THE INCORRECT VIEW:
As with all things, there is a correct and an incorrect view of ‘imputed righteousness’. This is an important doctrine, so we need to take the time to come to a correct understanding of it. Let us start with the incorrect understanding….which is… "a sinner’s simple belief in God is imputed by God to be equivalent to, or instead of, true righteousness unto salvation, WITHOUT works of righteousness".
The view described above, cannot be the correct view for a number of reasons, as we will show :------
faith is much more than a ‘ simple belief in God’. Nearly everyone has that kind of ‘faith’, Christians and pagans alike.
SECONDLY,God does not tell lies about people. It would be a lie for God to call someone who is really still a sinner, a saint, or a righteous person, merely because he has a belief about the existence of a god. It would be a travesty of all true justice, and "Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne". Psalm
THIRDLY, ‘imputed’ does not mean …. ‘substituted for’
"without works", does not mean "without righteous conduct", or
THE CORRECT VIEW:
The correct view is :--- "Who ever has the same kind, or quality of faith as Abraham had, (a faith that both ‘believed God’ and ‘obeyed God’), though he was a sinner yet he turned from the idolatry of his fathers and repented of his sins". We are assured that God not only forgave his sins but imputed, or reckoned his Abrahamic faith to be what it really was , righteous conduct. . This will be reckoned to the person apart from, or without any works he has done. It is not of God’s debt
(favour) to a person, but it IS an act of God’s mercy and grace.
The correct understanding of the doctrine can be gained by a careful study of Romans 4, where the doctrine of ‘imputed righteousness’ is principally found, and by understanding the true meanings of the words ‘faith’ and ‘imputed’.
PROVING THE CORRECT VIEW:
Romans chapter 4
could be captioned ‘ Abraham’s case proves that justification (being reckoned righteous), is by faith.’
Abraham was ‘right with God’ by his true faith in God, not by his own
Vv. 6-8 David , having done evil works, bears further witness.
Vv. 9-12 Righteousness is reckoned to everyone who has Abraham’s faith, Jew and Gentile alike.
Vv. 13-17 It has to be by faith unto righteousness, for law brings human sin and
Vv. 18-25 Abraham’s faith is the standard and example for all people and for all
Nowhere does Romans chapter 4 say, or imply, the incorrect view of ‘imputed righteousness’. Rather, it presents the correct view, mentioned above. What it does say is that, for God to account us as righteous, we must have the same kind and extent of faith that Abraham had.
We must be righteous, in fact, in heart and also in action. Abraham’s faith had two important things;
1. He believed in the God who revealed Himself to him and he believed His promises (vv.3, 21)
2. He was always willingly obedient to God’s commands. (
Gen.12:4; 13:18; 15;4-6; 17:23; 18:19; 22:3-10. Hebrews 11:8-10; 17:19
If our faith in God’s promises and commands is like that of Abraham, then God will impute that faith as righteousness.
THE MEANING OF "FAITH":
FAITH "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". Hebrews
11:1. RSV. Faith includes faithfulness, as all the examples in Hebrews 11, prove. "Faith without works is dead…..being alone", James
2:14-26. True faith, which both believes God’s promises and does His will, is what is "imputed for righteousness". This is because faith is in fact righteousness. . There is no such person as a faithful person who is also an always disobedient person. It is right to believe God’s promises and obey His commands. What justifies people before God is " the obedience of faith". Romans
1:5; 16:26 The person who believes God, will obey God, BUT, the person who claims he believes God, but disobeys Him, is a false worshipper, God wants true worshippers who worship Him both " in spirit and in truth". John
4:23-24. Whoever says he believes God, but yet disobeys Him, is a liar and a hypocrite!
THE MEANING OF ‘IMPUTED’:
The Greek word rendered "imputed", is logizomai and means ‘reckoned, accounted, imputed’. It is an accountant or bookkeeper’s word. It describes the action of an accountant ‘writing in’ an asset or a liability in the company’s financial records.
An actual asset or an actual liability is deemed to be what it is, in fact, by an entry on the appropriate side of the Company’s Balance Sheet.
God is a good ‘Accountant’, who records the names of His faithful people in His symbolic ‘ book of life’ . Philippians
3:4; Rev. 3:5; 20:12-15; 21:27; 22:19. God does not make false or erroneous entries. He does not record unfaithful people in His ‘book’, but nor does He fail to record His faithful people there. Matthew assures his readers that, "…the righteous shall shine forth as the sun, in the Kingdom of their Father". Matthew
13:43, whilst the Apostle Paul assures us, "Know ye not that the unrighteous SHALL NOT inherit the Kingdom of God".
IMPUTED RIGHTEOUS PEOPLE ARE RIGHTEOUS:
Abraham was reckoned righteous because his faith in God and His promises, made him righteous. He stopped being the ignorant idolater he once was, and became a worshipper of the one true God. But he , and others, "all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth". Hebrews
11:13. It is these promises which form part of the ‘basics’ of the beliefs of righteous people, as they seek to " put on immortality, eternal life". 1 Corinth.
David, who had sinned very badly, was accounted righteous because he turned away from his sins, confessed them and turned back to the worship of the one true God. His whole life from that time on, was even more dedicated to the one who had selected him to be King over the Kingdom of God, which was the Kingdom of Israel.
God imputes disbelieving and disobedient people as being wicked, BUT……He imputes believing and obedient, that is, FAITHFUL PEOPLE, AS BEING RIGHTEOUS.