Imputed vs. Infused Grace

I am currently taking a Systematic Theology course where I must interact with questions each week. A few weeks ago I was asked that is the difference between imputed grace and infused grace? These words sounds fairly similar, but the meaning behind the words and the grace they impart are vastly different!

Image from City Gates


You walk into a cyber cafe and look up at the menu. You have two choices for today: either a dose of infused grace or imputed grace. “What is the difference?”, you ask your heavenly barista. He answers “One grace you get to wear like a cloak, the other is poured in to your body. The first grace will just make you look righteous and justified, the second one will actually make you holy inside.” That second options sounds lovely to you since you have noticed a certain sense of ‘uncleanness’ recently due to your activities. So you order a nice big cup of infused grace and drink it up. Nothing happens to make you feel that infused grace, so you stand back in line to speak to the barista again. “Hey, I don’t really feel holy inside, are you sure this infused stuff works?” He answers, “Of course it works! You have to come have a daily dose of infusion to really be assured of its working properly. Oh, and you must have this infusion daily. You may also want to jump start the infusion sensation by praying the list of prayers in the brochure right here. Oh, and you should give to the poor. Oh, and we have these holy days and seasons that really boost that infusion, but you have to strictly observe them.” So you ponder this a moment, and ask, “How will I know when it is working?” Your barista looks you in the eye and says, “You won’t know for sure. Only the One who gives the righteousness knows. I mean, think of how dirty you feel, and just think of how much infused grace you need to clean that up?”

This is the infused righteousness of the Roman Catholic Church as decided in the Counsel of Trent, between 1545-1563. There it was decided that the initial instrument of justification was baptism, but that more was required than simply ‘trusting Christ alone for salvation’. There is no certainty of grace within the Catholic teachings, there is also not a standard amount of grace given to each believer, and grace can only increase for you through works. This concept of the salvation process is exactly what the Reformers found repulsive. The Bible is clear that Christ’s work on the cross is final, fully encompassing, and complete (Heb 9:26,10:10). The Bible is clear that we, as dead things in our sin, can do nothing before or after the work of the Holy Spirit to ‘improve our standing before the Lord’. (Rom 10:1-4,Eph 2:8-9) We don’t need a daily infusion of grace, we wear the robe of righteousness of Christ, the Lamb of God (Phil 3:7-12). Our faith in Christ alone is not cause for concern or worry, but rather for assurance (Col 2:1-5,Heb 10:18-22). I have assurance in my salvation because God showed me why and how I must be saved. I have been crucified with Christ, this was an acceptable sacrifice in God’s sight, I now wear Christ’s righteousness for my own, it was attained as God decreed before time began, my name is written in the Book of Life, and all this gives me peace because God did what He promised to do.

This concept of ‘infusion’ is why I love the 5 ‘solas’ of the Reformation:

  1. Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
  2. Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  3. Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  4. Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  5. Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.


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