Imputed is not a word that I use very often. The dictionary says it means to attribute or ascribe something credible or discreditable to a person such as righteousness or guilt, and done a person or persons vicariously. That is, something is ascribed to a person but derived from another.
This describes that “great exchange” from a recent devotional post. It is how Jesus, who had no sin of His own, took my sin. It was imputed to Him by God.
I’m trying to imagine what this would be like and how it can be illustrated. One way is using the word exchange. A father teaches his children this great truth by trading their dirty napkin for his shiny coin. From that, they begin to understand that God the Father trades their sin for the priceless righteousness of His Son.
However, that illustration is more about the results of imputation. How about adding that the napkin is so loved by God that He was willing to offer His spotless Son, and then use the coin to clean the napkin? But that doesn’t work either.
Another illustration is when an innocent person offers to take the place of a convicted felon and the judge accepts the offer. The guilty person is declared (imputed) innocent and the one who did not commit the crime takes responsibility for it and the punishment. That really doesn’t work either.
Another image is that of an accountant. He sees from the ledgers that one client is poor while the other client is wealthy. The wealthy person willing offers His savings, so the accountant transfers the money from the rich man’s books to the poor man’s account. The poor man did not earn it or deserve it; it came to him by the grace of the one who was able to do it. Also, the fit what biblical imputation means, the rich man would also have to take on all the poor man’s debts and pay them. This isn’t a perfect illustration either.
This is a challenge. No illustration grasps the magnitude of biblical imputation because all illustrations involve humans and imputation is a God-thing. When God is involved, the issue goes beyond our ability and usually beyond our understanding. It makes no sense to take the sin and guilt off people who sin, curse, and rebel against you and put them on your sinless Son so you can forgive their sin and kill your Son so He could pay their penalty for sin.
All I can say is that God did it. Not only did He impute my sin to His Son and give me His righteousness, that righteousness changed my life. It changes all sinners who accept it. He then puts them to work so that others can hear this good news and perhaps accept it also . . .
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–21)
This is the “most marvelous thing that ever took place upon the earth, the most stupendous thing ever executed by the power of heaven . . . Jesus Christ, God the eternal Son, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him!” (Donald Fortner)
Jesus, that You were willing to die for me is one thing, but that You were willing to take upon Yourself the sin that is in me and trade it for Your righteousness boggles my mind. May I never cease to worship, adore, love, and trust You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength!