What It is Imputed? Only One Justification
The Object of Faith is Imputed
Galatians 3:5-8 quotes Genesis 15:6, which tells us that Abraham believed God and it was imputed to him as righteousness. Luther tells us that to have faith is to have Christ indwelling, and tells us that God really is pleased with the faith God has given us, and that this faith is really righteous in God’s sight and thus imputed as so.
But Luther does not explain how this righteous faith (produced according to him by God in the water of regeneration) satisfies the law of God. (Since Luther taught that, if you were a sinner, Christ had died for you, then Luther’s message cannot be that the elect were saved by Christ’s death alone.)
To begin to understand Genesis 15:6, we need to know that “as righteousness” should be translated “unto righteousness”. (See Robert Haldane’s commentary, Banner of Truth). That’s important to see, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t explain the imputation.
Whether we see imputation as the transfer of something, or if we see imputation as the declaration of something (without a transfer, or after a transfer), what is the “it” which is being imputed? No matter if we have gone to great lengths to say that it is not credited as righteousness but only unto righteousness, what is “it” and why is God imputing “it”?
The “new perspective” tells us the imputation is without a transfer, and that it only means declaring that certain folks are in the covenant. In this way of thinking, “it is imputed” simply means that God declares people just without talking about how and why they got that way.
“It” has an antecedent, but the antecedent is not faith alone. God imputes the righteousness revealed in the gospel to a person justified by the gospel.
“Faith” in Galatians 3:5-8 is defined in two ways: not by works of the law, and the gospel preached to Abraham.
God did establish a conditional covenant with Abraham. In Genesis 17, he warned that anybody not circumcised would be cut off from the covenant. But that conditional covenant with Abraham is not the gospel God preached to Abraham.
God did not say to Abraham: if you believe, then I will bless you. God said, I will bless you without cause, not only so that you will believe but also so that in your offspring there will be one who will bring in the righteousness for the elect alone required by the law.
The “it” which is imputed by God to Abraham is the obedient bloody death of Abraham’s seed Jesus Christ for the elect alone.