The Heresy of Double Imputation
“The doctrine of double imputation limits the efficacy and sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work on the cross while Scripture clearly teaches that the single imputation of Christ’s perfect-in-every-way sacrifice is enough to make us righteous before God.
The doctrine of double imputation implies that works have merit before God. Somewhat ironically, a consistent proponent of the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ must accept that this system is indeed works-based salvation. R.C. Sproul is certainly consistent on this point when he writes, “Man’s relationship to God was based on works… Ultimately, the only way one can be justified is by works.” (Getting the Gospel Right, Sproul, p. 160) This idea is contrary to the Scriptural teaching in several places that the law cannot justify.
The doctrine of double imputation creates an unbiblical “neutral” category, similar to the Roman Catholic Church’s position regarding man’s original, pre-fall state.
The doctrine of double imputation promotes cheap grace, easy believism.”
- Faith Alone Sanctifies? (5ptsalt.com)
- John Piper Does Not Understand Justification (5ptsalt.com)
- In Essentials, Unity…Never Mind, Let’s Just Abuse Augustine (5ptsalt.com)
If double-imputation was false, why didn’t Jesus die for our sins as an infant?
First, in order to understand your question better, why exactly does the doctrine double-imputation require that Christ live longer than an infant?
Interesting. I guess that means no one will ever be justified, since only Jesus has ever kept the law, and the Sriptures teach that only the doers of the Law will be justified?
Randy, you are such a new calvinist. Sanctificaiton is NOT Justification in action.
He lived longer than an infant in order to live a holy life…so that it could be imputed to us.
And if we do not have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, how can the Scripture say that in Christ we have redemption AND righteousness?…
1Co 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
How else could we be considered as holy (1 Cor 3:17) unless we obtained Christ’s holiness?
Scripture even tells us plainly that we are blessed when God “imputes righteousness without works”…
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Rom 4:5-8)
Yes, Jesus died and rose again for our justification, but He did not impute His righteousness for your SANCTIFCATION! Justification declares you righteous. Sanctification, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, MAKES you righteous. Quite a difference. Don’t confuse justification with sanctification.
I don’t see how i have confused justification and sanctification. Perhaps you can show me where i confused the two?
Larry, I do not deny imputation – just “double imputation”. You seem to be confusing the two. Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is imputed to our account and the end result is many things: redemption, righteousness, salvation, glorification, indwelling, and more. However, the basis of that imputation is a life of perfect compliance and faithful obedience. A life that seeks to bring all things under subjection to the mind of Christ 2 Cor 10:5 and life that seeks to obey Him. “He became the source of salvation to all who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:9
There is no text of Scripture that teaches that He lived our lives for us or that teaches that his life of obedience has been imputed to us in addition to the imputation of His death.
As the video pointed out – IF His life of obedience could be imputed to our account, then He died needlessly. Furthermore, justification cannot come from the law . . . therefore, Christ’s justification did not come from the law. He was just from the beginning and His law keeping confirmed His justification and allowed Him to be the perfect sacrifice. Again, He has promised to provide His justification for those who are sanctified, to those who are faithful. Matthew 7, Luke 6, etc.
Let me understand…I get justification only if I achieve sanctification? and am faithful in obedience?
IF this is right I can never be assured of salvation. being justified.
I am justified by FAITH, Faith Alone in Christ Jesus, who was my atonement. If you add my behavior as a condition to salvation..
Hans, for the Christian, justification is a completed act of God. It is a declaration from the throne of God regarding our legal status before Him. It occurs once, is instantaneous, and is never repeated again. Sanctification is NOT ‘justification in action’. If it was, justification would be ongoing, i.e., Roman Catholicism doctrine.
thanks, I agree 100%
Hans, justification IS a one-time declaration…sanctification is a process that goes on throughout our lifetime. It is like marriage, A person is declared married on the day that they vow to stay faithful for life, but they will not stay married if they do not remain faithful. If the Christian perseveres in faithfulness, they will prove their justification and enter glorification. Salvation is not complete without all of it’s various parts – election, calling, repentance, conversion, justification, indwelling, sanctification, glorification, etc.
Justification is an act of which we are not aware . . . unless we persevere in faithfulness. This the biblical model for salvation from Adam and Eve all the way until the Church. The issue that many in the contemporary church seem to miss is that our deeds do play a role in judgment . . . those deeds do not merit or earn justification, but they will used as evidence, nonetheless.
Scripture is extremely clear on this fact . . . and it seems there will be many who assume that they have justification, but do not. Christ’s words to them will be: “why did you not do all that I commanded you?” Matt 7, Luke 6 Look at the clothing worn by the Bride in Revelation 19, or that once in heave, the saints will “rest from their labors” and their “deeds will follow them. (Rev. 14) Faithful, self-denying obedience is necessary for salvation. He will not be our Savior until He is our Lord. I could be mistaken, but I believe that every reference to the final judgment mentions that deeds, works, thoughts, words, actions and more will be held to account at that judgments. I also recommend Romans 2, Luke 14, Titus 2, 2 Peter 1, most of Hebrews . . . if Christ obeyed on our behalf, then we have no need for a sacrifice or even a mediator. “keep yourself in the love of God” “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” “by this we know if we love Him, if we keep His commandments” Romans speaks about the “gospel of obedience” Acts mentions that God gave the Holy Spirit to those who “obeyed the gospel.”
I think that a person can be in error about the existence of the doctrine of double imputation, but if that error causes that person to believe or teach that anything less than 100% submission to Christ is good enough for salvation, it is likely that they are believing or teaching a false gospel.
“IF His life of obedience could be imputed to our account, then He died needlessly. Furthermore, justification cannot come from the law . . . therefore, Christ’s justification did not come from the law”
How can you say, “justification cannot come from the law” when Paul wrote, “the doers of the law shall be justified” and “the man who does them [the works of the law] shall live by them?” I would agree with you if you had said, “the law cannot justify sinners.” That should be beyond dispute. However, the law did justify Jesus because he fulfllled all righteousness. He magnified the law and made it honorable. He is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
The reason he did not die needlessly even though his life of obedience has been put to the account of believers is that the imputation of his righteousness does not cancel out the fact that we had already incurred a debt of sin that had to be satisfied. Satisfying that debt simply forgave us. Justification does more than forgive us; it declares us to be positively righteous in God’s sight.
I was made righteous in my justification. I don’t think ppl understand justification or sanctification in the NT age. In justification by faith — we are regenerated. We gain a new spirit — we are a new person. We are born from above. We’re not “the same man” seeking to “lead a better life” and “become righteous”.
We gain a new spirit at salvation. That spirit is righteous and battles flesh. The more powerfully our spirits are edified, the more powerfully our spirits and the Spirit (together in union) fill our souls. That’s the process of sanctification.
People are WAY too focused on themselves and their own experience.
When the focus is on us and our experience, the focus is not on Jesus. When the focus is not on Jesus but is on a human experience in the flesh — it’s not “theology” — it’s the philosophies of man.
12Star, you say “I was made righteous in my justification.”
No. You were declared righteous in justification, but you were not made righteous. If you had been, you would never sin. “Righteous” always means in conformity to law. Justification declares, sanctification (by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit) makes.
How do you define righteousness? I would describe it in terms of obedience to God’s revealed will. If I am declared not guilty for every act of disobedience I have commited against God’s revealed will, that does not give me a positive righteousness; it simply forgives me for my crimes. The concern of justification is not simply to declare me not guilty. That is a negative verdict. Its concern is to declare me positively righteous in God’s sight. Jesus’ death satisfies for my gulit in breaking the law. His life imputes to me a positive righteousness in the presence of God.
You are right. As God, Jesus was righteous from the beginning, but as man, and particularly as the last Adam, he had no out worked righteousness though he was born without sin. Though he was sinless, he was not yet obedient. That is not to say he was disobedient, but to say he had never before been in a situation in which obedience was required. As soon as he first encountered the law under which he was born, he began to be obedient to it, demonstrating his absolute righteousness. He acted toward God’s law completely differently than any of us sinners would have acted under the same circumstances. His entire life was one of perfect, continual and inward obedience to God’s law. He was able to say, “I do always those things that please him.” Since it was a man who sinned and lost our righteous standing before God, it must be a man who regains our righteous standing. A divine righteousness untested by the demands of the law would not do. A real man must be confronted by the law and forge, in the furnace of testing, a perfect righteousness which his Father will impute to the account of believers. This is justification–mere forgiveness isn’t.
Do believers stand justified or is that simply something that happened to us and we got if over with?
A true believer stands justified. Justification is a one-time act of the Father, it is not ongoing. That would be progressive justification, a Roman Catholic (and new Calvinism) teaching.
Scripture makes it clear that God does impute the righteousness of Christ to believers…
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (Rom 4:6)
Note that it’s not just by the sacrifice, but also by the righteousness of Christ…
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Rom 5:18)
Larry, yes, that’s justification, but not sanctification. Big difference between the two, and that is the point being made.
Double imputation deals with justification, not sanctification.
Double Imputation is a doctrine related to Justification, which views the concept of imputation as applying both to Christ and believers. On the one hand, our sins are imputed to Christ who bore them on the cross. On the other hand, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers whereby they are seen by God as cloaked in the righteousness of Christ (from http://www.theopedia.com/Double_imputation)
Larry, I had a much longer comment, but something happened to it. I had a great deal of Scripture and deeper explanation. . . I can get it back if you would like to delve into this more deeply. But in summary:
No one is denying imputation. The issue is double imputation. We are made righteous because of the perfect sacrifice by the righteous Christ. However, justification does not come through works – Christ was just before he did anything.
The doctrine of double imputation does not always affect the gospel, but it is destroying the Gospel in wide swaths of broader evangelicalism. There are all sorts of people making terribly unbiblical statements on the basis of this doctrine and against the testimony of Scripture. For instance, Mars Hill: “God obeys for us”. . . there are plenty more. . .
Dispy’s are antinomian when they say that OT believers had to work for salvation while NT believers just need to trust. The reformed become antinomian when they say that “Christ obeyed for us. Two different paths, same error.
If you believe or teach that the Gospel demands anything less than complete submission to the lordship of Christ, that is a false gospel. Every NT book teaches that the obligation of salvation is complete denial of self and absolute faithfulness to the One who is just. Our deeds will be used in judgment to either demonstrate our faithfulness or demonstrate our rebellion.
Josh said: The reformed become antinomian
My reply: There is nothing antinomian about believing that Christ’s obedience is imputed to us for our justification. The believer does not follow the law to be justified, rather he follows the law out of a deep love for Christ and His things.
Josh said: No one is denying imputation. The issue is double imputation. We are made righteous because of the perfect sacrifice by the righteous Christ. However, justification does not come through works – Christ was just before he did anything.
My reply: Yes, Christ was just before He did anything…but He did not fulfill all of the Law until after He was an adult. And if He did not have to fulfill all of the law on our behalf i still don’t know why He would have lived past infancy. If we only needed a just sacrifice, surely He could have been that as an infant. But as it is, Christ also had to live a life that fulfilled all of the Law on our behalf.
Do you believe that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, just not from His obedient life but rather from the cross?
If our righteousness is a free gift (Rom 5:17) from where is it imputed? It’s not from the sacrifice, but rather from the righteousness and obedience of Christ (Rom 5:18,19).
From my perspective, this is the same errant doctrine that showed itself in seeker type churches. NC has just dressed it up with christianese language. The result is the same cheap grace and easy believism.
Larry, are you truly seeking the truth of Scripture on this matter? Or trying to win an argument? Romans 5 is clearly and contextually speaking about the death (sacrifice) of Christ. His life of obedience was essential to that sacrifice, but there is nowhere that teaches that He “obeys for us” as the New Calvinist’s teach.
You might not see this doctrine as antinomian, but it is being used for antinomiann purposes nearly everywhere we look.
Our justification is a free gift . . . it is priceless . . . we can never pay for it or earn it, but God has graciously consent to give it to those who are faithful to obey all that Christ commanded. He is the only way. “He has become the source of salvation for all those who obey Him.” Hebrews 5:9
Those who are found to have not faithfully obeyed, those who selectively obeyed and those who hypocritically obeyed will be cast out at the judgment.
The one who wants eternal life must “do deeds in keeping with repentance.” Acts 26:20 Larry, I don’t know how you live your life, but if you are consistent on this point as Scotty Smith, Tullian, Driscoll, Fitzpatrick, Keller and many others are . . . you might be in danger. Paul preached a gospel of “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” – he that he directly tied judgment to deeds. We must do the same.
Revelation 20:4 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 22:10,11 Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.
We do not deny that righteousness comes through Christ alone, but if your interpretation of one verse in Romans 5 contradicts clear teaching elsewhere in Scripture, you need to go back to the drawing board. This heresy is dangerous. Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. – Revelation 14:12
Josh, the teaching of Romans 5, as i have described it, is not a “new calvinist” teaching…
Rom 5:18 Geneva Note: Not only because our sins are forgiven us, but also because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.
John Gill on Rom 5:18: the righteousness of Christ being freely imputed without works
John Gill on Rom 5:19: not by their own obedience; nor by their own obedience and Christ’s together; but by his sole and single obedience to the law of God
Stating that this part of Romans is speaking of the sacrifice of Christ rather than His obedient life of holiness is much different from proving it. You have yet to show how i am wrong in interpreting this as Christ’s life of righteousness and obedience.
Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19)
a) Your interpretation of Romans 5:19 contradicts many other passages of Scripture.
b) The entire context of Romans 5 is the death of Christ.
c) There is no justification that comes from the Law . . . how could Christ’s law keeping alone result in our justification?
d) I think that you would agree that the two statements in v. 19 are parallel. Which option is more biblically consistent:
that Adam’s entire life of disobedience brought death is parallel to Christ’s entire life of obedience that brought life?
that Adam’s one act of sin caused death to come upon all parallel with Christ’s one act of obedience that brought life?
do you consider that Adam’s one act of disobedience brought death is parallel with Christ’s entire life of obedience that brought life?
Unless you are willing to say that Adam’s entire life was characterized by disobedience (which R Scott Clark does say), then this statement is not parallel and it is difficult to see Paul’s point. The correct option is clear: one act = one act.
This is not to say that imputation is a clearly taught biblical doctrine and Christ’s active obedience is clearly taught and necessary to Christ’s sacrifice. The issue that we reject is the imputation of that active obedience and the corresponding idea that Christ obeys for us – that is the heresy.
The old calvinists were wrong about double imputation, but most of them were correct in teaching that the Gospel still demands absolute obedience to Christ. They had some inconsistencies. The new calvinists are wrong about double imputation and wrong when they preach a gospel that demands nothing. They are less biblical, but more consistent.
Larry, if you are completely consistent on double imputation, then you must become a universalist.
Josh said: Larry, if you are completely consistent on double imputation, then you must become a universalist.
My reply: How so? You should at least explain what you mean by such a bold statement. Double imputation is given at justification to the elect…how does that have anything to do with universalism?
Josh said: Your interpretation of Romans 5:19 contradicts many other passages of Scripture
My reply: if you would have listed some of those “contradictory” passages i could have have interacted with them…but you didn’t.
Josh said: v. 19 are parallel. Which option is more biblically consistent:that Adam’s entire life of disobedience brought death is parallel to Christ’s entire life of obedience that brought life?…
My reply: they are parallel…one is referring to the disobedience of Adam the other to the obedience of Christ. When we inherit the sin of Adam it is only the original sin…because when we break one command we are guilty of breaking them all (James 2:10). It does not work the same way with righteousness…you can’t just be righteous in one command and be counted as righteous.
Further, v.19 does not tell us that we are “brought life” by Christ’s obedience, rather it tells us that we are “made righteous” by it.
Josh said: The correct option is clear: one act = one act.
My reply: Not so, because righteousness and sin are not on parallel with each other in this respect. One act of obedience does not make someone righteous, but one act of disobedience does make one a transgressor of the whole law.
Josh said: The issue that we reject is the imputation of that active obedience and the corresponding idea that Christ obeys for us – that is the heresy.
My reply: That is not a corresponding idea. I reject that Christ obeys for us in our sanctification. Thinking that these are corresponding ideas confuses the distinction between justification and sanctification.
Josh said: The new calvinists are wrong about double imputation and wrong when they preach a gospel that demands nothing
My reply: they are not connected teachings. Teaching that our justification is all from Christ has no implication that we are called to some kind of antinomian lifestyle.
Josh said: the Gospel still demands absolute obedience to Christ
My reply: In what way? Are you walking in absolute obedience to Christ?
You are taking R.C. Sproul’s comment “Man’s relationship to God was based on works… Ultimately, the only way one can be justified is by works” out of context. He is referring exclusively to the finished work of Christ.
I would caution you to tread carefully. You are teaching what is called Lordship Salvation Heresy. You are heretically adding to Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross by maintaining that our deeds somehow add something to our justification when the Bible clearly states that it is only Christ and Him crucified that makes us righteous. You are a legalist and trying to put people back under the bondage of an impossible requirement.
I would respectfully submit that you beg God for a teachable Spirit, a humble heart, and ears to hear the truth of the freedom in Christ. I would also strongly suggest you refrain from influencing others in the meantime.
Nonsense. Justification before God is by faith alone. It is a declaration whereby you are declared righteous, apart from works. Sanctification, the process whereby you are actually made holy is not imputed to you, but imparted, by way of the working of the Holy Spirit within the believer. Be careful.
Rather, a believer in Jesus Christ is already declared holy. Hebrews 10:8-10 “First he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them’—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Ongoing sanctification is, indeed, a working of the Holy Spirit in us as we continue to live in these mortal bodies of flesh. It is not dogged, determined behavior modification. This will only result in depression when one fails or pride when one achieves.
We are justified by faith apart from our works.
Rom 4:14-16, 23-25 NKJV
We are sanctified by faith, by resting in the finished work of Christ. (see also Hebrews 3:18-4:13, John 15:1-5)
Rom 8:3-4, 8-9, 11, 13-14 NKJV
Our salvation, from election through to glorification, is entirely a work of grace, a gift from God (Rom. 11:6). No one here seems to be arguing that evidence of our calling (in the form of spiritual fruit) is an unnecessary part of our lives. Nor do I see anyone arguing that our sanctification is a result of our effort (though we certainly apply effort, see 1 Cor. 3:6-7). At least Larry and Randy both seem to maintain that Christ’s full obedience is a matter of our justification. Yet it is still by His obedience that we receive the Spirit, His Spirit, Who lives in and through us (consider also 1 Cor. 15:10 and Gal. 2:20).
Rather than arguing for a theological term or from human reason let us turn again to the word of God. It is God who works in us both to WILL and to DO of His good pleasure.
Yes, Josh, complete submission, at least insofar as we are in the Spirit, to Christ’s Lordship is “required”, but not as a condition for salvation, rather as an evidence of it.
We combat ‘easy believism’ by emphasizing both law and grace, by showing the full requirement of complete submission, the terror of judgment seen both in the existence of hell and Christ’s death on the cross. But we also must emphasize the amazing love of God, and the effectual salvation He accomplishes for us.
If we are His sheep, we will hear His voice. If we love Him (i.e. our nature is changed) we will keep His commands.
Isn’t this sufficient for our agreement? Why argue? Let us maintain the unity of the body, and seek to edify one another.
well said, EJFarley.
There seems to be simply two problems in this discourse: 1. the human tendency to cling to a works-based merit system and 2. failure to understand that God’s original covenant with Adam still needed to be fulfilled– which Christ accomplished. And neither of these problems are larger than God’s grace whereby He gathers His children for Himself.
Let’s be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
are some of you using the phrase “new calvinist” to describe any view with which you disagree? While I might not be fully on board with the idea of vicarious law-keeping, it certainly is not a new view. Nor is it a dangerous view. There is no grace for the elect apart from Christ’s righteousness, which is Christ’s satisfaction of divine law. The only debate can be about what law Christ was under, since Christ was baptized with water to fulfill all righteousness, and that requirement is not given in the law of God to Adam or to Moses or to us. So, sure, there are questions. Will we be saved by the imputation of Christ’s resurrection (Romans 8:10) or by His deeds? We can talk about that, but there is no question that the gospel is about Christ’s satisfaction of law, not about the elect’s satisfaction of law. If Christ died for the sins of omission, how can the elect be condemned if they are placed into Christ’s death? But there are three imputations, not only two. Adam’s sin to all humans, Christ excepted. The elect’s sins to Christ. And then Christ’s righteousness (satisfaction of law) to the elect. The only debate is about the meaning of this law satisfaction. And there is nothing New about this debate. Piscator denied vicarious law-keeping, but he didn’t use that denial to teach a future justification based on “holy living” by legalists. Shall we call the legalists “the old Calvinists”? No, the labels are not helpful. Robert Trail and John Owen taught vicarious law-keeping by Christ, and they were not legalists who found their assurance in their own living.
Westminster Confession, chapter 8
6. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world; being yesterday and today the same, and forever.
7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.
8. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey, and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner, and ways, as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation.
Catholicism does not teach that Adam was created in a neutral state. Adam was created in a state of grace.