Our Sins Were Imputed to Christ

The Gospel Message

When as a teenager I trusted Jesus as my Savior, I had little understanding of what I was doing. At the time, I thought that decision had nothing to do with my living, but only my dying.

I thought I had a paid-up life-insurance policy. I also thought that Christianity would only impact me in the afterlife. How wrong I was. Now, almost seven decades later, I am certain the message of the Gospel is so simple that the least of people can understand it, and so profound that the wisest of men cannot fully plumb its depths.

The apostle Paul wrote:

Let this mind [mental attitude] be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery [a thing to be grasped] to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Consider what Paul was telling us. He said God became a man, became a servant, and died a criminal's death (death by crucifixion). By doing so, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).

A Special Request

Nearing the latter days of his life, Paul found himself again a prisoner of Rome because of his loyalty to Christ. He was not in a Roman dungeon, but rather under house arrest because he was a Roman citizen and awaiting trial. It was during this time that he wrote one of his smallest epistles – a letter to Philemon, his beloved friend and brother in Christ.

In the letter, he requested a favor. It was not for himself, but in this instance the request for a favor was beautifully appropriate. Paul, because of his apostolic authority, graciously said: Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient [appropriate], Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:8-9).

Paul requested, for love's sake, for Paul the aged, and as a prisoner of Jesus Christ before he even reveals to Philemon what his request was. And still not finished, he pled: I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: [this relationship came about as he helped Paul during his house arrest].

Paul tells Philemon he would like to keep Onesimus with him because he was such a help. However, he realized it was only appropriate that he return Onesimus back to his owner. Upon his return he would be more than a slave, but a brother beloved (v. 16). Finally, Paul makes his final request to his special friend with words which bubble up from deep within his heart. The apostle says: If he [Onesimus] hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account (v. 18).

Those five words can also be expressed by these five words: Impute his obligation to me. Earlier in this article, I referred to the simplicity of the Gospel as expressed in John 3:16. Now, in light of Paul's words to Philemon, permit me to share with you the same truth expressed in another way that is both simple and profound.

Blessed Imputation

First, in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God. I know you realize this. However, in sinning they brought in the world death, despair, natural catastrophe, war, hatred, famine, broken homes, lying, cheating, evil, idolatry, and a host of other tragedies. As the father of humanity, Adam's sin was imputed to all men. Even though a beautiful little baby may appear to be perfect and pure at first glance, the reality is that a baby does not have to be trained to be bad, he or she must be trained to be good.

Second, when the Son of God died on the cross, the sin of the world – past, present, and future – was placed upon Him: For he [God the Father] hath made him [God the Son] to be sin for us [on Calvary], who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). God's holiness was propitiated (satisfied) by Christ's death on Calvary as humanity's sin was imputed to Him. That means the sin of the world – all people everywhere through all of time – was placed on Christ. It is for this reason – and only for this reason – that Jesus can stretch out His arms to the entire world and say, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). It was Calvary and only Calvary that permitted an infinitely holy God to redeem sinful man and not be tainted by man's sinfulness.

Third, Christ on the cross took all of the world's sins upon Himself. But that act of love did not save one human being throughout all of history. What it did accomplish was to place all of humanity in a redeemable position. That redeemable position is defined in only a few words, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). If a man or a woman invites Christ into their life, the righteousness of Christ will be imputed to them and they will be saved. Paul wrote to the church at Rome: For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it [his belief] was counted [imputed] unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3; cf. Genesis 15:6).

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of humanity in the Garden of Eden.

The sin of all humanity was imputed to Christ on the cross of Calvary.

The righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who believe and are born again.

Just as the apostle Paul pled with his friend Philemon to impute (put on his account) any wrongdoing that Onesimus had done, so too has our Father in Heaven imputed our sin to Christ's account that we might be found righteous before Him.

May we be ever grateful for the love our Father has shown toward us and the willingness of His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our sins upon Himself.

Marv Rosenthal, founder and President of Zion's Hope, has been an acclaimed international Bible teacher for more than five decades.