I want to make a few comments about “the imputation of the active obedience of Christ,” or the rhetoric about it or the way people are treated who do not affirm it.
- The Roman Catholic Error is not about denying the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. The reason why Roman Catholic theology lacks assurance is because they don’t fully affirm the imputation of the passive obedience of Christ. They think believers must pay for their sins in Purgatory by their suffering. So the imputation of the active obedience is not the issue.
- I don’t see how active can be separated from passive since Christ was a willing sacrifice. I can’t figure out a way that Christ’s passive obedience can be isolated from his active obedience so that only the former is imputed to sinners. So I do not deny the imputation of Christ’s active obedience.
- People who claim that we can have no assurance of salvation without the imputation of the active obedience of Christ sound like they have no confidence in the efficacy of Christ’s sufferings. Why wouldn’t the blood of Jesus be a sufficient source for assurance of salvation? Why must I declare the bitter suffering and death of Christ insufficient for being assured that I am saved? I don’t get it.
- If Christ died to forgive our sins, then there is no obedience left to be demanded of us as a condition for our salvation. Why do we keep hearing that, without the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, we must produce our own perfect obedience in order to be saved? That makes no sense at all. It is true God hates sin and demands perfect obedience. But God has satisfied the penalty of violating that demand by carrying out the full curse for sin on his own son. There is no demand left. Jesus paid it all. Consider the hymn, Nothing but the Blood. When congregations sing this hymn are they being encouraged to to believe that we must produce perfect obedience? No, we are convinced that God has dealt with the penalty for all such disobedience so that there is no such demand on us anymore as a condition for salvation. If God killed his own son to save you what more assurance can you ask for?
Again, I don’t see any way that we can separate out the active and passive obedience. But neither do I see any way that we must say that one supplements the other or that each does a different job in our salvation. The curse on sin is satisfied; their can be no further demand for perfect obedience unless the blood of Christ is useless.
To sum up: If you trust Jesus as Lord and Savior then all the demands that God’s holy nature places upon you as a condition for fellowship with himself have been met by Jesus. The penalty for all disobedience has been paid so there is nothing left to demand of you. Faith itself is not something you offer to God to become good enough to be worthy of his friendship, but rather a means by which you are united to Christ so that his sacrifice applies to you. Your sins of omission have been forgiven as much as your sins of commission. God has no further obedience that he could demand of you to escape the penalty of death because the penalty has been satisfied in Christ and by Christ.
For further consideration: Zacharias Ursinus and the Imputation of the Active Obedience.