Imputation: God gives us Christ’s Righteousness

Romans 5:12-21


Jerry A Collins



v What does the use of imputation mean?

v What is imputed from Adam to us?

v What is imputed from Christ to us?


The dictionary defines imputation as ‘to ascribe to or change (a person) with an act or quality because of the conduct of another over whom one has control or for whose act or conduct one is responsible. To attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) to a person or persons vicariously.” In Romans 5:12-21 is the argument of the consequences of this imputation. Through imputation the believer is both condemned and justified—the former because of the sin of Adam, the latter because of the righteousness of Christ. Just as God imputed sin to mankind because of the transgression of Adam, so also He imputed righteousness to the believer because of the propitious death of Christ. Here is an explanation, then, of how death and life originated in man’s relationship with God and how the cross made possible that change.


1. Sin entered the world through one man 12a

He never tells us how sin originated but says it ‘entered’ into the world implying that it existed as an entity before Adam. It did not begin with Adam—we know it originated in the heart of Satan in heaven. It merely entered the world of the human race through Adam. This sin then passed on or through the whole race of man—spreading out, diffusing—because ‘all sinned’. In what sense did the sin of Adam result in all sinning? Adam’s in implicated the entire human race. In other words, we are guilty by association with Adam as a human being. This happens all of the time in our justice system. People are implicated as accomplices because of their association with the crime or the criminal. What is the outcome of this association we have with Adam and his sin?

2. Sin caused death for all of us.

It is the sin of Adam that is responsible for death in the race. If people did not sin they would not die. Death is the penalty for sin not the consequence of the way God created man. This passage is teaching us that there is a connection between Adam’s sin and the death of all people. So first, death passed upon all because all sinned vs 12, and second, death is on all because of the sin of one vs 13. So there is a singularity and a plurality. One acts for the all, but the all sin; and they sin because of the one.

3. Death supposes transgression.

I hate death and all it represents this side of the grave. Death comes to us because it is the consequence of sin. Death has been an ever-present reality for the human race as long as the race has existed. Death is inescapable. God regards and treats all men from the moment of their existence as having forfeited His favor because all fell in Adam. Some mite protest that it is not fair that they should die because of the sin of Adam. One argument against this is that Adam’s sin does not have to affect your eternal destiny—just believe in Jesus Christ and there is no condemnation. The act of Adam is not the final determinant of our eternal destiny. Here we are merely shown how sin arose in the human race, and because it happened at the beginning, it is universal—all sinned. The first human was contaminated with radiation poisoning and the poisoning has been infecting all of his offspring. Fair or not it is a reality of life since we all have to deal with death resulting from sin. From God’s point of view, we all were born with the desire to sin and rebel against Him—and so we must be born again to circumvent that tendency and escape it’s consequences. People do what they want to do and it is dishonest and self-centered to whine and complain that since they were born that way God should accept them that way. No. From the very beginning the race is contaminated, lives in rebellion by nature, and dies as a result. Blaming Adam, or parents, or human nature, can change nothing. Only a new birth is designed to change our nature and our destiny. 4. Sin was there even before law 13-14  Adam had a Law in the garden. When he broke it he was placed on trial, not just for himself but for the whole race—even though all people did not break the same Law. The evidence for this guilt is that people still died under the death sentence after Adam to Moses. Why did death reign? Because of Adam, who is a type or a corresponding reality, one sinful act affected the whole race. But, as we will see, in Christ, the last Adam, His righteousness is imputed to us issuing into eternal life. So God imputed the sin of Adam to the human race even though God did not charge the race with the sin of breaking the Law until after Moses. So our association with Adam has condemned us to a death sentence.



1. God’s grace makes possible a free gift to us 15

Everything turns on the word ‘but’. This free gift is unlike the transgression in the sense of consequences. This gift comes through Jesus obedience to God while death come s to us through the transgression of Adam. All died in Adam and all are made alive in Christ. The ‘all’ means ‘all who are represented by’. As Adam represents all who die, so all who are represented by Christ are made alive. The Virgin Birth means that Adam’s sin was not imputed to Christ in His incarnation. So, too, when faith is applied to the gospel, a person receives this gift. Christ death made all men savable. We can now receive the free gift of salvation so much so that Jesus can say, I am the resurrection and the life he who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall He live and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die! God’s grace makes this reality possible.

2. God’s grace makes possible our justification 16

There are only two possibilities for the human race now. The first is to experience the eternal consequences of our association with Adam’s sin. That is judgment followed by condemnation at the Great White Throne judgment. If one does not accept the free gift God offers based on His grace in Christ there is no hope at all. The second is deliverance from these consequences by taking this free gift—it is free because it costs us nothing—it is a gift because God offers us deliverance from judgment. This results in justification, which is God’s declaration that we have Christ’s righteousness imputed to us changing our legal standing from guilty to not guilty.

3. Jesus not only delivers us from death He also gives us eternal life

What would have happened if Adam had not sinned? We would all remain under the conditional covenant that Adam lived under before he sinned. It would mean that if we sinned, we would die. It would be as though each individual were on a perpetual probation. One sin and death would result. When Jesus delivered us from the penalty of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he also applied to us the life from which we had been previously barred. Now when we sin, we still live, due to the work of Christ. Thus, what was gained in Christ is MUCH MORE than what we lost in Adam. This is what God’s grace provides!

1. Every human being in every generation is lost and dies imputed with the sin of Adam.

2. Only when Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us can we be saved.