Justification and Imputed Righteousness



The most obvious place to start when considering justification and imputed righteousness would be the chapter that has much to say regarding the subject.  Romans Chapter 4 has eleven (11) versus which use the words impute or imputeth, reckon or reckoned, or counted, all which in the margins is rendered imputed.  We will advance 68 thoughts by different authors.

Romans 4:3-6, 8-11, 22-24:

  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.  Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  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 with works . . . Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.  How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?  Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also. . . 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.

The Biblical meaning of justify or justification: 

“ . . . to pronounce, accept, and treat as just, i.e., as, on the one hand, not penally liable, and on the other, entitled to all the privileges due to those who have kept the law.  It is thus a forensic term, denoting a judicial act of administering the law – in this case, by declaring a verdict of acquittal, and so excluding all possibility of condemnation.  Justification thus settles the legal status of the person justified.”  (James I. Packer)

The Biblical meaning of imputation:

“To impute means to account, charge, credit, reckon, attribute, etc.  ‘It makes no difference, so far as the meaning of imputation is concerned, who it is that imputes, whether man (1 Sam. 22:15) or God (Ps. 32:2); it makes no difference what is imputed, whether a good deed for reward (Ps. 106:30f) or a bad deed for punishment (Lev. 17:4); and it makes no difference whether that which is imputed is something which is personally one’s own prior to the imputation, as in the case above cited, where his own good deed was imputed to Phinehas (Ps. 106:30f), or something which is not personally one’s own prior to the imputation, as where Paul asks that a debt not personally his own be charged to him (Philem. ver 18).  In all these cases the act of imputation is simply the charging of one with something . . . .  Hence when God is said to ‘impute sin’ to anyone, the meaning is that God accounts such a one to be a sinner, and consequently guilty and liable to punishment.  Similarly, the non-imputation of sin means simply not to lay it to one’s charge as a ground of punishment (Ps. 32:2).  In the same manner, when God is said ‘to impute righteousness’ to a person, the meaning is that He judicially accounts such a one to be righteous and entitled to all the rewards of a righteous person (Rom. 4:6, 11).”  (Caspar Wistar Hodge)

  • “Justification is a declaration by God that He is now acquitting that person, and that He is going to put on Him the righteousness of Christ and regard him as righteous.” (D.   Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “Works are not taken into consideration when the question respects justification.  But true faith will no more fail to produce them than the sun can cease to give light.”  (Martin Luther)
  • “The believer, in his union with Christ, is viewed as perfectly righteous, because in truth he is so, for the righteousness of God is ‘upon him,’ ch 3. 22;  Jehovah is  his righteousness, Jer. 23: 6.  God is therefore just in justifying him; and in the day of judgment the Great Judge will pronounce him ‘righteous,’ Matt. 15. 37—46, and award to him ‘a crown of righteousness,’ according to the strictest justice.  The gift of this righteousness, with the justification it brings alone with it, is indeed perfectly gratuitous, and the manner of bestowing it is gratuitous—freely by grace; but ‘grace reigns through righteousness’ Rom. 5: 21,–in that way which meets every demand of the law and justice.”  (Robert Haldane)
  • “The word ‘ungodly’ is a strong one and shows the magnitude and extent of God’s grace; his justifying judgment is exercised not simply upon the unrighteous but upon the ungodly.”  (John Murray on Romans)
  •  “Justification is a legal sentence or declaration issued by God in which He pronounces the person in question free from any fault or guilt and acceptable in His sight.  The person is declared to have met all the requirements of God’s holy law and to possess a perfect righteousness.”  (David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas  on Romans)
  • There may therefore be guilt where there is no moral pollution, as in the case of our blessed Lord, who bore our sins; and there may be freedom from guilt, where moral pollution remains, as in the case of every justified sinner.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • “Here is an individual who does not work at all but does something totally different, namely believes on him who declares the ungodly one righteous.  This is Paul’s most striking photograph of the believer.”  (Richard C. H. Lenski  on Romans Chapter 4)
  • “From start to finish, therefore, right standing with God is God’s gift.  It is appropriated by God-given faith.  To God therefore belongs all the glory.  For human boasting there is no room whatever.”  (William Hendriksen)
  • “If you truly saw and believed that God is reckoning righteous the ungodly, who believe on Him, you would fairly hate your struggles to be ‘better’; for you would see that your dreams of good works have not at all commended you to God, and that your bad works do not at all hinder you from believing on Him,–that justifieth the ungodly!”  (William R. Newell  on Romans Chapter 4)
  • “Faith rests upon Christ alone.  It in effect excludes itself as a work in the matter of Justification.”  (Bell in his View of the Covenants)

 “The sinner is justified from the curse, in the sight of God, while a sinner in himself. This is a startling fact.  (John Bunyan)

  • “God justifies the ungodly.  He does not first make us godly and then justify us.  What Paul says is that He justifies the ungodly, not the ungodly made godly, not unrighteous made righteous or become righteous.  They are justified as they are, without works and while still ungodly.  This vital point must be emphasized.  It is just here that the Roman Catholic teaching is not only dangerous but a complete denial of the biblical teaching.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “The believer has given up working because he knows that all hope by way of works is vacuous, that all claims which men may make upon God for pay in accord with obligation are deadly  fiction; he simply believes and trusts (3: 28).  (R. C. H. Lenski)
  • “I am anxious, indeed, to be pleasing to God and to be filled with His Spirit; but I am not at all justified, or accounted righteous, by these things.  God, in justifying me, acted wholly and only on Christ’s blood-shedding on my behalf.”   (William R. Newell)
  • “Therefore, that man who would bring in his faith as a part of his justifying righteousness before God, thereby proves that he has no faith in Jesus Christ.”  (Robert Haldane)
  • As Paul has shown already (cf. 1:17; 3: 21-26) and as he will show later (cf. 5:17-21; 10:3-6), remission does not define justification, though justification must embrace remission.”  (John Murray)
  • “Since innocence or probity (expressed by the word righteousness) does not belong to man himself, it must be ascribed or imputed to him.”  (Charles Hodge) 
  • “If we say, God, indeed, has in some special cases justified notoriously, openly, evidently ungodly ones; while His general habit is, to justify the godly (which is what human reason demands), then we at once deny all Scripture.  For God says, ‘There is no distinction; for all sinned; there is none righteous,–not one.”  (William R. Newell)
  • That Rahab or Mary Magdalene, and even Saul, the murderous persecutor, were, in the sight and purposes of God, justified, while they were, in the esteem of God’s saints, in a state of the vilest sin, is doctrine revolting to the pride of human nature.”  (John Bunyan)
  • “It is impossible that such should be sound in the faith; also in temptation, that man will be at a loss that looketh for a righteousness for justification in himself, when it is to be found nowhere but in Jesus Christ.”  (John Bunyan)
  • Faith is in no point of view equivalent to the obedience the law requires.  It is Christ’s obedience that is taken as an equivalent to an obedience to the law; and for the best of all reasons, because it is an equivalent.” (Robert Haldane)
  • “Hence, justification consists of three parts:  1)  The imputation of the merit of Christ.  2)  The remission of punishment.  3)  The restoration of the favour and blessedness forfeited by sin.  By the imputatio justitioe (or meriti) Christi, the symbolical books understand that judgment of God, according to which he treats us as though we had not sinned, but had fulfilled the law, or as though the merit of Christ was ours.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • Faith, which was counted for righteousness, involves in its very essence the renunciation of all merit.  It could therefore be counted for righteousness only by an act of God’s free grace.”  (Edwin Hamilton Gifford  on Romans Chapter Four)
  • “The Lord ‘reckoned’ or ‘considered’ or ‘counted’ this ‘ungodly individual,’ yes this sinner, namely, Abraham, to be that which in and by himself he was not, namely just.  (William Hendriksen  on Romans Chapter 4)
  • “Therefore, on seeing your failures, you should say, I am nothing but a failure; but God is dealing with me on another principle altogether than my works, good or bad,–a principle not involving my works, but based only on the work of Christ for me.”  (William R. Newell)
  • “These are the most important distinctions, upon which depends a right understanding of this doctrine.  God sees the soul either in Christ or in sin.  He may see apparently good works arising from the foulest motives.  Uriah doubtless thought himself highly honoured as a confidential messenger of great King David; God saw the murder and adultery in David’s heart.  He was justified in the sight of man for the very act that condemned him in the sight of God; and for which he was sorely punished in this world, although save by the blood of atonement.”  (George Offor)
  • “The sinner is not accepted as if he were righteous, but because in Christ Jesus he is so.” (Robert Haldane)
  • “Paul, therefore, refers even the redeemed, disturbed by the reproaches of conscience, amidst the conflicts and trials of life, not to the work of Christ in themselves, but to what the love of God in Christ has done for them, and which, even notwithstanding their own continued sinfulness, remains ever sure.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • “We see here the nature of the faith that is counted for righteousness; it is the faith of one who regards himself as ‘ungodly’, and unable to justify himself by his own works, but on the other hand has full trust in God’s mercy to justify him, unworthy as he is.”  (E. H. Gifford)
  • “What is says is that God imputes this righteousness of Jesus Christ to us, puts that to our account, and because He has done that He regards us righteous, We have the righteousness of Christ.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones  on Romans
  • “Imputeth.—The same word in the original, which in verses 3, 4, 5, is rendered counted or reckoned, is here rendered imputed.  All of them bear the same meaning, of placing to the believers account the righteousness of Jesus Christ, called in ch. 5:19 His obedience.”(Robert Haldane) 
  • “It is this pronouncement of blessedness that is in view in verse 6 when Paul refers to the utterance of David respecting ‘the blessedness of the man to whom God reckoneth righteousness apart from works’.  What David spoke of in terms of the non-imputation and forgiveness of sin Paul interprets more positively as the imputation of righteousness.”   (John Murray)
  • “Now the scripture saith, that Abraham believed, and that was counted to him for righteousness; (Gen.  15: 6)  therefore he had not whereof to glory before God,  it being purely of free grace that it was imputed, and having not in itself anything of the formal nature of a righteousness, further than as God himself was graciously pleased to count it to him.”  (Matthew Henry)
  • “No less than twice also, in this very chapter, vers. 6 and 11, Paul speaks of ‘imputing righteousness,’ not to those to whom it personally belongs, certainly, but to the ungodly, ver., 5; to those who have no works, ver. 6.”  (Charles Hodge on Romans Chapter 4)
  • “So also here (Gen. 15:6; Rom.4:3) to Abraham is ascribed or imputed that which he does not himself possess.  It is graciously reckoned to him because of the righteousness of Another.  It is conferred on those who trust in God for their justification and salvation.”  (William Hendriksen)
  • “In Chapter 4.5, we see what is reckoned by God as righteousness: ‘his faith is reckoned as righteousness.’  This does not mean that faith is a meritorious act, as indeed it could not be,–being simply extending credence to One who cannot lie!  Therefore, without being itself righteousness, it is reckoned as righteousness; the ground of such reckoning being of course the work of Christ on the cross.”  (William R. Newell)
  • “God took our sins, and instead of imputing them to us and to our account, He put them to His Son’s account.  He put them on Him and He punished them in Him.  Christ came into the world to bear that.  He volunteered to do it.  He came into the world deliberately in order to do it.  This is how we are saved and reconciled to God—instead of reckoning my sins to me God reckoned them to Christ, and punished them in Him.  As Peter puts it, ‘Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead unto sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose strips ye were healed”  (1 Peter 2:24)  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “Upon examination, if a person is found to be guilty of any sin or lacking in righteousness in the least degree, he falls under the sentence of condemnation.  Therefore, only those who have perfect righteousness, either personal or imputed (i.e., credited to them), are justified” .( David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas)
  • “The striking thing is that Paul says of the believer that he believes on him who declares the ungodly one righteous.”  (R.C. H. Lenski)
  • “It is of importance that we should understand the meaning of the term ‘justification’ as here used.  It is an acquittal, on being tried by the law; or a proof that, upon the most penetrating scrutiny, we have, through life, fulfilled and performed all its requirements in word, thought, and deed, without the slightest deviation or taint of error.  This is essential to salvation, and must be done, either personally, or by the imputation of the Saviour’s obedience to us.”  (George Offor) 
  • For as my doings, though my children are fed and clothed thereby, are still my doings, not theirs; so the righteousness wherewith we stand just before God from the curse, still resides in Christ, not in us. Our sins, when laid upon Christ, were yet personally ours, not his; so his righteousness, when put upon us, is yet personally his, not ours.  What is it, then?  Why, ‘he was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  2 Cor. 5: 21.  (John Bunyan)
  • “Nothing could be more illustrative of this thesis than the pronouncement that the blessed man is the man whose iniquities are forgiven and to whom the Lord does not impute sin.  For what is contemplated in this pronouncement is not good works but the opposite, iniquities and sins.  And the blessed man is not the man who has good works laid to his account but whose sins are not laid to his account.  David’s religion, therefore, was not one determined by the concept of good works but by that of the gracious remission of sin, and the blessedness, regarded as the epitome of divine favour, had no affinity with that secured by works of merit.”  (John Murray)
  • “The faith which justifies is not mere assent; it is an act of trust.  The believer confides upon God for justification.  He believes that God will justify him, although ungodly; for he who justifies the ungodly; for the object of the faith or confidence here expressed is, he who justifies the ungodly.  Faith therefore is appropriating; it is an act of confidence in reference to our own acceptance with God.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • “I know that Christ is in Heaven before God for me, and that I stand in the value before God of His finished work; that God sees me nowhere else but in this dead, buried, and Risen Christ, and that His favor is toward me in Christ, and is limitless and eternal.”  (William R. Newell)
  • “The first step is that our sin is reckoned to Him.  The second step is that His righteousness is reckoned to us.  What an amazing piece of book-keeping!  What a tremendous manipulation of the accounts, if I may so put it!  We had no righteousness at all.  He has a perfect righteousness.  God reckons His righteousness to us – ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing (not reckoning) their trespasses unto them.’  And then, ‘He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.’  Why?  In order that ‘we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’” (2 Corinthians 5:21) (D.Martyn Lloyd –Jones)
  • “There is a full remission of his past sins, and none which he shall afterwards commit shall be judicially laid to his charge, Rom. 7:33.  Being stripped of the filthy garments, and clothed with a change of raiment, Zech. 3:4, as certain as God is unchangeable of salvation; He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,’ Isa. 61:10.  ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,’ Jer. 31:34.  ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us, Ps. 103:12.”  (Robert Haldane)
  • “Blessedness consists in that which is illustrated by the remission of sins and not by that which falls into the category of reward according to merit.”  (John Murray)
  • “It lies in the nature of the faith of which Paul speaks, that he who exercises it should feel and acknowledge that he is ungodly, and consequently undeserving of the favour of God.  He, of course, in relying on the mercy of God, must acknowledge that his acceptance is a matter of grace, and not of debt.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • “When God acquits a sinner, He does so on the ground of a righteousness that He gives to the sinner.”  (Clark)
  • “It is the height of paradox when God ‘declares the ungodly righteous.’  One might expect to read him declaring righteous the unrighteous,’ the very sound of the word clashing…In Paul’s estimation ‘the ungodly one,’ is stronger than ‘the unrighteous one.’”  (R. C. H. Lenski)
  • “If you claim that God justifies the godly, we ask, on what ground?  If you say on the ground of their godliness, you have left out the blood of Christ,–on which ground alone God can deal with sinners.”  (William R. Newell)
  • “That one particular man should represent all the elect in himself, and that the most righteous should die as a sinner, yea, as a sinner by the hand of a just and holy God is a mystery of the greatest depth!”  (John Bunyan)
  • “Christ (amazing love!) ‘was made a curse for us,’ and thereby redeemed us from the curse of the law.  He subjected himself to the law in active as well as passive obedience, and his obedience even to death was for our justification.”  (Mason)
  • “For this stands clear to reason, that if Christ had our sins charged upon him at his death, he then must be discharged of them in order to his resurrection.  Now, though it is not proper to say they were forgiven to him, because they were purged from him by merit; yet they may be said to be forgiven us, because we receive this benefit by grace.”  (John Bunyan)
  • “We do nothing at all; we cannot do anything at all.  We have no works; our righteousness is ‘as filthy rags,’ it is ‘dung,’ refuse.  We have nothing at all.  It is entirely God’s action.  It is what He does with these sins of ours which He puts on Christ and punishes them in Him.  It is all done to us, and we receive it passively from God.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “Wearied with your own righteousness, rejoice and confide in the righteousness of Christ. 
  • Learn, my dear brother, to know Christ, and Christ crucified, and learn to despair of thyself, and to sing to the Lord this song:–Lord Jesus!  Thou art my righteousness, but I am thy sin.  Thou becamest what Thou wert not, in order that I might become what I was not myself.”   (Martin Luther)
  • “A full discharge therefore was, in and by Christ, received of God of all our sins afore he rose from the dead, as his resurrection truly declared; for he ‘was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”  Rom. 4:25.  (John Bunyan)
  • Those whom God justifies, he also glorifies; and because Christ lives, blessed be God! We shall live also.  Nevertheless, the strongest believer has as much need to come to Christ every day for fresh strength, as if he had never believed before; and if he were to depend on his own faithfulness, and not on the faithfulness of the Son of God, he would soon desert the Lord Jesus Christ.”  (Mason)
  • “It is true, whom God justifies he also sanctifies; but justification is not sanctification, and the imputation of righteousness is not the infusion of righteousness.”  (Charles Hodge)
  • “This in no way changes the believer’s nature (any more than the imputation of sin to Christ changed His nature); it only affects the believer’s legal standing before God.”  (David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas)
  • “Do you not see that all this distinction between sinners is as abomination before a holy God?  What does it matter whether you are a nobleman or a knave, if God has said He declares sinners righteous by Christ’s blood?  What matter whether you are an honorable woman or a harlot, if God says you are a sinner (and He does!) and that the only ground of being declared righteous is the blood of His Son?”   (William R. Newell)
  • “If the justification of their persons is by, in, and through Christ; then it is not by, in, and through their own doings.”  (John Bunyan)
  • “You are not saved because you repent; you are not saved because you believe the Gospel, though both are involved in salvation.  You are saved because God justifies you by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  We produce no works at all to earn our salvation.  Faith is not a form of works.  We have nothing whereof to boast, nothing whatsoever.  It is entirely the action of God.  A Christian is one who sees that and who rests upon it.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “The fourth grand error of the Papists in the article of justification, says an old divine, ‘is concerning that which we call the form thereof.  For they, denying and deriding the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, (without which, notwithstanding, no man can be saved,) do hold that men are justified by infusion, and not by imputation of righteousness; we, on the contrary, do hold, according to the Scriptures, that we are justified before God, only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and not by infusion.)   (Charles Hodge)  Editors note:  Papist = Roman Catholic, often used disparagingly.  Papistry = The Roman Catholic Religion.
  • “Christ became legally responsible for the believer’s sins and underwent the believer’s just punishment.”  (David N.  Steele  and  Curtis C. Thomas)
  • “For the doctrine of justification tells us that God justifies the ungodly as they are – does not wait to make them godly first, does not expect them to do anything.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
  • “To impute sin, is to lay sin to the charge of any one, and to treat him accordingly, as is universally admitted; so ‘to impute righteousness,’ is to set righteousness to one’s account, and to treat him accordingly…Here then is an imputation to men of what does not belong  to them, and to which they have themselves no claim…This is done, not on the ground of personal character or works, but on the ground of the righteousness of Christ…That is, blessed is the man who, although a sinner, is regarded and treated as righteous.”   (Charles Hodge)

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