The Definition of Salvation
The subject of salvation, if not treated carefully, can be very complex and confusing. The mere mention of the subject can result in a barrage of three to five syllable words that could leave the most educated of people scratching their heads in wonder. In the subject, we can find such terms and concepts as Grace, Faith, Redemption (both limited and unlimited), Atonement, Reconciliation, Propitiation, Justification, Sanctification, Adoption, Glorification, Election, Predestination, Foreknowledge, Repentance, Forbearance, Substitution, Sovereignty, Free will, Imputation, Regeneration, Supra-, Infra-, and Sub-lapsarianism, Deliverance, Foreordination, Conviction, Forgiveness, and Preservation. Beyond this I would not be surprised if there are a dozen or so other words and concepts ending in –tion that I haven’t even heard of yet. While I would never suggest that these words had little value within the subject of salvation, for they are all imperative to the subject, I would suggest that these words not be used if time did not permit for an accurate and thorough definition. For what good is the word of God communicated if the language we use is foreign to those who receive it.
The word salvation is used 45 times in the New Testament and simply denotes deliverance, or preservation. You can see an example of the varied usages of the word in Acts 27:34 when Paul tells the sailors on the storm-tossed boat that the food they eat is for their preservation. Paul also uses this word in Philippians 1:19 in reference to his deliverance from prison. And in Hebrews 11:7 we read “By faith Noah, being warned about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the saving of his household.” All these come from the same word. Beyond this, the word is usually translated as ‘Salvation’, in reference to that act of God whereby He saves us from the penalty of our sins. Therefore, if we as sinners are born separated from God, and doomed to damnation, then Salvation is an act of God on behalf of man whereby he delivers, frees, rescues, saves, or removes us (however you want to word it) from a life only fit for separation and damnation, and places us in a right standing with Him. By doing so He bestows upon us a life fit for eternal reward in His presence.
Salvation is spoken of in three different stages of the Christians life. First, we were saved when we first believed “For by grace you have been saved, by faith. (Ephesians 2:8)” Also, see (Luke 7:50, Acts 16:30-31). Second, now that we believe we are being saved from the power of sin “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Also, see (Rom. 6:1-14, 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 2:20, 2 Thess. 2:13). Third, as believers we will, when Christ returns, be saved from the presence of sin “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:28)” Also, see (Romans 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 John 3:1-3). We can also see these stages being referenced in such passages as 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; and Titus 2:11-13.
The Scope of Salvation
The scope of salvation is one of the most debated doctrines in the Christian faith. One cannot embark upon this subject without immediately asking the question ‘Did Christ die for all men, or just an elect’. And no matter what your answer to that question may be, you can rest assured that there will be a line of people ready to oppose it. Great theologians throughout the centuries have been divided on this issue. Moreover, that divide will exist for centuries to come. It is not possible, even with all the words, from all the languages, in the entire world, that we could sum up all that Christ achieved on the cross.
The scope of salvation is two-part. (1) Salvation is unlimited in that Christ came and died for the entire world, and not just an elect. This eternal and blessed truth is made evident in no short measure throughout the New Testament, but best illustrated in John 3:15-17: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through faith.” Notice the words of Christ. He says repeatedly “whoever” and “the world.” Christ did not die for just an elect. He did not choose some to have an eternal life with the Father and others to suffer eternal separation. He was sent into the world in order that all may live and have eternal life through faith in Him. Other great passages are 1 Timothy 2:3-6: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” 1 Timothy 4:10: “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all men.” Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.” Hebrews 2:9: “But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” 1 John 2:2: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 4:14: “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” He is the savior of the world, for whomever, for all, for all that are weary and burdened (Matthrews 11:28), for all that believe, and for all that seek Him. For God does not desire that any should perish. Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)” This reiterates God’s statement to Ezekiel: “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord God. Therefore, repent and live (Ezek. 18:32).” Our God, and Father, like a true father, does not desire that any of His children should be lost or perish. He is patient and awaits our acceptance of Him. He makes many exhortations for us to repent (Matthews 3:2; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38, 17:30) and to believe (Romans 12:3; 2 Peters 1:1). Such overwhelming emphasis throughout the Bible on ‘whoever’, ‘all’, and ‘the world’ is indisputable to the fact that the scope of the salvation blessing is global. (2) Salvation is limited in that the blessing of salvation is only applied to those who believe. This is made evident from such passages as Acts 16:31: “And they said, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved”. Christ had already been crucified, and the price had been paid. Why then did they have to believe to be saved? Because Christ’s death on the cross was only the provision of salvation, a provision made to the entire world. But faith is the application of salvation; applied to all those who believe. Rom. 1:16 says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
The Substitution in Salvation
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)” The heart of the Christian faith is in these words. God’s in His righteousness and justice must execute the sentence He has decreed upon sin. God’s inspired word makes this decree unmistakable: “The person who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4, 20),” “The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)” This means that every man must pay the penalty for sin, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)” However, God has decreed before the foundations of the world that Christ would taste death in our stead. The judgment of sin has fallen away from fallen man and upon Jesus our Savior. This was the conviction of Isaiah when he prophesied about the Suffering Servant (53:5-12). This was the conviction of the New Testament authors when they wrote: “For Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45),” and “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)” Other passages with the same conviction are “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8),” and “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:3)” Finally “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21),” and “Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). The doctrine of substitution does not belong to the New Testament saints alone. The Old Testament system of Atonement anticipated the ultimate work of Christ. In this ceremonial sacrifice the sinner would first select an animal that was spotless and without blemish (Leviticus 1:2). He would lay his hands on the animal’s head thereby acknowledging the animal as his substitution (Leviticus 1:4). After this the animal was killed and burned upon the altar (Leviticus 1:6-9). Substitution is the greatest act of God’s love manifested to his creation. For no man has the right to have his sins paid for by another. As it is written, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)”
The Propitiation in Salvation
The word Propitiate means ‘to have the good will of; to appease; or to show mercy’. The most popular definition, in the Christian syntactic, is “God’s satisfaction for what Christ did on the cross.” In other words, because there is a price to pay for our sins, a price that we ourselves are unable to pay, Christ died on the cross in our behalf. This is referred to as the ‘Vicarious Sacrifice’. Meaning He was sacrificed in our place. Because of this God was satisfied (or propitious) with what Christ did. This led Him to redeem, reconcile, forgive, regenerate, justify, and sanctify us. This makes Christ the means by which our sins are forgiven. He is our propitiation. Two very important, undisputable, truths must be noted here regarding propitiation. First, man does not propitiate God. There is nothing we can do to appease God, or to win his good will. It is far too often suggested that our sorrow or repentance is needed in the salvation process. This is false. No amount of sorrow or effort on our part can soften God’s heart towards sin or the sinner. Sin can only be appeased through blood (or death). Only through blood can the price for the penalty of sin be paid. We can read in Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” Also in Hebrews 9:22 “…all things are cleansed with blood, and without blood there is no forgiveness.” Simply put. Salvation is of the Lord (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9). God in His magnificent grace, love, and mercy propitiates Himself in light of what Christ did on the cross. The second issue that must be mentioned is that God’s propitiation is global. Meaning He is propitious towards all His creation; not just the saved. 1 John 2:2 says: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” These three words ‘Propitiation, Redemption, and Reconciliation, are what is referred to as the finished work of Christ, and applies to all mankind. Both saved and unsaved alike. Propitiation is the God-ward aspect of the cross, meaning that God relates to man’s debt to sin, in light of the vicarious sacrifice, in a propitious manner.
The Redemption in Salvation
The word translated “redemption” means releasing or setting free. This is the primary thought behind redemption, that sin enslaves us and keeps us in bondage, and salvation sets us free and releases us from the sin that holds us down. The fact that redemption has the idea of releasing can be seen in many passages. In Luke 24:21 where two men were speaking of the death of Jesus, said “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” The two young men from Emmaus were speaking of the liberation of Israel from Rome, not the cost of such liberation. Paul wrote to the church in Collossae “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)” Once again, the idea of cost is not the primary focus. It is the deliverance from the powers of this darkened domain. The best example is Hebrews 11:35 where it says: “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection.” This passage is referring to the torture that the saints between the Testaments endured during the Maccabean war. The price for their release was the denying of their faith, which they refused to do, even if it meant being tortured to death. Now in spiritual redemption we are set free from human weaknesses (Romans 7:24), from corruption (Romans 8:21), from our bodies (Romans 8:23), from this evil age (Galatians 1:4), and from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13; 4:5). However, this liberation comes at a costly price. For redemption can only be found in, Christ (Romans 3:24) and the cost can only be paid through His blood (Ephesians 1:7). Christ gave Himself for us; He redeemed us at the price of His own life, in order that we might be a chosen people (Titus 2:14). This could not be accomplished through ceremonial atonement. The writer of Hebrews says “and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12; 1 Peter 1:18).” He continues to say “For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)” The precious blood of Christ has redeemed us from the bondage of sin in order that we might be sons of the Most High God. No longer a slave to the powers of sin, the ruler of this darkened world, the king of the power of the air, but a son with privileges as that only given to a child along with an inheritance which can only come from a loving father (Galatians 4:1-7). Redemption speaks of liberation and deliverance, but liberation at a cost that no man could ever pay.
The Reconciliation in Salvation
In the Old Testament, reconciliation spoke of atonement, which was the covering of sins. However, in the New Testament it carries with it a meaning of having a renewed fellowship with God. The Greek word for reconciliation literally means, “to render someone otherwise”. The English word “Reconciliation” is derived from the Latin conciliare, which means to bring together or unite. While the two words appear to be very distinct from each other, they do complement the New Testament idea of reconciliation. As recipients of the blessings, which followed the vicarious sacrifice, we are now rendered otherwise, as compared to our former sinful self, and thus united once again in fellowship with God. This is the conviction of 2 Corinthians 5:19 “…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” It can further be said from this passage that if God is the agent in reconciliation, then the cross is the sword He wields through Jesus Christ to put to death the agent of estrangement, that being sin. Therefore, reconciliation can be seen as the restoration of mans former fellowship with God; a fellowship that man has not been able to partake in since his fall in the garden. Reconciliation as mentioned in the bible is not restricted to man’s relationship with God. We also see in such passages as Ephesians 2:15-16 that God’s desire is to equally reconcile man with his fellow man; to break down the walls that formerly separated us. Paul wrote regarding the Jews and the Greeks: “By abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.” Finally, reconciliation, as all of God’s blessings, is not one sided. It carries with it responsibilities on the part of the recipient. Therefore, it is said that we are given to the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). We are to continue the work of Christ and spread the word to all nations that God is reconciling Himself to man through Jesus Christ. Likewise, we are to reconcile our selves to God and to our fellow man.
The Forgiveness in Salvation
While forgiveness on the human side may be simple, that being the removal of charge or debt, the forgiveness of God is much more complex. Divine forgiveness for sins requires that the debt or charge be paid in full before forgiveness can take place. In addition, without forgiveness there cannot be reconciliation or redemption.
The Justification in Salvation
Justification is that act of God whereby he declares the sinner, who places his faith in Christ, as righteous. This righteousness is imputed to the sinner because he is in Christ. In addition, justification does not make the sinner righteous. It only declares him righteous. Justification is not something produced in man, it is only declared of him. By nature, we are all sinners (Romans 3:9, 23), and sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2; Titus 3:3). Because of this, we are only due the penalties that God has decreed upon sin (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4; cf. John 3:36; Romans 1:18, 5:9; Galatians 2:16). Moreover, nothing we do can warrant justification, because justification cannot be achieved by works (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16) or by upholding the law. For the law was established merely to reveal sin (Romans 3:20; 7:7). As Paul says it “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:23-24). The true work of God is that we come to the knowledge of Christ (John 6:29). For if not for the blood of Christ, no man could escape God’s wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10). For Christ bore our sins in order that, we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). The bottom line is simple. It does not matter if you do your best, exceed all expectations, and achieve more than anyone ever thought you could. If you do not place your faith in Jesus Christ, you’re greatest deeds are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before the Lord. In addition, your deeds will fail to reckon to your account the righteousness needed for the saving of your soul. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)” Again, it must be said that justification is not a result of works, but only through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10; Galatians 2:16). Paul declared this true when he wrote, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:8, 24)” This does not mean that the believer, after being justified, does not have a responsibility to conduct himself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). This is the conviction of John throughout his first epistle when he wrote “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him (1 John 2:29),” and “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:7)” There is no free ride, no magic cure for the sin nature. We are declared justified by the grace of God in order that we can reestablish our fellowship with our creator. Moreover, while we cannot merit this justification through our own works, we are required to live a life worthy of this justification. This is why John wrote to the seven churches “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and let the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and let the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”
The Sanctification in Salvation
The word Sanctification as we see it in the New Testament means to make holy, consecrate, or sanctify. It is also translated as holiness, and consecration, and it is used in the plural, it to describe Christians as saints. This usage can be seen in the introduction to most of the letters and epistles. An example is Ephesians 1:1, which reads “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus.” In the secular usage, the word had absolutely no moral or ethical connotation associated with it. Even temple prostitutes were considered holy because they separated themselves from any other life outside of the service to the temple. They were set apart and therefore were holy. In the New Testament, we apply moral and ethical connotations to the word because we are set apart unto God, from whom all measure of morality and ethical standard, is wrought. Unfortunately, it is often believed, and even taught, that being sanctified is synonymous with being sinless. This is a gross misunderstanding of sanctification. Even those who were in the Corinthian church, who Paul rebukes for being from a sinful people (1 Corinthians 5:9-12), are referred to as being sanctified and saints (1 Corinthians 1:2). The usage of the word sanctification in the New Testament appears to be two-fold. On the one hand, it is seen as being that which God has accomplished in us, through the cross. It is indicated in 2 Thessalonians 2:13 that sanctification was God’s purpose in salvation. In addition, Ephesians 5:25 says that Christ gave Himself in behalf of the church in order that He might sanctify it. On the other hand, it is seen as being something that we are to strive for as we grow in our faith. This is not a contradiction, nor does it cause any difficulty in understanding. For the former is seen as through the eyes of God, and the latter through the eyes of man. Through the eyes of God, we are set apart from the rest of the world. Yet, through our own eyes, we still strive to set ourselves apart from the things of the world. Such as immorality, deceit, impurity, lustful passions, etc. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). This is why Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)” Paul commanded them to “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” This was something to strive for, or work at, regardless of our position, or service, in the eyes of God. No blessing or gift has been offered to the believer that provides him a sinless life. Sanctification is a process we undertake every minute of every day until we are perfected at His coming in the end times. Sin will always be an enemy we need to battle against. John recognizes this when he wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8),” and “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)” Sanctification is accomplished as man draws nearer unto God. This is done through His word, which is the word of truth (John 17:17). For it is by way of the cross, and through the blood of Christ, that we find our entrance into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:10). In Matthew 5:48 Christ commands us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Some take this as proof that the sinless life is something to be grasped. To the contrary, this merely shows us that regardless of our position in God’s grace, and regardless of the fact that Christ paid the penalties of our sins, God still demands 100% perfection. No provision or gift excuses us from a spotless daily sacrifice of our own lives (Rom. 12:1). What else would we expect our Savior to teach? Perhaps we should only strive for 75% perfection, or maybe 90%. No, for we are separated unto a perfect God and therefore should strive to conform to His perfect standard.
The Adoption in Salvation
Adoption is a doctrine that is introduced and used only by Paul. The word can be found five times in the New Testament. Once it is used in refers to Israel as a nation (Rom. 9:4), once in relation to the redemption of our body at the coming of Christ (Romans 8:23), and three times as a present fact in the life of the Christian (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). Adoption stresses the fact that we are not a child of God by merit, or nature. It is a gift of God, by His grace, and though the blood of Christ. Some of the privileges of adoption are deliverance from the law (Galatians 4:3-5), and possession of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:6; cf Romans 8:15). God decreed adoption before the foundation of the world, and purely on grace (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4). There is nothing that fallen man can do, by his own merit, to gain this entrance into His family. God made adoption possible by the sending of His son (Galatians 4:5). Adoption is received by faith (Galatians 3:26-29; 4:6). The completion of the adoption will take place at the future manifestation of Christ when we receive the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23).
The Atonement in Salvation
Atonement is an Old Testament, and temporal, system for the covering of sins. The word is not found in the New Testament. Nor does the concept have any part of New Testament theology. The word Atonement comes from a Hebrew word that literally means to cover. We can see in every case of atonement, in the Old Testament, the shedding of the blood of animal’s depicted God’s judgment of death as the punishment of sin. However, this shedding of blood was only a substitution for their own life. “For the wages of Sin is death (Romans 6:23),” and “…all things are cleansed with blood, and without blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)” God allowed for this system of atonement for two reasons. (1) It provided God’s people a way of dealing with their sins without the loss of their own life. (2) It anticipated the later work of Christ upon the cross as our vicarious (in our place) sacrifice. The later can be seen in the ceremony as described in Leviticus. First, and paramount, in ceremonial atonement is that all the animals and materials used had to be free of any, and all, defects (Leviticus 22:21). For only One who was perfectly pure and void of blemish could bear the sins of others. This was a picture of Christ who would be the only true substitution for our sins (1 Peter 1:19). During the ritual, the one presenting his sacrifice would lay his hands upon the head of the animal (Leviticus 1:4). The laying of hands on someone, or an animal, was a way of signifying that that person, or animal, was acting in your stead. It was a way of appointing a proxy. You can see examples of this in Numumbers 27:18-20 when Moses appoints Joshua as his successor: “So the Lord said to Moses, Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit and lay your hand on him; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation; and commission him in their sight. And you shall put some of your authority on him, in order that all the congregation of the sons of Israel may obey him.” In the same way, Christ was commissioned to be our proxy. Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding Christ in this manner: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)” After this, the animal was immediately slain (Leviticus 1:5). This was the physical act of substitution. Because of God’s great love and forbearance, He allowed the animals to be put to death in their stead. He was not letting their sins go unpunished, nor was he removing the sin from their account. For that would go against His just nature. “For the wages of Sin is death (Romans 6:23).” But His great love and mercy provided them a way to cover their sins until a time, which He predetermined in eternity past, would come and put to death the sins of the world once and for all. “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25).” Finally, the animal’s blood was sprinkled, and his body was burned upon the altar (Leviticus 1:6-9). This, as well, was in anticipation of the work of Christ when He presented Himself to God as our unblemished and spotless sacrifice (Hebrews 9:14).
In a post cross theology there is no longer a need to find a substitute, for one has already been provided for us. There is no longer a need to sprinkle blood upon the mercy seat, because mercy has already been given. There is no longer a need to present our sacrifices to God upon an altar for our sacrifice has already presented Himself on our behalf. Finally, there is no longer a need for a covering of our sins, because the penalty has already been paid. The charge has been removed from our account, and righteousness has been added in its place. We now stand, in Christ, spotless and without blemish before our God. Understanding this, some theologians use Atonement as a catch all word for everything that Christ accomplished on the cross. Instead of defining it as a covering for sins, they define it as ‘at-one-ment’ with God. They explain that because of all that Christ has accomplished with the cross we now have ‘at one ment’ with our creator. Amen to that.
The Imputation in Salvation
The word “Impute” means to reckon over to ones account. Paul makes a perfect example of this definition when he wrote to Philemon regarding Onesimus “But if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, put that on my account. (Philippians 1:18)” Paul was not responsible for Onesimus’ debt, yet he requested that everything on Onesimus’ account be removed and added to his own. This is the meaning behind the doctrine of imputation, of which we can see three major examples throughout scripture. First, we see the imputation of Adam’s sin to the rest of creation. This was the conviction of Paul in Romans 5:12-21. That one man has sinned and through him, all men are made sinners (Romans 5:12) is a key issue in the doctrine of imputation. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Romans 5:19).” This is the second example of imputation that we see in scripture, the imputation of man’s sin to Christ. Isaiah says it best when he wrote “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him (Isaiah 53:5-6),” and “My servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)” Paul confirms this doctrine in his second letter to the church at Corinth. He wrote: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).” This is also the conviction in 1 Peter 2:24. The final and most important example of imputation that we have in the scriptures is the imputation of God’s righteousness unto sinful man. Without that, even the death of Christ on the cross would not be enough to deliver us from the penalties of our sin, and we would be doomed to spend eternity in separation from God. Paul declares to the Church in Philippi “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Philippians 3:9; cf. Romans 1:17, 3:22).” The righteousness, which is required of us, cannot come from works. This is why Paul says regarding the Jews “For not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. (Romans 10:3)” The Jews were relying on their own merit to gain righteousness, but that righteousness is not sufficient for salvation. Only the righteousness imputed to us from God can change our standing, and guarantee us our inheritance in heaven.