“…delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
To me, this verse is the pivot on which the whole of the epistle to the Romans turns. Everything so far in the letter has been building to this point, and these words summarise what has gone before. What is more everything Paul writes after this flows from the word THEREFORE which immediately follows them and begins chapter 5. In other words Paul summarises the gospel by this phrase, and writes his application because of these words. We do well to pay attention!
In fact some have even argued that Romans 4:25 is the first Christian creed, summarising the gospel itself.
As I stated in my most recent post urging pastors to preach on the resurrection:
“A Christian is someone who believes in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, and lives in light of the implications of that event.” Raised With Christ, Page 20
We see in Romans 4:25 one of the massive implications of the resurrection of Jesus: it is this that causes our justification.
And yet this verse is rarely given proper detailed attention in commentaries. In my Logos Bible Software collection I own a LOT of commentaries, yet the passage guide for Romans 4:25 has zero entries under it! That doesn’t mean by the way that none of the commentaries discuss it at all, just that they instead refer to it as part of the paragraph it is part of rather than as an individual verse.
Lets look at together what these words mean. What follows is an abridged version of a whole chapter from my book, which I begin by quoting Calvin:
By his death sin was taken away, by his resurrection righteousness was renewed and restored. For how could he by dying have freed us from death, if he had yielded to its power? How could he have obtained the victory for us, if he had fallen in the contest? Our salvation may be thus divided between the death and the resurrection of Christ: by the former sin was abolished and death annihilated; by the latter righteousness was restored and life revived, the power and efficacy of the former being still bestowed upon us by means of the latter.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xvi, 13.
WHAT DOES “RAISED FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION” MEAN?
In Romans 4:25 the Greek behind our English word “for” could mean either “because of” or “in order to produce.” The ESV here, as it often does, deliberately maintains the ambiguity of the original. Some have argued that both “fors” must mean the same thing. However, Jesus’ death did not produce sin in us, and surely Jesus’ resurrection was not as a result of our justification. Surely what Paul intended to say here is that Jesus died to deal with our sin and was raised to produce our justification. There are several aspects of that link between Jesus’ resurrection and our justification, which I explain further in the book:
1. Raised to Give Us a Future Resurrection
Some believe that “justification” here includes the future result of our future justification, our resurrection. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, one day our physical bodies will also return to life.
2. Raised to Prompt Faith in Us
It is the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, following his sin-defeating death, that will inspire us to believe in, trust, obey, and worship him. It seems impossible to imagine having faith in a dead Savior. How could we convince ourselves that Jesus’ death achieved anything for us if he was not alive?
Hearing and believing in the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection causes in us the faith that saves, and only faith in Jesus’ resurrection can save us. According to Romans , the substance of a saving response to God consists of a declaration of the lordship of Jesus, which presumably includes both his divinity and his right to rule over our lives, and faith in the fact of the resurrection:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
It may sound strange to talk about Jesus’ need for justification. But justification is a declaration, a vindication. Jesus’ resurrection announces to the universe that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Prince of Life, that he has fulfilled Scripture, that God is pleased with him, that the work of the cross is now complete, and therefore he had no need to remain dead. If justification is a declaration that someone is not a sinner, what clearer way could God demonstrate that Jesus was righteous and didn’t deserve death, than by raising him from the dead?
What we understand by his resurrection is that the credit of Jesus’ righteousness is much larger than the debt of our sin.His account had more positive approval than the negative disapproval that was due to all of us. The debt was paid, and as a result, as a righteous man and the beloved Son of God, the Father was entirely just to raise him. Jesus had turned away God’s wrath, he had destroyed sin, our guilt could now be taken away, and we could be counted righteous. If the cross was Jesus’ payment for our sins, then the resurrection marked God’s acceptance of that payment.
4. Justified So We Can Be Justified
The resurrection of Jesus has justifying power. Despite our usual understanding that the cross alone is responsible for our forgiveness, Paul is elsewhere very clear. “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). We share in the justification of Jesus. Because of his right standing with God, his people are made righteous too.
The resurrection shows the positive delight of God in his Son, which is now shared by us. Many people think of salvation as the removal of our sin and its punishment. If Jesus had only wiped the slate clean, forgiven our wrongdoing, and taken the wrath God had for us, we would be left in a neutral position. We would no longer be under God’s displeasure, but he would not be pleased with us either. Many Christians, even if they do not articulate their theology like that, certainly live as though it was true. Many live as though they must still work to please God.
Our justification consists not merely of a canceling of our debt, but also of an imputing to us of the righteousness of Christ. It is not only “just as if I’d never sinned,” but also “just as if I’d already completed a perfect life.” Jesus doesn’t merely give us a clean slate and then sit back and watch whether we will mess it up again.
If you think of sin as producing an overdraft, Jesus takes over our bank account and pays off our debt. He then gives us access to his own account which holds so much money that no matter how much sin we commit we could never exhaust the supply.
The righteousness of Jesus was credited to us, not only our sin to him. God declares his positive favor toward us, and as a result we will ultimately never die. Life is the judicial reward for righteousness. Jesus was made to be sin, and so he died, but once sin was dealt with, he remained righteous.
5. Raised So He Can Apply Justification to Us
It is Jesus himself who saves the Christian. The two phases of Jesus’ saving work for us are described in complementary ways. It is the blood or death of Jesus that saves us, but we are “much more” saved by his life, since he himself continues to save us from the wrath of God. Would the teaching of the gospel in an average evangelical church today leave you with the idea that it is “much more” the resurrection that saves us than the cross?
Adapted and abridged from
Raised With Christ – How the Resurrection changes Everything
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion—whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. Adrian Warnock points us all to the centrality of the resurrection for every dimension of the Christian life . . . You will be greatly blessed by this book.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary