I read a post by another blogger recently titled “Made Righteous in Christ Jesus“. It is a well written post explaining and defending the traditional Reformed doctrine of the imputation of Christ’ righteousness.
But as the post takes flight the blogger focuses all of his energy on being made righteous by having faith in Jesus. In other words, there is subtle move from understanding being justified as a matter of “Incorporation/Participation” (being in Christ) to being imputed righteousness by having faith in Christ (believing in Christ).
I think this shift happens without thought and I think it is a mistake. I believe we are not made righteous by having faith in Jesus (that is how we are saved – Eph 2:8-9). But we are made righteous by Jesus’ own faithfulness!
Consider Romans 3:22:
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. – NIV
Notice the NIV reads, “faith in Jesus Christ”. But the Greek reads, “faith of Jesus Christ” (look it up). And since the Greek word for faith can at the same time be translated “faithfulness”, I think the passage should be rendered, “faithfulness of Jesus Christ”.
Think about it for a moment. The passage makes no sense at all if it says “faith in” because Paul would be exercising his right to redundancy: “Through faith [believing] in Jesus Christ to all who believe” – obviously Paul, why add, “to all who believe” if you already said, “through faith [believing]”?
I think the passage makes better sense this way: “Righteousness of God comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe”. Now doesn’t that make more sense?
When we believe we become participators in Christ, taking on his righteousness, a righteousness he claims by way of his faithfulness to God by being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-11).
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God – 2 Corinthians 5:21
The doctrine of imputation is always talked about a part from the doctrine of participation. I think this is a mistake.
The doctrine of imputation should never be talked about a part from the doctrine of participation.