The Blessedness Of
The Forgiven

Sin Not Imputed
In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 17c of 83


“…Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. …6  Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7  Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:1-8)

[The apostle is in the present chapter proving that the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is not a new invention. Abraham was justified by faith, and so was David. David’s words in Psalm 32 are especially note worthy. In our previous two instalments of this tranche of studies, we consider the words “Blessed is he whose iniquities are forgiven” and “Blessed are they… whose sins are covered.” In this final instalment, we are considering the words “Blessed are they whom the Lord will not impute sin.”—JJL]

3.   Blessed are They Whom
the Lord will not Impute Sin

a.   David says: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (v. 8). The Hebrew word (bv'j;, châshab) from which the word ‘impute’ was originally translated from, simply means ‘count’. Similarly, the Greek word (logivzomai, logizomai), which Paul uses,  carries the idea of “counting.” It is an accounting term. It means “to account” or “to credit.”[1] It is also rendered as ‘reckoned’ and ‘counted’ elsewhere in this chapter.

What does it mean to impute sin to someone? It means to count sin as belonging to him. It is to count it against him.

Think of it this way: We are familiar with what is a criminal record. If you ever committed a crime, and you are arrested, you will have a criminal record. Years later, if a similar crime is committed, the police will look up the file and you will probably be called up for questioning as a suspect.

Now, in heaven there is a record book like that. The differences are: firstly, it records every single of our sins; and secondly, it is also an account book, because against each crime recorded against us, is an indication of how much we owe to God for it. To sin against God is to incur a debt against God. This record book is in the mind of God. There is absolutely no mistake in recording. No sin, however small or great is missed out.

If you get to read this book, you will be horrified, at how many entries there are under your name! I think if I have to look at my own record, it will take a whole lifetime to read through it. How many cabinets will be required just to keep my records if they are kept! And I have not even looked at how much I owe God!

b.   Now, the man who is forgiven by the Lord is the same as he whom God would not impute sin. What does this mean? It means that God will not count his sin against Him. That is to say: God will not require him to pay his debt.

But how is it, that God can choose to cancel the debt of His children? Would not the whole multitude of demons and sinners cry out against God’s injustice if at the last day, they find that they are being punished for their sins, whereas the debt of God’s children are simply cancelled?

How is it, that God could choose not to impute sin to his children? The answer is that what God does not impute to his adoptive children, He imputed to His only begotten Son (cf. 2 Cor 5:19).

The prophet Isaiah puts it most clearly when he says concerning the Lord Jesus:

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;… and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:5-6).

There is no injustice. Every sin is accounted for. If sin can be enumerated, every single of our sins, original and actual, past, present and future are accounted for. The heavenly account book is perfectly balanced. There is no massaging or manipulation. And there is no write-off.

The fact is: If God were to impute sin against us, it is impossible for us to repay our debt. But God has, rather, transferred our debts into the account of Jesus our Lord. And our Lord paid up our debts for us. Therefore if you get to look at the heavenly record, you will see the records of your debt, but you will notice that every line in your record has been deleted. And over them are the words “Transferred to the account of Christ!” And if you look at the account of Christ, you will see your name too, for you will see that every debt cancelled from your account appears now in Christ’s account. And Christ paid for it.

And not only so, but in the wonder of grace, God made us joint-heirs with Christ by transferring the righteousness of Christ into our account. For this reason, when God looks at us, he does not see us as wretched sinners but as righteous in Christ!

There is therefore, a double imputation. Our sins were imputed to Christ, whereas the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us. This transfer takes place when God by His grace join us to Christ by a living faith. This is what Paul is highlighting in verse 3, when he says “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” The word “counted” is the same as the word “impute.”

c.   “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Do you, dear reader, know the blessedness that David and Abraham and Paul enjoyed.

Or let me put the question in more concrete terms. Do you know what it feels to be a debtor and cannot pay your debt? If am not talking about being in debt for your flat where you are paying by instalment. If am talking about being in debt and caught in a fixed knowing that your debt is growing by the day.

Many people are caught in such situations. Many of them end up either committing vile crimes or committing suicide to get out of their situation.

Do you realise that you are a debtor to God because of your sin, and you cannot pay it yourself? Do you realise that it is much worst to be in debt to God than to be in debt to man. Most people in the world have got it all wrong. It is a sentiment of the world that to be in debt to man is most miserable. But it is the sentence of the Word that to be in debt to God is ultimate misery. So it is the sentiment of the world that he who owes no man anything is a happy man. But it is the sentence of the Word that he whose debt of sin is not imputed to him, is he who has real happiness.

“Pardoned people are the only blessed people,” says Matthew Henry. How true! Many in the world will not agree with us today. But one day everything will be clear. Those who know themselves to be ungodly debtors today, and have fled to Christ have a blessedness that the world cannot comprehend. It is a blessedness that will be revealed in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ! It is a blessedness that will last for all eternity when we shall be with Him who paid for our sins forever and ever. And those of us who are forgiven know it as a blessedness already begun, for we have begun enjoy a fellowship and friendship with God today.

Conclusion

Dear brethren and friends, what are these things to you?

a.   Are you a believer? Do you have assurance and joy for what God has done for you?

Consider that your sin has been forgiven you because it has been lifted up from you and nailed to the Cross. Will you not look again to the Cross, and thank God for his promise that He will not deal with you after your sins, nor reward you according to your iniquities (Ps 103:10). You are a sinner, but a forgiven sinner!

Consider also that your sin has been covered in the blood of Christ. Christ shed his blood in order to pay for your sin. Will you not look again to the Cross, and behold the love of Christ for you as He hung there bleeding for your sake. Remember that every drop of blood that Christ shed was for you. You are a sinner deserving God’s punishment, but Christ has been punished on your behalf!

Consider likewise that your sin is not imputed to you because it has been imputed to Christ. Christ your Lord suffered for every single of your sin. Will you not look again to the Cross, and remind yourself that it was your sins that nail him there. Then remind yourself of how much you owe Christ for your eternal blessedness. You are a sinner, but because of Christ, God looks at you as a saint and He blesses you. You can have friendship and fellowship with God and enjoy His Fatherly love because of what Christ has done for you.

b.   Or are you still walking in sin? Or have you turned away from the Lord, but have by the providence of God taken up this article to read?

I want to tell you that you are in a most miserable and dangerous state.

You say: Ah but the Christians I know are not as jolly as the unbelievers I am acquainted with. In fact, some Christians are dull and joyless whereas the unbelievers I know are happy-go-lucky blokes who do not burden themselves with rules and expectations.

Oh friend, do not be fooled! The jollity of this world is fleeting and superficial. Many comedians find themselves wreck with guilt and grief as they try to generate laughter that they know do not touch the core of their own being. The joy of Christians who understand who they are and what Christ has done for them, on other hand, is profound and unspeakable. Deep in our hearts, there is a joy that words cannot describe. It is a blessedness that David spoke about when He experienced the forgiveness of God. It is a blessedness that transcend present circumstances. Yes, Christians can be depressed too. Sometimes we are depressed because of our sin, but our grief last only until we turn our eyes to Christ once again and remember what He has done for us! Our grief turns to joy as soon as we remember again that we have been forgiven and covered in the blood of Christ!

You too can experience this forgiveness. But the question is: Do you know you need forgiveness in the first place? The word of God tells us that there is none righteous. And it tells us that God justifies the ungodly. Do you realise that you are ungodly and wicked in the sight of God?

Oh will you not ask God to open your heart so that you will know your sin? Consider how terrible your sins are and ask God to forgive your sin in Christ. Amen.

—JJ Lim


[1] This word occurs 41 times in the Greek New Testament. More than quarter of all these occurrences appear in this chapter alone. In verses 3 and 5, it is rendered ‘counted’; in verses 4, 9 and 10 it is ‘reckoned’; whereas in verse 6, 8, 11, 22, 23 and 24, it is rendered ‘impute’, or ‘imputed.’