Imputation by Scott Bushey





William Cunningham writes:

“No man pretends to be able to comprehend or explain the doctrine of the fall of Adam, and its bearing upon the present character and condition of men. All admit that it involves mysteries which human reason, enlightened

by divine revelation, cannot fathom ; and that, after all our study of Scripture, and all our investigation of the subject, we must resolve the matter into the divine sovereignty, and be content to say, ” Even so, Father, for it hath seemed good in Thy sight.” All that is contended for by the advocates of the doctrine of imputation is, in general, that Scripture suggests and sanctions certain ideas upon the subject, which commend themselves to our minds as tending somewhat to explain and illustrate this mystery ; to interpose one or two steps between

the naked facts of the case, and the unfathomable abyss of God’s sovereignty ; and thereby to bring this subject somewhat into the line of the analogy of things which we can in some measure understand and estimate.”

Having heard Dr. Cunningham, We will attempt to flesh this out a bit.

According to Oxford English Dictionary:



[with object]

  • 1 represent (something, especially something undesirable) as being done or possessed by someone; attribute: the crimes imputed to Richard2 Finance assign (a value) to something by inference from the value of the products or processes to which it contributes:(as adjective imputed) recovering the initial outlay plus imputed interest
    •  Theology ascribe (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to someone by virtue of a similar quality in another: Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us
  • Rom. 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

How would you explain this subject to a 5 year old?

“Beijing’s air quality has become so bad that the city has recently been engulfed in a hazardous haze. As a result, schools have been forced to cancel outdoor activities, and health experts have asked that children, the elderly and people with respiratory ailments stay indoors. The city recorded the world’s highest level of sulfur dioxide concentrations for 2000 to 2005 and has the third-highest level of nitrogen dioxide behind only Sao Paulo and Mexico City. Pollution improved in 2008 because officials banned roughly half of the city’s cars when it hosted the Olympic Games. Of course, the air got worse again after the games left town.

According to WHO’s most recent findings, New Delhi, India ranks second in concentrations in particulates, at a level more than six times higher than what WHO considers safe. According to the Harvard International Review, two in every five of the city’s 13.8 million residents suffer from respiratory illness. The report says the main cause of New Delhi’s air pollution is car exhaust and dust kicked up from overcrowded roads. As a result, construction workers and taxi drivers are most at risk for debilitating illness or even early death.
According to WHO, a city’s airborne particulate matter should not exceed 50 micro-grams per cubic meter. In Santiago, an alert is issued when the level hits 200 micro-grams. In 2008, on some days the city reached 444 micro-grams. Additionally, Santiago has the second-highest level of ground-level ozone, according to WHO.”

*The above taken from Urban Peek

Is the above an imputation of sorts? The definition of imputation is an attribution. The factories produce and the secondary effect is spread through out the region to all people living there-in fact, most of all this pollution is spread around the globe. Sometimes this pollution kills people. What percentage is unknown to me; In the example of Adam’s fall and that which is imputed to us, it is 100%. The death rate for this poison is 100%. No one escapes alive. Because of this sin, we have death. Death is a direct result of the fall and only the fall. Man was meant to live forever, physically and spiritually. When Eve sinned, mankind was plunged headlong into the abyss of death. The body began to degrade and we were immediately set at enmity with our maker.

Example: Think about the miracle of conception. The scriptures tell us that we are ‘brought forth in iniquity’. At the moment of conception, the zygote begins to what? Live? Die?

The second law of thermodynamics

“The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that “in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state.” This is also commonly referred to as entropy. A watchspring-driven watch will run until the potential energy in the spring is converted, and not again until energy is reapplied to the spring to rewind it. A car that has run out of gas will not run again until you walk 10 miles to a gas station and refuel the car.”

Taken from:

Entropy: We are a candle of sorts……

1Cor. 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

This contrast is important. The first Adam and the second Adam. One brings death, the other, life.  John Piper writes in regard to this contrast:

“What’s at stake here is the whole comparison between Christ and Adam. If we don’t understand “because all sinned” in 5:12 as “because all sinned in Adam,” the entire comparison between Christ and Adam will be distorted and we won’t see the greatness of justification by grace through faith for what it really is.

Let me try to illustrate what’s at stake. If you say, “Through one man sin and death entered the world and death spread to everybody because all sinned individually,” then the comparison with the work of Jesus could be, “So also through one man, Jesus Christ, righteousness and life entered the world and life spread to all because all individually did acts of righteousness.” In other words, justification would not be God’s imputing Christ’s righteousness to us, but our performing individual acts of righteousness with Christ’s help and then being counted righteous on that basis.”

What Piper is saying is that if it is not true imputation and the transferring of the sin is based on individuality-life or death. The act of sinning, dependent on the specific person and the act of righteousness, in the same light.

Do you get that? On one hand if we don’t appreciate the level of imputation that happens in our genome (because of Adam), if we say it is based on individuality, the same rationale must be applied to Christ’s imputation; that won’t work. Adams sin is imputed to all of us as Christ’s righteousness is to the elect.

Look at what Roman’s says:

“15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.”

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Notice that the apostle says that judgment came to ‘all men’ through Adam and ‘the free gift came upon all men’ as well. How would you explain this? The scriptures here say all men are condemned and all men are recipients of the ‘free gift’. Didn’t the passage in Romans say that?

Lets read it again:

“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

This  difficulty is easily reconciled by harmonizing the rest of scripture. When John 3:16 says:

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3 has a qualifier; One must believe. This side of the imputation coin is effectual to only the elect. When the apostle says in Romans 18 ‘even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men’, it is describing the outward call of God to the entire world. That portion of the call is indiscriminate.

What does Romans 9 say?

Rom. 9:14   What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.  17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

Rom. 9:19   You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?”  20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”  21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Rom. 9:22   What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,  23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,  24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Universal imputation vs selective imputation.

Does everyone understand the dynamics of the call of God? It is a coin. One side is the external call, the otherside, the internal call. We are only talking about this doctrine because the passage in Romans is difficult. The layperson may struggle with this and we don’t want anyone stumbling into a error. Universalism is heresy.

Lets look at what the WCF says about the outward call:

Chapter 10

Of effectual calling

(Internal call-this is to the elect alone)

I. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ: enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

II. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

(External call-to everyone)

IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore can not be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is without warrant of the Word of God”.

So, using one of my favorite theological terms, thanks to Turretin, what Paul is saying is in regards to Adam, all are affected; in the case of Christ only some. In the compound, it is only the elect, in the divided it is the whole world. In the compound it is the internal call, in the divided it is the external call. The imputation of Adam is universal; in Christ it is specific-to a particular people. These peoples are from every tribe, tongue and nation-in this, it can be said it is to the whole world.

In the divided sense, Christ’s imputation goes to all in the external call, in the compound, only to the elect of God.

One writer put it this way:

“Sometimes “all” in the Bible does not mean all. That is, it does not mean all men without exception, but rather all men without distinction-all classes of men.”

This is radically different from Adam’s imputation as it goes to all men-every last one. It’s important to understand this, else you end up with, as I have said, universalism and an error.

Rom. 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Berkhof writes in regards to Rom’s 5:

“In Adam all men died, but in Christ all those who are His are made alive. This means that Adam was the representative head of all men, just as Christ is now the representative head of all those who are His.”

To the unregenerate, Adam is the federal head and to the elect, Christ.

Turretin says:
“From union with Christ depends the communion of all his benefits, of justification and of sanctification and of glory…Hence it is that, being united to Christ as our head and the first-begotten of God, his most perfect righteousness becomes ours by the imputation of God and the reception of faith, upon which depend both absolution from sins and the adoption or acceptation to life and the inheritance which is the right of sons.” ( IET, Vol. 2, 16.6.8 )”

and Thomas Boston:
” Though by the death and resurrection of Christ, the sanctification of his people is infallibly insured, as the corruption of all mankind was by the fall of Adam; yet we cannot actually partake of Christ’s holiness till we have a spiritual being in him, even as we partake not of Adam’s corruption till we have a natural being from him. And for the effecting of this union with Christ, he in the time of love sends his quickening Spirit into the soul, whereby he apprehends us; and thus there is a passive reception of Christ. And the soul being quickened, believes, and so apprehends Christ. Thus that union with Christ is made up by the Spirit on Christ’s part, and faith on ours. So the soul being united to him, lives by the same spirit of holiness which is in him, and takes of his, and gives to his members for their sanctification. Works Vol II, Pg. 13″ (My emphasis added in italics)

Hodge writes:
” There is a logical connection, therefore, between the denial of the imputation of Adam’s sin, and the denial of the scriptural doctrines of atonement and justification. The objections urged against the former bear equally against the latter doctrines. And it is a matter of history that those who reject the one reject also the other.”‘ So also, in the Princeton Review for the year 1860, when remarking on Dr. Baird’s Elohim Revealed, he says, ” The main point in the analogy between Christ and Adam, as presented in the theology of the Protestant Church, and as exhibited by the apostle, is, that as in the case of Christ, His righteousness, as something neither done by us nor wrought in us, is the judicial ground of our justification, with which inward holiness is connected as an invariable consequence; so in the case of Adam, his offence, as something out of ourselves, apeccatum alienum, is the judicial ground of the condemnation of the race, of which condemnation, spiritual death, or inward corruption, is the expression and the consequence. It is this principle which is fundamental to the Protestant theology and the evangelical system, in the form in which it is presented in the Bible, which is strenuously denied by Dr. Baird, and also by the advocates of the doctrine of mediate imputation.”

So, in essence, what Hodge is saying is that if you deny the doctrine of original sin, you by default deny justification. You cannot separate the two facts.


Granted, we just skimmed the top of this doctrine; so much more can be said in regard to it. I would only exhort you to search the scriptures. Pray that God would give the grace so that you may gain a better understanding of the subject, hence gaining a better understanding of Him. To His glory alone.

For Christ crown and covenant.