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Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness? Paperback – November 15, 2002
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"Does Christ's lifelong record of perfect obedience to God get 'credited' to your account when you trust in Christ and are 'justified' by God? This has been the historic Protestant understanding of the 'imputation of Christ's righteousness,' but John Piper warns that we are in danger of losing this doctrine today because of attacks by scholars within the evangelical camp. In response, Piper shows, in careful treatment of passage after passage, that the imputation of Christ's righteousness to believers is clearly the teaching of the Bible, and if we abandon this doctrine we will also lose justification by faith alone. I am thankful to God for John Piper's defense of this crucial doctrine."
—Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies, Phoenix Seminary
"The Gospel must be defended in every generation. Today, as in the sixteenth century, the central issue is the imputation of Christ's righteousness. John Piper clearly and powerfully proves this is the view of the Bible and not merely of orthodox Protestant theology. The church must say 'No!' to those who declare that imputation is passé. If imputation is passé, then so is the Gospel."
—R. C. Sproul, President, Ligonier Ministries; copastor, St. Andrew's Chapel, Sanford, Florida
"This is certainly the most solid defense of the imputed righteousness of Christ since the work of John Murray fifty years ago. I'm delighted that Dr. Piper has established that important doctrine, not as a mere article from the confessional tradition, but on the solid foundation of God's Word."
—John M. Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy emeritus, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando
About the Author
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for thirty-three years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than fifty books, including Desiring God; Don’t Waste Your Life; This Momentary Marriage; A Peculiar Glory; and Reading the Bible Supernaturally.
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In this work, Piper defends the traditional evangelical understanding of imputed righteousness, i.e., that when a person trusts Christ, he not only has his sins forgiven but is, on the positive side, given the righteousness of Christ. This concept, imputed righteousness, is currently being challenged from within evangelicalism.
Piper quotes the leading proponent of this view, Dr. Robert Gundry, explains Gundry's perspective, and contrasts it to the traditional one. He then explores the relevant Scriptures and demonstrates why Gundry is wrong. He attempts to lead the reader to conclude that the Scriptures do in fact teach that we are counted as righteous once we are in Christ. We exchange our sin for His righteousness.
Piper is not really much of a salesman. Although his language is clear and his sincerity obvious, it is the strength of the Scriptures themselves that do the convincing. And that is not bad! I highly recommend this work. The serious laymen can understand this volume, but it is not "pop Christian" by any means, but requires the reader to think. And that's not bad, either!
As we see more and more challenges either directly toward the heart of the Gospel or the periphery, it is great to have Piper on our side! Here is my favorite quotation from this brief volume. The argument is that if Paul had taught Gundry's view in Romans 1-5, the questions of chapter 6 would never have arisen (this is more formidable than meets the eye; if our version of the Gospel does not result in these questions, we may be preaching the wrong message!):
"The doctrine of justification by faith apart from works raises the question, 'Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase?...And shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?' The raising of these questions is a powerful indication that justification does not include liberation from the mastery of sin. For if it did, these questions would not plausibly arrive..." Good stuff!
While the arguments in it are aimed at all challenges to the doctrine of imputation, this book is a specific response to arguments made by Robert Gundry, because Piper considers him to be "one of the most courageous and straightforward and explicit and clearheaded" of those who challenge the traditional doctrine. Besides, it was two articles Gundry wrote for Books and Culture in 2001 that served as impetus for Piper to tackle this issue.
Gundry believes that God decided to count our own faith as our righteousness. There is no such thing as positive imputation of Christ's righteousness to those who believe. And justification, according to Gundry, includes freeing the believer from "sin's mastery," something that has traditionally been called sanctification and kept distinct from justification.
The middle section and greatest part of this short book (66 of 125 pages) contains Piper's exegetical basis for the traditional Protestant view that justification includes the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer, and that it is not faith that is counted as as our righteousness. This bit is difficult reading. I had to work to follow the arguments, and there are sections I've marked to go over yet again. It was, however, worth the effort, because Piper builds what is, in the end, an airtight case for the historical Protestant view of justification as the biblical one.
That's good news for me. My faith is unreliable and a pretty wobbly at times, and if it serves (along with Christ's death, of course) as grounds for my justification, how can I be assured of my justification? Christ's righteousness, on the other hand, is rock solid, and anything based on it is certain. As Piper writes, "the full meaning of justification, as pardon and imputed perfection, has proved to be a mighty antidote to despair for the saints."
But more than that, writes Piper, the historical Protestant doctrine of imputed righteousness "bestows on Jesus Christ the fullest honor that he deserves. Not only should he be honored as the one died to pardon us, and not only should he be honored as the one who sovereignly works faith and obedience in us, but he should also be honored as the one who provided a perfect righteousness for us as the ground of our full acceptance and endorsement by God."
Counted Righteous in Christ is an important book, one you'll want to read if you're interested in the doctrine of justification, and especially if you've been bothered by the attacks by some evangelical teachers on the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer. Be prepared to take the time to study carefully the 66 pages of scriptural exegesis.
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