Raised For Our Justification: What does Romans 4:25 mean?

Raised For Our Justification: What does Romans 4:25 mean? April 6, 2024

Lady Justice. Blind with her scales.
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The cross on its own does not justify us according to Paul.  This article explores what Paul means by “raised for our justification” discussing how the death and resurrection of Jesus works together to save us.

Jesus our Lord . . . was delivered up for our trespasses
and raised for our justification.

ROMANS 4:24–25

Jesus’ resurrection is not merely an event that simultaneously poses a challenge to us in our evangelism and a comfort to us in our faith. It also plays a vital role in saving us. This chapter will examine what Paul meant when he linked Jesus’ resurrection and our justification. Christians are usually more comfortable with the idea that it is the cross that justifies. However, it is our union with Christ’s obedient life, sacrificial death, andvictorious resurrection that saves us. A developed doctrine of the resurrection need not downplay the central importance of the cross. As N. T. Wright said:

For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the heart of the gospel (not to the exclusion of the cross, of course, but not least as the event which gives the cross its meaning). It is the object of faith, the ground of justification, the basis for obedient Christian living, the motivation for unity, and, not least, the challenge to the principalities and powers. It is the event that declares that there is “another king,” and summons human beings to allegiance, and thereby to a different way of life, in fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures and in expectation of the final new world which began at Easter and which will be completed when the night is finally gone and the day has fully dawned.[1]

Many commentaries do not discuss Romans 4:25 extensively. However, it seems to mark an important transition point in Paul’s argument, as a conclusion and summary of the whole of chapters 1–4. Paul has been discussing how God can remain just while declaring us righteous. He then moves on to the implications of this doctrine in the rest of Romans. Some have argued that Romans is all about the implications of the resurrection of Jesus. As Wright puts it “Squeeze this letter at any point and resurrection spills out.”[2] These few words are so essential to our correct understanding of Christian doctrine that some believe that Romans 4:25 was an early creed.[3]

Paul appears to make a distinction between the role of Jesus’ death and of his resurrection in our salvation. Neither the cross nor the resurrection achieves anything without the other. However, perhaps the best description of the distinction we can make comes from 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.[4]

A theological journal article makes a similar point:

The parallelism in Rom 4:25 implies that Christ’s resurrection has a function which his death does not, which is, imparting justifying life into the believer and uniting him to the justified Messiah a concept largely explicated in Rom 5:1–8:39. The overall point being made is that while the death and resurrection of Christ are both basic to the believer’s justification, it is the resurrection, more so than the cross, that is the ultimate basis for justification[5]

Sproul speaks of the results of the resurrection as follows:

 “The resurrection of Jesus is the verdict of the Judge of heaven and earth, that the atonement has been made and all who trust in Christ will participate in the benefits of the righteousness of Christ.”[6]

Preacher Bill Johnson is said to have argued that the cross was for our old life and the resurrection for our new life. The cross deals with our guilt, and the resurrection gives us victory. In the cross we see Jesus the Son of God in apparent weakness. In Jesus’ resurrection we see him revealed as the Son of God in power.

Moo explains this idea further:

As Jesus’ death provides the necessary grounds on which God’s justifying action can proceed, so his resurrection, by vindicating Christ and freeing him forever from the influence of sin (cf. 6:10), provides for the ongoing power over sins experienced by the believer in union with Christ.[7]

The resurrection forever explodes any ideas we might have of nature as a closed system where miracles can’t happen. God is no clockmaker who has wound up the universe and left it running according to invisible laws. Seeing the power of God at work in the resurrection should make us wonder how we too can connect with this power. We will return to that question in a later chapter. For now we will examine Romans 4:25, and we will begin by asking what Paul means by justification.

WHAT IS JUSTIFICATION?

1. A Declaration of Righteousness

Justification is simply “the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him.”[8] It is not that God instantaneously changes us and makes us completely holy and sinless, but it is rather a declaration that God has changed our status because he credits Jesus’ perfect righteousness to our account. This is not to say that at the moment of conversion we remain entirely the same, nor is it to deny that Christians have within them a divine impulse compelling them to change and become more holy. We are justified because we are incorporated into the people of God and have been made pure because of our connection with our Head, Jesus.

2. A Gift Purchased by Christ

Much in the Bible leads us to think quite correctly of justification as being accomplished by the cross. For example:

[We are] justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness . . . so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24–26)

Our justification was purchased by the punishment that Jesus received on the cross. As Isaiah says, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace . . . the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief . . . his soul makes an offering for guilt” (Isaiah 53:5–10).

Romans 4:25 tells us it is because of our sins that Jesus was killed. Death is not merely a natural phenomenon but a punishment for sin, since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Thus, we understand Jesus was taking our punishment since the sinless one did not deserve to die. Our gospel presentations must explain our predicament and the solution offered.

The most famous verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Many assume this verse refers solely to Jesus’ death. But it is the Son himself who is given to us. His perfect life was for us, his death and his resurrection were also for us, and even now in heaven he is still giving himself to us. He now lives inside us, and he intercedes for us. We receive Jesus and are saved by him by the complete work he has done and the applying of that work that he is still doing.

3. Justification Received through Faith

Our salvation depends not on good works or on any merit that God sees in us but rather on his free, undeserved mercy and grace. We do not contribute anything to our salvation but come to God with empty hands and a humble heart, asking for forgiveness. We are saved through the means of our faith.

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Some believe justification is a final end-time event before the judgment seat of Christ when we will be declared to be righteous. However, for the true Christian any final justification is merely the implementation of a declaration made by God the moment that faith is born in a believer’s heart. We will be no more justified then than we are already now. No future act of obedience will make God more pleased with us or make us more saved than we are now. Yes, the full effects of our justification will only be ours in that glorious future, but we can also taste the reality of our salvation right now as our standing before God is entirely the same. B. B. Warfield states:

There is nothing in us or done by us, at any stage of our earthly development, because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake, or we cannot be accepted at all. This is not true of us only when we believe. It is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing, nor does the nature of our relation to him or to God through him ever alter, no matter what our attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in behavior may be. It is always on His blood and righteousness alone that we can rest.[9]

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, although some argue exactly this:

The meaning might be “he was delivered up because we had sinned and raised because we had been justified” [10]

It is almost certainly the case that Paul intended to say that Jesus died to deal with our sin and was raised to produce our justification. Moo’s famous commentary on Romans comes to the same conclusion:

Since maintaining the same meaning for this preposition in both lines requires questionable additions or interpretations of one line or the other, it is probably best to give the word a retrospective meaning in the first line and a prospective meaning in the second: “he was handed over because of our trespasses [e.g., because we are sinners], and was raised for the sake of our justification [e.g., in order to secure our justification]. . . Paul is affirming here a theological connection between Jesus’ resurrection and our justification”[11]

In the rest of this chapter I will explore several aspects of the link between Jesus’ resurrection and our justification, which seems to have many facets.

1. Raised to Give Us a Future Resurrection

Some believe that “justification” here includes the future result of our justification, our resurrection. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, one day our physical bodies will also return to life. But there are more straightforward ways of saying this, however, which means that it is unlikely that this first suggestion is what Paul intended here.

As an example of a clearer way of saying that Jesus death and resurrection gives us eternal life, Romans 5:18 says “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”

2. Raised to Prompt Faith in Us

The resurrection of Jesus has faith-giving power. It is the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, following his sin-defeating death, that will inspire us to believe in, trust, obey, and worship this man who lived two thousand years ago in a small country in the Middle East. Thus, hearing about the resurrection of Jesus has power to save. Like the cross, it challenges the mind and is mocked by the skeptic. Yet, even the skeptics have little to say to counter this message. They would much rather speak with us about any other subject than the key question, did Jesus rise from the dead?

Justification is “by grace . . . through faith” (Ephesians 2:8), and our faith itself requires the resurrection of Jesus. Unless Jesus had defeated death, we could never have the faith in him that is necessary for our justification. 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? One scholar explained that “the resurrection was needed to actualize [justification], since faith is kindled only by the resurrection, a corpse being no true object of faith.”[12] Calvin also understood the importance of the resurrection in creating faith:

For seeing that in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, nothing but weakness appears, faith must go beyond all these, in order that it may be provided with full strength . . . as he, by rising again, became victorious over death, so the victory of our faith consists only in his resurrection.[13]

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can have confidence that we too will be raised. The resurrection causes in us the faith that saves, and it is faith in the resurrection itself that saves. 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. Thus Jesus’ resurrection is in this sense the source of the faith that is the grounds of our justification: “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).

3. Raised for His Own Justification

It may sound strange to talk about Jesus’ need for justification. But justification is a declaration, a vindication. The resurrection of Jesus has evidencing power. In one place, Edwards interprets Romans 4:25 as meaning that “his resurrection is a glorious evidence of, and therefore is called, his justification.”[14] In this sense, justification is a proof that he is who he said he was. Spurgeon explained, “Nobody witnessing our Lord’s resurrection could doubt his divine character, and that his mission upon earth was from the eternal God.”[15]We see this concept in Paul’s letters:

[He] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:4)

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was
manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit . . . taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

As one scholar said, “God’s final verdict on his Son is not seen in the cross, but in the resurrection.”[16] If Jesus wasn’t who he said he was, then how could he have saved us? Jesus’ vindication convinces us that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Prince of Life, that he had fulfilled Scripture, that God was pleased with him, that the work of the cross was now complete, and that he had no need to remain dead.

The resurrection proves Christ’s divinity because not only is the event described as an act of God (see Acts 13:30) and of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11), it was also an act of Jesus himself. The resurrection, as the beginning of the new creation, was an act of the whole Trinity. Jesus has the divine power to raise himself from the dead:

I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. (John 10:17–18)

It is important that we understand Jesus’ status on the cross. Two things were simultaneously true. He was still the only sinless man who had ever lived. He had not committed any wrong and had lived a life of righteousness that had warranted merit and reward from God. He, however, also took our sin and bore our punishment. He always remained the holy Son of God who was unstained by sin. Yet he was voluntarily “made” sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and so was simultaneously subject to the wrath, rejection, and punishment of God.

Yet his Father never stopped loving him. God did not permanently reject him. Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” because at that moment it was as though a rift had opened in the Trinity and God really did turn his back on him. However, the Trinity did not in any sense break up. Some ask, how could God be displeased with his Son on the cross? The answer is that God was displeased with the sin that Jesus was carrying but remained pleased with Jesus’ infinite goodness, which was greater than that sin. Jesus bore the wrath of God against our sin, which had been imputed to him. Calvin elaborates:

We do not, however, insinuate that God was ever hostile to him or angry with him. How could he be angry with the beloved Son, with whom his soul was well pleased? Or how could he have appeased the Father by his intercession for others if he were hostile to himself? But this we say, that he bore the weight of the divine anger, that, smitten and afflicted, he experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God.[17]

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.

Jesus is declared to still be righteous by his resurrection, just as he was declared to have become sin by his death. God’s wrath has been satisfied. Jonathan Edwards explains:

Great stress seems to be put upon the resurrection of Christ everywhere in the New Testament, as if it were what had great influence unto our salvation. For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; he thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified.[18]

The resurrection was more than simply the evidence of Jesus’ justification. It was an active demonstration and itself made it real. For example, a prisoner in the dock is only justified and vindicated when he is freed and released. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains:

If the Lord Jesus Christ had not literally risen physically from the grave, we could never be certain that he had ever really finished the work . . . if he has died for our sins, we must not only be certain that he has died, but that he has finished dying, and that there is no longer death . . . when God raised his Son from the dead, he was proclaiming to the whole world . . . he has done everything. He has fulfilled every demand. Here he is risen—therefore I am satisfied with him. . . .

The devil cannot hold him; death and hell cannot hold him. He has mastered them all; he has emerged on the other side. He is the Son of God, and he has completed the work which the Father had sent him to do. . . . It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I finally have an assurance of my sins forgiven. It is only in the light of the Resurrection that I ultimately know that I stand in the presence of God absolved from guilt and shame and every condemnation.

If it is not a fact that Christ literally rose from the grave, then you are still guilty before God. Your punishment has not been borne, your sins have not been dealt with, you are yet in your sins. It matters that much: without the Resurrection you have no standing at all.[19]

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.

Unless Jesus himself had been justified, it is impossible to see how we could have been. If he could not even save himself, how could he save others?

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.

The resurrection was necessary to allow the credit of Jesus’ righteousness to be shared with us, for it demonstrated that the credit was greater than the debt. Jesus’ favour remained intact when sin was destroyed. God’s hatred for sin was not greater than his love for his Son. Righteousness remained available to credit to our account.

Jesus was so full of merit that not only did he have enough righteousness to cancel out our sin and enough that he deserved to be raised from the dead, but he still had abundantly more credit remaining in his account. As a result, our justification consists not just 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.

This all sounds dangerous, and it sounds like Christians need not care about being good because God sees them as good already. Lloyd-Jones was anxious to point out that the true gospel is always accused of being this extreme:

There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will rebound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean.

If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man’s preaching is, ‘If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God and you will go to heaven’. Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. Nobody would say to such a man, ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’, because the man’s whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves . . .

Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, ‘This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust’, and so on. ‘This man’, they said, ‘is an antinomian; and that is heresy.’ That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought George Whitfield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Christianity – if there is such a thing – has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God ‘justifies the ungodly’ . . .

That is my comment and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.[20]

This idea of “dead Christianity” being the enemy of a living message of justifying sin-conquering resurrection power is cause for us to examine ourselves and our own beliefs. How do we explain the gospel to people? How do we believe it ourselves? Would anyone ever criticise us for suggesting that our sin makes no difference to our salvation?

But lets be clear that those who know they have been the recipients of such amazing grace know that Jesus loves them exactly as they are, but that he also loves them too much to leave them as they are. As a result, they do not live in such a way as to scorn the giver. When Paul introduces the question Lloyd-Jones feels is so important in Romans 6 he immediately answers it by referring to the power of the resurrection which is at work in transforming all true Christians:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:1-6)

We are slightly getting off the topic in talking about how our justification leads inevitably to what theologians call sanctification. But it is a really important point as the passage from Romans 6 shows us those who are declared righteous by Jesus will also become righteous in their behaviour.  This is a process, and it will never be perfectly completed in this life. But if God declares us to be righteous in our standing then over time we will become righteous in our behaviour. And when we do slip up and commit sin that doesn’t alter our standing before God, but because we love Jesus it will grieve us. Because we are thankful for what Jesus has done for us, our own sin will drive us back to God and we will seek his help to succeed the next time in our battle. The true Christian cannot just go on and on sinning and be happy about it. If a Christian is struggling in an area of sin they will feel the pain of not living how Jesus would like them to. Some of the most miserable people in the world are those who know that Jesus died for them but they are stuck in a pattern of sin they just can’t seem to shake.

But let’s get back to justification itself. We have learnt that Jesus’ resurrection itself is imputed to us, declaring us eternally righteous, not merely forgiven of past sin. John Piper explains:

In historic Reformed exegesis, (1) a person is in union with Christ by faith alone. In this union, (2) the believer is identified with Christ in his (a) wrath-absorbing death, (b) his perfect obedience to the Father, and (c) his vindication-securing resurrection. All of these are reckoned—that is, imputed—to the believer in Christ. On this basis, (3) the “dead,” “righteous,” “raised” believer is accepted and assured of final vindication and eternal fellowship with God.[21]

Piper states that the resurrection, as well as the death of Jesus, has been credited to our account so that we might be justified. I wonder how often our presentations of the gospel include the concept of Jesus’ resurrection being credited to our account.

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. As a result he was raised. Spurgeon explains:

As the rising of the sun removes the darkness, so the rising of Christ has removed our sin. The power of the resurrection of Christ is seen in the justifying of every believer; for the justification of the Representative is the virtual justification of all whom he represents.[22]

Jonathan Edwards says that Jesus’ resurrection and glorification are part of his justification and that we too will share in that. To Edwards, justification consists of the declaration and the results of that declaration. What God proclaims becomes true in our reality. When God says we are justified, by necessity he will grant us the reward of that justification. “The justification of a believer is no other than his being admitted to communion in, or participation of the justification of [Christ].”[23]

 

Afterlife: Disembodied Spirits or Resurrection Bodies?

5. Raised So He Can Apply Justification to Us

We now turn to our own experience of receiving justification. It is important that we understand what saving faith looks like and what changes occur in us when we become Christians. Faith is putting our trust in the person Jesus and in the fact that he died and rose again for us.

We must understand, as Piper puts it, “what we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for. It is not saving faith to believe in Jesus merely for prosperity or health or a better marriage. . . .The summons, ‘Believe the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection’ has no content that is yet clearly good news. Not until the gospel preacher tells the listener what Jesus offers him personally and freely does this proclamation have the quality of good news. . . . Of course, it is Jesus who saves, not the doctrine. And so our faith rests decisively on Jesus. But the doctrine tells us what sort of Jesus we are resting on and what we are resting on him for. Without this, the word Jesus has no content that could be good news.”[24]

It is not our own faith which saves us as Spurgeon explains:

It is not your hold of Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ, but to Christ; look not to your hope, but to Jesus, the source of your hope; look not to your faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.

If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep your eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon your mind; when you wake in the morning look to him; when you lie down at night look to him. Oh! let not your  hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail you.[25]

Or as R.T. Kendall puts it, “it is not great faith that saves but faith in a great Saviour.”[26]

It is indeed the risen Jesus himself who saves the Christian, as these verses demonstrate that he could not save any of us if he himself had been defeated by death:

. . . to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9–10)

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?

In Isaiah 53, it is only after the resurrection of Jesus is prophesied in verse 10 that we read in verse 11, “by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous.” Thus, it is the task of Jesus, after he has risen, to justify us.[27]

Jesus himself saves us in the present. Our salvation is not some automatic process that happens when we become convinced of certain intellectual truths about what Jesus did for us on the cross. Rather, we require saving by Jesus today. We need him to rescue us from God’s wrath and to do something to us so that we can be saved. Spurgeon puts this with typical eloquence:

You could not feel any confidence in a dead Christ; you would say, “He sees corruption, yet the true Christ was never to see corruption. He is dead; and what can a dead Christ do for us?” Beloved, the dying Christ has purchased for us our justification, but the risen Christ will see that we get it. The risen Christ has come to bring it to us, and herein we rest.

Oh, that you would all rest in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, which is set forth to you in all its brightness by his rising again from the dead! Put the two parts of our text together, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” You need them both, trust in them both; trust in the Savior who died upon the cross, and trust in the Christ who rose again, and is now the living Christ.[28]

Jonathan Edwards similarly said, “It was necessary in order to Christ’s obtaining the end and effect of his purchase of redemption that he should rise from the dead; for God the Father had committed the whole affair of redemption, not only the purchasing of it but . . . the bestowment of the blessings purchased, that he should . . . bring about that which he died for.”[29] This idea has been expressed in more modern language:

He died to purchase what He rose again to apply. So it is that in a sense the resurrection of Christ is referred to as the cause of justification. It is doubtlessly true that Paul did not make an abstract separation between Christ’s death and His resurrection, as if the death and the resurrection either had different motives or served ends separable from each other. Christ’s work is one and its end is one. He both died and was raised for our justification, but the end effect was only through the resurrection.[30]

This reminds us once again that it is foolish to attempt to completely separate the work of Christ into two different parts. It is crazy to try and imagine what would have happened if Christ had not risen from the dead. Since Jesus applies our salvation actively, even if a potential salvation could somehow be purchased by Jesus’ death, if he had not been raised there would have been no one able to apply it to us.

How does Jesus apply salvation to us? He prays on our behalf. Edwards comments on Romans 4:25:

“That is, delivered for our offenses, and raised again that he might see to the application of his sufferings to our justification, and that he might plead them for our justifying.”[31]

Jesus is before the throne of God pleading for us, no doubt on the grounds of his death and resurrection:

 “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

SAVED BY THE DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION

Grudem, as he does so often, provides us with a great summary of the role of the resurrection in our justification:

Christ’s Resurrection Insures Our Justification . . . By raising Christ from the dead, God the Father was in effect saying . . . that Christ no longer had any need to remain dead. There was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath of God to bear, no more guilt or liability to punishment—all had been completely paid for, and no guilt remained. In the resurrection, God was saying to Christ, “I approve of what you have done, and you find favor in my sight.”

This explains how Paul can say that Christ was “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). If God “raised us up with him” (Eph. 2:6), then, by virtue of our union with Christ, God’s declaration of approval of Christ is also his declaration of approval of us . . . Christ’s resurrection also gave final proof that he had earned our justification.[32]

When we consider these two events together it helps us understand that we cannot rely on a single explanation of what Jesus did for us.  for us:

In the event of crucifixion and resurrection, it is inadequate to think of Christ purely as substitute. Substitution means that Christ acts instead of us, and does something that, as a result of his doing it, we do not need to do. We do not have to bear the eternal consequences of our sin because Christ has done so. But the same cannot be said of resurrection. Christ is not raised instead of us, but so that we might share his resurrection. He is raised for us, for our benefit, on our behalf, in order that what has happened in him may be recapitulated in us, by what has happened in him being extended to us as we are joined to him by faith.

Consequently, those theologians have a point who assert that representative is the more inclusive term than substitute . . . Alternatively, it may be helpful to think of Christ as the one in whom we are incorporated or with whom we are identified or in whom (or better, in whose situation) we participate. . . Thus the raising of Jesus by God the Father is seen to be an essential part of the saving act, and is not simply a way of proclaiming to humanity that the price of sin has been paid. If Christ had not been raised, we would still be in our sins.[33]

It is Jesus himself who saves us. We are united with him in both his death and his resurrection and so are saved. Romans 4:25, which we have been examining, seems to be designed to rescue us from two errors. Firstly, we could easily neglect either the death or the resurrection of Jesus and ascribe the work of salvation to only one of them. The verse says, “[He was] delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The second error is clearly explained by two different scholars.

F. Bruce: “We must not interpret the two clauses so woodenly as to suggest that his resurrection had nothing to do with the atonement for their sins, and his death had nothing to do with their justification.”[34]

Joseph Fitzmyer: “This verse is not to be understood as though Paul meant that human trespasses were removed by Christ’s death and that human justification was achieved by his resurrection. They are so formulated in a literary parallelism both effects are to be ascribed to the death and the resurrection.”[35]

Justification and forgiveness are entwined, and so too are the cross and the resurrection. Fitzmyer goes on to explain that there is an asymmetry to this, however, quoting Augustine:

He did not say, he was handed over for our justification and rose for the sake of our sins. In his being handed over sin is mentioned; in his resurrection justice is mentioned. Therefore let sin die, and let justice rise.[36]

If we too quickly say it is the combined work of Jesus that saves us, there is a real danger we will make the resurrection a mere auxiliary to the cross. It is helpful to consider the work of the cross and resurrection and what they contribute to our salvation. However, the message we should take away is that it is union with Jesus himself, the one who died and was raised, that saves us.

As one commentator put it, “For Paul, the death and resurrection of Christ belong together, and the former without the latter would be of little significance. Therefore he rarely thinks of one without the other.”[37]

Jesus is the one who delivers the verdict himself and declares us not guilty but instead righteous. It is he who grants repentance and forgiveness to us.

As we shall explore in the next chapter, because of the risen Jesus we are born again. Thanks be to Jesus for all that he has accomplished for us: “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance . . . and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

 

REFERENCES ARE FOUND AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE

 


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Chapter One:

Chapter Two:

Chapter Three:

Resurrection: Fact or Fiction? Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

Chapter Four:

Chapter Five:

Chapter Six:

Chapter Seven:

Resurrection in the Gospels

Chapter Eight:

What Did the Resurrection Do for Us? The Sermons of Acts

 

REFERENCES

[1]1N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (London: SPCK, 2003), 266.

 

[2] Ibid., 241:

 

[3] See Michael Bird, “Raised for Our Justification: A Fresh Look at Romans 4:25,” Colloquium, 35(1), 2003, 31–46.

 

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xvi, 13.

 

[5] Sailer, W., Christman, J. C., Greulich, D. C., Scanlin, H. P., Lennox, S. J., & Guistwite, P. (2012). Religious and Theological Abstracts. Religious and Theological Abstracts.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (p. 90). Christian Focus Publications.

[7] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 290). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[8] James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, electronic edition (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G1347.

 

[9] B. B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1931, reprint 1991), 7:113.

 

[10] Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 215). W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.

[11] Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 289). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[12] Gerhard Kittel et al., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-c1976), 2:224.

 

[13]Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xvi, 13.

 

[14] Jonathan Edwards, Notes on Scripture, WJE Online, Vol. 15, 286; http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?
path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3Q
ucGw/Yy4xNDozLndqZW8=.

 

[15] C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon No. 2080, “The Power of His Resurrection,” delivered on April 21, 1889 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; http://www.recoverthegospel.com/Old%20Recover%20the%20Gospel%20Site/Spurgeon/Spurgeon%202001-3000/2080.pdf.

 

[16] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 1994), on Acts 2:1.

 

[17] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II, xvi, 11.

 

[18] Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, WJE Online, Vol. 13, 227;

 

[19] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Our Salvation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000), 492.

 

[20] Martyn Lloyd-Jones Romans: Exposition of Chapter 6 (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989) pp. 8-9

[21]John Piper, The Future of Justification (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 124–125.

 

[22]C. H. Spurgeon, Sermon No. 2080, “The Power of His Resurrection,” delivered on April 21, 1889 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington; http://www.recoverthegospel.com/Old%20Recover%20the%20Gospel%20Site/Spurgeon/Spurgeon%202001-3000/2080.pdf.

 

[23]Jonathan Edwards, Sermons and Discourses, WJE Online, Vol. 19, 151–191; http://edwards.yale.edu/archive?path=aHR0cDovL2Vkd2FyZHMueWFsZS5lZHUvY2dpLWJpbi9uZXdwaGlsby9nZXRvYmplY3QucGw/Yy4xODo5OjE6MS53amVv.

 

[24] Piper, The Future of Justification, 86.

[25] Spurgeon, C.H. (1896) Morning and evening: Daily readings. London: Passmore & Alabaster. Morning June 28

[26] Kendall, R.T. (2000) Understanding Theology, Volume Two. Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus, p. 410.

[27] New Interpreters Bible, Volume 10 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 504.

 

[28] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume 40, electronic edition, Logos Library System (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Sermon No 2357.

 

[29] Jonathan Edwards, A History of the Work of Redemption, WJE Online, Vol. 9, 358;

[30] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament, electronic edition (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2000), G1347.

[31] Jonathan Edwards, The Miscellanies, WJE Online, Vol. 13, 189;

 

[32] Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 615). Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

[33] Marshall, I. H. (2008). Aspects of the Atonement: Cross and Resurrection in the Reconciling of God and Humanity (pp. 103–104,109). Paternoster.

[34] F. F. Bruce, The Letter of Paul to the Romans (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), 113.

[35] Joseph Fitzmyer, “Romans,” in The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 389.

[36] Ibid., 389.

[37]Tremper Longman and David Garland, eds., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Romans-Galatians, revised edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 86.

 

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