The righteousness of God imputed

the reformersThis doctrine that we hear as part of the “grace message” of Joseph Prince has roots that go back to the Reformation. The early Reformation creeds give evidence of this. Creeds are succinct summaries of the teachings and faith of groups of Christians. The ones quoted below are from the Calvinist reformers of the Protestant movement. They express the crux of the message that generated  the great revivals of the Protestant Reformation. Study them and you will see that these reformers believed that justification…

…..is an undeserved gift of God’s grace;

…..is not just the forgiveness of sins but also the imputation of the perfect obedience and righteousness of Christ to the believer;

…..is received by faith alone apart from works of law, yet this faith is never alone but works through love;

…..cannot be separated from regeneration.

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was written by Zacharias Ursinus, professor at the University of Heidelberg, and Caspar Olevianus the court preacher.

“Question 60: How are you right with God?

Answer:  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.”

The Belgic Confession(1561) was written by Guido de Bre`s, a Reformed Belgian preacher. Article 22 contains these statements:

“And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works” (Romans 3:28). However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us – for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us together with him in communion with all his benefits. When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) was written by 131 pastors and 30 laymen at Wesminster Abbey in London. It is a Puritan Calvinist creed.

XI.1 :“Those whom God effectually calleth he also freely justifieth; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; ….by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

“Faith thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the [only instrument] of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.”

This message of justification, especially the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness and its manifold applications, have not been preached much from most Protestant pulpits. The  Pentecostals and charismatics and other evangelicals have preached being regenerated and sanctified and anointed, but not much on being justified. Even traditional denominations like the Presbyterians, Methodists,Anglicans, Lutherans have jettisoned justification, deemed as risky and with an antinomian aftertaste, in favor of a more popular taste: the “char kway teow” of user-friendly, practical sermons. My plea is for a more Reformation flavor in our pulpits, especially, the one that is at the heart of the gospel: the message of justification. This is something all churches must do if they want to have healthy disciples. We lose a great source of assurance if we do not. This is my firm conviction.

(Source:  Hoekema, Anthony A. “Saved by Grace”, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1989, p 170-172)

25 thoughts on “The righteousness of God imputed”

  1. Good citation on topic of justification. Not forgeting the Brethren denomination. They were strong on distinction of law and grace.

    Haiz, i agree with Blogpastor that today’s traditonal and evangelical churches have departed from this vital topic. A lot of mixture of law and grace in preaching and teaching.

  2. Interesting background and opinion.

    However if one looked at the protestant reformation from a historical perspective, it was a essentially a political struggle against the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church of that time.

    Reformation initiated the 30 years in Europe. The ascendancy of the Ottoman empire in the Asia Minor and tumoil in Europe, created the genesis of the current social, religious and political fault lines in Europe.

    Most religious intellectuals and thinkers of the time had powerful political and feudal patrons.

    IMHO trying to justify spiritual ascendancy or superiority on these “contemporaneous and politically subversive” doctrines as wholly religious and spiritual would be erroneus.

    The “doctrines” were primarily designed to over throw the Roman Catholic church!

    It was and probably is still antinomian – just a personal perspective.

  3. Interesting background and opinion.

    However if one looked at the protestant reformation from a historical perspective, it was a essentially a political struggle against the hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church of that time.

    Reformation initiated the 30 years War in Europe. The ascendancy of the Ottoman empire in the Asia Minor and tumoil in Europe, created the genesis of the current social, religious and political fault lines in Europe.

    Most religious intellectuals and thinkers of the time had powerful political and feudal patrons.

    IMHO trying to justify spiritual ascendancy or superiority on these “contemporaneous and politically subversive” doctrines as wholly religious and spiritual would be erroneus.

    The “doctrines” were primarily designed to over throw the Roman Catholic church!

    It was and probably is still antinomian – just a personal perspective.

  4. Dear Pastor Kenny,
    Will you preach the completely pure gospel of Grace without adulteration of law EVEN no one comes to hear you??

  5. Dear Pastor,
    Will you call Satan as Satan on the pulpit instead of “the enemy…..the enemy comes….the enemy goes…”??

  6. Dear Pastor,
    “….I am the vine, you are the branches…” How long does it takes for the new vine to produce good and sweet grapes?

  7. Finished work, the theology of grace is a wonderful concept that keeps some people’s mind enthralled.
    It’s like Japanese cosplay.
    You live in the character but it is not you.
    If the reasoning is correct, you lose your identity so long as you are in the role.
    Its selling point is that it removed a part of you which you hate or regard as, in their definition, sin.
    As such, the fruits you are expecting also should be virtual.

    1. …and while cosplaying, we are being transformed into the image of the character we are in…how beautiful…

      And we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor 3:18)

  8. Sorry, theoretically from their esteem theology, it is a total eradication of you – or dead to self, the ugly you – so you can put on or clothe yourself in Christ,hence, cosplay.

    I hope I got that right.

  9. “Question 60: How are you right with God?

    Answer:  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.”

    The problem here is that those were not the exact words of the bible. The Catholics were creative in their interpretation of the bible. That poses a problem with the reformation movement and they came up with their brand of teaching, in their own words or as these men saw it.

    Their expanded version, word for word, can never be found in the bible – especially in one single context.

    At the end of the day, there is no consistency in experience to substantiate it’s creative interpretation.

    As a result, it divided into thousands of sectarian conflicts and brought much bloodshed to our world.

    Despite all the historical evidences and with the benefits today’s knowledge, people are still adamant of its theological inerrancy.

    Sad that they continue to contribute or sow the seed of hate. Oh the irony.

    1. It is right that those are not the exact words from the bible, but they have strong biblical foundation according to Rome 7 : 13 – 26, and Rome 8 : 1 – 17. Study and meditate those passages (not just read them once or twice), and you will get a better understanding.

  10. Question 61
    Does grace have other consequences beyond personal prosperity and almost perfect health?

    Roman catholic church doctored the Bible to support a merger and aquistion of crumbling Roman empire with a SP vehicle called the Holy Roman Empire. Gradually the holy part became redundant. Modern variants use same tactical strategy to carve a luxiourious Nd comfortable lifestyle for the small group of founding and vested stake holders.

    Moral:- lemmings and sheep are happier than God (truth) seekers – just give them a
    doctored script and a plausible tale, like a good Ponzi scheme it will have legs and a promise of prosperity.

  11. Strip away christian idolatry, which is a misunderstood Jesus, and paranormal activities, myths and sorcery, there maybe enough substance in the bible that could be relevant to our world

    I have yet to hear an intelligent and sensible extraction from this revered book which will do justice to its all inclusive and purposeful content. For now, it is still an exclusive membership under the maestro of a handful of black collar opportunists.

  12. Hi Pilgrim
    Heard many times during my journey on many continents and been blessed God gave us 2 commandments – 1) love him with all our being and 2) love your neighbour as yourself – the rest are mere commentaries if you cannot fulfill the 2 commandments.

    Hope it will also turn on the light for you and straighthen your path.

    Shalom – another life traveller

  13. We cannot love blindly or build our lives on the foundation of lies.

    One of the key lessons in the bible is to not put the cart before the horses mouth.

    Otherwise, we will be exploited by unending charities.

  14. It is certainly a gross mistake to presume past Protestant creeds, especially if we are referring to those most illustrative of Reformed or “Calvinistic” tradition, as sources that had “generated” past “great revivals.” Most of the great past revivals were normally born from the margins of Protestant confessional bodies— which usually were attacked by those representing reformed or Scholastic Orthodoxy. In fact, Reformed and Scholastic Orthodoxy has proved itself throughout Protestant church history as one of the greatest sources of enmity towards outbreaks of spirituality revival. During the Reformation itself, true revival did not occur within the mainline confessional bodies by at the margins from groups such the Anabaptists. And because they precisely sought more form God than what they saw being preaching through early Reformed ideas of “imputed righteousness,” both Calvin and Luther approved the execution (or was it genocide?) of thousands of such “dissidents,” to Protestant orthodoxy. T
    While the doctrine emerged as a corrective, the Reformed doctrine of “imputed righteousness” has normally existed in itself, as a very weak and incomplete doctrine of Christ atonement— when not fully complemented by other needful and equally needful biblical ideas of Christ atonement and even the fuller meaning of justification by faith alone. Historically, the doctrine of “imputed righteousness” as particularly taught from Reformed Orthodoxy, has hindered rather than facilitated spiritual revival. When revival had historically broken out within Protestantism, whether from within Wesleyan or more Reformed bodies, it has generally involved an active and willful “seeking” for far more from God than what believers found themselves having already received upon their “conversion experience.”
    As a Reformed minister, Charles Finney thus found himself attracted to more Wesleyan ideas of second works of grace, began seeking that in his own life, which he called the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” and then made that the centre of his preaching for revival. And the truth is, in their own their own articulations of “Spirit baptism” as a second work of grace, Wesley and his successor, went back before the Reformation and chose to draw upon teachings of “more from God” from within Roman Catholic spiritualities. Incidentally, there long before Protestantism, during Protestantism, and up to the present day, both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions have long evidenced populations of believers open to “more” from God, which they have received in the forms of fresh effusions of God’s love, various anointings, and miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Of course we must recall the charismatic renewal in the Roman Catholic Church ever since the 1960’s which has involved a strong emphasis upon the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” although they would also certainly differ from the Reformed understanding of “imputed righteousness.” Our world is filled today with spiritually alive and Spirit-filled Roman Catholics, who speak in tongues and testify to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and yet have no intentions of ever leaving the Roman Church. The truth is, they have shown themselves quite often, far more open to receiving from God, than the normal Reformed Evangelical Christian. They are in essence, Roman Catholic Pentecostals or Charismatics.
    Martin Lloyd-Jones certainly would certainly validate much of what is written here, concerning the assumption that one “has it all” at the moment of Christian faith: “Got it all? If you have ‘got it all,’ I simply ask in the name of God, why are you as you are? If you have got it all, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians? Got it all! Got it all at your conversion! Well, where is it I ask?” While Martin Lloyd-Jones certainly believed and preached the finished work of Christ that did not translate in him encouraging believers that have no need to still “seek more” from God beyond presumably “resting” in a “state of imputed righteousness of Christ.” No, he did not preach that. What he preached was a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as subsequent to conversion, an experience when he understood as translated into encouraging believer to keep on hungering and thirsting and seeking for more from God. Moreover, Martin Lloyd-Jones is not a true Reformed minister. He was heavily influenced, and admitted, that he represented a more “Wesleyan” oriented movement within the Reformed tradition. That is why he himself began preaching the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
    Yes, the Pentecostals and Charismatics have been historically right to preach on sanctification and anointing, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and encouraging believers to seek more from God beyond their conversion experience. It would not be historically correct to say that they have not been strong “on being justified.” No, they have always been strong “on being justified” in the broader meaning of the term “justification,” just as they have been strong on grace, because the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and every fresh receiving of “more” from the Spirit” is a receiving a “grace;” hence, “charis,” and “charismatic.” The truth, Pentecostal churches, the Pentecostal movement altogether over the past century, as well as much that has transpired within the charismatic movement insofar as it has resulted in genuine outward missionary and missiological endeavours throughout the world—these have evidenced a very strong doctrine of “justification,” in all its full missiological ramifications. That is why Pentecostal movements are actually correct to have often identified themselves as “full-gospel” churches.
    In truth, all churches and all believers are “charismatic.” Every spiritually regenerate Christian lives by God’s grace and is a “New Covenant” believer; every Christian church is a “New Covenant church. You and I may not be comfortable with a given churches’ doctrine or a preacher’s ministry, but every believer born by the Spirit is graced, including the Corinthians. Let us also recall several very authentic “New Covenant” churches in Singapore: first, Grace Assembly of God is a grace-driven church. So is New Covenant Evangelical Church. Another is City Harvest Church. Another is St Andrews Cathedral; also St. John-St Margaret’s Church. Also to note is Victory Family Centre. So also is Cornerstone Community Church. All of these and many more, are “New Covenant” churches, and grace-driven churches. To say otherwise— and to deem some believers as so-called “grace” or “new covenant” believers and others as something else less than that, is in fact another form of Gnosticism, and ultimately will become another form of dead orthodoxy. As far as current preaching goes, the deeper problems of contemporary preaching is really not a problem of “law” versus “grace” centred preaching, but rather a problem of wrong “communication” models and purposes in contemporary preaching; that is why we have I would agree an over-extended reliance on “user-friendly” and “practical how to” driven-preaching; that is a problem of preaching caught up in the “modern” mindset.
    Now concerning the baptism in the Holy Spirit, as well as other conceptions of second works of grace subsequent to conversion, I ask: Do we really know what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Is not the baptism in the Holy Spirit a baptism into something very new of Jesus’ life—a fresh revelation of Jesus? Is it not a baptism into the very love of God? Yes, it is. Therefore, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is truly baptism also into the grace of God. If we want to grow believers in God’s grace, do not discourage them from seeking more from God— far more from God than what they have experienced at conversion.
    Dead Reformed Orthodoxy meanwhile, has proven itself as another symptom of a weak understanding of the atonement, which tends to overextend the idea of “imputed righteousness.” It has been such weak Reformed and Protestant orthodoxy which has often led to worst kinds of cultural accommodation over the past three centuries, including that which allowed the emergence of Nazi Germany. What it is leading to today is a Christianity that easily identifies itself as “culturally savvy” Christianity that caters to consumerist discipling forces of the global market place. Joseph Prince represents one facet of this ongoing problem, which can be, and may one day be corrected to a more complete understanding of grace, justification, and atonement. No; we do not need “a more Reformation flavor in our pulpits;” that would be one of the least things we need. A more ecumenically inclusive and broader sensitivity to some of the salient charismas resident within all major Christians spiritualities— yes, now that would be a good idea.

    1. Jesus always a friend to sinners and tax collectors of the global market place. To the religious and sophisticated pharisee of His day; He called them ‘white washed tomb”

  15. Monte, thanks for sharing your burden here. Appreciate the charisma resident among the Pentecostals.

  16. I just found your comments and find them refreshing.

    Our focus is on gettign about the business of the Kingdom. Scripture says we are made priests and kings unto Him. AT best we have emphasized how to be servants and perhaps priests. Roman 5:17 tells us that the key to reigning now with Jesus is how well we “lambano” waht God has given.
    Rom 5:17 “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which (lambano)receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)” KJV

    When a king reigns, what he says happens. While I am not defining roles, if a king decrees a thing, it how happens that way in his kingdom. To me that is answered prayer. If valid, Rom 5:17 tells me that a key to answered prayer is to hold onto the grace of God and His awesome justification by faith in the work of the blood of Jesus.

    As we pastor we see lots of needs, but, at least in my case, not much answered prayer like healing, etc. If the key is to grab hold of the gift of righteousness and we are not preaching it, then we are depriving ourselves of a key to answered prayer.

    If we are not seeing answered prayer, what are we seeing?

    Thank you for showing the foundation of our faith.

  17. Without and outside Christ, none of our good deeds is taken into account. In Christ, none of our transgressions is put against us.
    Christ and Christ alone that matters.

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