The Non-Imputation of Sin
“David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’”- Romans 4:6–8
Scripture is verbally inspired, which among other things means that we must pay attention to the words of the Bible themselves and what they mean in context. We saw this yesterday in our study of the Greek preposition eis that the ESV translates with the English word as in Romans 4:3, 5. Another key term in Romans 4:3–8 is logizomai, which the ESV translates as count. Other English translations render logizomai with impute or reckon.
We are going into detail about this Greek term logizomai because it is key to understanding what our Creator does in justification. The word logizomai is a bookkeeping term that means “to put on one’s record” or “to credit to one’s account.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), the term often appears where individuals must treat a person or object as if it were something other than what it is inherently. For example, when the Levites received tithes, they were not to treat these tithes as actual tithes that had already been devoted to the Lord. Instead, they had to regard these tithes as their income and then pay a tithe to the Lord themselves from what had been given to them. Inherently, what the people gave were tithes. But the Levites reckoned them as income (Num. 18:25–32).
Taking this all together, we see that in Romans 4 logizomai means to credit something to a person’s account and regard that person not according to what he has done or who he is but according to what is credited to his account. What is credited or imputed to our account? Today’s passage tackles this question by looking at what is not imputed to our account. God declares righteous the one against whom He “will not count … sin” (Rom. 4:6–8). The imputation that occurs in our justification involves both a positive crediting of something to our record but also a negative crediting—a removal of something, namely, our sin.
When the Lord looks upon us—those who trust in Christ alone—He does not regard us as unrighteous. Our sin is no longer imputed or credited to our record. Of course, God does not turn a blind eye to our transgressions, nor is He ignorant of our evil. Rather, He regards us legally according to what He has imputed to our account, and He has not imputed sin to the record of believers in Jesus. Dr. R.C. Sproul elaborates on this in his book on Romans: “When we stand before God, He knows everything we have ever done wrong—every evil thought, every wicked deed. When He looks at us inherently, all he sees are filthy rags, but that is not how He looks at us. He looks at us and sees Christ.”
As we will see in due time, the counting or imputation we enjoy in justification is not merely a negative imputation but also a positive one. Dr. Sproul also writes, “The only righteousness we possess is the righteousness of Christ, and we possess it by transfer, by reckoning, by imputation.” We stand before God in Christ; though He knows we have sinned, He does not regard us as unrighteous but as righteous. He gives us eternal life according to Christ’s righteousness, not our own.
Passages for Further Study