Can we really swap Adam’s sin or Christ’s righteousness for ours ?
There are well-intentioned people, high in the hierarchy of mainstream Christianity, who teach that Christ’s righteousness is “swapped” for ours. This may unnecessarily leave a bad taste to some believers because of its connotation that we do not have to do good works since Christ’s righteousness is already ours; that the Father looks at Christ as our righteousness. Sounds familiar? What does it mean “Christ’s righteousness swapped for us”? Is there “fullness of the truth” in this teaching? Was there really a “swap”? Or is this word “swap” a misapplication of the principles surrounding “imputation, righteousness, gift or reward”? Should the word “swap” be instead changed to “accounted” or “assigned“?
This is a question that many can take opposite sides and either side can still claim to be true and explainable. How could both be true? Where the “rub” is, can only be understood when one traces back the biblical verses from where the teaching was based on. Let us analyze these verses.
Discordant verses ?
Not only has it been emphasized in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament of the Holy Bible that we have to follow the Ten Commandments and have our own righteousness.
In Deut 6:25,it says- “it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.”
2 Sam 22:21 “The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness: according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.”
2 Sam 22:25 “Therefore the LORD hath recompensed me according to my righteousness; according to my cleanness in his eye sight.”
Romans 2: 6-8 “He will reward each one according to his works : eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality,”
Romans 2: 13“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous before God, but those who do the law will be declared righteous. “
The preceding verses clearly confirm the requirement for us to do “good works”. By following God’s commandments, it “shall be our righteousness” and that “according to our righteousness” there will be a reward or recompense. For the reward to be given to us, it has to be our righteousness, not somebody else’s, even from Christ’s. Man-Jesus’ righteousness has to be uniquely for him and for something else, as a “pioneer/beginner” of our faith.
Contrariwise, Isaiah 64:6 states:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. “
Rom 3:10 is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
While we have done righteous things, we have been unrighteous as well. Our “sins sweep us away” from our reward like using “filthy rags“. Since our righteousness “have become like filthy rags”, how then can “our righteousness” be the basis for reward? It appears that there is asynchrony with the concept that reward/recompense is given because of our righteousness. Are these verses contradicting each other? How could this so-called “discrepancy” be when 2Tim. 3:16-17 state:
“All scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
To resolve what appears on the surface as inconsistency, one may have to recall the principle that verses have to be analyzed and harmonized through the lens of correlation with each other, for truth behind the facts to come out as in Isa. 28:10:
“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:”
That being said, how could these verses align themselves toward searching the truth? How could “our righteousness” which our “sins have swept away” and “have become as filthy rags” be worthy of our reward/recompense?
Do we have a “sinful nature”?
To begin to address the premise of the subject at hand, we need to clear a common topic of sermons that humans were created or born with natural bent to sin or with propensity to do evil. This can easily be debunked by:
Genesis 1:31 KJV “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
Not only was man created “very good” but also from the narrative in Genesis, he was given freedom of choice either to eat forbidden fruit or not; Adam was not a robot. Indeed, man is capable to do “good works” on his own. But, he can also do wrong. From the beginning we were created with capability and choice; not propensity or bent to do evil. In Genesis, Adam did good, took care of the garden of Eden and eat allowable fruits from it. But, he also has the capability to eat the “forbidden fruit”, and sinned. Other humans have done likewise, i.e., did both good and evil. However, with Job, he did not sin at all and confirmed by God himself as in:
Job 1:1 “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”
Job 1:8 “.…There is no one like him on the earth, a pure and upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil.”
Job 1:22, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”
This was what Job was on his own, righteous, even before the power of the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. Similarly, on his own and before his baptism, man-Jesus, while human and matter-composed, did not sin at all, as in:
Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
In contrast to Job whose origin was “earthy/ dust/ground/soil”, Jesus was “from above“, heavenly, the incarnated YHVH ELOHIM, LORD GOD(1). Job’s eternal or “second death” from sin was imputed, being a progeny of Adam. Whereas, man-Jesus did not have this imputed sin because of his heavenly origin. While not from Adam’s genealogy, Jesus’ conception (2) was along the line of Adam, viz., Mary & Joseph, as prophesied.
Similarly, a spirit-composed being, Lucifer was perfect until he chose to disobey and became an Adversary, thus named Satan. Clearly, choice is there for matter-composed and spirit-composed beings to do right or wrong; humans have a choice to do good and/or evil, as in:
Deut. 30:15 “Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death.”
Be that as it may, God requires only good works from us, even from Job and Jesus, not a mixture of “good and evil”, like the Deceiver/Satan that he is. In Genesis, God has forbidden Adam to “eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”, and allowed everything else , including that of the “tree of life”. Only “good works” is what God wanted us to have. We have to be a “servant” of goodness, not a “servant of sin or a combination thereof”(John 8;34; Rom. 6:20). Doing “good and evil” is not what God requires. How could this be accomplished? Before addressing this question, let us clear first the following question:
When did our good works become “filthy rags” and unworthy of reward?
Correlating all the preceding, it becomes apparent that there was a time when “our righteousness (own good works) became as filthy rags” and unworthy of reward. When was this?
As God planned this even before the beginning of time, there was a:
1. Time when sin entered the world as assigned to one specific man; one particular sin before the Law was given to Moses and therefore “apart from the Law”, yet with death (second) as penalty.
2. Time when sin was accounted or assigned.
3. Time when our good works became as filthy rags.
4. Time for us to receive the Holy Spirit and be empowered to do only good works, by choice, not combine them with evil. A time to be a “servant of good”.
Consider the following;
Romans 5:12-15 “So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world, but there is no accounting for sin when there is no law. Yet death (eternal/second; Rev. 20:6) reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed”(3).
In essence, while sin has been in the world (even pre/para-Adamic) and there was a sentence of death for all , the specific reference was on that particular disobedience of a specific person (Adam) in the garden of Eden; not anybody else’s. Moreover, there was no accounting for that sin until the time the Law was given to Moses, viz, “no accounting for sin when there is no law.” And this, so that sin will be even more abound or understood to be more horrible, and value of grace even more enhanced, as in:
Rom. 5:20 “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, “
Notice that the object, of when sin and death entered the world, was Adam, not anybody else, even when there were pre-para-Adamic humans who sinned. This was because Adam was the first human who God chose to give the command “not to eat…”as in Gen. 2:16-17. No other pre-or-para-Adamic human was given this command and choice. So, precisely, Adam was chosen as the specific human to start “when sin entered the world” and was the pivotal person from which sin was “accounted” when Law was given to Moses. Also, not any sin like adultery, stealing, murder,etc in Mosaic Law, but the disobedience about eating the fruit wherein is the knowledge of good and evil which is “apart from the Law” as in:
Romans 3:21“But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed – …
In essence, our righteousness “apart” from the Law, and before the power of the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, “became as filthy rags”, “unworthy of reward”, when the time of accounting was done, i.e., when the Law was given to Moses and, even when all humans were sinful, from the very beginning, as God planned.
Imputation and gift
Similarly, as Adam was chosen as a “type” of the person to come, God also decided on who the “anti-type” would be. And this choice of one man was done so that also one man, Jesus, (also the Father’s choice) can take on that penalty of death from the sin of Adam and humanity, as in:
Rom. 5:17-19 “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
Essentially, imputation is specifically about a particular sin of a specific Adam (counted as for all mankind) so that righteousness (a gift) of a specific person, Jesus, can take on the penalty of death for all. It was not about our particular sins in life, after the Law was given, but that of Adam’s, before the Law was given. In other words, there was no direct swap between our sins to Adam’s as in Deut. 24:16:
“Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”
Nor swap of Jesus’ righteousness for ours. There was no swap or exchange ; instead it was a matter of time for “accounting” or “assigning” of righteousness but only for justification, not yet salvation.
What was that particular obedience that was credited for righteousness towards justification and reconciliation ?
Since “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, we are all doomed to die the “second/eternal death” . This is why there has to be a “substitute” for our death, a “Passover” This person has been identified by Paul as in,
I Cor. 5:7 “…Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”
This is the reason YHVH incarnated to man-Jesus. It was the Creator-Jesus who would give his own life for his creation, out of love, as in:
John 3:16 “For God (Father)so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son(Jesus), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
But it was not his death, following God’s will, that was the gift to us for reconciliation/justification. Rather, it was the gift of righteousness. What righteousness? Not Jesus’ action of being crucified and die. Instead, it was Jesus’ belief in the Father that what was promised, the Father would fulfill. And this belief was evidence-based as in ;
Heb.11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
It was this substantive and evidence-based belief, termed “faith”, that was taken and counted for “righteousness “, the “righteousness of his faith”, when he was still alive, pre-crucifixion, as in:
Romans 3:21-31“But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed – namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.
For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.”
Romans 4:1-25”What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh, has discovered regarding this matter? For if Abraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about – but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “ Abraham believed God , and it was credited to him as righteousness .” Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, * his faith is credited as righteousness.
So even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin .”
Is this blessedness then for the circumcision or also for the uncircumcision? For we say, “faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness .” How then was it credited to him? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? No, he was not circumcised but uncircumcised! And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, so that he would become the father of all those who believe but have never been circumcised, that they too could have righteousness credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised, who are not only circumcised, but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham possessed when he was still uncircumcised.
For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not fulfilled through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if they become heirs by the law, faith is empty and the promise is nullified. For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either. For this reason it is by faith so that it may be by grace, with the result that the promise may be certain to all the descendants – not only to those who are under the law, but also to those who have the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations ”). He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed – the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do. Against hope Abraham believed in hope with the result that he became the father of many nations according to the pronouncement, “so will your descendants be .” Without being weak in faith, he considered his own body as dead (because he was about one hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do. So indeed it was credited to Abraham as righteousness.
But the statement it was credited to him was not written only for Abraham’s sake, but also for our sake, to whom it will be credited, those who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification.
The 3rd and 4th Chapters of Romans clearly explained the truth given to Paul and by extension to us now, for our understanding that:
1. The gift of righteousness was not promised due to the action that Jesus took, viz., his crucifixion and death, but his belief that what the Father promised he would fulfill. This is righteousness without “works” and before the Law was given to Moses. And this trust in the Father is substantive and evidenced-based because Jesus was with the Father as YHVH before his incarnation. i.e., based on faith.
2. This Jesus’ faith was counted and credited to him, to Abraham and us, as “righteousness of faith” that initiated or started us to be reconciled to the Father and be justified; i.e., as preliminary step in the process of our salvation . This righteousness of Jesus’ faith defined him as our Passover, “demonstrated by Jesus’ action of being crucified and die”.
What righteousness was “rewarded” with immortal life?
For repetition and emphasis, the “righteousness of Jesus’ faith “, not his works, initiated/started our reconciliation to the Father and justified/negated our past sins. This is a gift out of grace and love of the Father. Likewise, the promise for Jesus to receive the power of the Holy Spirit after his resurrection to be given to us, is also a gift based on “righteousness of faith”. Moreover, our personal righteousness from our own good works became as filthy rags, being a mixture of good and evil, including pure good as Job and man-Jesus that was a product of our own works, are not enough to reward anyone with immortality and ultimately, salvation . A gift comes by belief, trust, faith that is evidence-based, which when activated , completed or demonstrated by action, leads to reward.
How then can we receive this reward of immortality and therefore salvation?
By looking at the life of man-Jesus, we will understand what the process of salvation is and what righteousness was rewarded with immortality, him being the “pioneer/perfector/initiator/author/finisher of our faith” towards salvation” as in:
Heb 12:12 New International Version
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
New Living Translation
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”
English Standard Version
“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,”
New King James Version (NKJV)
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,”
Simply put, Jesus had to be a pioneer, author, initiate, found, champion of faith and also perfect, finish, activate, complete this faith through action. As a human, like Job, man-Jesus lived, on his own, a perfect life, “without sin”. Unlike Job, Jesus “came from above” as YHVH. Their “own righteousness” was not what was required of the Father to receive “reward”, nor righteousness of their own works to receive “gift” of promise towards reconciliation/justification. Instead, it has to be righteousness of “works“, as a product or fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that the works required have to be “fruits of the Holy Spirit “,which happens to have come as a gift of power from the Father, not from our own power,
Rom 6:18 “. ... But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
Recall what happened during the life of Jesus, our “pioneer“ in this process of salvation :
1. YHVH-Creator, a spirit-composed being who was the proximate creator of all including angels, as in:
Col 1.16: New Living Translation “for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see–such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.
English Standard Version “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
This YHVH has to incarnate for him to be the anti-type of Adam, the 2nd-Adam, into man-Jesus and die, being the Passover, for the sin of Adam and, by accounting, to all humankind. As 1 Corinthians 15:45-48 state;
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.”
2. As a man, like Job was, man-Jesus did not sin. Both their flesh-composed bodies suffered physically. Their good works emanate from them and not from where the Father wanted them to come from. Unlike Job, at the river Jordan and not before, Jesus had in-dwelling (Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22) of the Holy Spirit directly from the Father from which he would bear “fruits of the Holy Spirit”. He followed, not his will, but the guidance of this Holy Spirit through Gethsemane and the cross, as in:
Luke 22:42 King James Version (KJV)
“Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Because of his substantive and evidence-based (faith) belief, trust and hope in the Father, Jesus received this power of the Holy Spirit as a gift because of the “righteousness of faith”. Much like Jesus, we, who believe based on Jesus’ faith, will also receive this gift of Holy Spirit as promised.
3. This Holy Spirit, given at river Jordan, empowered man-Jesus and anyone who has this in-dwelling, from Pentecost and on, to do “good works” required by the Father as ”fruits of the Holy Spirit”. Through sanctification and following the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit voluntarily, not our own will, brings forth “fruits of the Holy Spirit” worthy of “reward”. These good works that Jesus and us do, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then are considered and credited as “our righteousness” worthy of the reward of immortality, thus salvation from second/eternal death, eventual glorification. What happened to Jesus, that after his crucifixion/death (action/works) he was resurrected to eternal life as a reward, proved this to be the sequence of events in the process of mankind’s salvation. In a “twinkling of an eye” those who “are overcomers” , like Jesus, will be changed from mortality to immortality as in,
I Cor. 15:52 New Living Translation
“It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.”
Rev. 3:21 “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Rev 2:26 “To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, To them I will give authority over all the nations.”
Rev. 3:21 “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
Matt.24:13 “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”
There was no swap of Christ’s righteousness for our salvation. Instead, there was “crediting/assigning” of his “righteousness of faith and works” to those who believe and follow his example. Imputation is specific to one person(Adam) and specific sin of Adam in Genesis, as it relates to the 2nd Adam(man-Jesus) and his righteousness of faith, given as a gift. The timing of accounting and crediting was when the Law was given to Moses so sin will be even more grievous as grace abounds. Our own righteousness, per se, is as filthy rags not worthy of reward. Rather, it is that particular righteousness that comes by us following the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit of power, given after we believed. It has to work in us, developing our “spirit” to know wisdom(4). It has to be a product or fruits of the Holy Spirit given to us as a gift by the Father through resurrected and spirit-composed Jesus. This becomes our righteousness, (our works as fruits of the Holy Spirit,) that merits reward of immortality, i.e.,salvation from eternal or 2nd death(5). Jesus’ life on earth as a human being showed us the way, the only way, the process that leads to salvation. Let us therefore remember Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith towards our salvation.
1.What is God? Retrieved 3/17/2018 at https://fact-s.net/2014/06/29/what-is-god-2/
2. Incarnation, Questions and Controversies. Retrieved 3/18/2018 at https://fact-s.net/2017/01/12/incarnation-questions-and-controversies/
3. Salvation Series #1. Retrieved 3/26/18 at
4. Kingdom of God in Human Anatomy. Retrieved 3/31/18 from https://fact-s.net/2016/12/21/kingdom-of-god-in-human-anatomy/
5. Death, what is? Retrieved 3/31/18 from https://fact-s.net/2017/05/09/death-what-is/
Original post: March 31, 2018