Q&A: Imputed Sin

Imputed Sin

Question

What is "imputed sin"? When Jesus was judged by God and sin was imputed to him, I have always thought of it as the punishment of sin being given to him and not the sin itself. When I sin, it is my sin. I commit the act, etc., but Jesus gets the punishment for it. What does it mean for sin to be imputed to Christ, or that Christ became sin for us?

Answer

To "impute" sin is to reckon sin to someone's account. When unbelievers sin, the guilt of their sin is reckoned to their own account - it is "imputed" to them. That is, they bear the blame for their own sin, they own it. The actual corruption of the sin also remains with them. When believers sin, the actual corruption of the sin also remains with them, but the guilt is imputed to Christ. When sin is imputed to Jesus, it becomes "his sin" insofar as he owns the guilt and takes the blame for it. But it remains the believer's sin insofar as the believer retains the corruption.

On the cross, Jesus "became sin" for us by receiving our imputed guilt. That is, the Father blamed him for our sin. Jesus did not actually become corrupted by our sin. Rather, the Father counted him as being corrupted by our sin, he considered Jesus guilty of our sins. Once Jesus was "guilty" of sin, God justly punished him for that sin.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.