illustration!

Years ago, a couple in our family adopted a little boy from Eastern Europe. On arrival in that nation they had to pass through expected – and unexpected – legal hoops to take possession of the child. But there came a point in the process where they finally were able to declare that boy as their son and it was then that he instantly became part of their family – for life!

Minutes before he was not in their family; but that declaration – legal and practical – made him their child from that moment on.

They had the authority to do so. They had so declared.

Family membership was imputed to the child.

Israel was very familiar with another illustration from their annual celebration of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

This somber autumn commemoration involved 4 animals. Three – a ram, a young bull, and a male goat – were slaughtered by the high priest for sacrificial purposes.

The 4th animal remained alive. This was the scapegoat or the goat that goes away (Hebrew – azazel.)

After slaying the 3 animals and with bloody hands, the high priest rested both hands on the head of the living goat to confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head (Leviticus 16:21).

Symbolically, year after year, the scapegoat would be led outside the camp/city bearing the sin of all of the people for the prior year. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place…(v.22) where it would be abandoned in the Judean desert to face certain death.

But the concept of imputation was clearly illustrated. Because God so declared, that goat graphically and metaphorically carried the accumulated sin of God’s people away from the Holy City and onto an unknown remote place.

The allegory was used by the Lord to declare each year that the sin of the sinners was placed on another – imputed to an innocent goat.

This annual drama was clearly looking ahead – foreshadowing – the ultimate, final, sin-bearing death of the Lord Jesus.

The scapegoat depicted the Cross.

[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Romans 3:23-25).

God is holy. He is the ultimate arbiter of righteousness. God alone has the authority to declare that imputation has occurred – that we are justified, declared righteous.

But don’t miss the concept of double imputation.

Because of the Cross, the Gospel could be summarized: my sin was charged to the account of Christ, and His righteousness is credited to mine.

Why? Because God so declared it.

Takeaway: understanding imputation impels us to more deeply appreciate the beauty of the Gospel of Christ.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (Romans 5:21).

…graphic by