Before we can understand imputed righteousness, let’s understand what “imputed” means. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, impute means to credit or ascribe something to a person. Righteousness means to be in the right standing, or right position, before God.
When put together, imputed righteousness means right standing or right positioning has been credited to you. You can also think of it as an exchange or transfer. Let me attempt an example. Let’s say you have a man with no money to his name who wants to buy a car. He walks into the dealer but can’t buy the car because he has no money or credit.
However, the man has a best friend he grew up with who is now a billionaire. The billionaire calls the car dealer. He says, “allow this man to buy any car he wants and credit it to my account.” The billionaire was essentially giving the broke man access to his account, and the money he had was available for him to get the car.
The broke man walks out a car owner, and the expense has been credited to someone else’s account. This is what happened to us. We were broken—sinful with no right standing before God because of our sin. However, Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life, and when you put your trust in him, he takes his righteousness and credits it to your account.
You gain access to righteousness not because of anything you have done but because Christ applied it to your account. This imputed righteousness puts you in right standing before the Father as if you had done the right thing all along.
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