October 17, 2017

Imputed Righteousness: Criticisms of the Doctrine

By Mike Willis

Let me again remind you why we are spending so much time studying the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to the account of the believer. Some of my brethren are wanting to use the Calvinist doctrine of the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to the account of the believer (which is used in the system of Calvinism as theological justification for the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints or "once saved, always saved") as theological justification for fellowshipping those brethren who are actively propagating false doctrines among us. They want to use the Calvinist doctrine to cover the sins of the baptized believer in order that they can fellowship every baptized believer, regardless of what doctrines he is teaching. They believe that Christ's perfect obedience is transferred to the believer and, therefore, God does not see that brethren are involved in using mechanical instruments of music in worship, supporting human institutions (schools, hospitals, and orphans homes), perverting the organization of the church through the sponsoring church arrangement, premillennialism, etc. Hence, God is going to save these brethren who are engaged in these sins because the perfect obedience of Christ has been applied to the account of these believers. The next step is this: if we are going to live together in sweet fellowship in heaven, should we riot also be in fellowship on this earth? Consequently, those who are teaching the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account are using this as theological justification for fellowshipping brethren who are teaching and practicing sin and who refuse to repent of these sins.

We must not become so involved in the argumentation of these doctrines that we forget the practical application which is being given to them. Some brethren are trying to establish some kind of justification for fellowshipping the Christian Churches and those who are in the liberal churches. Because this is being used as their justification for this fellowship, we must carefully examine their doctrine.

Let me briefly remind you of what we have done already in this series on the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account. In my first article, I showed the relationship of the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience to Christ to the believer's account as being a part of the system known as Calvinsim. In my second article, I showed that the Greek word logizomai offered no support to this doctrine. In the third article, I showed that the various passages ,used to support this doctrine offer no support for it. The texts must be perverted to make them mean that Christ's perfect obedience is applied to the account of the believer. Let us move on in our study by making the following criticisms of the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account:

I. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account depreciates our dependence upon the atoning blood of Christ. Instead of the believer's salvation resting solely upon the blood of Christ as the grounds for salvation, the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to the believer's account minimizes the blood of Christ. In fact, it cuts in half our dependence upon the blood. Rather, we are told that we are saved by two things: the blood of Christ and the perfect obedience of Christ. Hence, this doctrine cuts in half our dependence upon the blood of Christ. Lest you think that I am misrepresenting those who teach this doctrine, read the following quotations:

"There are two elements blended together in God's redemptive act in Christ. These elements are righteousness and blood. Paul not only ascribes salvation to the blood of Christ but also to the righteousness of Christ . .. . The gospel is about Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:3) -- His righteousness and blood. If Christ to our Sun, then half of this Sun's luster is dimmed when we fail to rivet our attention on the grand theme of the righteousness of Jesus" (Robert D. Brinamead, "The Righteousness of Christ," Present Truth, Vol. VI, No. 2, p. 16).

"And no sinner is going to be justified other than on the basis and merits of that perfect life and death. Therefore imputation of righteousness is not to transfer the holy and moral life of Christ (infused into sinners) but faith in Him brings to the sinner's account the merits of his perfect obedience (satisfaction of lw) and death (satisfaction of penalty for the broken law)" (Arnold Hardin, "Imputation of Righteousness # 4," The Persuader, Vol. XI, No. 11, April 3, 1977).

"We are saved, therefore, by both the doing and the dying, a fact foreshadowed by the Law itself and specifically stated by the apostle Paul (Rom. 5:10, 19). The two elements of the Lord's Supper remind us of both elements of our redemption: the bread signifies the body in which a perfect life was lived on our behalf (Heb. 10:5ff); the cup signifies the blood shed in atonement for oar remission" (Edward Fudge, "Which Sins Matter?", Firm Foundation, Vol. XCI, No. 40, October 1, 1974, p. 3).

Notice that all of these quotations show that these men believe that salvation rests for its grounds not exclusively upon the blood of Christ but half upon the blood and half upon the perfect obedience of Christ.

This raises some questions in our mind. If man is saved by the blood of Christ, why does he need His perfect obedience? If my sins are washed away by the blood of Christ each time I repent and pray for forgiveness, why do I need to have perfect obedience imputed to me? My sins are removed and I stand before the law of God without guilt. Why then do I need Christ's perfect obedience? On the other hand, if Christ's perfect obedience is imputed to me, God sees Christ's perfect obedience instead of my sins. Therefore, I ask, why do I need the blood of Christ to forgive me of my sins? The two systems are such that if one of them works I do not need the other. Why do I need both of them?

Hence, the first criticism which I make of the doctrine that Christ's perfect obedience is imputed to the believer is that it depreciates our..dependence upon the blood of Christ. It cuts in half man's dependence upon the atonement of Christ!

2. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account depreciates one's duty to obey the Lord. The doctrine states that Christ does not see our faults; rather, He sees Christ's perfect obedience attributed to the account of the believer. The logical conclusion from this is that I can be saved without repenting of my sins.

Those brethren who preach imputed righteousness are protesting that this doctrine does not undermine the need for obedience. However, let us judge the tree by its fruits. Those who are involved in fellowshipping those who are in the Christian Church and those who, are liberals among us have far more opportunities to speak to those in apostasy than I do, But, how many have they led out of apostasy? How many brethren have Leroy Garrett and Carl Ketcherside led out of the Christian Church? How many.: brethren has Edward Fudge persuaded to renounce the instruments of music or the sponsoring church arrangement or the church support of human institutions in his many years of writing for the Christian Standard and Firm Foundation? In recent years, how many has Arnold Hardin persuaded to leave the liberals and take a stand for truth. I venture to guess that he has not led any out of these apostasies since he has become convinced that the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed to the believer. And, why should he lead them out? They are saved where they are, according to these men!

My brethren, the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account undermines the restoration plea. The restoration plea is a plea to go back to the Bible-to do Bible things in a Bible way. This is understood to be necessary for salvation. Man must go back to the Bible in order to receive the blessings of the gospel -- the promise of salvation. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account states that one can be saved without returning the Bible. It teaches that the man who has departed from the organizational pattern of the New Testament church can be saved without restoring the organization of the church; it teaches that the man who is involved in perverting the mission of the church can be saved without restoring the mission of the church. Hence, it altogether undermines the restoration plea. Both logically and practically, the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account has depreciated the necessity of obedience to the Lord.

3. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account puts a premium on ignorance. Our brethren teach that Christ's perfect obedience will be imputed to the account df the believer so that God does not see the sins of ignorance committed by those sincere, honest brethren attending liberal churches and Christian Churches. If this is so, then we should not tell them that what they are doing is wrong lest we cause them to go to Hell. So long as they are saved in the condition they are in, why inform them of the things which they are doing which are wrong? (Maybe this is why some of our brethren write for those publications circulated by Christian Church men and liberal brethren but never get around to telling those brethren about the things which they are doing which are wrong!) Hence, the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's accounts puts a premium on ignorance.

4. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account states that a man can continue in sin and yet be righteous in the sight of God. These brethren teach that those who are involved in the "sins" (they give this word a special definition sometimes) of instrumental music in worship, the sponsoring church, recreation as a part of the work of the church, premillennialism, etc. can be saved without repenting of their sins and asking God's forgiveness. Rather, they say that God will simply impute the perfect obedience of Christ to the account of these brethren resulting in them being saved without ever- leaving the Christian Churches or liberal churches among us. In this respect at least, the doctrine of my brethren resembles the first century gnosticism which John opposed; those early gnostics also said that brethren could walk in sin and maintain fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:6).

5. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account is nowhere taught in the Scriptures. Because it is not taught within the Scriptures, it is without divine authority. The propagation of this doctrine is the propagation of a doctrine devised by man which renders worship vain (Mt. 15:8-9).

4. The doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account is inconsistently applied. My brethren will not tell me why the perfect obedience of Christ covers sins of ignorance and sins of the weakness of the flesh but will not cover wilful sins. And, of course, this raises another question: which sins do I commit that are not "weaknesses of the flesh"? When I rebell against God, is this "strength of the flesh"? Actually, all my sins are weaknesses of the flesh. If this doctrine can cover one sin which a man does not repent of, it can cover all sins. The Calvinists are more consistent than my brethren. They admit that the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account applies to all sins and, therefore, that the sins which a Christian commits do not affect the salvation of his soul. My brethren say that this is so with reference to only a certain kind of our sins! I guess that some of our sins are venial and others are mortal.

Conclusion

These criticisms of the doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer's account make this doctrine more than an innocent belief of some among us. It is a departure from the one faith that was revealed by God. Its logical consequences are devastating to the Christian. It implies that one can be saved while continuing in sin. Consequently, those who are faithful to the Lord must oppose this doctrine with every ounce of their being.

Truth Magazine XXII: 6, pp. 99-101
February 9, 1978

Share