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White Horse Inn: Conversational Theology

Imputation: The Heart of Justification

At the heart of the Protestant view of justification by faith alone is the doctrine of an imputed righteousness. But does the Bible actually teach that we are declared righteous on the basis of Christ’s work on our behalf? Also, some argue that this view of justification essentially amounts to “legal fiction,” but is this really the case? These are some of the questions the hosts will address on this edition of White Horse Inn as they conclude their series on the doctrine of justification.


“Some of the more familial or covenantal kinds of illustrations really also have as their background imputation. If you think about something like marriage, for example, you can’t get much more familial than that. But the idea there is that how do you enter into marriage? Well, you’re declared husband and wife. Your relationship with one another changes. It’s not based upon some kind of infusion of something new inside of the bride or the groom, but it’s based on a legal declaration. And that’s the entire idea whether we’re talking about marriage or any of the other metaphors that you just mentioned.”

Steve Parks



Simply, to credit or reckon. Through Adam, the guilt of sin is imputed to all men; through Christ, righteousness is imputed to believers (Rom 5:12-21). On the cross, Christ exchanged his righteousness for man’s sinfulness (2 Cor 5:21) by means of imputation. The sins of believers were imputed (credited) to Christ on the cross, and the righteousness that belonged to Jesus Christ was imputed (credited) to believers. Thus, believers possess an “alien” righteousness and can stand before a righteous God.

More from this Series: Justification

  1. The Doctrine of Justification & Contemporary Christianity Listen Now ›
  2. The Jewish Background to Justification Listen Now ›
  3. Did Jesus Teach Justification by Faith Alone? Listen Now ›
  4. Imputation: The Heart of Justification Listen Now ›