The Imputation of Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience

Just a quick reminder from your friends at the Heidelberg Catechism:

60. Q. How are you righteous before God?

A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, though my conscience accuse me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

Explore posts in the same categories: Theology

26 Comments on “The Imputation of Christ’s Active and Passive Obedience”

  1. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thank you, Kaspar & Zach – one of your greatest hits!

  2. Hugh McCann Says:

    Also love your #s 1, 21, & 61!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. justbybelief Says:


    And, even if I vote for Romney. 🙂

  4. Hugh McCann Says:

    Ha ha!

    Go, Gov. Undergarments!

  5. LJ Says:

    Sorry Eric, Hugh, Steve, you are not now licensed to vote for the Romulen 😉

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    we’ve ruined a good post!

    sean, delete our comments!

  7. LJ Says:

    Hugh’s right.

  8. LJ Says:

    In an attempt to do justice to the GREAT topic, here is Dr. Owen:

    Assuming most have read Owen on this, may I ask a question regarding FV? I was told that the imputed active obedience was the key issue that separated the FVer’s from the historic reformed view. I was told that they deny this – that Christ’s active obedience is imputed to the believer. Is that too simplistic?


  9. LJ Says:

    Owens argues that if the death of Christ, the penalty paid and imputed to us, is a necessary ground for our justification, so is the imputed righteousness necessary for our justification, that for God’s own glory as Supreme Legislator and Governor. At least I think that’s what he’s saying:

    “so no reason can be given why God is not as much concerned, in honour and glory, that the preceptive power and part of the law be complied withal by perfect obedience, as that the sanction of it be established by undergoing the penalty of it. Upon the same grounds, therefore, that the Lord Christ’s suffering the penalty of the law for us was necessary that we might be justified in the sight of God, and that the satisfaction he made [might] thereby be imputed unto us, as if we ourselves had made satisfaction unto God, as Bellarmine speaks and grants; on the same it was equally necessary, that is, as unto the glory and honour of the Legislator and supreme Governor of all by the law, that he should fulfill the preceptive part of it, in his perfect obedience thereunto; which also is to be imputed unto us for our justification.”


  10. LJ Says:

    So if Christ fulfilled the law is that not active obedience? And if it was necessary for Christ himself, being made under the law, to fulfill all righteousness, so it is as our Representative and Head that this righteousness, active obedience, must be imputed to his people foe their justification. Otherwise, being “in Adam” we have no hope of standing with God who will not countenance an unrighteousness relationship with a man.

    What I’m not sure of is where this all fits in with the FVer’s false teaching. Specifically in that they apparently deny the imputed ACTIVE obedience.


  11. LJ Says:

    This gives me great comfort:

    “… as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”


  12. Hugh McCann Says:

    Thanks, LJ.

    I never could understand how some say that Jesus gives us this bit of his righteousness, but not that other bit…

    I think you’re reading Owen rightly: Both satisfaction for sin, as well as “his perfect obedience” in keeping all the law, are ours.

    Good news, indeed!

    A blessed Lord’s Day tomorrow to all!

  13. justbybelief Says:

    A veritable footing for the soul.

  14. The doctrine is truly key. There’s a reason why Machen states his thankfulness for it, “no hope without it.”

    Hold fast, brothers.

  15. justbybelief Says:

    “The doctrine is truly key.”

    Without the doctrine of double-imputation being articulated to the hearer the gospel has not been preached.

  16. Joey Says:

    If Jesus’ perfect life of obedience is imputed to the believer, and if it is as important as some take it to be, why did Paul never specifically refer to it? He talked about the cross constantly, and had much to say about the righteousness of God, but where does he define this righteousness as Christ’s perfect obedience to the law?

  17. Sean Gerety Says:

    Simply because the imputation of Jesus’ perfect life of obedience cannot be inferred from a single verse doesn’t mean that it cannot be inferred from a series of verses and as a result of careful exegesis and deduction. See for example a review of Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation By Brian Vickers here:

    The review is noteworthy if only because it demonstrates the shallowness of N.T. Wright and the entire NPP movement and their wooden handling of Scripture.

  18. Hugh Says:

    Hey, Joey,

    What else does righteousness mean?

    Curiously, over @ Called to Confusion, the papists love to overly distinguish (read: separate, segregate, bifurcate*) Christ’s righteousness from God’s. Go figure…

    * With apologies to INXS

  19. Joey Says:

    Thanks Sean. I’ll read the article. I just find it odd sometimes that Paul wouldn’t have dealt with it more explicitly, given how important it is for our salvation. But I suppose he never explicitly mentioned the Trinity either, so….

    @Hugh- Good question. I don’t know what else it could be either. I do believe that Christ’s life of perfect obedience is imputed to us as our righteousness, but the fact that Paul doesn’t explicitly mention it as being part of the Gospel causes small pockets of doubt in me sometimes.

  20. Hugh Says:

    Dear Joey,

    Empty your pockets, and fill them with faith! 🙂

    Audio for 12:33am post ~

  21. justbybelief Says:

    1 Cor. 1:30,31 KJV: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

    Romans 1:17 KJV: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

    Jeremiah 23:6 KJV: “This is His name whereby He shall be called—the Lord our Righteousness.”

  22. HUGH Says:

    Amen! & Romans 3:21-26 ~

    But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

    Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

    For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

    Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

    To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

  23. HUGH Says:

    Quite a chiasm (didn’t even notice it)!

    @ the center of God’s righteousness is the redemption that is in Christ Jesus!

  24. justbybelief Says:


    Romans 4:

    3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

    5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

    6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,


    23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

    24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

  25. justbybelief Says:

    Philippians 3:9…

    “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”

  26. justbybelief Says:

    2 Cor. 5:21: For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

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