The significance of Easter is that it is a celebration of the “Good News,” that salvation has been made possible through the death of Jesus Christ. Underlying this concept is the doctrine of the Atonement. Here are two short definitions of atonement. The first is a regular dictionary definition: “atonement; a reparation for an offense.” The sense of this definition is that an offense has been made against another party and restitution needs to be made to the offended party. The second definition: “atonement; the death of Christ on the cross which effects salvation as the reestablishment of the relationship between God and sinners.”
If we apply the first definition to Christianity then we can see that mankind has transgressed the commands of God by his disobedience. Man must therefore make restitution to God in some manner. The second definition explains how this restitution to God has been made. The death and sacrifice of Christ on the cross has satisfied the reparation to God for violating His Holy command for obedience. Even though the offense was made by man, it was necessary that God pay the penalty because man is not capable of doing so. This may seem puzzling at first because man is the guilty party, and God is the offended party. The answer lies in the person of God himself. God is a Holy and an infinite being, whose character demands absolute justice. The offense against an infinite being requires infinite restitution. A finite being such as man is incapable of paying an infinite penalty, only God can do so. God’s justice must still be paid, but God’s justice is tempered by his other attributes; such as love, mercy, and grace. Consequently, God sends His Son to pay the penalty for man’s offense.
Christ, dutifully accomplishes the Father’s plan of redemption. He humbles himself and becomes fully human, lives a sinless life subjected to the same temptations as other men. He then allows Himself to be tortured and suffer death at the hands of man. By allowing Himself to be crucified, Christ accepts responsibility for those who belong to Him, (John 10:27-30), and accepts the consequences of their transgression. Dying on the cross, He took the full and infinite wrath of God for the penalty of sin. By doing so; man is redeemed of his sin, and the relationship between God and man that was severed by Adam’s disobedience is reestablished.
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.”(Isaiah 61:10)
The dictionary definition of imputation is: “to credit to a person or a cause.” This term is most associated with Justification which was explained in the December newsletter, so you should have some understanding of imputation. It is related to the atonement of Christ, because two imputations occur as a result of the atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross brings a credit to the believer and it also brings a credit from the believer to Christ. This is known as the Double Imputation. Most believers understand that those who have faith in Christ have their sins imputed to Christ, who paid the penalty for those sins by His death. However, many don’t know that the righteousness of Christ is also imputed to the believer thorough his faith in Christ.
To better understand the need for this double imputation, the following excerpt from Prof. Joel Beeke is helpful.
“For a sinner to stand before God, two things are required; first his iniquities must be forgiven; and second, he must possess a righteousness that will meet the requirement of God’s justice.”
In the first imputation our sins are transferred to Christ, where He pays the penalty and we are forgiven by God. In the second imputation, His righteousness is given to us so that we possess a righteousness that meets God’s justice. The righteousness that we receive from Christ is the righteousness that He obtained through His perfect keeping of the law during His life on earth. We receive this righteousness much like it is a robe which Christ places on us. It is not our righteousness, it is Christ’s. We are covered with the filth of sin but Christ clothes us in His righteousness and when we stand before God in the final judgment, it is His righteousness that satisfies God’s justice. We do not face the final judgment in the righteousness of our own works, but in the righteousness of Christ’s work.
Here is the account of John Bunyan’s experience when he discovered the “imputed righteousness” of Christ as told by John Piper in his book, Brothers, We are not Professionals.
“Consider 1 Corinthians 1:30. John Bunyan said that after the experience in the field where the imputed righteousness of Christ hit him so powerfully, he went home and looked for Biblical support. He came upon 1 Corinthians 1:30. “[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” “By this scripture,” Bunyan said, “I saw that the man Christ Jesus … is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here therefore I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God, through Christ.” Bunyan’s text (1 Cor. 1:30) says that Christ became for us “righteousness.” And the reason Christ is our “righteousness” in this way is that we are “in Christ Jesus.” “You are in Christ Jesus who became to [or for] us … righteousness.” Christ, not faith is our righteousness. Faith unites us to Christ so that God’s righteousness is reckoned to us.”