“Justification is a verdict that declares sinners to be righteous even while they are inherently unrighteous, simply on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to them” p.85
I would like to contend that Justification does not come on the “basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed on them”. Rather Justification comes on the basis of Christ’s faithfulness. Period.
And here’s why…
Justification is a legal term, as Horton observes, having to do with a declaration made by God (the Judge). If a judge were to declare a person “righteous” even though he was “unrighteous”, the judge himself would be violating the rules established by the court (or, in God’s case, by his own character). That is, by declaring a sinner “righteous” God would make himself unrighteous (since it would be an unrighteous declaration).
The way to escape this charge is to introduce the idea of “imputed righteousness.” The only way – so it is supposed -for God to avoid a judicial mishap is for Christ – the righteous or perfect one – to impute or transfer his perfection or righteousness on to the unrighteous person. This, in effect, pulls a wool over the judges eyes so that the person standing before him is no longer unrighteous, but righteous (or perfect).
It’s the cosmic equivalent of slight of hand.
The problem in my opinion is that the doctrine of imputation biblically speaking is a stretch at best. Sola fide is very near the heart of Evangelicalism of which the doctrine of sola scriptura came along to buttress. It’s for this reason that Evangelicals – if they weren’t so bloody hell-bend on defending their tradition – ought to seek a fresh way to biblically structure sola fide. And one way to do that is to get rid of this idea of “imputed” righteousness. (Yes I know the word “impute” is the confusing and unfortunate translation choice of the KJV and the NKJV, but to break this down for you: impute=λογίσηται=reckon, impute≠alien-transfer. The Bible does not teach an alien transfer of Christ’ righteousness or of Adam’s sin, neither does the word “impute” in the KJV and NKJV carry that meaning.)
The problem with holding that the basis of Justification is “Christ’s righteousness imputed” to the believer (aside from the point we just made, that the very idea of imputation is, biblically speaking, suspect), is that it views Christ’ righteousness in some abstract way stripped from it’s biblical context in the subject of Justification. Yes, Jesus was righteous, as in perfect or completely good. But his general goodness is not the point. Our justification is not based upon Jesus’ sinlessness.
What Paul is saying very specifically is that our justification is based upon Jesus’ faithful obedience to the Father in the very specific surrendering of himself on the cross. That is, our justification is based upon Jesus’ faithfulness, via Philippians 2, and declared upon us when the Judge sees the evidence he is looking for. Not a perfect man (he already found one!), but faith in the Faithful One.
Now we are back at the court scene where the Judge is peering down at the defendant from his high throne and asking the defendant to show him evidence of either innocence or guilt. What evidence? Faith in the Messiah! The defendant is declared guilty if she is found faithless, or she is declared innocent (justified!) if she is found to have faith.