What is Imputation?
Romans 5:15-19 teaches what is called realistic and federal
imputation. There are three "categories" of sin: 1) imputed
sin--from Adam; 2) inherited sin--from our ancestors; and, 3) personal
sins--committed by each of us. Since we would stand guilty on
all three counts, we are not overly concerned with the question, "Upon
which basis am I condemned?" However, Romans 5 very clearly tells us
that it happens to be upon the basis of our imputed sin from Adam that
we stand condemned. We might have viewed this a little differently if
we had never committed a personal act of sin ourselves. It may have
seemed unfair to be judged for Adam's sin if we did so much better than
him. However, we would still lack the righteousness
of Jesus Christ
(Romans 3:22), and thus be unworthy of God's glory. We must recognize
that what we really deserve is eternity in Hell. We still lack His
righteousness and cannot enter heaven on our own. We are free to try,
but all our human efforts will fail. Yes, it may seem unfair, but it
isn't, and it doesn't change the truth. Unfairness is only in the eyes
of the condemned.
Romans 5 teaches federal imputation. This is the beauty of this
passage--that if we stand condemned through the sin of one man, "much more"
did the grace of God abound to many through Christ.
Concerning Christ, he was pure since he had no earthly father, and
concerning Eve, she was Adam's progeny, in that she was born from
Adam's rib (Genesis 2:22). By Revelation 20, we are judged by our
deeds, but we each ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil while we were in Adam's loins. We each shared in this
deed. We are all damned personally and individually, not collectively.
Concerning personal volition, we must recognize that even our faith
comes from God.
Some have even suggested that the difference between men and women
includes a "sin gene" in men, which is passed to descendants through
the male. Under this hypothesis, women have one "perfect gene" to match
the "sin gene" of the male, but
the rest of the woman is polluted just as the men are. This theory
might explain how Jesus was born without a sin nature, not having a
The person who has a problem with realistic or federal imputation may
be making this whole issue more difficult than God intends for it to
be, perhaps by reading more into Romans 5:13-14 than is there. These
two verses simply tell us that
death reigned, even when no law was broken. In the context of
verses 12 through 19, these two verses only enforce the doctrine of
imputation. Sin may not have been imputed (inherited) during this time,
but it WAS imputed at the point in time when Adam sinned.
The real issue here may be election. God provides salvation
in His omniscience as he purposes (Romans 9:11,18), and we are led to
repentance by His kindness (Romans 2:4). It is His choice, not ours
(Romans 11:5). He chose us--we did not choose Him (Ephesians 1:4, II
Timothy 2:10). God is the one who is in control--not us. He prepared us
beforehand (Romans 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:10), and even the ungodly have
destiny predetermined (Jude 4). Volition is involved and faith is
required, but even our faith comes from God.
Owen Weber 2009