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Imputation: God, The Divine Bookkeeper
Now if you would, please take out your Bibles and turn in them to Romans, chapter 4. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you. You can grab that Bible and turn to page 121 in the back, and you would be at Romans, chapter 4.
Now I know some of you may be still slightly frozen this morning, but what I want you to do is to put on your imagination caps for just a moment, all right? I want you to imagine you are in debt for $20 million. Due to a number of missteps and mistakes you made in your financial life, you are in debt $20 million.
Just for the sake of argument in this situation, I want you to imagine you make $50,000 a year. Now how long is it going to take you to pay off $20 million in debt? The answer would be (if you paid all of your salary) 400 years…four centuries…to pay that off. The truth of the matter is, if you’re $20 million in debt and that’s what you make, there is no hope for you. You are headed for bankruptcy.
But I want you to imagine in this scenario that a benefactor steps up, and he says, “I realize you’re $20 million in debt, so here is what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you $200 million.” The $200 million would not only wipe out your debt of $20 million and rescue you from bankruptcy obviously, but it will credit your account with $180 million. Now just imagining that’s your situation, what would you say to that? I mean, what would your response be to that? I mean, you would say, “Hey! That’s amazing. That is awesome to the max [height of awesomeness] that someone would do that.” I mean, you couldn’t get any better news than that.
If you assume in that situation that someone did that for you, how would you respond to them? Well, you would obviously have extreme gratitude, right? In fact, I think if you were thinking clearly, you would feel pretty unworthy of someone just stepping forward and giving you $200 million. Now what does that little story do for you when you hear it? Some of you are thinking, That is a total fantasy, Hess. Nothing could be more outlandish than that.
Of course, the reality is God has done far more than that for us in the realm of salvation. You see, we were in debt due to sin and rebellion. Spiritually bankrupt. Helpless and without hope. Yet God stepped forward and removed our debt, paid our debt, and then amazingly credited us with the righteousness of Christ. When you look at that, you have that same kind of a response. You just go, “That is amazing! That is awesome to the max!”
We’ve been involved in a series of messages we have entitled Our Great Salvation. We have been pointing out the fact as sunlight goes through a prism and it refracts colors out of that, those make up the elements of light. So we have said our great salvation, when we see it through the lens of Scripture, refracts into elements and concepts that make up our salvation. We’ve been looking at them…things like redemption and propitiation and reconciliation and justification and imputation. All of those elements make up the light of our salvation.
No, I don’t know about you, but maybe some who’ve been involved in this little series may say, “Well, you know, all those terms you’re using, they sound very theological. I’m not particularly into theology.” But I want you to know…this is important to understand…theology is for everyone. Do you realize even an atheist has a theology? Everybody has a theology. The only issue is going to be…Do I have a good or a poor theology? Do I have a sloppy or a strong theology? Every committed follower of Christ should give themselves to the study of theology and a study of the Bible.
Here is what’s really important to understand. Only when you are initiated into these truths can you fully understand all that salvation is, can you fully understand all God has done for us. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced this. But as you investigate the elements of salvation, what happens? You are able to freshly relish your salvation, to freshly enjoy it.
It reminds me of when you have a delicious drink. You know what I’m talking about? When you have that delicious drink, you just sort of swish it around in your mouth before you swallow it. It just tastes so good. Or when you have some extremely tasty food, your favorite food, and it’s prepared just perfectly. What do you want to do with it? Just slam it down as fast as you can? No, you slowly chew it because you want to savor it, and you want to enjoy it.
That’s really what we’re doing when we look at Our Great Salvation. We break it down into some of these elements. I just want to say this for some people who might even have thought, Hey, why are we spending five weeks on this? Listen…too much cannot be said about the greatness of Jesus Christ. Too much cannot be said about the salvation that He won for us. So if you haven’t been involved in all of our messages, I want to encourage you to get all of them. They’re available on our website at wildwoodchurch.org. [You can also get them out in the gathering hall.]
But we have looked at so far redemption where we saw God, the Divine Emancipator. We’ve looked at propitiation where we saw God, the Divine Provider. We’ve looked at reconciliation where we saw God, the Divine Restorer. We’ve looked at justification where we saw God, the Divine Arbiter. Today we come to one that may be less familiar to many people, and that is imputation where we see God, the Divine Bookkeeper.
If you have your Bibles open to Romans, chapter 4… By the way, this is the imputation chapter of the Bible. I want to read from chapter 4, beginning with verse 2 down through verse 8, and would invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read. Paul writes, “For if Abraham (verse 2) was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'”
“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.'”
Now as we look at imputation and God, the Divine Bookkeeper, today, our plan is to do three things. Number one, we’re going to look at the concept of imputation. Then number two, we’re going to look at a beautiful picture that is in the New Testament of imputation. Then we’re going to look at the core reality of imputation. We’re going to see there are two key phases, as it relates to our salvation we need to understand. So we’re going to look at the concept. We’re going to look at a beautiful picture. Then we’re going to look at the core reality, which involves two phases of imputation.
So let’s begin by looking at this concept, which may not be familiar to many of us. The key term, key Bible term, is the term logidzomai. Logidzomai is an accounting term. It means to credit. It means to calculate. It means to consider. It was used in ways like this to put down something into a person’s account. Or, to enter into an accounting book. Or, to credit or to charge to a particular account.
Now you say, “Well, where does the word imputation come from?” Well, our English word impute comes from the Latin word, which has this same basic meaning to charge or to credit one’s account. So we’ve just borrowed the Latin term to charge or to credit, and we have the word impute. But the parallel word, Bible term, would be logidzomai.
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Fletch. That’s just one of my favorite movies. I have a series of movies I really like. I like the movie Fletch. In the movie Fletch, you have this lovable scoundrel who is on a quest. He is actually a newspaper reporter. He is out to root out corruption and drugs. At one point, he finds himself at a country club when he is doing his investigation. He meets this wealthy person or hears about this wealthy guy named Ted Underhill. One of the things he does is he orders this incredibly lavish lunch. Then he tells the waiter, “Charge it to the Underhill’s account.”
Well, that is actually the concept behind imputation, the idea of charging it to another account. Paul really gets excited about this concept. Logidzomai occurs some 40 times in all of the New Testament, 34 times by the apostle Paul, and 11 of those times in Romans, chapter 4. In fact, we see it used in verse 3. “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him (logidzomai) as righteousness.'”
Verse 5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is (logidzomai) credited as righteousness.” Verse 8, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not (this is logidzomai) take in account.” I think the NIV says, “Who the Lord will never count.” Here is the idea of the concept of imputation. Whenever there is a deposit made, imputation occurs. So that’s the general idea of the term. That’s the concept of the term.
Now to “put some clothing”
[give meaning to]
on all of that, I want us to secondly go and look at a beautiful picture of the idea of imputation that we see in the New Testament. It’s found in the book of Philemon. You say, “I know I’ve heard of that book. I’m not quite sure where it is.” Well, if you find 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, then Titus, there is Philemon. It’s hiding right before the book of Hebrews. So you might want to turn there.
While you’re turning there, I want to just give you a little bit of background regarding the book of Philemon. There are really three people involved in this book. One is the guy Philemon, who is a very well-to-do man who is also a believer. The other character involved in the book is the apostle Paul. The third character involved in the book of Philemon is a man by the name of Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave under Philemon.
Apparently what happened is he stole something from Philemon. Then he broke the law of the day, and he ran away. He ran away to Rome, which by the way, according to the law of the day, was punishable by death. We don’t really know how it happened, but somehow when Onesimus came to Rome, somewhere he crossed paths with the apostle Paul, who was under house arrest there. Onesimus (we don’t know exactly how) was converted to trust in Jesus Christ. After he came to trust in Christ there in Rome, he ministered in a very significant way to the apostle Paul. In fact, verse 13 of Philemon even stresses that.
So you have Onesimus stealing something. He runs off. He crosses paths with Paul. He comes to Christ. He serves Paul. Paul says, “You know what’s right is I need to send Onesimus back. I’m going to send him back now to Philemon, but I’m sending him back in a different way because now he is a brother in Christ.”
Now with all of that as a set up, I just want you to see this beautiful picture of imputation we see in Philemon 17 and 18. Now this is Paul talking to Philemon regarding Onesimus. He says, “If then you regard me a partner, (Philemon) accept him (Onesimus) as you would me.” Then notice verse 18. “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.”
Now there are a couple of things I want you to notice here. Paul says, “If Onesimus owes you anything, charge it to my account.” Now again, we don’t know exactly what happened. Probably he stole something. If it wasn’t money, it was something he probably sold, and that gave him the funds to live off of…something so he could survive in the days he’d left. But as you know often happens in that situation is he probably spent it all, and he found himself financially bankrupt.
Do you see the picture of imputation here? Onesimus had nothing. He was in debt to Philemon. Paul says, “Charge that to my account. Put that on my card.” Then he says in verse 17 to Philemon, “When I send you Onesimus, will you do this?” He said, “Will you accept him as you would me? When he is before you, I want you to view him as you would view me.”
Now I want you to see there are actually some parallels here because in some ways, we’re like Onesimus. We were rebellious in sin; we were bankrupt. In some ways, Paul is a little bit like Jesus. In some ways, Philemon is a little bit like the Heavenly Father. Jesus, what He really did is He said this to the Heavenly Father regarding you and me. “What he owed due to sin and death, charge to My account. I’ll pay the price,” is what Jesus said. Then also Jesus would say this to the Heavenly Father, “Father, when You see Bruce, I want You to see Your own Son, Myself, because My righteousness has been imputed, deposited, credited, into his account.”
It’s a beautiful picture, what we see here in Philemon of what Christ did for us before the Heavenly Father. “What he owed charge to Me. I’ll pay the price. Because I’ve credited righteousness into his account, when You see Bruce or Barbara or Jim, I want You to see Your own Son, Father, because I put all My righteousness into their account.”
Now, that’s pretty cool so far, but let’s even make this a little clearer, all right? Let’s look at the core reality of what imputation really means for us. There are two phases of the imputation that occurs. Phase number one is this…
1. Our sin was charged to Jesus’ account. Remember, we were helpless. We were hopeless. We were slaves to sin. We were under the judgment of the wrath of God due to our rebellion. Look at 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. The very last verse of 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. See, our sin was charged to Jesus’ account. We’re going to come back to this verse, but notice it says, “He (speaking of God) made Him (speaking of Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” He took our sin and charged it to His account.
By the way, we see that principle very clearly in the Bible. But I want to show you a passage in the Old Testament where that is emphasized. So you need to go back in the Old Testament to the book of Isaiah. Isaiah, chapter 53. We see this phase of imputation talked about. Familiar passage to many of us. Isaiah, chapter 53, verses 4 to 6. Our sin charged to Jesus’ account. Isaiah 53:4, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions (verse 5), He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of 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.” Here you go. Here it comes now. “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” Our sin was charged to Jesus’ account.
Ray Pritchard paints it this way. He says, “Let’s suppose all your sins have been written in one massive book. That book is heavy because it records every rotten thing you’ve ever said, every unkind word you’ve ever spoken, every mean thought, every lustful fantasy, every evil imagination, and all your bad attitudes from the day of your birth to the day of your death. Picture yourself trying to hold that massive book in your hands. Now picture Jesus standing next to you. He is holy, perfect, pure, and good. He has no book in His hands because He has never sinned. You want to get rid of the book, but you can’t seem to find a place to put it down. What will you do?”
“Now picture Christ on the Cross with the weight of millions of books upon His bleeding back. He bears that crushing weight, and then He dies. Look closely and you will see that each book is the personal record of someone who lived on the earth. If you look closely, you can see your book too. He took your sins, the record of all your evil and all your feelings and all your shortcomings. He took it all upon Himself when He died on the Cross. It doesn’t mean Jesus became a sinner. It just means Jesus said, ‘Charge it to My account. I’ll pay it.'”
We see this phase of imputation that our sin was charged to Jesus’ account also in the pages of the New Testament multiple places, but I want to go look at one. That’s Colossians, chapter 2. So you have Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, chapter 2. Again we see this picture of imputation, this phase where our sin was charged to Jesus’ account. Slightly different wording, but it’s the same concept. Look at verses 13 and 14. Colossians 2.
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” Now notice this little picture here. Verse 14, “Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” The certificate of debt he is talking about here is something that the people would have understood.
See, what they would do in that day is they would hang outside of your cell, if you were in prison a list of your criminal deeds. Or it was a list of the debts you owed because you would often be thrown into prison if you owed a debt you could not pay. That’s the certificate of debt. He says, “It consists of decrees against us.” This is talking about the violations of God’s law we committed, you committed in thought, in word, in deed. What happens with that? He took it out of the way having nailed it to the Cross.
You know, this is something we’re never going to understand even until probably we get to heaven (and then I think it may take some time) how all of the evil of all time was amalgamated and placed on Jesus Christ. He took God’s wrath, His just wrath. You know, I can’t even imagine the nuclear blast that was to the center of Jesus’ being. Think about how often you hear of really evil things, and it just makes you a little sick to your stomach. Well, Jesus took all of that, and He said, “Charge that to My account.” That’s why the little saying Jesus said on the Cross among the seven things He said when He said… Well, the original word is tetélestai. We often translate it, “It is finished.” It is an accounting term. It means paid in full. Paid it all off.
That’s just phase one of imputation. That’s where our sin is charged to Jesus’ account. I want you to see phase number two of imputation. That is where…
2. Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our account. It’s credited to our account. Remember, we read about that in Romans, chapter 4, verses 3 and 5. It was credited as righteousness. It was credited as righteousness. Then remember we mentioned 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21. Let’s go back there. Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 21. The first phase is our sin was charged to Jesus’ account. But the second phase, which is so important, is Jesus’ righteousness was credited to our account. Look again at that verse 21.
“He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” That’s the first part, the first phase. “So that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That’s the second phase. You see how these things are woven together. That’s because they all make up salvation. They don’t necessarily fully stand alone. You have imputation in the bookkeeping terminology just paralleling the justification in the legal terminology we looked at last time. All of these things woven together make up a full understanding of the light of our salvation.
By the way, I tell you verse 21 is one of the most magnificent verses in all of the Bible there. In the original, there are 23 words there that are interesting. There are 21 one-syllable words. There is 1 two-syllable word, and there is 1 three-syllable word. You almost get it a little bit. “He made Him who knew no sin to be…” You see how it works? That’s the way it is in the original. His righteousness was credited to our account.
It would be like… I mean, I don’t even know… There is no way you can measure that. It would be like Him saying, “Here is $200 million. Then times that times $200 more million times that times $200 more million.” Just blows the chart away. You know, the calculator doesn’t go that high. I want to just ask you…Is that not something to relish? Is that not something to enjoy? Is that not something to swish around in your mouth, to chew on it slowly and to savor it?
Men and women, I want you to know that is delicious, delectable theology. It’s incredible theology. Imputation: God, the Divine Bookkeeper. He paid what we owed and could never pay. Not only that, He gave us what He had that we could never earn. It’s amazing. Awesome to the max.
Now I want to talk about, just for a few moments some life response we can have, some response we can have to what we’ve looked at this morning. It’s going to involve three elements. The first life response is a message God has for some of us. That is…
1. To admit your debt. God has been waiting for some of us to do that, to admit to Him I have a mountain of debt I am unable to pay. To admit to Him I am bereft of the spiritual capital, if you would, that would be needed to pay the debt. You can’t do something. You can’t jump high enough, run fast enough. You can’t do anything about it. But Jesus said, “I’m going to take that debt.” The response He wants is He wants you to believe in that, to trust on that, to count on that as being true.
There needs to come a time in everyone’s spiritual life where they do that, where they say (and it’s by faith), “God, I’m requesting. I’m ready for You to make the transfer. I’m tired of trying to do this on my own. I want to believe and trust in You.” Now, don’t miss… I mean, hey. You wouldn’t turn down someone who said, “Hey, I want to give you $200 million in your account.” Why in the world would anybody say no to God’s offer? It makes no sense to me.
Second way we can have life response is…
2. To live out of gratitude. I mean, it’s amazing what He has done! The psalmist says in Psalm 32, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven. How blessed is the person to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.” Second Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” I want you to look at one passage here that I think is so important to look at. You can just think about this later on even this week.
But look at 1 Peter, chapter 2, verse 24. Just let your eyes feast on this verse some this week. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body (chapter 2, verse 24) on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” We need to live out of gratitude.
Then the third way we can have life response is simply…
3. To share your story. I mean, you know, if you had someone give you $200 million, you’d never tire telling the story. You’d work it into the conversations. So share your story. Okay, maybe it’s not the most spectacular story in your mind compared to certain people’s stories. But share your story. Everybody needs Christ. The talented athlete at the University of Oklahoma needs Christ. The person who cleans houses here in Norman needs Christ. The CEO of a large oil company needs Christ. Your neighbor on the other side of the fence needs Christ. Share your story. Share your story.
Let’s pray together. Father, we want to thank You again just for the privilege we’ve had to investigate further the greatness of our salvation. We thank You. We didn’t deserve what You’ve done. Father, for those of us who have been through this, I simply want to pray this prayer for them. I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. That your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. May you have the power to understand as all God’s people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. May it be so, Amen.