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Romans 4:25: Raised For Our Justification Print E-mail
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Sunday, 04 April 2010

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People put their faith in all sorts of things.  If you ask a person what they believe will bring them joy, you may get various responses.  They may put their faith in relationships (with spouse or kids or others).  They may put their faith in money (through a job or inheritance or retirement).  They may put their faith in certain activities (vacations, parties, sex, quiet afternoons, sports championships, on and on).  Yet, what if you ask people what they believe will bring them salvation?  You will get various answers to this one as well.  In fact, most people have no idea that they are actually in need of ‘salvation.’  Sure they may need ‘salvation’ from their bad marriage or bad job or bad health, but they have no sense of a need for salvation in any grand sense.  Of course others, who are at least somewhat familiar with the Bible’s message, may say that their faith is in God and His love or in the fact that they have been generally good (more good than bad).  Yet, these are not good answers either.  So then, let me just put the question to you: what do you believe in for your salvation?

This question is one of the main themes of the Bible.  It offers us the only true answer.  Paul in the book of Romans is addressing the question in particular.  He begins by making it clear that we all need justification.  We all need to be declared just by God.  Why?  He answers in 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.  God’s wrath is against all who sin. 

Yet, some might reply: ‘How do I know that God’s wrath is against me?’  Paul goes on in chapters 1, 2, and 3 to argue that all are sinful and therefore under God’s wrath.  He concludes in 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Thus, for those who want to believe that they have no need for salvation, Paul asks: ‘What about your sin?  You need salvation, you need justification, because you are a sinner and God’s wrath remains on all sinners.’  Thus, the group who wants to deny their need for salvation is given an answer.  Likewise, his argument makes it clear that none of us are good enough to earn salvation.  If you believe that you do not need salvation or that you are good enough to earn it, then I plead with you to listen to what Paul is saying in this book. 

What about those who put their faith in the idea that since God is love he will not judge me?  Paul goes on to make it clear that such generic faith will not save.  We cannot just claim, ‘We believe,’ and think that that is enough.  No, it matters what we believe.  We must put our faith in the right object if we are going to truly be saved.  Paul teaches what (or who) the object of our faith should be.  If we are going to be justified, then we must believe certain truths.  So then, what does true saving, justifying faith believe in?  I want to answer this question from Romans 4:25, where I believe Paul is summarizing what he has argued up to this point in the letter.  What does he tell us?

Saving faith believes that Jesus was delivered up because of our sins.

Paul writes of Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses.  In order to understand this phrase better, let me break it into two parts.  First, we need to understand what Paul means when he says that Jesus was delivered up.  What is Paul referencing by this phrase?  Paul is summarizing the passion of Christ with this phrase.  Jesus was treated as a criminal, even though He was completely righteous and innocent.  He was delivered up to be crucified on a cross.  He was delivered up to die.  Thus, Paul is speaking of Jesus’ death with this phrase.

Before considering the rest of the phrase, we must first ask an important question: who delivered Jesus up?  The verb translated was delivered up is passive, meaning that someone else was active in delivering up Jesus to die.  Now we must be cautious here, for Jesus Himself said concerning His death: No one takes it (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18).  Jesus teaches in John 10 that His life was not taken from Him, but freely given by Him.  So then, what is Paul referring to Romans 4?  Some believe and teach that the Jews were the ones who delivered Jesus up to be crucified.  Others argue that Pilate is to blame.  Yet, again, Jesus’ statements in John 10 make it clear that even though they were involved and responsible, they could not take what He had freely given.  Rather, I think Paul is referring to him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord (4:24).  In other words, I think Paul is saying that the Father delivered Jesus up to be crucified.  In one sense, Jesus freely gave His life for the sheep.  Yet, the Bible also teaches us that His sacrifice was part of the Father’s plan (see Acts 2:23).  Isaiah teaches concerning the suffering of Christ: it was the will of the Lord to crush him (Isaiah 53:10).  Thus, Jesus was delivered up by the Father to die.

Why would the Father do this?  Why would this be the plan?  Paul continues: who was delivered up for our transgressions.  The preposition translated for could be translated ‘because of’ making the statement: he was delivered up because of our transgressions.  The reason the Father delivered up Christ was to deal with our sin.  Paul has argued that God’s wrath burns against the sin of mankind.  He makes it plain that none of us are without sin.  Yet, God put forward Jesus as a propitiation by his blood (Romans 3:25).  Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins.  He died to suffer under God’s wrath that burned against our sin.  He died to turn His righteous wrath away (propitiate).  God did this to redeem a people for Himself.  He did this for our salvation.  He did this so that He could be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (3:26).  Thus, what must we believe in if we are going to be saved?  We must believe that Jesus was delivered up because of our sins.  We must admit that we are sinners and that are sin deserves the wrath of God.  Yet, God in His mercy delivered up His Son in our place.

How can we be sure that God accepts the sacrifice of Christ for our sins?

Saving faith believes that Jesus was raised because of our justification.

Paul continues: Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.  Not only did Jesus die, but the Bible teaches that three days later He was raised again.  The Father delivered Him up to die and raised Him from the dead.  Many find such teaching a little over the top.  They reason: ‘People will struggle to believe that Jesus bodily rose from the dead, so we need a new understanding of the resurrection.’  Yet, if we take what Paul says here, then to say that Jesus has not risen from the dead is to say that we are not justified.  If Jesus is still in the grave, then we have no reason to believe that our sins have truly been paid for. 

But Paul says that Jesus has in fact been raised.  The grave could not hold Him.  What does this mean for us in light of Paul’s argument here?  It means that we can rest securely in the work of Christ for our sins because the Father raised Him from the dead.  One commentator I read compares it to the many financial transactions that we make.1  When we go to pay the light bill (or some other bill) we take in our payment stub and our check.  Many companies give receipts of payment and some used to stamp ‘paid in full’ on the stub.  They did this so that we would have proof that the payment was made.  If they tried to say that we did not make the payment, then we could show them the receipt or the stamp.  In one sense, the resurrection of Christ is the proof of our justification.  When Christ died for our sins, the Father accepted His sacrifice on our behalf.  Our account was cleared, our sins paid for.  When the Father raised Christ from the dead, He was proclaiming to all that His death was enough to cover all we owed.  He was raised because of our justification. 

Grudem comments on this verse: “By raising Christ from the dead, God the Father was in effect saying that he approved of Christ’s work of suffering and dying for our sins, that his work was completed, and 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 guilt remained.”2  If you have repented of your sins and trusted in Christ this morning, then no more payment is required for your sins, no more wrath of God to endure, no more guilt.  What an absolutely glorious thought! 

Let’s go back to our original question: what does true justifying/saving faith believe in?  It does not just believe ‘in God’ or some other generic idea.  No, it believes in the God who sent His only Son to die for our sins.  It believes in the God who raised His Son from the dead because of our justification.  Saving faith believes that Jesus’ death and resurrection are true historical realities with profound spiritual significance.  And just so we are clear, this is not ‘one time only’ faith.  No, it is faith like Abraham’s (see 4:19-21).  It is faith that changes the way we live.  The Jesus who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification is Jesus our Lord.  Those who have saving faith live as faithful followers of the One whose death and resurrection has saved them.  He is their Savior and Lord.

So then, how should we respond to Paul’s answer?  If you are an unbeliever here this morning, then I plead with you to repent of your sins and to trust in the death and resurrection of Christ.  Do not make excuses, do not try and explain away your sin, do not try to defend yourself.  You don’t have to that.  Come to Christ and admit that you are a sinner.  Admit that you have gone your own way.  Stop trusting in yourself and trust in Him.  Believe that He was indeed delivered up for your sin and raised for your justification.  Put your faith in His death and resurrection.

If you're a believer here this morning, then let me offer you a couple points of application.  First, keep believing in the work of Christ for your sins.  When the enemy comes and tries to hang your sins over you and tells you that you are still a slave, place before him the resurrection of Christ.  Christ has paid your debt in full.  Do not get trapped in legalism by thinking that you can win God’s favor by performing certain works.  He has never favored you because of good works.  The basis of His love and favor is the finished work of Christ at the cross.  Second, do not hesitate to proclaim the truth about our justification.  Let the world know that you are an unworthy, undeserving sinner who has been saved by God’s grace.  Let them know that they too can know and are desperate to know the glorious grace of God.  May the death and resurrection of Christ grant us confidence in and boldness to proclaim our justification before God.  Amen.

1 Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans, vol. III, God’s Remedy (Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans, 1954),p. 379ff.
2 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1994), p. 615.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 January 2012 )

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