Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 1
January 3, 2006
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
1901 ASV Translation:
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was reckoned unto him;
24 but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
- I. From "Interpretation" to "Application".
- A. Paul used the greater part of chapter four to argue that Abraham "discovered" that men are "justified" by "faith" apart from works of law.
- B. At this point in the chapter, he now "applies" his understanding of Abraham's discovery to "us".
- 1. He claims the "record" was not "recorded" as a matter for Abraham only, but also for our understanding so that we might "believe" in the same God/Truth.
- a. Beneath this "application" rests an "assumption" that calls for our attention: that the record of Scripture is "for" those who consider it. In other words, what God has to say, He has to say to any and all who will "hear" Him. In Mark's record of Jesus' teaching and activities there is an account of a Gentile woman who approached Him to seek a solution to her daughter's grave plight (Mark 7:24-30). Her supplication was initially rejected by Jesus as an inappropriate request because she was not one of the "children". But her answer (that she was one of the "dogs" under the table of the household) moved Jesus to give her what she sought. This account indicates that the blessings of God are not restricted from anyone whose attitude is that of humility. Psalm 145:18 and Romans 10:12 reiterate this same truth.
- b. It had long been an "attitude" among the Jews that Yahweh was only really concerned for the physical offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus, however, at the time of His ascension, clearly made His "message" for mankind -- pushing the boundaries of "proclamation" to the "uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
- 2. His claim is that the God Who gives life to the dead (Romans 4:17) has given a decree of justification to all who believe in His giving of life to Jesus Who was crucified, died, and was buried.
- a. But, this "faith" is not merely in the claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. The specific declaration by Paul that Jesus was "delivered up" in respect to our trespasses and "raised" in respect to our justification is tantamount to a restriction upon the extension of the "blessedness" (Romans 4:8). The restriction is in the "faith" arena (only those who "believe" shall be justified) and the "faith" arena has two highly specific foundational concepts: the problem of "trespass" and the problem of "justification" for those guilty of trespasses. In other words, no one is justified who does not come to faith in the resurrected Jesus as the solution to these highly specific problems. Believing in a resurrected Jesus without being significantly "bothered" by the guilt of "trespass" is not a "justifying" faith.
- 1) The "death" of Jesus was particularly focused upon the "problem" of the "Justice" of God in respect to an inner motivational force in us to commit trespasses. [Robertson says that dia with the accusative has "aim" in view whereas dia with the genitive has "agency" in view. This means that "objectives" are in view in this verse as Paul dredges up the two most fundamental issues in the death/resurrection of Jesus: trespasses and justification.] The issue here is that Jesus was "delivered up" to solve the problem(s) brought on by our trespasses. The dia with the accusative is to be understood as establishing the "aim" of God's action in the sufferings of the Christ -- to absolve us of the true guilt which we have incurred by violating the standards.
- 2) The "resurrection" of Jesus was particularly focused upon the "problem" of the absence in us of an inner motivational force to pursue righteousness. Thus, it is His resurrection life that provides us with the motivational force to do what is right (Romans 7:4 and 8:11). The same dia with the accusative indicates a parallelism in Paul's thought: that just as Christ was "delivered" to resolve the "trespass" issue, He was "raised" to resolve the "justification" issue. The question here is of how "resurrection" (particularly the resurrection of Jesus) resolves the "justification" issue. The death addressed the glory of God at the point of His "Justice" and the demands it makes upon "sinners". So, what "glory" does the resurrection address? Ultimately, justification is designed to provide for godly activity. The "decree" of justification is designed to set the one who is bound free so that he may pursue Life without condemnation. The "problem" in the "decree" is that, unless there is a new provision for living, all that will result is a person set free to continue in trespasses with impunity. Thus, resurrection brings "power" to the table. This is what is lacking in sinners: the power to do good. Thus, Abraham's focus upon the God Who gives life to the dead is a focus upon the glory of omnipotence and it is Paul's focus in his understanding of the resurrection of Christ.
- 3) Paul's declaration was that Abraham had a dual "T"heological focus: He is One Who "declares as a done-deal what is not yet a reality in history" (a father of many nations I have made you); and He is One Who "gives life to the dead". In the statement about "Jesus our Lord", there is also a dual issue: He was delivered up to address the trespass issue; and He was raised up to address the justification issue. The "giving of life to the dead" is clearly a part of both dualities. But, the "declaration of what is not yet" is not as clearly in view except that, in the case of Abraham, the promise of the identity as father of a multitude of nations had to have a beginning -- the birth of a son -- and did not have any fulfillment in Abraham's lifetime (there were no "nations" from him in his lifetime), and in our case the promise of the identity as the children of God also has to have a beginning -- the point of justification which required the "trespass offering" -- and the fulfillment will not be ours until the eschaton. Thus, we are the children of Abraham through faith in the same glorious God, but we will not see the fruition of the promise until the post-resurrection era dawns.
- a) There is also this: the declaration of God is designed to address the activity of man. Even if the fruition is withheld until later, the promise makes inroads into the thinking, and, thus, acting, of the "believer". When Abram, the "believer", went down to Egypt and misled the king about Sarah's true identity, there was no basis for his fear (unless Sarah was pregnant, Abraham could not be killed), but when Abraham, the "believer", went to Gerar and misled the king about Sarah's identity, she was pregnant and Abraham's life might actually have been in some danger. Clearly Abraham's "faith" was still in-process as he put too much upon "this" life and not enough upon the life of resurrection power. The seeds of faith in the God Who declares what is not yet were present, but the flowers were not.
- b) And there is this: the declarations of God will not see their final state of fulfillment until the post-resurrection era has come.
- b. Behind the divine act of giving life to the dead is this reality: God seeks to bring men to Life.
- 1) This "Life" is not, however, merely functional capacity in a physical universe; it is, rather, functional capacity in a relational universe where the issues are not the abilities to eat and drink, but the ability to relate to others in a non-harmful way (note carefully Paul's definitive characterization of the Kingdom in Romans 14:17).
- 2) This divine quest is, therefore, foundational to all of His acts: He does not "declare men righteous" so that they may "sin with impunity", but so that they may cease their destructive agression against others.
- 3) Thus, it is a huge error to "believe" that God "justifies" those who "believe" in a resurrected Jesus Who is divorced from the relational universe. It is impossible that God will "justify" men who seek no release from their own bondage to the sinful impulses of the Adamic flesh. Behind the Gospel is this question: do we seek an escape from Justice, or do we seek an escape from Sin? Do we seek a kingdom of tiered overlords, or do we seek a servant kingdom?