A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
by Jenny-Lyn de Klerk
Table of Contents
- Tracing Trajectories: The History of Imputation
- The Reckoning of Righteousness: Abraham, Faith, and Imputation
- The Foundation of Righteousness: Romans 5:19
- The Provision of Righteousness: 2 Corinthians 5:21
- The Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness: A Pauline Synthesis
- Conclusion: “No Hope Without It”?
In Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness, Vickers aims to “investigate Pauline texts linked historically to the topic of imputation” (16) (most importantly Romans 4, Romans 5, and 2 Corinthians 5:21, but others as well) without falling into either extreme of overemphasizing or underemphasizing what these passages say about imputation. In short, these passages teach that imputation of righteousness and non-imputation of sin are two sides of one coin that is a gracious act of God done in Christ on behalf of sinners and applied to them through union with Christ.
Vickers claims that the active obedience, or righteousness, of Christ that is imputed to sinners is central to the doctrine of justification, which also includes forgiveness (non-imputation of sin). However, most of the controversy surrounding debates about justification centers on the active obedience of Christ as described in the Pauline epistles. Vickers investigates key texts (Romans 4, Romans 5, and 2 Corinthians 5:21) in these debates and, when needed, relevant issues of historical and systematic theology, in order to define imputation and respond to these debates.
Chapter 1: Tracing Trajectories: The History of Imputation
Vickers traces the development of the doctrine of imputation (touching on key players and their contributions) from the Reformation to today.
In Luther’s explanation of imputation, he emphasizes the fact that believers are equally righteous before God and equally unrighteous to themselves, that Jesus’ righteousness provides forgiveness for sin and the concept of union with Christ. Though he did not sharply differentiate between imputation of righteousness and non-imputation of sin, he brought out more of the latter when teaching on imputation. Luther began a trajectory that would be carried on by others like Melanchthon and Calvin. Melanchthon more clearly included imputation of righteousness and non-imputation of sin in his explanation of justification. Calvin focused on forgiveness in his commentary of Romans 4 and 5 and 2 Corinthians 5:19-21, but in the Institutes he clearly included the imputation of righteousness in his discussion of union with Christ.
This trajectory of more clearly expounding imputation of Christ’s righteousness from Luther to Melanchthon to Calvin continued in the next generations. The Augsburg Confession’s statement on justification does not only refer to forgiveness. Similarly, there is a clearer definition of justification from the First to Second London Confession. Most of the Reformed confessions (including the Formula of Concord, French Confession of Faith, Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Second Helvetic Confession, and the Westminster Confession) refer to both aspects of justification. The inclusion of imputation of righteousness in these documents shows that though there were some Protestants who did not affirm this doctrine, it was largely agreed upon.
The Puritans in England and New England said the same. Owen clearly affirmed both non-imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness in his definition of justification; he saw both as essential to justification itself. Edwards made a similar statement and referred to imputation as a legal concept. In the Reformed tradition imputation must be understood in the context of the larger concept of covenant theology, which identifies Christ as a representative head and those who are in Christ as legally sinless and righteous. Because God’s command requires perfect obedience, justification through faith in Christ must include receiving forgiveness and righteousness. Overall, the positive and negative aspects of justification have largely been affirmed in the Reformed tradition. . . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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JESUS’ BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS: PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF IMPUTATION, by Brian Vickers