God’s Judgment Is Based on Imputation Alone, Without Respect of Persons’ Conscience

Justification is not based on our lack of self-righteousness. Even though those who are justified do believe the gospel, God imputes Christ’s death to the elect without respect to their conscience. Our conscience is a result and not a condition for either justification or condemnation.

Self-righteousness is the fruit of condemnation, and not the basis for it. God condemns even non-elect infants, but not because they are self-righteous. We do not have to have an aware conscience in order for God to be at wrath with us because of imputed guilt.

The guilty become self-righteous, yes, but guilt is not based on our internal attitudes about God and the gospel. Guilt is based on only external imputation, and justification is based only on imputation.

Those who want to qualify imputation express outrage at the idea that God could, for example, hate Esau before he was born (Romans 9), or that the Psalmist could speak of dashing the little ones of God’s enemies against the rock (Psalm 137:9).

God is seen to be horribly unjust to condemn those who “don’t even have a chance” at being saved, including infants, those who have never heard the gospel and rejected it, and people who are mentally incapacitated.

This is respect of persons. The idea is that nobody should be condemned “merely” because of the imputation of Adam’s sin to everybody.

Some preacher tells us to trust him that “all who leave this world as babies are saved”. Carnal reasoning concludes that since babies are in some sense innocent or even “less sinners” than grown ups, God recognizes this and rewards it with his salvation, and all babies who die are saved.

Why, then, are not all adults who die in adulthood saved “by the mighty operations of God’s free grace” if all infants who die in infancy are so saved?

Why does God eternally elect unto salvation every infant who dies in infancy but does not elect to save every adult who dies in adulthood?

Somebody explains that babies cannot be said to have expressed “willful transgression of the law” as “responsible, reasonable, and accountable beings” and thus are guilty only of Adam’s transgression.
Babies are not self-righteous. Babies are not trying to build their own righteousness.

This false doctrine ties justification to the physical, emotional, and intellectual development of a person’s conscience. If one is an infant and dies, he is elect- no exceptions. If one is an adult and dies, he may either be elect or non-elect, depending on the good pleasure and purpose of God, but it is always, without exception, according to this not-only-imputation doctrine, the good pleasure and purpose of God to elect infants who will die in infancy.

The Bible does not condition justification on the conscience of the sinner, but on the sovereign justice and grace of God, who conditions His salvation on the Person and the work of Jesus Christ.

Somebody writes that “the Bible seems to imply that God will not eternally condemn anyone solely upon the basis of Adam’s transgression.” The children shall not be put to death for the fathers; ergo, “covenant children” will not be put to death for Adam’s sin.

To put in simple terms the idea of this false teaching: if all you have is imputed guilt, it is covered by Christ’s atonement. Imputed guilt
“alone” can not condemn a person, for all persons who bear
“only” the imputed guilt of Adam (presumably dying infants) are
saved. The non-elect are only found among the adult population
who become self-righteous.

Somebody writes: “Knowing my heavenly Father’s character, that he is just, righteous, and good, when I read statements such
as David made about his son, and consider the whole
Revelation of God in Scripture, I can, with confidence
and joy say, yes, those babies who die in infancy do
go to heaven. They are chosen of God, redeemed by
Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Like all
of God’s elect, they are saved by the pure, free,
sovereign grace of God.”

According to this false gospel, it would somehow be inconsistent with the “just, righteous, and good” character of God to do other than to save an infant who dies in infancy. Why? Because an infant has
not committed “willful transgressions” of the law of God. What this amounts to is that a non-religious sinner (the infant) is less sinful than a grown up religious adult.

Adam’s guilt is imputed to all humans. We are not sinners because we are self-righteous. We are self-righteous because we are sinners. We are sinners from the moment of our conception (Psalm 51:5; Psalm 58:3).

When the work of Christ is seen as something “justly”
or “righteously” applied to a particular class of individuals
because they are less guilty than another class, then the work of Christ is no longer seen as that which saves sinners but rather
as that which rewards those who are not self-righteous about it.

This internal (conscience) vs external (imputation) antithesis is against the Bible’s message concerning the Person and work of Christ, who did not come to save the not self-righteous, but to save guilty sinners.

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6 Comments on “God’s Judgment Is Based on Imputation Alone, Without Respect of Persons’ Conscience”

  1. David Bishop Says:

    This is a really great essay, Mark. It leaves me with some interesting questions. I wonder about the Antinomian, whether there’s really any difference between he and the legalist, because the way I see it, the legalist and the antinomian are focused on the external, though from different ends. The legalist believes the presence of works prove he believes the gospel, while the antinomian believes the absence of works proves he believes the gospel.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    Paul Zahl —-“Drawing a line through the past” – it is not only “closure”, it’s erasure – is exactly what a man or woman in near-death encounter desires to hear: “You can go now. That’s all forgiven and forgotten. It’s all right.” By this is meant, your past is taken care of and doesn’t have to be in front of you any more as you look ahead to what’s next. All is forgiven. Begin the beguine.

    People get nervous about this, or at least people who are not in the middle of near death. It sounds from the vantage point of the other self, the person on the operating table, or rather, the patient in pre-op, like a blessing on bad behavior. You say to yourself, “How can that bad person get off the hook just because God chooses to disregard the things he or she has done and says, ‘Poof! All better now.’ When it’s all not better now.”

    For quite a few people, there is something upsetting about the 100%-with-no-exceptions forgiveness that Jesus talked about. It is a feature that upsets conservatives. But it also upsets liberals. There is something in it to offend everybody. Except the person who needs it at the time.

    Blanket forgiveness, the same for all the elect, many of whom need it a lot more than you do? Than I do?

    Dylan in his 2012 album “Tempest”: “I pay in blood/But not my own.” It seems unfair. It seems to put “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966) all under the same protection. There is no distinction.

    A familiar rationalization for Christ’s universal forgiveness goes like this: “Well, yes, it is for everybody, but you have to ask for it. The offender can’t receive it until he or she asks for it. Each person, good, bad, or a little bit of both, has to do his part. It won’t do you any good if you don’t first come forward and take it.” That is a rationalization in service of explaining away grace….

    Can anyone really rationalize what Christ was saying when he said that people should be forgiven 490 times per action per person? For a person who cannot go back, mercy is everything or nothing. 490 times to be forgiven per person per action is just about enough.

    At ground level, I’m a believer: in “zero tolerance” and “one strike you’re out”. But for the sinner, it is too late for that. Grace is either now or never. No more strikes allowed.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    why does Matthew 5:48 come after Matthew 5:43-47.

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    It’s not because verses 43 to 47 have commands which we cannot keep. Make no mistake, verses 43 to 47 do have laws which we cannot keep. But we cannot keep any of God’s law, because to do that we need to keep those laws perfectly.

    Verse 48 does not come after verses 43 to 47 because those commands are more difficult or impossible to obey than other commands. In context, what is commanded in verse 48 is our being indiscriminate, our not making a distinction between those who are enemies and those who are not enemies.

    Even though we are all enemies of God before justification, God does discriminate by electing in Christ some to be justified in Christ. But when verse 45 describes God sending rain on the just and the unjust, that is not describing God sending justification on the just and unjust. Nor is it describing God’s “desire to send justification to all of God’s enemies. The goodness of God is indiscriminate in sending rain on those who are justified and also on those who are not justified.

    We are not commanded to send justification to anybody. We cannot send justification to anybody. Nor can we send rain. But we are commanded to be indiscriminate, to NOT RETURN EVIL FOR EVIL, to not send evil to those who are evil, and good to those who are good. But we don’t like to be indiscriminate in this way.

  4. markmcculley Says:

    what does it mean to say “The Father is God as God in Himself”

    Is the Son after His incarnation not God as God is in HImself?

    Did God the Father give His Son or did God the Father give Himself as He is Himself?

    maybe the Son as Creator is our Lawgiver, but is the Son as Redeemer our lawgiver?

    I Peter 1: 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy. 17 Address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.

    John 5: 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son…

    John 5: 30 “I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear

    John 12:47″As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words. That very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.

    John 3:1 7 For God did not send His Son into the world in order to condemn the world, but in order that the world be saved through Him.18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.

    Acts 17: 30-31 God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    Romans 2: 2 We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is based on the truth. 3 Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?

    Romans 2: 16 There will be the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

    2 Timothy 4:1 “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom”

    Luke 12: 10 “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven”.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Why does Matthew 5:48 come after Matthew 5:43-47?

    Matthew 5: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 in order that you be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Verse 48 is not thrre because verses 43 to 47 have commands which we cannot keep. Make no mistake, verses 43 to 47 do have command which we cannot keep. We cannot keep any of God’s law, because to do that we need to keep those laws perfectly. Disobey one once, disobey all.

    James 2: 8 Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. 9 But if you show favoritism,you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking all the law.

    Galatians 3: 10 Everyone who does not continue doing EVERYTHING written in the book of the law is cursed

    So, yes, the Bible does teach, break one break all. But that’s not what Matthew 5:48 is mainly about. Matthew 5: 48 does not come after verses 43 to 47 because those commands are more difficult or impossible to obey than other commands. In context, what is commanded in verse 48 is our being indiscriminate, our not making a distinction between those who are enemies and those who are not enemies.

    Even though we are all enemies of God before justification, GOD DOES DISCRIMINATEG by electing in Christ some to be justified in Christ. God does not “show favorites” in the sense that God ever regard a sinner (elect or non-elect) as justified until God imputes to that sinner Christ’s righteousness. Even a elect sinner is under condemnation until God credits that sinner with Christ’s death, because God shows no favorites and cuts no slack in the matter of justification. But God does have favorites in the sense that God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ and God will only Christ’s death to the elect.

    When Matthew 5: 45 describes God sending rain on the just and the unjust, that is not describing God sending justification on the just and unjust. Nor is it describing God’s “desire to send justification to all of God’s enemies. The goodness of God is indiscriminate in sending rain on those who are justified and also on those who are not justified.

    We are not commanded to send justification to anybody. We cannot send justification to anybody. Nor can we send rain. But we are commanded to be indiscriminate, to NOT RETURN EVIL FOR EVIL, to not send evil to those who are evil. But we don’t like to be indiscriminate in this way.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    We don’t have to love all other Christians the same. I have liberty to be special friends who are Christians but who also like the Simpsons. But that being said, all Christians have a duty to love all other Christians, without respect of persons and experiences.

    Richard Warmack—Since our joy and unity only comes because of the gospel, we who believe the gospel need to love those who believe the gospel, without respect of persons. Some of us like Amy Grant, some of us like rock and roll. Some of us look mean, but we are happy…

    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=22817163505

    Paul Zahl –the only solution for the persecutory dissonance one encounters in the religious comes in the object of the religion itself, Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners. It would seem that no amount of white-washing or righteous indignation has been able to obscure Our Merciful Friend completely.
    Yet often times when you poo-poo ‘transformation’, what others hear is a poo-pooing of hope. Which makes me sad, as nothing could be further from the truth. How can you look at the world or yourself honestly and not earnestly desire more transformation?! Transformation is grand and Iand I would love to see more of it, in both myself and others.


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