Pristine Grace

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?
Part 4 of 4
by Brandan Kraft

August 18, 2019

What Does Made Sin Actually Mean?

      Parts onetwo, and three of this article series were recently published.  My final part in this article series will deal with Clay Curtis's sermon titled, The Blessing of Imputation.  It can be viewed or listened to in its entirety on Sermon Audio.  But for the purpose of analysis and commentary, I transcribed it in its entirety and have made it available for download.  I think this is an important sermon to listen to because it really exposes what the 4th camp is preaching.  Yes you read right, four camps.  

     I know earlier in this article series I mentioned that there were three camps.  The first camp, or the camp that I agree with, believes the phrase made sin in 2 Cor. 5:21 refers primarily to imputation.  The second camp believes the phrase made sin encompasses the whole atonement including imputation.  The third camp believes Christ was a sinner on the cross, that rebellion was infused into the person of Christ.  This was the position of Mark Daniel in his now infamous sermon entitled Absolute Substitution.  This third camp is a pretty small camp, as I don't know anyone who really holds to that position.  So what's the fourth camp?  This is the camp that I discovered after writing parts 1 and 2 of this series.  Well let's get into that now!

     This fourth camp, I now call the undefined camp.  They haven't really defined what made sin means.  And because of that confusion reigns.  One of the most difficult, most confusing sermons I've ever listened to was the sermon I just transcribed for this article.  It really hurt my brain to listen to it, to even read it after transcribing it.  And even now I'm still trying to process it, and decypher it.  It's as if the whole thing was presented in a code, and I will now attempt to try and see what Mr. Curtis was trying to convey and add my commentary.     For the sake of brevity, I will not quote the entire sermon in this article.  I will try to only include parts that I believe are important to comment on.

     Also, I'd like to take the time to define the word impute.  Not once in this sermon by Mr. Curtis was the word defined.  Does the word impute only mean one thing?  Can it mean something different depending on context?  Let's start by going to the dictionary.    According to Merriam-Webster, the word impute can have a couple meanings.   

  1. To lay the responsibility or blame for (something) often falsely or unjustly.
  2. To credit or ascribe (something) to a person or a cause

     Some synonymns for impute include the following: accredit, ascribe, attribute, chalk up, lay, put down

     Additionally, Merriam-Webster tells us how we can start using the word impute in our every day vocabulary.

Impute is a somewhat formal word that is used to suggest that someone or something has done or is guilty of something. It is similar in meaning to such words as ascribe and attribute, though it is more likely to suggest an association with something that brings discredit. When we impute something, we typically impute it to someone or something. You may also encounter the related noun imputation, which appears in such contexts as "I deny all your imputations of blame." Another sense of impute means "to calculate as a value or cost (as for taxation)," as in "impute a benefit from the use of the car."

     Please notice that this definition is very simple and straight forward.  Another good word for impute is reckon or accounted.  The scriptures use these words interchangeably.  Example: 

Gal 3:6, (KJV), Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Rom 4:3, (KJV), For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Rom 4:9, (KJV), Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Jas 2:23, (KJV), And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

     According to my Strongs Bible, the greek word used in all four of those verses is logizomai.  

logizomai; from G3056 (in the sense of an account or reckoning); to reckon, to consider: — consider (6), considered (2), counted (1), counting (1), credit (1), credited (9), credits (1), dwell (1), maintain (1), numbered (2), propose (1), reason (1), reckoned (2), regard (4), regarded (3), suppose (1), take into account (3), thinks (1).

     So when I say that sin is imputed to Christ, I mean that it was reckoned to Him.  He was regarded as sinful.  He was counted as sinful.  When He was made sin He was made sin by imputation.  He did not become sinful in His being.  He was the Lamb without Spot!  But He offered Himself up to God, and God laid upon Him the iniquity of all of His elect  people.  And this was a very real thing.  It wasn't some mystical accounting in the mind of God.  This reckoning, this imputing, this accounting, this regarding resulted in God pouring out His wrath on Christ, our surety and substitute.  Christ hung on a tree, bearing our guilt and shame, and suffered on our behalf.  This is what it means to be made sin.

     But this fourth camp, this undefined camp, this dazed and confused camp doesn't seem to think this is true at all!  No, they say that Christ had to be made sin before He could be imputed with sin.   What?  Say that again!  They say Christ had to be made sin before he could be imputed with sin.  But they neither define what made sin or to impute means.  They quote all kinds of scripture and expect you to know what they are talking about.  To the untrained ear, you might think that they actually do!  They can speak eloquently and formally.  They seem to preach the Gospel well in their other sermons.  If you didn't know any better, you might think they are telling you the truth.  But the reality is they're just preaching a bunch of gobbledygook and calling it Gospel preaching.  But this is not the Gospel.  This is not Gospel preaching.  And because of that, it is anti-Gospel.  To get up in a pulpit and claim to be preaching the Gospel and not speak clearly or without clearly defining the meanings of the phrases and words they use, they are actually speaking an anti-Gospel message.  But that's my opinion anyway.  

     So let's get into Mr. Curtis's sermon.  Let's look at it, take it apart, and analyze it to see if we can make any heads or tails of what he's trying to communicate.

Now according to the use of imputation and all its forms in Scripture, God only imputes to a man what the man has in fact been made by a prior act.  Let me say that again.  According to all Scripture, God only imputes to a man what the man has been made by a prior act.  If God enables us to cease leaning to our own understanding.   (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     Danger! Danger!  Religionists everywhere will tell you to cease leaning upon your understanding.  This is a favorite verse (Prov 3:5) pulled out in arguments all the time.  I remember early in my believing life when I got kicked out of a church for my understanding of the Gospel, I was told by the church leaders there to stop leaning upon my own understanding and just agree with them.  False teachers everywhere will pull that card, and as believers we need to be as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents.  

"You need not lean on your own understanding Brandan!  You need to trust what I'm saying.  Don't be carnally minded, but be spiritual and agree what I have to say - if you don't, you're still leaning upon your own carnal mind.  And that's just prideful!"

     Now I don't know if Clay is saying that or not, but I'm telling you need to be on guard when preachers pull this verse out like a trump card.  The truth is, if you believe the Gospel, you've been given the mind of Christ.  Our minds are being renewed, and we can understand what the Scriptures say because the Holy Spirit illuminates them to us!  Please don't take the anti-intellectual attitude when you approach the scriptures, thinking that they can't be known.  

Rom 12:2, (KJV), And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Eph 3:6, (KJV), That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

1 Cor 2:11-16, (KJV), For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. (12) Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (13) Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (16) For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

     We have the knowledge of the Gospel, and it is the hermeneutic we turn to when it's time to interpret Scripture, when it's time to understand what the Scriptures are saying. We have the logic of God, and the ability to reason with Scripture because we have the ultimate keystone!  We have the Gospel.

     I apologize for that short diversion.  Let's get back to made sin shall we?  So what is Clay talking about here?  That one has to be made something to be imputed or counted as something?  What does Clay mean by impute?  Quite frankly I don't think I know!  Let's keep going...

Brethren my desire in preaching this is for us to behold that the judge of the whole earth shall do right.  And I want for every believer here to enter in to the joy of knowing how God imputesI want you to know how God imputes according to the Scripture.  Now here's my first point.  According to Scripture, God only imputes factHe only imputes fact.  God only imputes what a man is by a prior act that made him so.  God will not impute what the man is not.  Now let me show you a few examples in Scripture.  Let's go to Leviticus 17 in verse three.  We need to look at several scriptures.  (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     Oh brother.  Here we go.  First Clay states he wants us to know how God imputes.  Great!  Let's hear it!  And boom, he strikes out.  He didn't even get up to the plate and he was called out on strikes.    God only imputes fact he says!  What!?!?!  First of all, what does he mean by impute?  Does he mean account or reckon?  If he does, this is false.  Because it would mean Christ was sinful and he was then counted as sinful.  It would mean we were righteous and thus counted as righteous.  Surely you don't mean that Clay, right?

Let's go on....

Lev. 17:3, This is the Lord speaking, What man soever there be of the House of Israel that killeth an OX or lamb or a goat in the camp or that killeth out of the camp and bringeth it not to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation to offer an offering unto the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord.

Blood shall be imputed because it is a fact.  He hath shed blood.  And then he will be justly punished.  And that man shall be cut off from among his people.

Now by that prior act right there, this man became a shedder of blood.  By that act right there.  Now due to this fact, look what God said, blood shall be imputed unto that man.  Why?  He hath shed blood.  (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

      What's your point Clay?  Men can be falsely accounted or imputed as shedders of blood by men.  Was it possible that anyone in Old Covenant Israel was falsely imputed?  Falsely charged with a crime and falsely punished?  We hear tales of that happening today, here in America.  It's possible to be falsely charged.  Jeremiah was falsely charged or imputed and imprisoned by Nebuchadnezzar.  Why even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was falsely charged in the court of men.  Fact doesn't matter when it comes to men, only what is perceived as fact.  But that's not the point.  Clay, just because you've pulled examples from Scripture showing that God imputes to some men what they are, doesn't mean He does so in all cases.  To say He has to is to put God up to some eternal bar of justice and require Him to abide by it.  But God does not abide by some external eternal law philosophy.  He is the law.  And what He says is so whether you think it is or not!  To say that He must abide by a hard and fast rule that He Himself does not say He abides by is to go beyond the realm of scripture and resort to leaning upon your own understanding.

Now let me ask you, does our accounting to the Lord Jesus that He has finished the work and made His people righteous?  Does our accounting that to Him that make it so?  No, we account it to Him because it is finished.  It is so.  (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     Wow, you got up to the batters box and struck out again here Clay!  No I agree that our accounting to Christ what He is does not make it so.  But God's accounting is so, because GOD SAYS IT IS SO.  Not because it was made so.  Again, God is not required to act according to a higher principle to obey and abide by an eternal law of "justice."  God does as He pleases.  And if He desires to count Christ as sinful even though it is not so, then He can do it, right?  I mean, He is the Creator of all things!   And you know what else?  It pleased the Lord to bruise Christ.  And He counted Him as sinful, and the elect as righteous.  Not because he had to, or because some court of law required Him to, but because it pleased Him.    

Isa 53:10, (KJV), Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  

     But let's continue...  I'm skipping over the Romans 5 passage because it just is a complicated mess.  If you so desire to hear what Clay was saying there, I recommend you download the transcript or listen to the audio passage.  I think I need to say here that I hold to a unique perspective on Adam that differs significantly from my brethren as I do not agree with the federal headship of Adam or the imputation of his sin to men.  Actually, my perspective is that sin is never accounted to the elect.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Rom 4:8).  You can read more about what I believe concerning Adam in my article, Adam's Original Sin along with my different perspective on Covenant Theology which I deem Modified Covenant Theology as opposed to Dispensationalism, New Covenant Theology, and Classical Covenant Theology.

When God imputes sin to us, now let me ask you this, when God imputes sin to us, is He treating us as IF we're sin?  Not hardly.  And God doesn't make us sin by merely imputing sin to us.  It says by one man's disobedience many were made sinners.  And for that fact, God imputed sin to us.  As truly as Levi was in Abraham, when Abraham paid in his loins, when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizidek, we were in Adam's loins when Adam broke the law in the Garden of Eden, and we became sin.  And for that reason God imputed sin to us. (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     My surprising answer to you is God simply doesn't impute sin to His people.  As sure as we were righteous in the eternal perspective of God by imputation as imputation is an eternal and immanent act, so is the imputation of sin to Christ.  If sin is imputed to Christ and it is indeed an eternal and immanent act surely as righteousness is imputed to us, then it must be so that sin was never imputed to us.  God never imputes sin to His people.  He never charges them with their sin... He doesn't even charge Adam's sin to them.  All of our sin has been charged to Christ!  And this has been worked out in God's mind from before the foundation of the world.  Ahh, the blessings of imputation.  God is not dependent upon time in order to impute something as Clay would have us believe.  No, the events of time are indeed dependent upon the eternal decree of God.  Christ was made sin by imputation, not because He was "made something" (whatever that something might be).  Christ suffered the penalty of sin becuase He was fulfilling the decree of God.  Whenever we get away from the sovereignty of God in all things, we start speaking foolishness like what we're hearing from Mr. Curtis.  You end up sounding like an unbeliever who only sees things carnally and from their own feeble perspective, never considering that God the Sovereign I am does whatsoever He pleases.  The unbeliever sees God as a reactionary being, one who is affected by the things that occur in this world.  They never stop and think that things in this world are because He deems it to be!   And unfortunately language like this from Mr. Clay resembles much of what you would hear from the religious and unbelieving world.

You know when an accountant totals how much money a man has in his 401k, he imputes, he accounts that amount of money to be in that 401k.  Now he doesn't put that money in the 401k by counting it to be so.  Some of us would like to find an accountant that could do that.  But he doesn't do that.  He imputes what is actually the fact.  He accounts what's the actual fact in that account.  That's the definition the Greek lexicon gives of imputation.  But more importantly as we've just seen, that's the definition Scripture gives of imputation;. (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     A 401K is really just a fancy ledger.  The money isn't really there.  It's just an accounting of sorts.  It's 1's and 0's on a spreadsheet or a table in a database in some remote computer system.  And sin can be moved from one side of the ledger of God and put to another's account just as surely as righteosness can.  He's the accountant, and if He so desires, He can go into the computer system and simply move the numbers around however He desires!  Why would we say He can't do that?   After all, it's His money.  It's His accounting system.  It's His creation.  Everything belongs to Him!  This is entirely the point of Romans 9.  For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth - Rom 9:11. Don't tell me that God can't do something because an accountant wouldn't do something.  God is not just some junior level accountant working at a Wall Street bank.  He's THE ACCOUNTANT!

...This message has been a long time in the making.  There's been many faithful men, faithful men, past and present.  Many well meaning men, past and present who have said that Christ was made sin by imputation.  It's said that God imputed the sin of His people to Christ, and He treated Christ as if He were sin.  But according to Scripture, God won't impute sin where one's not been made sin under law.  God imputed sin to us due to the fact that we were in Adam and sinned in Adam.  That was the reason He imputed sin to us.   (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     Again, sin is not imputed to the elect. But I'm not going to get into that again.  It's good to see here that Curtis does acknowledge that this perspective on made sin is something rather new.  I'm not actually going to criticize him for that.  I know what it is like to have a unique perspective that goes against the grain, that goes against the standard and widely held understanding.  My criticism of Clay is due strictly to this doctrine affecting the Sovereignty of God, turning Him seemingly into a reactionary being.  My criticism of Clay is due to this doctrine seemingly teaching that Christ became sinful in order for sin to be imputed.  Later in this sermon when he says Christ was not polluted with rebellion, this doesn't totally get him off the hook in my opinion.  But let's go on....

The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  With men, it's absolutely impossible for one man to bear the crime of another man.  And for the law to say he's the only one guilty of that crime, that's impossible with men.  And so for that reason, we have a tendency to want to object because we can't logically reason this out, we can't understand....

....

Now brethren, we are to believe the word of the Lord even when it goes beyond our reasoning. ...  Because the point of the matter is, we're like little kindergarteners learning their 1, 2, 3's.  Compared to Einstein.  That's what we're like.  When we get done, we're gonna find out we just have the tip of the iceberg.  We don't have the fullness of this.  So why on earth can you imagine that some kindergartner's get mad because one said, "1, 2, 4" instead of "1, 2, 3?"  (Laughter from the audience)(The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     This is a logical fallacy.  It's an appeal to stupidity.  He's basically saying we need to believe what he says regarding made sin even if we don't understand and even if he can't explain it himself.  I find it ironic that Clay mentioned Einstein.  It's funny because Mr. Einstein himself said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

The fact of the matter is, we ought not ever divide over a scripture like this, over a doctrine like this, we ought to never make this a point of division and call somebody a heretic because they don't agree with this.

Not one faithful man that I know teaches that by Christ being made sin, that Christ was made a rebellious sinner.  Christ was made sin, and at the same time He never sinned Himself.  How could that be possible?  The things that are impossible with men are possible with God. (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     What I really think is going on is a man named Mark Daniel got fired from a congregation for saying Christ was made a sinner, and in response to that Don Fortner and company defended him and in doing so created a whole new understanding of imputation with complicated linguistics.  But after forming this new "made sin" doctrine folks began to realize what the implications of this are.  That's why they are careful to say that Christ was not polluted with sin and rebellion.  It's as if they are walking back their new doctrine a bit.  And now there is a powerful group think force that has gripped the minds of men.  I would not be surprised to hear there are men amongst them that are afraid to say they agree with imputation strictly by free and sovereign grace instead of the complicated bar of external justice they've devised.  But what Fortner, Nibert, Clay, and company are doing is distorting the Gospel and sadly it all appears to be due to pride, stubborness and group-think.

Brethren, God only imputes fact.  And because of that God never speaks to us in "as if" language.  Never. (The Blessing of Imputation, Clay Curtis, 2017)

     He's right, the words "as if" are not in Scripture.  But the concept is.  Christ was treated as if He were a sinner.  He was not imputed with sin because He was a sinner.  If you truly believe that, that's anti-Gospel doctrine.  If I had been at the Danville conference and heard this sermon, I would have stood up and walked out the door.  I did that once at a conference in Mississippi.  Bob Higby was with me.  We drove all the way to Mississippi, heard thirty minutes of preaching, and got up and left.  Most of the believers I know feel the same way.  But we are seasoned.  We have a firm grasp of the Gospel.  But there are many believers amongst them that don't have as strong an understanding.  And these preachers need to be careful.  They are destroying the simplicity of Christ by appealing to carnal reasoning.  Keep it up and a few decades from now, their "free grace" churches will be bastions of freewillism.  I urge them to turn away from this madness and return to the simplicity of Christ, the simplicity of God's reckoning, the simplicity of imputation.  

     Lord willing, this concludes my set of articles on Christ being made sin.  I hope the reader has learned something in all of this.  

     Grace and Peace!
     Brandan