2. The phrase to “impute sin,” or “righteousness,” in its scriptural usage signifies simply to set to one’s account, to lay. to one’s charge or credit as a ground of legal process. The thing imputed may belong to the person to whom it is imputed originally. In that case it is imputed in the sense of being simply charged to him, made the ground of a legal indictment preparatory to judicial process. Or the thing imputed may not be originally his, but may be made his by the imputation, because of the legal connection subsisting between the person to whom the thing originally belonged and him to whom it is imputed. Thus, not to impute sin to the doer of it is of course not to charge the guilt of his own sin upon him as a ground of punishment. To impute righteousness without works can only mean to credit a believer with the rewardableness of a righteousness which did not originate with himself. Rom. iv. 4-8. God in Christ not imputing their trespasses unto his people, is, of course, God for Christ s sake not charging their trespasses to them as a ground of punishment. 2 Cor. v. 19. Christ must be made sin for us in precisely the same sense that we are made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. v. 21. But, as will be shown below, we are justified or pronounced righteous in Christ forensically, as a matter of legal relation, not made inherently righteous by the infusion of grace. The macula or pollution of sin might possibly be transmitted by generation. Otherwise it must ever remain the inalienable personal quality of the individual sinner. It is an absurdity, for which no class of Reformed theologians have ever been responsible, to represent personal character, either good or bad, as transferable from one person to another by imputation. All that can be imputed from person to person is the guilt or legal obligation to punishment of any sin, and that only in those cases in which the person to whom it is imputed has become in some way or other justly responsible for the action of the person the guilt of whose sin is imputed.
This usage of the word “impute”; is not a creation of “artificial theology” as is asserted by Dr. Young and by all those who maintain either the “Moral” or the “Governmental” theory of the Atonement. This is evident, because–
(1) this sense is embraced in the classical usage of the word logizomai. Its primary sense is to count, reckon. Then, when construed with a person in the dative and a thing in the accusative, it signifies to set down that thing to the account of that person, and is thus equivalent to the Latin term impurare.1 Ainsworth defines imputare– “to ascribe, to charge; to lay the blame or fault on any one.” Suidas Lexicon–“logizo, reputo; et logisomai, computabo; et logioumai, numerabo, computabo; et logo, existimo, ut illud: et imputatem est ipsi in justitiam.”
(2.) The same is true of the usage of the Hebrew chashab in the Old Testament. The daughters of Laban complained (Gen. xxxi. 15) that their father “counted” them strangers–that is, regarded and treated them as strangers:
If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings be eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offers it; it shall be an abomination, and the soul that eats of it shall bear his iniquity. Lev. vii. 18.
The sacrifice was offered as a matter of fact, but was not set to the credit of the offerer as acceptable or effective. The heave-offering of the Levites was to be “reckoned as though it were the corn of the threshing-floor, and as the fullness of the wine-press.” Numb, xviii. 27, 30. That Phineas slew the offending Israelite at Shittim a was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.” Ps. cvi. 31.
(3.) The same is true with regard to the New Testament usage of the word logizomai. Christ, referring to Isa. liii. 12, said: “For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors.” Luke xxii. 37. “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?” Rom. ii. 26. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Gal. iii. 6. “To him that works, the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt.” “To him that works not, but believeth on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” David speaks of the blessedness of the man “to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works–to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” & “Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.” Rom. iv. 3-9.”God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. v. 19. “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge,” 2 Tim. iv. 16. “He was numbered with the transgressors.” Mark xv. 28. “But also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be counted for naught,”2 Acts xix. 27.
The Scriptures plainly teach, therefore, that all the guilt or obligation to punishment incurred by the sins of his people was imputed or charged to the account of Christ, as the legal ground of the execution upon him of the penalty involved in the case. Yet, notwithstanding that the guilt of all our sins is thus charged to Christ, and expiated in him, all their blame, shame, pollution and power, as inherent personal habits or principles, remain all the while inalienably ours. These sins are none the less ours, after their imputation to him, than they were before, (a.) The very force of the imputation is to make him alienee culpce reus; that is, penally responsible for another s sin. They must remain ours in order that they may be to him the sins of an other. (6.) Because personal moral qualities, and the pollution inherent in sinful ones, are inalienable and cannot be transferred by imputation, (c.) Because, as Owen pointed out long ago, to be alienee culpce reus makes no man a sinner, subjectively considered, unless he did unwisely or irregularly undertake the responsibility, (d.) Because our blessed Lord was a divine Person, and therefore absolutely incapable of personal sin in any sense or degree. While, therefore, he bore our sins, and consequently suffered the penalty involved, and hence was both regarded and treated by the Father, during the time and for the purpose of expiation, as vicariously guilty and worthy of wrath, he was all the while not one iota the less personally immaculate and glorious in holiness, and all the more the well-beloved Son of the Father, in whom he was well pleased.
All this the orthodox have always held and carefully expressed. We regard it, then, as an evident sign of weakness, and as an offense against honorable argument, when the advocates of the Governmental Theory (as for instance, Jenkyns, Fiske, and others), by studiously confounding the imputation of guilt with the transference of personal inherent sinful character, and by habitually setting forth the coarse and indiscriminating language of Luther on this subject as a fair representation of the Satisfaction Theory, disingenuously insinuate that at least the more self-consistent of the orthodox have held the blasphemy that Christ was made personally a sinner when he bore our sins upon the tree. A. A. Hodge, The Atonement (London: T. Nelson And Sons, 1868), 158-162. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; footnote values modernized; footnote content original; and underlining mine.]
[Note: The point is, Christ is treated as though he were a sinner thereby answering the demands of justice due to our sins, but all the while we remain sinners, subject to the wrath of God. Neither actual sin-pollution or sinful acts are transferred to Christ.]
1Liddell and Scott.
2Ei, ouden logisthenai