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Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation [Kindle Edition]

Brian Vickers
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The question of whether Paul teaches that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer has been debated for roughly four hundred years. Some of the questions that arise are: What is the connection between Adam and the rest of the human race? How did Christ fulfill the role of the second or new Adam? How can the "ungodly" stand before a righteous God?

In Jesus' Blood and Righteousness, Brian Vickers investigates the key Pauline texts linked historically to the topic of imputation. Though Vickers spends a good deal of time on the particulars of each text, he keeps one eye on the broader biblical horizon; like any doctrine, imputation must be investigated exegetically and synthetically. This book, and its conclusion that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is a legitimate and necessary synthesis of Paul's teaching, is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate on imputation.



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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1513 KB
  • Print Length: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books (26 Oct. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IFG0DIA
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #401,777 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a published version of the author's PhD thesis, and is a
careful and substantial piece of work. The author sets out to exegete
the main the passages which have traditionally been used as evidence
for the Reformed doctrine that justification involves the imputation
of Christ's righteousness to believers. The three main passages he
considers are Romans 4; Romans 5:12-21; and 2 Corinthians 5:21. He
exegetes each carefully, not trying to find the whole `doctrine' in
each passage. Vickers then synthesises them together. He then
supplements this synthesis with consideration of other relevent
Pauline passages (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; and
Romans 9:30-10:4). As the reviewers quoted on the book observe,
Vickers's work has an irenic tone, and he does not demonise those with
whom he disagrees.

In an opening chapter Vickers shows his understanding of the historic
dimensions to this debate, tracing `trajectories' in the way
imputation has been treated by various scholars since the
Reformation. He deals briefly with Luther; Malanchthon; Calvin;
various Protestant confessions; John Owen; Charles Hodge; Louis
Berkhof; Albrecht Ritschl; Rudoplh Bultmann; Adolph Schlatter; Ernst
Kasemann; and Peter Stuhlmacher.

Vickers conclusions from his exegesis are that the classic orthodox
Reformed view is substantially right.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars careful and well executed interaction 9 July 2008
Format:Paperback
This book is an interaction with the latest thought and denials of the doctrine of imputation. It is a helpful discussion that carefully covers the relevant biblical texts exegeticaly discerning the nature of biblical teaching on this matter. Agreeing and dissagreeing with his opponents at points he sets forth a well reasoned presentation of the biblical nature of this doctrine. A good amount of lengthy footnotes support his interactions. Furthermore, the opening chapter provides a helpful overview of the confessional history of this doctrine. In all a valuable and helpful assesment.
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Format:Paperback
A very insightful analysis/exegesis of several key Pauline passages which form the scriptural basis for the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness. Brian Vickers is to be commended for this very helpful book.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Academic writing -- payoff being enriched by justification truths 1 Mar. 2007
By Christian Book Previews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Towards the end of his book, Brian Vickers writes, "The present work relies on a mixture of exegesis and synthesis to argue for imputation. Hopefully this synthesis is based on exegesis, because the goal has never been to argue for imputation on purely `theological' or traditional grounds, though the question derives from traditional Protestant, particularly Lutheran and Reformed, categories" (p. 225). After coming to the end of this densely written tome, one agrees heartily with Vickers that his work blends exegesis and theological synthesis to defend more than sufficiently the traditional doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer in justification. Though not exactly traditional, i.e., lining up at every point with the classic Reformed model of imputation, Vickers' conclusions about this crucial doctrine is thoroughly biblical, grounded in a deep study of the Hebrew and especially Greek of the pertinent texts, and Christ-honoring to say the least.

Vickers' book is divided into five main sections, and a conclusion. He begins aptly by tracing the "loose trajectories" of the discourse on imputation "through theological traditions." He begins with Luther and traces the arc of discussion to 20th century German liberal theology, the New Perspective on Paul, and those who are solidly Reformed in their soteriology but for various reasons do not hold explicitly to the doctrine of the imputation, to the believer, of Christ's righteousness in perfectly obeying the Law. In fact, one criticism against this book would be the lack of space devoted to the idea of Christ's perfect obedience counting for the believer.

Aside from that minor criticism, the book more than ably wades its way through the deep waters of rich "justification texts," namely three: Rom 4:3-8, Rom 5:12-21, and 2 Cor 5:21. He begins with Abraham and the reckoning of righteousness. His main points here are (1) that "faith is not itself the righteousness" but rather the instrument that "unites the believer to the object of faith," and that object is the only source of righteousness (p. 111), and (2) forgiveness is one aspect of Paul's doctrine of justification, not synonymous with it. This is a point that he emphasizes as he seeks to unfold the comprehensive nature of the biblical doctrine of justification. In the section on the foundation of righteousness, he concludes that "the ground for the status `righteous' had to be attained before it could be applied" (p. 157). Easily the longest chapter in the book, it goes into great detail on Rom 5:12-21, dissecting the Adam-Christ complex and confirming the word for "being made" in the Greek refers to "status, not personal actions (p. 156). This status is conferred upon a believer because of the representational nature of Christ for all those who are one with Him.

The provision and imputation of righteousness make up the final two chapters. In the former, he examines the OT background of the phrase "made to be sin" in 2 Cor 5:21. He concludes that it refers to a sacrifice for sin because of its relation to the language and concepts concerning sacrifices in the OT (pointing to the LXX translations of Lev 4:3 and 5:6 and how hamartiacan be used for both "sin" and "sin offering"), the greater context of reconciliation (again Leviticus cited as support for the concept of reconciliation in sacrificial contexts), and the context of 2 Cor 5:21 (which focuses on the vicarious nature of Christ's death--"one died for all," v. 14, and "not reckoning their sins to them," v. 19, and the perfection of His sacrifice--"who knew no sin," v. 21). He also tackles the debate over the phrase "the righteousness of God." While examining and overturning various exegetical options, Vickers deals at length with the view that this concept refers to the covenant faithfulness of God. He concludes, "It is more accurate to say that God's covenant faithfulness is an expression of this righteousness, or that it manifests his righteousness, rather than being his righteousness" (p. 182). He also states, "The forensic element of 2 Corinthians 5:21 argues forcefully against the covenant faithfulness view" (ibid). In the final chapter, the author examines, in synthetic fashion, the common threads in the three major imputation texts he has already studied. Upon concluding this examination, he takes up the discussion on the "active" and "passive" obedience of Christ. He states that all obedience contains both elements, and that Christ's obedience was passive in that He voluntarily accepted God's wrath against sin and active in that He willingly bore the just penalty for sin (p. 197). All this to say that the obedience of Christ to God on the Father, supremely demonstrated (or culminating) in His death on the cross includes both "the provision for the forgiveness of sins and a positive standing before God" on the basis of the Lord's perfect obedience, not just in death, but in life as well.

Vickers nicely ends his book tackling several other key objections to the traditional Protestant doctrine of justification. He tackles the arguments that this doctrine amounts to nothing more than a legal fiction, that it is a systematic not a biblical idea, that Christ's positive obedience is nowhere specifically stated as being imputed to the believer, and that imputation leads to antinomianism. In a short space, he ably refutes these objections and defends the traditional understanding of justification. His refutations themselves are noteworthy demonstrations of blending rigorous exegesis with theological synthesis and harmonization of various texts and doctrines.

Overall, Vickers' book has taken the exposition of the doctrine of justification one step forward in our current times where it is being undermined by the New Perspective on Paul. The frightening reality that its eclipse is being ushered in and greeted by conservative evangelical theologians should not draw us out of the battle for truth, but determinedly back into it; armed with the Bible and with volumes such as this one, we are equipped with exegetical and theological insights that appeal not to theology and confessions and creeds but to the Word of God itself in the original languages. It is an academic piece, one that requires patient, methodical reading/engagement. The payoff of being enriched once again by the great justification truths emanating from some crucial portions of Scripture more than validates one's time with the book. - Jason Park, Christian Book [...]
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Work of Evangelical Scholarship 16 Jan. 2007
By Denny Burk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Anyone who has been paying attention to Evangelical theology in North America knows that the doctrine of Justification has become quite a hot topic. Not only has the "New Perspective" on Paul offered a challenge to the traditional Protestant formulation (e.g. James Dunn, N. T. Wright), but so have some dissenting voices from within the conservative sector of the evangelical fold (e.g. Robert Gundry).

In 1999, when Christianity Today published "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration," Robert Gundry responded by saying, "the doctrine that Christ's righteousness is imputed to believing sinners needs to be abandoned" and "that doctrine of imputation is not even biblical" (source). The opinion that Gundry expresses has become somewhat of a standard view among scholars of the New Testament, and this departure has caused no little controversy among evangelicals who continue to regard the doctrine of imputation as a crucial biblical teaching (see the exchange between Gundry and Thomas Oden in Books & Culture as well as the essays by Gundry and Carson in Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates?).

Brian Vickers enters this fray with Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation. Vickers is a New Testament scholar by training, but he goes against the tide of his guild by defending the traditional Protestant formulation of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, though he does so in a way that interprets key Pauline texts in a non-traditional way.

After a brief introduction, chapter one introduces the reader to the history of interpretation of the key texts--a history that begins with Martin Luther and traces through the modern day. Chapters two through four consist of Vickers' exegesis of three Pauline texts that have had a central place in discussions of imputation: Romans 4, Romans 5:19, and 2 Corinthians 5:21. In each of these texts, Vickers contends that there is a subject, an action, and a result.

........................SUBJECT....ACTION............RESULT

Romans 4:3.........Abraham....Faith................Reckoned Righteousness

Romans 5:19........Christ.......Obedience.........Made Righteous

2 Corinthians 5:21.God..........Made Christ Sin..Became Righteousness

Though the subjects and actions are different, all of these texts result in righteousness to the sinner. Chapter five synthesizes the Pauline teaching with respect to imputation and answers objections to the tradition formulation of the doctrine. Chapter six concludes with a summary of the book's arguments and a recapitulation of the book's thesis that Paul teaches Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer.

I noted above that Vickers argues for imputation in a "non-traditional" way. What I mean by that is that he comes to his conclusions through an exegesis that is decidedly non-traditional. Vickers writes, "No single text contains or develops all the `ingredients' of imputation . . . Taken alone, not one of the `key' texts that have played such an integral role in the historical discussion [of imputation] argues decisively, or explicitly, for a full-orbed doctrine of imputation" (pp. 18, 235). For Vickers, not even Romans 4 (in which logizomai figures so prominently) teaches the full-blown doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

Thus, even though traditionalists may like Vickers' theological conclusion affirming imputation, they may chafe at some of his readings of particular texts. But Vickers' approach to these Pauline texts should not diminish the fact that his argument taken as a whole comprises a thoroughgoing defense of the traditional view. Vickers is showing that even though Christ's righteousness is never explicitly named as that which is imputed (as Gundry charges), the doctrine is the necessary correlation of a synthesis of Paul's teaching.

Traditionalists will continue to debate Vickers' description of the imputation of Christ's active obedience. In traditional formulations, Christ's active obedience refers to the life of obedience to God's law that Christ rendered in His incarnation. Such obedience to God's law is the obligation of every person, but no person ever achieves it. Vickers thinks that Paul does not necessarily have this total obedience to the law in mind when speaking of Christ's obedience in Romans 5:19. Rather, Paul has in mind Christ's obedience to the point of death on the cross. This obedience cannot be neatly separated from Christ's total obedience to God's law, but this singular act of obedience on the cross is nevertheless the focus in Paul. Thus Vickers suggests a redefinition of Christ's active obedience (pp. 196, 198, 226-28) that may not fulfill the so-called "covenant of works" (which is a central feature in covenant theology).

Vickers has done a masterful job in Jesus' Blood and Righteousness. Not only is it an indispensable introduction to the issues at stake in the current debate, it also offers a compelling interpretation of Paul that affirms the traditional formulation of imputation. There are very few books like this one, and anyone who is concerned about having a biblical theology should give this volume careful consideration.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Convincing Case for the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness 26 Oct. 2007
By D K Smith, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Perhaps you have heard the word justification defined this way: justification is God's treating me just as if I had never sinned. But is this true? Does justification merely equal forgiveness of sins--as amazing as that is--or is there something more? Do we need an external righteousness that is not our own?

These are questions of eternal significance. In Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation, Brian Vickers argues that the question of whether Scripture teaches the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer is not a mere academic debate but a matter that concerns the heart of the gospel and salvation (p. 15). Vickers states his argument on page 18: "The contention of this book is that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is a legitimate and necessary synthesis of Paul's teaching." He has produced a persuasive and rewarding book defending this Scriptural doctrine.

Vickers desires to avoid the twin extremes of seeing too much in a particular text by importing ideas into it (eisegesis) and seeing too little in the text by failing to see the big picture (ignoring the interpretation of Scripture by Scripture). As a corollary goal, he hopes to show that "Protestant theology, particularly the Reformed tradition, has not been dominated only by systematicians who cared little for exegesis" (p. 18, footnote 4).

Vickers states that the book does not thoroughly examine all of the concepts related to imputation. Topics such as righteousness and union with Christ are not given an exhaustive treatment but are dealt with in light of their implications for imputation. He also informs readers that the book overlooks much important historical material to focus on the matters of exegesis related to imputation. Finally, this book does not contain a section devoted to a study of the New Perspective on Paul, although Vickers gives extensive bibliographical listings and interacts with proponents of New Perspective views in various sections as these ideas relate to imputation.

To give context and frame to the discussion, chapter one sketches the history of the doctrine of imputation, beginning with the Reformation and continuing to the present. The chapters that follow are an examination of key texts relevant to imputation and contain rigorous exegesis, technical language, and copious footnotes. Vickers concludes with a synthesis of Paul's teaching and a final chapter on the importance of the doctrine of imputation. Each chapter closes with a helpful summary.

Vickers demonstrates that the doctrine of imputation was not fully developed by the Reformers but was refined by their followers in writings and church creeds. He argues that imputation, though often associated with covenant theology, is not restricted to a covenantal framework (p. 34, footnote 36). He shows that modern theologians can be found across the spectrum, including those who embrace traditional views and those who deny imputation but finds that the traditional view is a neglected doctrine in modern times (p. 44). Vickers notes that "the inductive and descriptive nature of biblical theology" can provide "a guard against unfounded deductions" from particular texts, but it can also pose a danger by preventing any kind of synthesis of various texts (p. 69). He argues for the legitimacy of systematic theology, particularly in regard to imputation.

Chapter two focuses on Paul's quotation of Genesis 15:6: "Abraham believed in God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3, English Standard Version). Vickers shows that Paul's understanding of Abraham is at odds with Jewish tradition that sees Abraham's works as the ground of his justification. By studying the context of Romans, Vickers concludes that Abraham is ungodly, and he receives imputed righteousness through faith apart from works. Vickers sums up his conclusion on imputation in Romans 4:

Romans 4:1-8 is about the appropriation of righteousness, and that righteousness, as a status declared by God, is most clearly linked in this text with the non-imputation of sin, i.e., forgiveness. This status is brought about by the reckoning of faith as righteousness. Faith is not itself the righteousness, but as is made clear in the context, faith is the instrument that unites the believer to the object of faith. The object is thus the source of the righteousness that is reckoned to the believer (p. 111).

Chapter three discusses Romans 5:19 ("For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous," ESV), as well as its immediate context of 5:12-21 and other sections of Romans. Adam and Christ, as representatives of the human race, determine by their actions the status of those they represent. Vickers concludes that this passage presents the basis for the counting of the believer as righteous in Romans 4. He writes:

The righteous status, made possible by Christ's obedience, is applied to the believer when he puts his faith in God. Christ's obedience "counts" for the status that is secured at the cross, and appropriated by faith, through which comes the declaration of the actual status, "righteous" (p. 157).

Second Corinthians 5:21 ("For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God," ESV) is the focus of chapter four. Vickers argues that Paul draws heavily on the "Servant Songs" in Isaiah (such as chapter 53), which prophesy of Christ's sufferings while placing them in a sacrificial context. This shapes the meaning of the phrase "made sin." Furthermore, he says:

From first to last this is an act of God, who made Christ a sacrifice for sin by causing the sins of others to be counted to him. The twin statements, "a new creation" and "become the righteousness of God," both centered in the phrase "in Christ" and dependent on his representative death, indicate that just as sin was reckoned to Christ, so too is Christ's sacrificial death counted for righteousness to those "in him." God counts them as righteous because they have Christ's righteousness, they have Christ himself, and he has them (p. 190).

In chapter five, Vickers offers a synthesis of imputation taken from the texts examined in chapters two, three, and four. His position is strengthened by looking at the relation of other texts to imputation: 1 Corinthians 1:30, Philippians 3:9, and Romans 9:30-10:4. He finds that Paul teaches that Christ's righteousness is imputed to believers, His obedience having counted for those united to Him by faith. God has acted "through Christ on behalf of sinners, who though undeserving are forgiven and declared righteous as a free gift from God on the basis of Christ's substitutionary death" (p. 232).

Vickers concludes that the imputation of Christ's righteousness is a doctrine derived from a biblical-theological study of Paul's writings and, therefore, is the teaching of the Scriptures.

Jesus' Blood and Righteousness will challenge many readers, particularly those not acquainted with Hebrew and Greek words and grammar. The book is highly technical in some places, and the footnotes may become wearisome. However, Vickers has done his homework. He has produced an in-depth biblical-theological study that is well worth the effort to mine its gold. Educated readers, particularly pastors and seminarians, should obtain this book and study it.

Jesus' Blood and Righteousness effectively bridges the unnecessary gap many try to create between biblical and systematic theology, revealing the need for both and the legitimacy of a synthesis of the various pieces of the puzzle, based on proper exegesis. Vickers admits that there is no single text that explicitly states that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer, but, with thorough exegesis, consideration of objections, and interaction with other scholars, he convincingly demonstrates that the doctrine of imputation is nonetheless a scriptural teaching that Christians cannot afford to discard.

In the end, Vickers accomplishes his goal to show the legitimacy of imputation as a synthesis of Paul's teaching, demonstrating that good systematic theology is based on proper exegesis. The book has reinforced for me the need to study the Bible carefully and to interpret Scripture with Scripture, so I neither read too much into a text nor miss the forest for the trees. It has also spurred renewed gratitude to God for the gift of Christ's righteousness imputed to us through faith that unites us to Him. What grace that God counts Christ's obedience as ours! What good news we have to share! Truly, as Edward Mote penned, our "hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Exegesis which finds the Reformed Doctrine of the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness to Believers in Paul 8 Jan. 2009
By S. E. Paynter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a published version of the author's PhD thesis, and is a
careful and substantial piece of work. The author sets out to exegete
the main the passages which have traditionally been used as evidence
for the Reformed doctrine that justification involves the imputation
of Christ's righteousness to believers. The three main passages he
considers are Romans 4; Romans 5:12-21; and 2 Corinthians 5:21. He
exegetes each carefully, not trying to find the whole `doctrine' in
each passage. Vickers then synthesises them together. He then
supplements this synthesis with consideration of other relevent
Pauline passages (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; and
Romans 9:30-10:4). As the reviewers quoted on the book observe,
Vickers's work has an irenic tone, and he does not demonise those with
whom he disagrees.

In an opening chapter Vickers shows his understanding of the historic
dimensions to this debate, tracing `trajectories' in the way
imputation has been treated by various scholars since the
Reformation. He deals briefly with Luther; Malanchthon; Calvin;
various Protestant confessions; John Owen; Charles Hodge; Louis
Berkhof; Albrecht Ritschl; Rudoplh Bultmann; Adolph Schlatter; Ernst
Kasemann; and Peter Stuhlmacher.

Vickers conclusions from his exegesis are that the classic orthodox
Reformed view is substantially right. He recognises that justification
in Pauline thought, although sometimes treated as being essentially
just forgiveness of sins, actually involves a `counting' of a positive
righteousness before God, and that this righteousness is Christ's,
for it is based on his substitutionary redeeming death for believers,
and is for those who are found in him through faith.

Vickers has a helpful position on the controversal distinction between
Christ's `active' and `passive' obedience. He underlines that
biblically it is not right to view Christ's death as purely `passive
obedience' and his life as purely `active' obedience. Each of his
actions have both elements. Vickers is not denying the
`active/passive' distinction can be helpful if understood correctly,
and he is certainly not denying that for Paul justification involves a
`positive' imputation of righteousness and not merely the `negative'
non-imputation of sin.

As a contemporary work of New Testament exegesis this is an exemplary
work showing how exegesis should be carried out with appropriate
historical and theological awareness. Vickers conversation partners
are not only current scholars, such as James Dunn, N.T. Wright,
R.H. Gundry, John Piper, Richard Gaffin and D.A. Carson, but the
principal commentators through history, including Luther, Calvin,
Vermigli, Turretin, Owen, Buchanan and Vos. Vickers, in a synthesising
chapter, does not fail to address the main objections that have been
raised to the doctrine of imputation.

In conclusion, this is an important contemporary defense of a critical
doctrine, which determines whether the Church stands or falls. Well
worth any Christian's time to read, but mandatory for any minister or
scholar who doubts (or who has to deal with those who doubt) whether
the classic Reformed doctrine can be justified from Scripture.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent treatment of the subject and relevant texts 1 Sept. 2009
By PastoralMusings - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Jesus' Blood And Righteousness
(Paul's Theology of Imputation)
Brian Vickers
ISBN-10: 1581347545
ISBN-13: 978-1581347548
Brian Vickers demonstrates that he is indeed in the correct field. As assistant professor of New Testament interpretation as The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, Vickers knows his job and does it well. This book is evidence of that.
Subtitled "Paul's Theology of Imputation", Jesus' Blood And Righteousness shows us what that theology is.
Vickers does not simply take isolated texts and make a system of theology out of them. He takes the texts, studies them, mines their depths, and comes up with the jewels of truth. He then compares Scripture with Scripture to get the bigger picture so that all of Paul's thought can be seen.
This book is not simply a systematic theology. Neither is it a series of expositions on texts related to the controversy relating to justification and imputation. This book takes each text on its own, considers it, then brings it into harmony with Paul's other texts.
Vickers digs deeply into the Greek text. He also takes us into semantic domains and shows how related words were used even in the LXX. He then demonstrates how the words are to be used in their context, and how they support the doctrine of imputed righteousness.
There is much repetition in the book, but it is necessary repetition so that we can always keep before us the whole of Pauline thought on this issue.
Vickers' conclusion is that Paul does indeed teach us that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer by God.
For those who are willing to take the time to wrestle with deep theology, and care deeply about doctrine (especially the doctrine of justification by faith) this book is highly recommended.
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