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Holman Bible Dictionary

Impute, Imputation

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Setting to someone's account or reckoning something to another person. God reckoned righteousness to believing Abraham (Genesis 15:16 ). This means that God credited to Abraham that which he did not have in himself (Romans 4:3-5 ). This does not mean that God accepted Abraham's faith instead of righteousness as an accomplishment meriting justification. Rather, it means that God accepted Abraham because he trusted in God rather than trusting in something that he could do.

Similarly, drawing from Psalm 32:1-3 , Paul stated that only God can forgive sin. Those who are forgiven are not regarded as wicked since the Lord does not impute to them their iniquity. Instead these are considered or reckoned as children of God (Romans 4:7-8 ,Romans 4:7-8,4:11 ,Romans 4:11,4:23-24 ).

The imputation of righteousness lies at the heart of the biblical doctrine of salvation. This righteousness is seen in Christ who purchased redemption. God grants righteousness to those who have faith in Christ (Romans 1:17 ; Romans 3:21-26 ; Romans 10:3 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Philippians 3:9 ). This righteousness imputed or reckoned to believers is, strictly speaking, an alien righteousness. It is not the believer's own righteousness but God's righteousness imputed to the believer. So, as Luther said, believers are simultaneously righteous and sinful.

Not only is the imputation of God's righteousness to the believer taught in Scripture, but the Bible in some sense implies that Adam's sin was imputed to humankind (Romans 5:12-21 ; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ). Likewise, it is taught that the sins of humanity were imputed to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21 ), although the exact nature of this divine imputation remains a mystery. The matter has been intensely debated in church history since the time of Augustine (A.D. 354-440). Nevertheless, for a consistent biblical witness, it must be maintained that in Adam God judged the whole human race guilty. Yet humankind has not merely been declared guilty; each human has acted out his or her guilt. More importantly, it is impossible for sinners to be righteous in God's sight apart from the gift of righteousness graciously granted to them in Christ through faith.

David S. Dockery

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Impute, Imputation'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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