Impute, Imputation

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To impute means to reckon to someone the blessing, curse, debt, etc., of another. Adam's sin is imputed to all people (Rom. 5:12-21). Therefore, we are effectively all guilty before God. Our sins were put upon, imputed, to Jesus on the cross where He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21) and died with them (Isaiah 53:4-6). Therefore, our sins are forgiven. Understanding imputation is very important. Imputation is the means of our salvation. Our sins were put upon, imputed, to Jesus on the cross. Our sins were "given" to Jesus. When He died on the cross, our sins, in a sense, died with Him. The righteousness that was His through His perfect obedience to the Father in His complete obedience to the Law is imputed, given, to us. In short, our sins were given to Jesus. His righteousness was given to us. Technically speaking our sins were imputed to Jesus. His righteousness was imputed to us.

Sin is breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4), hence the legal aspect. Sin is a legal debt. Matt. 6:12, "And forgive us our debts (opheilema), as we also have forgiven our debtors.”   The parallel in Luke 11:4 says, “And forgive us our sins (hamartia) . . . " Jesus equates sin with debt. So, legal debts can be transferred which is why Jesus bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). And, because of the instrument of faith, we are justified (a legal standing before the Law) and have a righteousness that's not our own (Phil. 3:9). His righteousness is reckoned to our account (justification).

  • "IMPUTATION: "Charging to an account, used in the Bible with legal reference to sin and salvation being recorded by God."1
  • IMPUTATION: "is used to designate any action or word or thing as reckoned to a person. Thus in doctrinal language (1) the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs, and they are dealt with therefore as guilty; (2) the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them that believe in him, or so attributed to them as to be considered their own; and (3) our sins are imputed to Christ, i.e., he assumed our “law-place,” undertook to answer the demands of justice for our sins. In all these cases the nature of imputation is the same (Rom. 5:12-19; comp. Philemon 1:18, 19)." 2
  • 1. Elwell, Walter A., and Philip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Tyndale Reference Library. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001).
  • 2. Easton, M. G. Easton’s Bible Dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.