Whose sins were imputed to Christ? By whom? When?

In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses the conditional false gospel. “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.  Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with the Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment. “if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins.”

Piper’s false gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone . It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

But  he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect.  Piper’s false gospel misses being true gospel in two important and related ways.

First, the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and when it does that, it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment (death) done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished (with the second death).

Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that replaces punishment for all whom Christ intended to justify. It has punishment without any intention of Christ to save anybody in particular at all.

Piper’s punishment- in- general gospel (with faith purchased extra for the elect) is no gospel in a second and important way.  It makes the important atonement to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.

The alternatives here  are to either claim that people who have never heard the gospel are saved, or to claim that general punishment for nobody in particular is the gospel. In any case, it is not the good news about the real meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.

If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even including their believing, without telling it straight about the punishment of Christ specifically for the elect, then we will continue to believe and teach a gospel which has no election in it and no punishment to release the elect from guilt.

If we jump ahead in that way, we jump over why God’s love for the elect is never described apart from the death of Christ.

If the death of Christ is not that which saves any specific sinner, then the death of Christ does not save sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ was not for salvation.

This false gospel talks about justification by the imputed righteousness, but without ever talking about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. It won’t say whose sins were imputed to Christ.

It refuses to say anybody’s sins were imputed to Christ, because it refuses to say it was the sins of the elect alone which were imputed to Christ. Such a false gospel nullifies the love of God for the elect.

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5 Comments on “Whose sins were imputed to Christ? By whom? When?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    AMYRAUT AFFIRMED
    or ‘Owenism, a caricature of Calvinism’
    By Alan C. Clifford
    Charenton Reformed Publishing
    64 pages. ISBN 0 9526716 7 0

    Alan Clifford is a man with a mission, to champion the theologian Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) as the ‘authentic expression’ of the theology of John Calvin against the many who say that Calvin’s theological descent passes through the likes of John Owen and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Not so, says Dr. Clifford, that is ‘Owenism’, not ‘Calvinism’.

    Amyraut held that Christ intended his death for all without exception (were they to believe), hence the phrase ‘hypothetical universalism’ sometimes used to describe the position. Nevertheless, God the Father eternally decreed the salvation of the elect, and the Spirit effectively applies Christ’s victory to them. Clifford claims that Amyraut alone does justice to the universal scope of the gospel to be found in Calvin’s thought.

    If this pamphlet is intended to advance the debate, then its format does not help. Provoked by a recent critique of Amyraldianism given in a lecture by Ian Hamilton, Clifford retorts by quoting extensively from his own earlier writings on this very subject (Calvinus, 1996) and Atonement and Justification (1990). He quotes Ian Hamilton much less extensively and intersperses bits from hosts of other writers as witnesses either for the defence or the prosecution. The bibliographical data are poor. My guess is that if you haven’t been convinced by what Dr. Clifford has already published, then Amyraut Affirmed won’t do it either.

    On the evidence provided here it seems clear enough what Amyraut did: he turned Calvin’s stress on the need for indiscriminate preaching to all who will hear into a theory of the atonement of Christ. The offering of Christ to all became Christ’s offering of himself on the cross for all.

    I counted between 40 and 50 quotations from Calvin in the pamphlet. Presumably this is the best evidence there is of Calvin’s ‘universalistic’ side. In the bulk of them, Calvin insists that either God or Christ or the preacher ‘calls’ (10, 28, 29, 46) or ‘offers’ (18, 30, 33, 34, 38, 46, 60) or is ‘commissioned’ (17-18, 35) ) or ‘exhorts’ (28-9) or ‘invites’ (45) or ‘stretches out his hand’ (60) or ‘labours’ (43, 60).

    Dr. Clifford does not seriously engage the most fundamental theological criticism of Amyraldianism, that it places the intention of the Son in atoning at odds with that of the Father in electing and of the Spirit in calling. To say that according to Amyraldianism there is in each of the persons of the Trinity a ‘dualism’ (51) simply relocates the problem: a contradiction at the heart of the godhead.

    Paul Helm

    © Evangelicals Now – November 2004

    • markmcculley Says:

      by Walt Chantry

      Saumur was a French Protestant Theological School in which professors were greatly influenced by the philosophy of a Protestant humanist named Ramus. A change in teaching took place within the school over a number of years.

      John Cameron, a Scot, was teaching at Saumur. He began to make a distinction between man’s natural ability and man’s moral inability as he taught on the subject of the human will. This, you see, would exalt the will of man and exalt man’s influence over his own destiny.

      As years passed, other theologians who were taught by Cameron developed his thoughts further. A man named LaPlace attacked the doctrine of original sin. He claimed that it would not be right for God to impute the act of Adam to other men. Because French Protestants were virtually all Calvinists, he could not eliminate the word imputation. Rather he invented the term mediate imputation. His theory was that men become sinners and are condemned and subject to death only when they themselves sin. This is the most popular theory today among evangelical Christians. They believe that men hold their destinies in their own hands.

      As LaPlace developed his teaching, alongside him labored Moyse Amyraut. You may have heard of Amyraldanism. Some people think Amyraldanism is four-point Calvinism, the view of people who are getting close, but have not quite seen all of the implications of God’s sovereignty. Of course Amyraut did indeed attack the doctrine of limited atonement.

      However, Amyraut was logically working through the humanism of Ramus, the exalted human will of Cameron, and the denial of the imputation of Adam’s first sin by LaPlace. He developed what has been called theoretical universalism as his view of Christ’s atonement.

      A parallel course may be found in American church history. All of us are aware of the godly contributions of Jonathan Edwards to the Great Awakening. Perhaps less known is the fact that Jonathan Edwards wrote a very scholarly treatise on man’s will in which he used the precise language of John Cameron. He too distinguishes between the natural ability of man and the moral inability of man.

      The immediate students of Edwards, including his own son, very directly attacked the concept of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity. They claimed that Edwards himself had led them in this direction. New England theology was then on its way. Man’s will was elevated, and the principle that God can impute the action of one man to another was denied.

      All that has to do with substitutionary atonement leans on the doctrine of imputation. Remove the keystone and all will collapse.

      This is what Paul has been saying in Romans. In 4:25 we are told that Christ “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” This message required a discussion of imputation in Chapter 5. Jesus was held accountable for our sins. The elect are credited with his act on the cross.

      When, for any reason, the biblical teaching of God’s crediting one man for another man’s actions is attacked, the very idea of substitutionary atonement is under attack.

      Limited atonement speaks more about the nature of the atonement than about its extent. The two questions are always mutually influencing. If you do not like the idea of one man actually representing other individuals who are credited with his acts, then you must define Jesus on the cross as something other than a substitute.

      In fact, Saumur’s theology and New England theology eventually redefined the nature of the atonement! If you exalt the will of man, atonement will suffer. If you deny the imputation of Adam’s sin, suggesting that Adam was only an influence on others, and that men are condemned only for their own sins, you will redefine the cross.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Thomas Boston, commentary on the Marrow—“God’s love for humanity has appeared in providing a Savior for the whole of the kind. God sent His Son from Heaven with full instructions and ample powers to save you, if you will believe. Know with certainty that if any of you go on in your sins ye shall not perish for want of a Savior. You would not trust Him as Savior, even though He had His Father’s commission to be your Savior. – http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/01/the-marrow-part-1.php


  3. Calvin—What was done then by representative figure in the Mosaic sacrifices was fulfilled in truth by Jesus Christ, who is the substance of the figures. That is why, in order to obtain our redemption, “He made His soul a sacrifice for sin;’ as the prophet says, in order that all the curse which we deserved as sinners, being cast back on Him, might no longer be imputed to us (Isaiah 53: 10.

    The apostle declares this more clearly when he says that “the One who had never known sin was made sin for us by the Father, in order that in Him we might obtain righteousness before God” (2 Cor. 5: 21]. For the Son of God, being pure and clean of every vice, took and clothed Himself with the shame and ignominy of our sins and, on the other hand, covered us with His purity. This is also shown in another passage of St. Paul where it is said that sin was condemned as sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:3.

    For the heavenly Father destroyed the strength of sin when its curse was transferred to the flesh of Jesus Christ. It is clear now what this sentence of the prophet means, that “all our sins were placed on Him” (Isa. 53;6], that, desiring to wipe out the stains of sins, He first accepted them in His person in order that they might be imputed to Him. So the cross was a sign of that; when Jesus Christ was affixed to the cross He delivered us from the curse of the law (as the apostle says) by being made a curse for us (Gal. 3[13]). For it is written: “Cursed be the one hung on a tree” [Dent. 27:26; Gal. 3:10]. Thus the blessing promised to Abraham was poured out on all peoples. Nevertheless we must not understand that He took our curse in such a way that He was covered and crushed by it, but on the contrary, in receiving it He brought it down, broke it, and tore it in pieces.


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