The Divine Transaction

There is a divine transaction that takes place when someone becomes a Christian. By trusting in Jesus the following trade takes place:



  • Your sins and the associated guilt are transferred to Jesus’ account. He willingly took the punishment for these sins on the cross.
  • Jesus’ righteousness and perfection are imputed or credited to your account.

It is the ultimate good deal.

11 thoughts on “The Divine Transaction”

  1. One thing I would add is that, while Christ’s righteousness is imputed to one’s account immediately on accepting His gift of grace and accepting Him as Lord and Savior, God wills that the righteousness that is imputed by our salvation should grow through sanctification. Our adoption into God’s family is really a first step into God’s plans, as He desires us to grow into maturity.

    In Luke 14, Christ told us to count the cost of being His disciple, that it involves bearing our own crosses and renouncing all that we have.

    In Philippians 2, Paul encouraged his early Christian audience to “work out” their salvation, to bring it to maturity: “for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis used a metaphor by George MacDonald to address the very subject of “counting the cost,” and to explain how Christ will not keep Himself to curing just those ills you want cured:

    “Imagine yourself as a living House. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

    There is a cost to becoming the mature son that the Father desires, the faithful disciple that the Son desires, and the purified temple that the Spirit desires. Despite that cost, what Christ offers is still “the ultimate good deal”: indeed, becoming a mature member of God’s family is far better than merely being adopted as a baby into that family. It is the only way to become what God always intended.

    But because Christ and His Apostles didn’t avoid being frank about that cost, neither should we.


  2. Good post, Neil!

    Many people, unfortunately, don’t understand, don’t want to know about, or refuse to see their need for this divine transaction.

    Jesus himself asks, “Who do you say that I am?”

    Every person on earth needs to answer that question.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Bubba’s comment regarding the ongoing need for sanctification within a born-again believer’s life. I loved the C.S. Lewis house analogy which demonstrates why certain things may happen in our walk with Christ. Sometimes the worst events in our lives brings us closer to faith and trust in God.

    Counting the cost of following Jesus is important for believers to realize. However, the precious cost of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins outweighs anything we would ever face on this earth.


  3. If you mean sanctification, like works, naturally proceeds through an active sincere Christian’s life, then we agree, Bubba. I mean, we agree that that’s what the idea of sanctification is within the context of this transaction approach to explaining the atonement and change wrought in a Christian’s life, which I think is basically the “Satisfaction Theory.”

    I think that lifetime sanctification as a natural result of one’s relationship with God through Christ also fits the Moral-Influence Theory, which I tend toward these days. About the Moral-Influence Theory, from Theopedia:

    “Christ died to influence mankind toward moral improvement. This theory denies that Christ died to satisfy any principle of divine justice, but teaches instead that His death was designed to greatly impress mankind with a sense of God’s love, resulting in softening their hearts and leading them to repentance. Thus, the Atonement is not directed towards God with the purpose of maintaining His justice, but towards man with the purpose of persuading him to right action. Formulated by Peter Abelard (1079-1142) partially in reaction against Anselm’s Satisfaction theory, this view was held by the 16th century Socinians. Versions of it can be found later in F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Horace Bushnell (1802-1876).”


  4. ER, if a man ran into a burning building to rescue his wife, that would impress upon me his love for his wife; if a man dove into a rushing river to save a stranger from drowning, that would impress upon me his love for his fellow man.

    But what if no one’s in the inferno or the rapids? Such behavior on the man’s part would be capricious and psychotic: even if done out of love for his wife or for humanity, putting himself in such danger for no good reason doesn’t inspire me to follow suit, and I doubt it would inspire anyone else.

    The subjective truth of the cross hinges on its objective truth: that it inspires men to repent is dependent on the fact that it was truly necessary for salvation. I agree that the cross inspires men to do good, but only because the cross was necessary to save us from our sins. Remove that necessity, and I see no real reason for it to be inspirational.

    To be very blunt about it, Jesus Christ is not Johnny Knoxville.


  5. That Moral Influence theory as stated above goes against Biblical teaching. Christ did not die for our “moral imporvement.” He died in our place, suffered out deserved judgement, our punishment, God’s wrath was poured upon Him because God demanded justice for our sin. Atonement IS directed towards God. Christ’s whole purpose for our redemption is to glorify the Father through His perfect obedience and sacrificial death in our stead. The miracle is that Jesus Christ has done ALL the work that we are incapable of doing. (See Ephesians). Romans 5 says: (I am using, NKJ version.)
    “Faith Triumphs in Trouble
     1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have[a] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

    Christ in Our Place
    6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

    Death in Adam, Life in Christ
    12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
    18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
    20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    And 2 Corinthians 5:1-20 says:
    “Assurance of the Resurrection
     1 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
    6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
    The Judgment Seat of Christ
    9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
    Be Reconciled to God
    12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
    16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
    20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

    And Romans 8 says:
    “Free from Indwelling Sin
     1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
    12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

    Lest anyone doubt the validity of these verses, I will appeal to the very words of Christ, Himself:

    “John 3:13-20
    13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.[a] 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but[b] have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
    18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    If there is “moral improvement” it is a result of the action of the Holy Spirit, giving us spiritual fruit, after our conversion, ie belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our propitiation for sin. Sanctification is the process of removing the indwelling sin from our lives until our deaths and we are glorified.


  6. I merely presented the moral influence theory as one of the several theories of Christian atonement.

    I don’t think Bubba and I disagree so much on this. Mainly because of the ER Proviso of the Moral Influence Theory — that is, no mere example, not even Christ’s, is enough to inspire goodness in man. But His example IS an encouragement to self-sacrifice, which, while enabled, perhaps, by faith, does not come naturally to anyone, saved or not.

    Kristine’s view IS the prevailing view among conservative Christians. My main questions surrounding it have to do, as usual, with reconciling James and Paul, who do, in fact, emphasize different things. I am no Paulist. I am no Jamesist, either. But the exact nuts-and-bolts of what happened on the Cross are interpreted by which one of those guys one feels speaks most authoritatively. Which is why I say that virtually any doctrinal assertion beyond “faith” in Christ and a conscienceness of the Lordship of Jesus is usually a source of contention rather than of fellowship.


  7. One thing… On the first comment, the author wrote, “God wills that the righteousness that is imputed by our salvation should grow through sanctification.” It should be understood, however, that it is not this “righteousness” that needs to grow, because this is the already perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. What we need is for our own life to become more and more holy – which is sanctification. But the righteousness which is credited to our account does not need growing. this seems like a small detail but it has profound ramifications if not understood correctly!


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