Imputation – A Late Night Thought

It is late as I write this, and I do have a final tomorrow (the last one!) but I have just thought of something that I am sure is not new, but I feel is a sort of vindication of Wright’s view on justification (I am not endorsing it here, just seeking clarity).

Wright says that justification is present in that God is righteous to declare that a person who, right now, believes in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior is a member of the family of Abraham and therefore they are forgiven of their sins because that belief is evidence that the Spirit is working in the heart of the person who believes already, and so their assurance is clear because they have been called (the Spirit’s effectual call) and so God declares that they are in the Covenant, children of the promised Spirit, sons of Abraham and of the sin forgiven people of God.

I hope that this is an okay summary…

People often question why it is okay for Wright when he says that the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to us is unnecessary and not indicated in the Pauline corpus. I think that the imputation aspect may sound confusing in terms of Wright’s view, but I do think that the substance of it still stands as not a denial of imputation, but a different way of stating the same thing.

When God declared Jesus to be the Messiah by the resurrection of the dead, it is described as our Lord’s vindication, showing that indeed his sacrifice was acceptable, that he was the spotless Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. We are declared righteous because we have faith in the objective work of Christ, indicating a previous action that occurs in our hearts by the Spirit of Holiness by which Jesus was raised from the dead. This same Spirit then gives us the “resurrection life” of Christ, the same resurrection that was Jesus’ vindication/justification. God declared Jesus to be “righteous” on Easter Sunday. That same “righteousness” of Christ (in obedience unto death) is the reason, or the grounds, for justification being a “present reality” in the way that Wright seems to be saying. Because Jesus was resurrected in the middle of history, we can be declared righteous in the middle of history. This splits justification up a bit chronologically (which makes some uncomfortable, but you cannot please everybody) but the righteousness of Christ (resurrection being his “justification”) is still counted to us before the present Tribunal of God because the effectually calling and indwelling Spirit is the righteousness of Christ given to us, enlightening our minds and hearts to see and believe in the crucified and risen Savior and Lord Christ for our sins, paying for them on the cross, and thereby making God “righteous” to declare sinners  just before His Judgment because what the Spirit began in his work of conforming us to the image of Christ (in who’s justification we share by our mutual Spirit), he will complete on the Last Day, when we stand glorious before the Throne of God and Christ and are welcomed because we are his children because of the Spirit.

That completion of the Spirit’s work could be a life lived out in faithfulness to God through Christ, or it could be a thief on the cross story of believing that Jesus was the Messiah even though he was crucified (which proved he did have Abraham’s faith, who believed that his “son of the promise” would be raised from the dead). The thief, standing before the Tribunal of God at the end of history doesn’t need to feel uncomfortable because he did not have time to live out his life in obedience to Christ, but can rather say, as any good Reformed theologian would agree, that his sin was taken at the cross, and Jesus was faithful to death, and so would be resurrected. The theif’s statement of faith was proof that God first loved him and gave his Son for his sins, and that the Spirit called him and the Father justified him (his profession of faith being the proof of the Spirit’s work) on the basis of the work of the Son because God’s righteousness was expressed in the crucifixion and resurrection of His Christ. Therefore the thief, by the faithfulness of Christ, is right with God, and his, shortly thereafter occurring, physical death destroyed his sinful nature completely and he could therefore be with Christ in Paradise that very day.

That ended up being longer and probably repetitive. Any problems with this that you see I am certainly willing to discuss further as I have not given in completely to this stuff, I just don’t see a problem on the surface with this way of describing the glorious reality that is our right standing before God on judgment day.

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