Serving the High Plains

Sins blotted out through faith

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” (Psalm 51:1)

This is the first line of King David’s confession of sin after the Bathsheba incident. I’ve mentioned previously that the basis of his hope is the steadfast love of God (as opposed to anything in himself).

Now, though, take a look at that last phrase: blot out my transgressions. The Hebrew word there for blotting out is the one you would use for wiping something clean, like a dirty dish.

This points to a key concept in what we call the Gospel. In fact, without this concept, we don’t really have any “good news” to give to sinners seeking mercy from their heavenly judge.

The five dollar theological word for that concept is “imputation.” In the simplest terms, imputation means attributing something to someone.

I suggest thinking of imputation in banking terms. To a great extent, you have the money in your account that your financial institution says you have, no more, no less. What they attribute to you, that’s what you have. Any error in the recording process is disastrous, because, at the end of day, only what is imputed to your account is actually yours.

When David asks God to blot out his transgressions, he’s seeking an imputation to his account, the attribution of innocence. He has sinned. He’s not denying that. In fact, he’s fully admitting it. What he’s asking is that God would erase what’s currently written on his account.

If you’re thinking that’s what the kids call a “big ask,” you’d be right about that.

However, the good news is that this is what God has promised to do for the sinner who cries out to him in faith.

One place this is taught is Romans 4:1-12, where the apostle points out that it’s not the so-called good person who is blessed. Rather, the one whose sins are not imputed to him is the blessed one.

So how can God simply blot out the record of sin, and yet still lay claim to being a just judge? We would recall any human judge who let guilty criminals go based upon some willingness to act like they’d never broken the law. So how can God get away with this light treatment of sin and still be righteous himself?

Well, here’s exactly where the good news is. He can do that because, prior to imputing righteousness to you, the sinner, he has previously, already, imputed your sins to the account of Jesus of Nazareth. He then punished all those sins with agony and death, as they deserve. This is what preachers mean (or should) when we talk about Christ dying for your sins. He died as if guilty of them. They got punished.

God can justify the ungodly (Romans 4:5), blotting out their sins from the heavenly record, because he has dealt with those sins by imputing them to Christ, as if he had committed them. All sin gets punished. You, however, can be free from them, by this merciful act of imputation.

Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at:

[email protected]