At the heart of historic, confessional Reformed teaching and preaching is the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. An essential part of justification sola fide is the truth of imputation. R. C. Sproul’s words on this doctrine are outstanding and edifying.
“If any word was at the center of the firestorm of the Reformation controversy and remains central to the debate even in our day, it is imputation. …We cannot really understand what the Reformation was about without understanding the central importance of this concept.”
“…If any statement summarizes and capture the essence of the Reformation view, it is Luther’s famous Latin formula ‘simul justus et peccator.’ ‘Simil’ is the word from which we get the English ‘simultaneous;’ it means ‘at the same time.’ ‘Justus’ is the Latin word for ‘just’ or ‘righteous.’ ‘Et’ simply means ‘and.’ ‘Peccator’ means ‘sinner.’ So, with this formula, – ‘at the same time just and sinner’ – Luther was saying that in our justification, we are at the same time righteous and sinful. …He was saying that, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, we are sinners. In and of ourselves, under God’s scrutiny, we still have sin. But by God’s imputation of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to our accounts, we are considered just.”
“This is the very heart of the gospel. In order to get into heaven, will I be judged by my righteousness or by the righteousness of Christ? If I have to trust in my righteousness to get into heaven, I must completely and utterly despair of any possibility of ever being redeemed. But when we see that the righteousness that is ours by faith is the perfect righteousness of Christ, we see how glorious is the good news of the gospel. The good news is simply this: I can be reconciled to God. I can be justified, not on the basis of what I do, but on the basis of what has been accomplished for me by Christ.”
“Of course, Protestantism really teaches a double imputation. Our sin is imputed to Jesus and his righteousness is imputed to us. In this twofold transaction, we see that God does not compromise his integrity in providing salvation for his people. Rather, he punishes sin fully after it has been imputed to Jesus. This is why he is able to be both ‘just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’ as Paul writes in Romans 3:26. So my sin goes to Jesus and his righteousness comes to me.”
“This is a truth worth dividing the church.”
“This is the article on which the church stands or falls, because it is the article on which we all stand or fall.”
When you hear this glorious truth preached on the Lord’s Day, listen with your head and heart, and rejoice in the gospel of grace. If you don’t hear it preached, lovingly talk to your pastor and elders and discuss it. It’s not a side issue, nor is it a dry doctrine that is impractical for our daily living. The doctrine of justification sola fide gives us firm comfort, peace, and a grateful heart of obedience to the Lord.
The above Sproul quote is found in Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Sanford: Reformation Trust, 2012), 43-4.
rev shane lems