The Importance of Imputation
By Pastor Don Strand
Matthew 5:6 says ““Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” and, But to get the full effect of Jesus’ words, I need to give you a small bit of Greek grammar. Stay with me here for the discussion is worthwhile. I said last week that God blesses those who passionately hunger and thirst after a complete righteousness. The noun is singular, ‘the righteousness’ and how Jesus said this indicates He is speaking about a righteousness without limits.
In Greek grammar, a verb like “hungering” or “thirsting” is always followed by a noun in what’s called the genitive case. In English grammar, we don’t arrange words to indicate the genitive case. Instead, we usually use a word like ‘of’ to indicate any limits on the noun. For example, in a phrase like “peace of mind” the word “of” modifies the noun “mind” and sets limits on the word to which “peace” refers. When we say “peace of mind” we mean our own mind, not all of the minds in the world. In Greek grammar, the genitive case must be used to indicate the limits on the noun. For example, when speaking Greek, if you were hungry, you would say, “I am hungry for of food” or “I am thirsty for of water” by using a genitive form of the word food or water. Doing so would indicate that you’re hungry for part of the food on the table, or thirsty and want part of the water in the pitcher. The genitive case is used to show that you’re not talking about all of the food or water in the world.
But in this verse, Jesus does not use this rule of grammar to indicate a limit on the righteousness for which we are to hunger and thirst. He does not say “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after of righteousness, as He should have if He were talking about a limited righteousness. Instead, He says it in a way His hearers would have understood to mean their hunger and thirst is to be for all the available righteousness possible. By doing so, Jesus is saying that blessedness comes to those who hunger and thirst after all possible righteousness—a righteousness that is equal to that of God’s righteousness.
Most people believe themselves to be good and honorable, and to have some degree of righteousness. If they seek additional righteousness, they seek a bit more to be added to what they already believe they have. But Jesus says this will not do. If we were to rephrase this verse to capture the flavor of what Jesus is saying, it would be, “How happy is the one who knows enough not to be satisfied with any partial goodness they think might please God. Blessed is the one who is not satisfied with any human goodness but instead seeks for the divine righteousness. And for those who do, God will provide it, and they will be satisfied.”
How are we to gain this righteousness that is equal to God’s? We come now to the importance of imputation. Imputation is a ‘big Bible word’ that means an action or state of being that is reckoned to a person. The Bible tells us that the sin of Adam is imputed to all his descendants, i.e., it is reckoned as theirs even though his sin wasn’t theirs (we all have enough of our own sin), and therefore, all are guilty in God’s court of law (Romans 5:12). The good news of the gospel is this; the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all who, by faith, believe in and put their trust in Christ. In other words, the perfect righteousness earned by Christ in His humanity, under the law, is reckoned to them as if it were their own (Romans 5:17). What happened to our unrighteousness? Paul goes on to say that our sins are imputed (reckoned) to Christ, and He took the punishment that God’s justice demands (Romans 5:19). In both cases; Christ’s righteousness reckoned to all who believe, and the sins of those who believe reckoned to Christ, the nature of imputation is the same—a credit that is not deserved is given to the undeserving by God’s amazing grace.
When we understand this concept of imputation, especially the fact that the Bible tells us it is a double imputation as I just showed from Romans 5, it causes those whom God has called and gifted with faith to hunger and thirst intensely for the only true righteousness. And Jesus promises, those who do will be satisfied.