Imputation Confusion Part 1

Derek Ouellette —  December 3, 2010

I really struggle with the idea that we Christians have been “MADE” righteous by God through the process of having been “Imputed” Christ’ righteousness. There seems to be loads of confusion swirling around this subject. For example; how do we define “righteous”? Is “righteous” a reference to someone’s moral standing, as in “perfect”? Or should we define “righteous” as someone’s relative moral standing, as in a “righteous character with occasional flaws”? Or is “righteous” a word we use to describe someones temporal moral standing, as in being righteous until one sins and then repenting in order to be righteous again? Or is “righteous” to be understood in a more contextual manner, that someone is righteous regarding a specific thing? Are there various stages to being “righteous” so that it could be said that one person is more righteous then another person?

Next we have to deal with the issue of confusion revolving around the word “justification” as it relates to “righteousness”. Do these two words communicate the same thing? Or is there a notable difference between these two words?

And finally we need to deal with the word “imputation” itself. What does “impute” mean? Is imputation a “physical or spiritual transfer of something from one person onto another”? Or does it mean to “declare”, “consider” or “reckon” something onto someone? In other words, to put this question in some sort of context, does “impute” mean that every person has actually received or committed Adam’s original sin so that you and I are actually guilty of committing Adam’s sin apart from any sin we might commit? In light of Romans 5, are you and I then “imputed” Christ’s rightesousness in light of his faithful obedience to God on the cross, dying in our place? If this is the case, is “righteous” then defined as a faithful obedience to God in the context of dying on the cross so that it could be said, Christ died on the cross and I received his righteousness in that act so that any sins or disobedient lifestyles I choose to live today are irrevelent? In this way I have been “MADE” (i.e. imputed) righteous, regardless of a sinful lifestyle. Is this what imputated righteousness (i.e. the doctrine of “Imputation”) boils down too?

How can we be “made righteous” (a moral reality) when in actual reality we are not living righteous lives (actual moral reality)?

These and other questions I’ll be exploring over the next few weeks.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Craig L. Adams

    And I look forward to reading.

  • Nick


    I’ve devoted much of my time to correcting a very widespread misunderstanding about the term “impute.” Many are extremely shocked to hear this, but the Bible never uses the term “impute” in reference to imputing our sins to Christ or imputing Adam’s guilt to man, or even Christ’s Righteousness to us.

    Many think that the term in Philemon 1:18 for “impute” is a common word, but it only appears twice in the Bible, never in reference to salvation. Rather, there is another term, not the same as Phil 1:18, that is used about 40 times in Scripture which is logizomai in Greek, and this is the term Paul uses in regards to “reckoned righteousness” in places like Rom 4.

    In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular lexicon here is what it is defined as:


    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”



    The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:


    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the…

  • Nick

    (cont) In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.

    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

  • Derek Ouellette

    NICK! Thanks. All of that was excellent. I had not journed as deep as you have on this subject and will reference this comment when I address the subject in an upcoming post.

  • Theodore A. Jones

    “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13
    Figure this out.