Monday, 26 January 2009

Does Christ's righteousness become ours?

The answer is yes, of course, although many people deny it—such as NT Wright.

Here's quite an important statement:

Michael Bird actually offers a helpful clarification that both affirms the imputation of CHrist's active obedience to the believer (unlike NT Wright, who denies it) and shows how it relates to/is the corollory of other specifically biblical language like adoption, union with Christ, and so on.

[from here, bold mine].

I'm not sure Michael Jensen has correctly understood NT Wright (I'm not sure I have!), but at this point he is surely telling it like it is.

Whatever else we may say about NT Wright, it can hardly be doubted that he denies the Bible's teaching—that if we put our trust in Jesus, his perfect righteousness is given to us, even though we are unrighteous. That gift of God is a great thing, and what a terrible and aweful fate awaits any man who distorts this teaching.


John Smuts said...

I'd really recommend Michael Bird's book on this - it is really insightful. (Not really as in 'I just really, really want you to bless us Lord', but really as in really.)

Bird - not bad for an Aussie in remotest Scotland.

To sum up he thinks that the NNP has done some good in reminding us that 'in Christ' is a corporate image in Paul - i.e. that Christ's righteousness is not imputed to me as an individual outside of Christ.

However, he does a great job in nailing that Christ's righteousness becomes ours 'in Him'.

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi John

the NNP has done some good in reminding us that 'in Christ' is a corporate image in Paul

It is a good reminder, to be sure, but surely we already knew this in 'in Calvin' ;-) ?

'Union with Christ' is something Calvin, from my meagre memory, goes on about quite a bit. And I think he gets it from Paul.

The NPP dudes carry on as if they are rediscovering something the Reformers forgot, which is irritating.

Al Bain said...


I agree the Bible teaches that Christ's righteousness is imputed to those who believe.

But I'm not quite following your last paragraph. Are you saying that trusting in Jesus AND having a proper understanding of the doctrine of imputation will save us from an aweful fate?

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi Al,

I wouldn't make salvation dependent on our correct understanding so much as on God's action in saving us.

(Though one consequence of that action of God will be that our incorrect understanding is fixed.)

But if someone sets themselves up as a teacher, they are in big trouble if they distort understanding about Christ's imputed righteousness. Seems to me there is a bigger responsibility resting on teachers than on regular citizens.

An analogy: A student's understanding of differential calculus may be somewhat clunky, but the methods they've been taught can get them through an exam. But woe betide the confused teacher who passes their confusion on–they are far more culpable than the student they have managed to confuse.

Al Bain said...

Thanks Gordon. I expect that we will all be found to have been teachers of confusing and probably plainly wrong doctrine. That's why Christ's imputed righteousness will come as such a relief...

Gordon Cheng said...

We're all caught up in the fog of war, Al. But some confusions are more serious than others. Premillenialism, probably not a big one just at the moment, in these parts. Justification and what it means—very big, very serious. Doesn't pay to be confused about that.

John Smuts said...

The NPP dudes carry on as if they are rediscovering something the Reformers forgot, which is irritating.

Yeah, it's not as if I'm a big fan of the NPP.

I was just saying that Michael Bird is great on this stuff. And that I do think western individualism has impacted how we understand the gospel.

However, as you say, Wright is not talking about anything that wasn't already there in Calvin.