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Looking at it Legally
by Scott Price

    As humans we have a problem with only seeing what we experience and not stepping outside ourselves once in a while to see the whole picture. The gospel deals with both condemnation and justification using legal words, expressions, and ideas. We should keep the emphasis on this when we talk in a  gospel context.

    The gospel emphasis on guilt is primarily LEGAL in Adam. According to Romans 5:12-21 we are all born into this world already legally charged with the sin of Adam because God appointed Adam to be the representative of Mankind. When he sinned we sinned. This is done legally by imputation (legally charging that sin to our account). Because of this we are sinners BEFORE we sin. After we are born we then participate and experience sin because of our sinful nature we inherited and this moral corruption is what we experience, see, feel, and is why our focus in total depravity is usually on moral corruption. Moral corruption is the result of legal condemnation in Adam. So, guilt, condemnation, and depravity are primarily legal by imputation.

    Those that think they can somehow work their way to heaven run into a brick wall with the legal imputation of Adam's sin. Also those that would look to and be impressed with self righteous, religious folks who look clean on the outside by works, have a hatred for the doctrine of legal condemnation by imputation. How can they remove Adam's sin? The gospel teaches they cannot remove Adam's or theirs.

    As much as we need the new birth by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, regeneration is NOT justification. The gospel emphasis in justification is primarily and preeminently the merit of the Person and righteous work of Christ legally imputed to our account. Regeneration does not or cannot satisfy God's law and justice for the sinner. Christ answered the holy demands of God's law to reconcile His people to the Father. This puts emphasis on the objective work that Christ did FOR us rather than the work subjective work of the Spirit IN us. One practical reason for viewing things this way would be that our assurance should be based on the merit of Christ for us as a substitute and representative, and not by looking to something done in us or by us for assurance. Some would have us look to ourselves because of something they call impartation or even infusion of righteousness in us. Those ideas take from the primary of Christ and His work.

    Some who stress the sovereignty of God want to eliminate the God-ordained means of the gospel. They want to always stress sovereign regeneration and election more than the Person and work of Christ. Again, regeneration is a must, but it is not the primary focus in the gospel. Sovereign, unconditional election is a must and is a very God-honoring doctrine if taught in relation to the gospel. The gospel points to Christ and His preeminence in His satisfying God with His blood and death. Salvation is legally secured and maintained by Christ establishing and imputing that righteousness to us so we can stand justified at judgment. This is the basic message of the gospel of God's free grace and when we are born again we are able to see this. Thank God He is a just God and a Savior.

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