(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 1/6/02 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 32. This is one of the Psalms that we sang this morning during the singing part of our worship. I'm just going to read verses 1 and 2:
Psalm 32: (1) Blessed [is] he whose transgression is lifted, whose sin [is] covered. (2) Blessed [is] the man to whom Jehovah does not charge iniquity, and in whose spirit there [is] no guile.
David here speaks of the blessedness of one who is not charged with his sin. This means that his sin is not counted against him when God judges him. The blessed man's transgressions are lifted away, and his sins are covered from the eye of God's justice. God's people are not charged with sin because their sins were charged to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ bore in full the punishment that these sins deserved. God's people are free of the guilt and condemnation of sin. No charge can be brought against them. As Romans 8:33 says, "Who will bring any charge against God's elect? God is the One justifying!" This is a precious truth, God not charging sin to His people. But there's more. Not only is this passage talking about what God's people are NOT imputed with, it is also talking about what God's people ARE imputed with! In fact, I'll go so far as to say that this passage is talking about RIGHTEOUSNESS being IMPUTED to God's people apart from works! And, just like we saw last week, some of the false religionists would say, "You're stretching it. You're making this passage say something that it doesn't say just to fit your preconceived notion of the necessity of imputed righteousness. You're sticking in imputed righteousness where the passage doesn't have it. The Old Testament saints didn't know anything about imputed righteousness, and it is presumptuous of you to make this passage seem like they did know about it."
Okay. Now that we've given the false religionist the opportunity to blather a little bit, all we have to do to refute this argument is turn to Romans 4:6-8 and see what God says.
Romans 4: (6) Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: (7) "Blessed [are those] whose lawlessnesses are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; (8) blessed [the] man to whom [the] Lord will in no way charge sin."
Now, after reading Psalm 32:1-2 and Romans 4:6-8, do we know that David was talking about imputed righteousness? It's absolutely clear. David, in Psalm 32, was talking about the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works. The Greek word translated "counts" in the LITV can be translated "imputes" or "charges." The perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed or legally charged to His people, and David believed this, just as all Old Testament saints believed this. In fact, Psalm 32:1-2 shows us that phrase that we keep using - the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. The atoning blood is that by which our transgressions are lifted and our sins are covered. The imputed righteousness is that by which we are declared righteous before God. So we see that the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ is preached in the Old Testament.
Before we get into detail in Romans 4:6-8, I want to go over the context of this passage so we can see why Paul talks about imputed righteousness here. Earlier in Romans, Paul establishes the fact that everyone without exception by nature is totally depraved. This means that none by nature meet up to the standard of perfect righteousness that God requires; thus, no one by nature is accepted by Him. No one can do anything to gain acceptance before God. Paul then goes over the righteousness of God in the gospel, which shows God to be both just and justifier based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. After this, Paul shows the implications of this gospel, including the fact that justification is through faith, not through works. Then, at the beginning of Romans 4, he shows from the Old Testament that justification was never by works. He used the example of Abraham in verses 1 through 5, and now he uses the example of David in verses 6 through 8.
Now why is imputed righteousness so important when refuting justification by works? It shows that justification is by something TOTALLY OUTSIDE OF the efforts of the sinner. Works salvation advocates hate the doctrine of imputed righteousness. For if we are declared righteous because of the righteousness of someone else, there is NO RIGHTEOUSNESS in ourselves that causes God to declare us righteous. Thus, there is no boast left for man, and when there's no boast left for man, then unregenerate man hates it. Even most of those who say they believe in imputed righteousness really give man a place to boast and thus hate true imputed righteousness. I recently received an e-mail from a professing "sovereign grace" preacher who said this: "A child of God is made righteous by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ and will perform righteous acts due to his new character or nature. ... A child of God will sin in the flesh but the soul does not sin and shall stand before God perfectly holy." Now this person used the words "imputed righteousness," didn't he? But does he believe in salvation by imputed righteousness? No. He believes that God's people are MADE RIGHTEOUS by the so-called "imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ," and this being made righteous includes a perfectly sinless soul that stands before God as righteous. What does he believe God is going to admit him to heaven based on? Is it the perfect righteousness of Christ? No - it is the perfect righteousness of his soul. He believes that the soul will stand before God perfectly holy. So what will he plead as the ground of acceptance before God? He will plead his perfectly sinless, holy soul that was MADE perfectly holy by what he calls "imputed righteousness," which is actually an INFUSED righteousness. He's a Roman Catholic in the guise of a sovereign grace preacher. And there are many more of these kinds of people around.
So now let's talk about TRUE imputed righteousness. And I've gone over this so many times that I hope you can anticipate what I'm about to say before I say it, and I hope that it sticks in your mind so much that you will be able to articulate it when it comes time for you to give an answer for the hope that lies within you.
God only accepts those who are as holy and righteous as He is. He will not accept any person who does not have perfect righteousness. Since all men by nature are sinners, then no one in his own character and conduct can be accepted before God. Here's where imputed righteousness comes in. Imputed righteousness starts with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a perfectly sinless life. He never sinned. He never even THOUGHT of sinning. There was never even a single taint of sin in any of His thoughts, words, or deeds. But was He perfectly righteous just to show that he was perfectly righteous? No. He did it as a SUBSTITUTE and REPRESENTATIVE of a particular people. He lived a perfect life FOR and IN PLACE OF His people, who could not even come close to living perfect lives. We've seen the Scripture on the sinlessness of Christ many times, so I won't go over it this time. Suffice it to say that if you don't believe that Jesus Christ was absolutely without sin, you do not believe the gospel and you are yet dead in your sins.
When God saves one of His people, He LEGALLY CHARGES the perfect sinlessness of Christ TO THE ACCOUNT OF that person. And when this happens, God sees this person in the eyes of His law as being perfectly sinless. And since God only accepts those who are as righteous as He is, He accepts this person on account of the righteousness of Christ. This person still sins in his own character and conduct, so this person's own character and conduct WILL NEVER form ANY part of the ground of his acceptance before God. IMPUTATION does not make any part of the person sinless, for if it did, then that person would have at least some room to boast in his acceptance before God, like that professed "sovereign grace" preacher I mentioned earlier. IMPUTATION is purely LEGAL. Now is there any infusion or impartation that takes place? There sure is. But this imparted or infused principle of righteousness forms ABSOLUTELY NO PART of our acceptance before God. Our standing before God is NOT based in ANY WAY to ANY DEGREE on what we do or don't do. Our standing before God is NOT based on a perfect soul or anything else. It is ONLY based on IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS, which is a righteousness TOTALLY OUTSIDE ourselves. This is the ONLY WAY that justification is by grace through faith in Christ. If there were ANYTHING INSIDE OURSELVES that we could present to God as our righteousness, we would have a boast, but not with God.
David says that a man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works is blessed. He is blessed of God. He is one of God's chosen people. When righteousness is imputed, there is no condemnation. When righteousness is imputed, there is no charge that can be brought against God's elect. This is the blessed state of all believers. If our works entered into the equation at any point, then we would not be blessed; we would be cursed, because cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things having been written in the book of the Law, to do them. If we base any part of our salvation on our works, then we have all the Law to do, and it needs to be obeyed perfectly, or else there is only a curse. But since our salvation is based on the perfect Law-keeping of another, God's only begotten Son, we are blessed, because our salvation is apart from works.
As we saw earlier in the sermon, this blessed man has his lawlessnesses forgiven and his sins covered. The Greek word for "lawlessnesses" is ah-no-MEE-ah. "Ah" means "against" and "nomos" means "law." Our deeds against the law have been forgiven. The Greek word for "forgiven" is ah-FEE-ay-me. "Apo" means "away," and "HEE-ay-me" means "to send." So this word means to send away. Our deeds against the law have been sent away. Turn to Psalm 103:12:
Psalm 103: (12) As far as the east [is] from the west, [so] far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Think about it. How far is the east from the west? They are opposite directions, and they are infinite in opposite directions. Think of a point, and a totally straight line coming out from the right and the left. The ends of that line will never meet. When we are talking about something totally linear, east and west never meet. That's as far as God has removed our lawless deeds from us. They are infinitely far away from us. They will never be near us. And if God has put our lawless deeds as far away from us as the east is from the west, are we chargeable or condemnable? No - we CAN'T be! God has TOTALLY REMOVED the guilt and defilement of our sins from us. They are sent away, never to return. Leviticus 16:10 says, "And the goat on which the lot fell for a complete removal shall be made to stand living before Jehovah to atone by it, to send it away for a complete removal into the wilderness." This is a picture of our sins being completely taken away, as far as the east is from the west, based on the work of Christ alone.
Also, the man who is blessed of God is one whose sins are covered. The Greek word for "sins" is ha-mar-TEE-ah, which means "offenses" or "failures." Our offenses against God are covered. The Greek word for "covered" is ep-ee-ka-LOOP-tow. "EP-ee" means "over," and "ka-LOOP-tow" means "to cover" or "to conceal." Our offenses have been covered over. This doesn't mean that our sins are sitting there and something is put over them so as to hide the reality of them. This means that in the eyes of God's law and justice, they are not seen. God does not see our sins when it comes to the ground of our salvation.
In verse 8 of Romans 4, there is something that could be missed or passed over. It says, "blessed the man to whom the Lord will IN NO WAY charge sin." The translation "in no way" begins to give us the magnitude of what is being said here. The KJV merely translates it "not," which isn't even close to the magnitude. In the Greek, it's actually two words: OO and MAY: OO-may. OO means "no" or "not," while MAY is another word meaning "no" or "not." It is a double NO. The only way we can come close in English is to say "certainly not" or "no way" or "not at all" or "by no means" or "in no wise." Literally, it would say, "blessed the man to whom the Lord will not, will NOT charge sin." There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that sin will be charged to the blessed man. There's nothing that he can do, that Satan can do, that others can do, to get sin to be charged to him. That sin is GONE - COMPLETELY REMOVED - in the eyes of God's law and justice. Praise God for the imputed righteousness of Christ!
To close, let's read Isaiah 61:10-11:
Isaiah 61: (10) Rejoicing I will rejoice in Jehovah. My soul shall be joyful in my God. For He clothed me [with] garments of salvation; He put on me the robe of righteousness, even as a bridegroom dons as a priest [his] head-dress, and as a bride wears her ornaments. (11) For as the earth comes out with her buds, and as a garden causes that which is sown to grow, so the Lord Jehovah will make righteousness and praise to grow before all the nations.