Appeal to Edward Fudge (V): Grace: Imputed Obedience?

By Ron Halbrook

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For the Preface to this series of articles, please see the Introductory article in the Sept. 20th issue of Truth Magazine.)

POINT 7. Last, we consider our brother’s concept of grace. He is teaching that the work of Christ, in addition to the blood sacrifice, was to obey perfectly for us. Christ is “a representative law-keeper, who justifies others by his obedience.” “Because of His obedience, those who are in Him can be saved although they never do achieve perfect obedience themselves.” Once we are in Christ, the obedience of Christ is imputed to us rather than sin being imputed to us. “There is a sphere where sin is not imputed to the sinners and that sphere is ‘in Christ.’ ” This is “the righteousness which is by faith” referred to “in Romans 4:6-8” (quotes from G.G., Vol. 21, No. 44). (He wants us to emphasize that he believes imputed obedience is conditioned on true faith.)

REVIEW: Attitudes, principles, and concepts have consequences. Does our brother not see what follows from his premise of imputed obedience? The result is: even if we do violate the silence of God, practice unlawful opinions, and add to God’s Word, even if these are actual sins, God will not impute these to us especially in cases of misguided or false piety (as distinguished from flagrant pride). He will rather impute the obedience of Christ to us who are in him. In this fashion, God’s grace accepts brethren who use instruments, socialize the church’s mission, and centralize. Since God accepts them, so should we.

The foundation is faulty; thus, the conclusion, which results, is unfounded. The Old Law does not cast any shadows concerning our need of one to keep the Law perfectly for us–which obedience would be imputed to us. The Law is replete with shadows concerning our need of a perfect sacrifice a blood sacrifice for removal of sin, upon faith. “The law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them.” The Old Law could not save because man did not perfectly obey. (Man’s paramount problem was not that he might break the law without knowing it and thus be lost, though the law recognizes a man might break the law and learn of it later. The supreme problem was that once a man broke the law when tempted to choose the wrong. the law couldn’t grant final and complete forgiveness. Heb. 10:4.)

What solution did God intend: one to obey for us or one to die for us? “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing . . . might come . . . through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:11-14). Which is foreshadowed: one to obey for us or one to die for us? See Heb. 10:1-14.

If the work of Christ was not as “a representative law-keeper who justifies others by His obedience,” what is the meaning of his perfect obedience? Our brother says, “Because Of His obedience, those who are in Him can be saved although they never do achieve perfect obedience.” If that is not it, what is the meaning of Christ’s obedience? In the first place, his death could not be accepted on our behalf if be owed life for his own sins.

Also, notice Heb. 2, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that bad the power of death, that is, the devil. . . . Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (4:14-16). The perfect life was lived to make him perfect in sympathy and understanding of our struggle with sin.

And, again, we emphasize the perfect life provided a perfect sacrifice. The perfect priest, “without sin,” did not offer a life-long obedience to be counted in place of our disobedience; he culminated a life of obedience in a perfect sacrifice for our sins, and thus saves us. “Through death” he saves us. See Heb. 5:8-9; 9:28; 10: 12. Yes, his obedience is full of meaning for us.

The idea that God imputes the obedience of Christ to us leads our brother to say, “But there is a sphere where sin is not imputed to the sinners and that sphere is ‘in Christ.’ ” So, as long as we’re in Christ, God keeps imputing his obedience to us and so does not impute sin to us. (Again, Ed says this is conditioned on true, continuing faith.) This is a misconstrued allusion to Rom. 4, especially vv. 4-8. God does not impute past sins to those justified by faith. Such is the meaning of Ps. 32, from which Paul quotes, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” “The Lord imputeth not iniquity,” not in the sense that sin is not imputed in the first place, but in the sense that imputed sin was “forgiven” to one who “acknowledged” and confessed his sin unto God (Ps. 32:1-5). Sin, once forgiven, is not imputed or remembered any longer. So it is in Heb. 8:12, “Their sins . . . will I remember no more.

In the Old system of sacrifice, “there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.” In the New, God doesn’t remember the post sins for which we have sought forgiveness (compare Heb. 8:12 and 10: 3). If we sin again, we may go on in hardness; “there remaineth no more sacrifice” (Heb. 10 – 26). Or, “we may confess our sins , ” “he is faithful and just to forgive” (1 Jn. 1). We could not confess that which is not imputed to us in the first place. “If we walk in the light” and “if we confess our sins,” the blood of Christ cleanses us. Nowhere is it taught that our sins are not imputed because his obedience is imputed to us.

We emphasize again, the Law did not foreshadow (1) one to perfectly obey for us, so (2) his obedience could be imputed to us, and (3) so our present sins would not be imputed to us. The people were never taught to look on the thousands of lambs as perfectly obedient ones, foreshadowing One who would perfectly obey for us-nor are the other two points just mentioned foreshadowed. The lamb without blemish did emphasize that Christ would be a sinless sacrifice. Every man broke the Law and then stood under the sentence of death (Gal. 3:11-12; Heb. 2:15). They saw in the rivers of blood that sin requires death, and yet that animal blood is insufficient (Heb. 9-10). But the shadows, the sacrifices they offered, served to bring them unto “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” through one perfect sacrifice (Jn. 1, Gal. 3, Heb. 10).

Dear brother, we appeal in love: clarify please.

Appeal In Love

CONCLUSION: Our brother Edward Fudge is loved of many, including his brother Ron Halbrook, who is extending this appeal to him. Love, patience, and a desire to help each other on the way to heaven must characterize us all.

We have tried to present this study in proper balance and perspective. For instance, I recognize temperament may differ according to individual make-up; our concern here is not with temperament, which may vary, but with teaching, which must conform to the divine standard. My own precautions and delays in presenting this material bear witness to my love of Ed. My conviction that Ed needs a specific occasion to clarify some specific matters has finally moved me to write. I cannot desire to hurt him, if I were to do so. Neither do I “throw the baby out with the bathwater; ” I rejoice in every talent Ed has, in his every effort for truth, and in every success of worthy endeavor that is his.

Believing basic principles are crying for attention, I cannot withhold these lines any longer. This appeal is written in love. Ed’s response, reaffirmation, rebuttal, or explanation will be received in love. Even should he deem it best to ignore this appeal, I shall love him still. I believe Ed and Ron are united in believing we must and can strive for the balance of attitude and truth required in 1 Cor. 16:13-14. “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” May God help us both to do exactly that.

(Series Concluded)

October 25, 1973