What is impartation?

The word impart means "to give or to bestow or to convey." Impartation, then, is the act of giving something or granting something. Both material and immaterial things can be imparted. The Bible talks about things being imparted to believers: material goods (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:18), spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11), wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and the message of the gospel (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Some groups of people use the term impartation theologically to refer to a transfer of righteousness to believers in the process of sanctification.

Some denominations, mostly those influenced by John Wesley's teaching, talk about imparted righteousness as a way to explain sanctification. They make a distinction between the doctrine of imputation and this idea of impartation. They believe that we are saved when Christ's righteousness is imputed to us. Then we begin the process of sanctification in which Christ's righteousness is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. This theology is based off 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, "we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another." Second Peter 1:4 and its mention of becoming "partakers of the divine nature" is also used as a supporting Scripture. Unfortunately the idea of impartation leads some to the unbiblical belief of achieving sinless perfection during this lifetime.

Our understanding of how believers obtain righteousness is based in the statement "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." It is obvious that this sentence is important in our understanding of righteousness and salvation because it is discussed multiple times in the New Testament aside from its original appearance in Genesis (Romans 4:3, 22; Galatians 3:6). The theological crux of this sentence is the phrase "counted to him" (sometimes translated as "credited to"). The picture that this phrase paints is that of two accounts, Christ's and ours. We have no righteousness in our account (the Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord, Isaiah 64:6), so God takes Christ's righteousness and puts it into our account. We have done nothing to produce it, but God, seeing a demonstration of faith, counts Christ's righteousness as belonging to us.

Theologians call the concept of the transfer of Christ's righteousness to our account imputation. In fact, the imputation is double—our sin is transferred to Christ, and He paid for it on the cross; His righteousness in transferred to us when we believe in Him. Second Corinthians 5:21 explains it this way, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

It is true that Christ is transforming us into His image, changing our nature (Romans 8:29–30; Romans 12:1–). We are counted as righteous by God because Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us. We are also becoming more righteous in practice. We are called to be willing participants in this work, seeking to obey Christ (John 15:1–17) and to "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Yet it is ultimately "God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). We can be confident that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). The fact that salvation results in righteous fruit (Ephesians 2:10) is not quite the same as saying that believers receive righteousness itself, as imputation would imply.

The Bible is clear about righteousness being imputed to us in justification and the fact of transformation through the process of sanctification. But it is less clear about the theological concept of imparted righteousness.

Related Truth:

What is imputed righteousness? Why does Christ's righteousness need to be imputed to us?

What is justification according to the Bible?

What is sanctification?

What is glorification according to the Bible?

What does righteousness mean?

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