Video courtesy of GotQuestions.org
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” -2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
The doctrine of double imputation is an important one for Christians to understand. Indeed, a proper understanding of this doctrine is one of the keys to leading a joyous Christian life.
One of the most tragic moments I’ve experienced was as I stood at the bedside of a beloved Christian brother as he was in his final hours of life. His health had been deteriorating for some time, and it was clear that he had a very short time left on earth. I knew this man to be a great man of faith, to this day he remains one of the most righteous and godly men I’ve had the pleasure of personally knowing.
However, what should have been a moment of triumph as this wonderful saint passed from this life on earth to his glorious next life was marred. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said in a very weak and frail voice, “I haven’t been good enough. I wasn’t good enough at all. I hope He’ll receive me.”
I understand this brother’s momentary terror as he faced eternity. I have no doubt that all that face death and know God have a similar feeling. After all, even Isaiah responded to the glorious sight of God by crying out “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5, NASB).
When this brother said this, I was taken aback at the poor soteriology this brother had just expressed. Of course he wasn’t good enough to get into heaven, he of all people should know that. This is why the Cross is important. I responded to him by reminding him of the doctrine of double imputation and God’s grace.
Double imputation is the understanding that our sins are credited to Christ and that His righteousness is credited to us.
The Father did not murder an innocent man on the Cross. Our Lord was absolutely sinless in Himself; however, on the Cross, He bore the full burden of every sin for the entire Church. This was the full agony of the Cross. It was not merely the physical pain. Much more so, Our Lord dreaded the spiritual agony of such unrighteousness being placed upon Him. In the Cross, our sins are imputed to Christ.
As the name “double” implies, there is a second imputation that takes place. The perfect righteousness that Our Lord earned in His life of perfect obedience is imputed to those that are in Christ. This is why we can have a heavenly hope.
As born-again believers, the righteousness upon which we place our hope is not our own. If I were to be judged based upon my own righteousness, then I’m out- I deserve the full and eternal torment of God’s wrath. However, there is an alien righteousness- a righteousness that is outside of myself (hence alien) that is credited to my account.
This alien righteousness is the reason I can have full assurance of my. I do not place my hope in myself and my own goodness, but rather I place my hope in Christ alone. For in Him, the debt for my sin is fully paid through that burden being imputed to Him. And likewise, the righteousness that is His alone is imputed to me upon regeneration.
It is because of this alien righteousness that we can march headlong into daily battle with the full assurance of the final outcome.