“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” Ephesians 3:7 NIV
This week we will be looking at the theological concepts of imparted and imputed righteousness. I know, not the way I usually start these writings. The Scripture passage we will be looking at this week almost demands us to discuss this topic. So, let’s get to it. Imputed righteousness is the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to the believer and justifies them in God’s eyes. This is the righteousness that leads us to salvation. We cannot be made right in our own righteousness [or lack thereof], so Christ transfers, or imputes, his righteousness on us. Imparted righteousness is the righteousness that comes from God in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit after we have been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Imputed righteousness is the covering of Christ’s righteousness that covers our sins in God’s sight. Imparted righteousness is the very righteousness of Jesus that flows through our life in the power and person of the Holy Spirit. The goal of imparted righteousness is to sanctify us or make us holy. In Wesleyan theology, our goal is entire sanctification or to live like Jesus—loving God and loving others perfectly.
Let’s look at a more practical example. Let’s say my daughters were to need help studying for a test in a subject in which I was proficient. If I simply told them the answers and practiced their recall, that is me imputing my knowledge of the subject to them. If I were to teach them where to look for the information, discussed the information with them, and helped them to understand why they were correct in their answers, that is me imparting the knowledge of the subject to them. In one example they simply get a download of what is in my brain. In the other they are learning how to think, how to find answers, and how to know the answer is correct. I believe they will become more knowledgeable for the long run if my knowledge is imparted on them. There was a time where imputed knowledge was needed, but as they got older imparted knowledge was more helpful.
This is what Paul is saying about his relationship with Jesus in Ephesians chapter three. There was a time when Paul needed, and we all needed, Jesus to impute His righteousness on us in order for us to be saved—justified before God. Once Paul was justified—or made right with God by God’s grace through Paul’s faith in Jesus as Lord—it was the imparted righteousness of Jesus that was at work in Paul’s life. This is what he meant when he wrote, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” Paul realized that it was God imparting righteousness, in Jesus working in him and through him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul knew that if he grew in his righteousness it was because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. This is also why Paul wrote, “I don’t know what I am doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing I hate.” [Romans 7:15] Paul was admitting that in his own power he does not do what Jesus would do. Conversely, Paul knew that the only way he would do right is to yield to the power of the Holy Spirit in his life.
So, we face the same issue every day. We can choose to live in our own power—which offers little to none of the righteousness of Jesus—or we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course, living in the power of the Holy Spirit is the better choice. This takes a full desire to grow in grace and holiness. Yielding to the Holy Spirit means receiving more fully the grace of God offered through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Yielding to the Holy Spirit means learning to live in the presence of the Holy Spirit—to be perceptive of, receptive to, and active with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Yielding to the Holy Spirit means developing a growing understanding that our life, our witness, exists to bring glory to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which leaves one question, “Will you yield your life to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit today, this week, and for all your life?”
This Sunday we continue our message series entitled “Mystery.” We will look at the way Jesus works in and through us in the power of mystery—the Holy Spirit. I hope you will join me this Sunday at 8:15|NINE45|11:15 for worship. You can also go to SAUMC.NET and join us via livestream. The best is yet to come. I love you all and can’t wait to see you in church!