The Imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ

  By David J. Stewart | February 2009 | Updated August 2016 | Click for MP3 music in new window

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God IMPUTETH righteousness without works.” (Romans 4:6)

       What in the world does that big word mean . . . IMPUTETH? The word “impute” means “to pass to one’s account, to count over” It means that Jesus places His righteousness upon our record when we trust upon Him for salvation. Romans chapter four speaks concerning Abraham, “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED UNTO HIM for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). What a beautiful truth! Abraham was not saved by good works; but rather, he believed God and was saved by Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s perfection was imputed (placed) on Abraham’s record in Heaven. God the Father viewed Abraham thereafter as having the righteousness of Christ. What a Savior!

Abraham was saved simply by placing His faith upon the Lord . . . “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Why was Abraham able to simply believe God in place of merit or good works? It's simply because Jesus paid the price for mankind's sins. You see, Abraham could NOT please God in his own self-righteousness, nor can we (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 10:3,4; Titus 3:5). No matter how much good we may do here on earth, our sins are still recorded in Heaven. Our sins must be dealt with. Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.

This is why Jesus came to earth to pay the price for our sins with His own precious blood . . . “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1st Peter 1:18-19). All mankind is corrupt and destitute of God. Even in our sincerest efforts, humanity is tarnished with the curse of sin and rebellion. We need HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, i.e., the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are saved by God's righteousness through faith in Christ:

“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5).

We read in Romans 4:8, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not IMPUTE sin.” Not only was Christ’s righteousness imputed (counted) to Abraham’s record, but Abraham’s sinful record was imputed to Christ. Literally, Jesus became as sin for us and died a sinner's death . . . “FOR HE HATH MADE HIM TO BE SIN FOR US, WHO KNEW NO SIN; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2nd Corinthians 5:21). Amen!

Here is the best quote that I've found on repentance, by Dr. Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951):

“Which comes first, repentance or faith? In Scripture we read, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel.' Yet we find true believers exhorted to 'repent, and do the first works.' So intimately are the two related that you cannot have one without the other. The man who believes God repents; the repentant soul puts his trust in the Lord when the Gospel is revealed to him. Theologians may wrangle over this, but the fact is, no man repents until the Holy Spirit produces repentance in his soul through the truth. No man believes the Gospel and rests in it for his own salvation until he has judged himself as a needy sinner before God. And this is repentance.” (Except Ye Repent, p. 16)

We read concerning Abraham . . .

And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was IMPUTED to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be IMPUTED, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:22-24). 

This is a beautiful passage of Scripture, teaching that God is willing to IMPUTE Christ's righteousness to us as well, just as He did to Abraham, if we'll simply believe on the Lord... “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

In his classic and helpful book, “SALVATION IS MORE THAN BEING SAVED,” Dr. Jack Hyles (1926-2001) teaches:

Upon the acceptance of God's plan, God imputes to man the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ; and God, Who cannot fellowship with unrighteousness, sees man clothed in the righteousness of His dear Son. Romans 10: 1-4, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."

...Man cannot earn that righteousness, for he has sinned.  The only hope he has for righteousness is that he receive the righteousness of Christ purchased for him on Calvary—man has his choice—to trust his own righteousness and spend eternity in Hell or to trust the righteousness of Christ, which in response to his faith will be imputed unto him, and then spend eternity in Heaven.  This is called "imputation in salvation."

...Satan, the accuser, may come to God and say, "Did you see that sin that Hyles committed?"

God says, "Yes, I did."  Satan says, "Then impute it."  God says, "I will not!"

Satan says, "Why?"

God says, "It has already been imputed.  It has been placed on the record of My Son, and I will not impute sin to those who are in Christ."

In review, let us see the order: (1) Sin.  (2) Sin recorded.  (3) Jesus became sin.  (4) Jesus paid for sin.  (5) Man believes it is true.  (6) Man receives Christ and His payment for sin.  (7) Calvary is made valid.  (8) Man's sins are covered.  (9) Man is justified in the sight of God.  (10) God will impute no sin to him.”


Christ paid our debt of sin upon the cross as our substitute (which is what “vicarious” means, “in place of”). God the Father IMPUTED our sins to Christ on the cross, and then God IMPUTED all of Christ's perfect righteousness to us. What an awesome deal! What a great God! Jesus paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay. Jesus paid it all, bearing the full weight of our sins upon the cross of Calvary! (“Calvary” is the name of the hill upon which Christ died. It is also called, “The Place of the Skull,” because the rock formations naturally look like a skull). It is a shame that the new Bible versions, including the New International Version (NIV), completely remove the word “Calvary.” Consequently, hymns like “At Calvary” lack meaning to this newer generation.

These Scriptures were written for us, that we might also have Christ’s righteousness imputed to our record, and our sins imputed to Christ’s record. He who knew no sin, became as sin, that we who knew no righteousness could be made the righteousness of God in Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:21). What a wonderful truth! To think that Jesus would actually bear our sins upon Himself and sacrifice His precious blood for our sins—we are not worthy. Thankfully, God looked beyond our faults through His love and saw our need . . . “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

I cannot express in Words how much I thank the Lord for what He has done for a sinful worm like me. Do you realize all that you will miss if you reject Christ as your Savior? Eternal life is a free gift (Romans 5:15; 6:23), which anyone may have simply by acknowledging their guilt of sin and believing on the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness . . . “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). It is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we are saved, so that God the Father may view us as having the righteousness of Christ which is imputed unto us at salvation . . . 

“Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God IMPUTETH righteousness without works” (Romans 4:6).

“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was IMPUTED unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God ” (James 2:23). Would you like to be the friend of God? It all begins when you BELIEVE THE GOSPEL to be saved. You don't have to “Invite Jesus into your life” to be saved. That's not “the Gospel.” You don't have to “Pray a prayer” to be saved. You don't have to “Ask Jesus into your heart” to be saved. You simply believe “the Gospel.” That is, you receive Christ's sacrifice on the cross as full-payment for your sins, believing that Jesus was buried, and bodily resurrected from the dead three days later (1st Corinthians 15:1-4).

God earnestly wants to impute your sins to Christ's record, and impute Christ's righteousness to your record. If you admit that you are a guilty sinner in God's sight and believe the Gospel, YOU ARE BORN-AGAIN!!! It's not what we can do for the Lord that saves us; but rather, it's what He did for us on the cross! Philippians 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Salvation is not doing your best, it is having Christ's best put to your account through receiving Him by faith. Christ is our sin payment! God will not save anyone who is trying to be saved, He will only save those who are trusting to be saved.

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