CHAPTER 4 OF THE ROMAN LETTER
God Reckons the Ungodly as Righteous Through Faith, Not Works of Law.
INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER 4.
In this chapter Paul continued his discussion of the principle of justification by faith as contrasted with the principle of justification by works. It appears that his comments in chapter 4 were still directed primarily to the Jews, although the subject was important to the Gentiles as well. He cited Abraham as a prime example of one whose faith was reckoned by God as righteousness. The Jews had great respect for Abraham and boasted of being his descendants. For this reason, Paul's choice of Abraham as an example probably gained and held their attention.
Abraham was not only forefather to the Jews but he was forefather to many of the Gentiles as well. Especially did the people, known today as Arabs, respect Abraham. Most of the Arabs of the Middle East today consider themselves descendants of Abraham through Abraham's son Ishmael. Paul's arguments which he illustrated by the life of Abraham may be quite important in efforts today to convert to Christianity the Middle Eastern people of the Islamic faith. Paul's use of Abraham as an example established a common basis for teaching both Jews and Gentiles.
Another of Paul's objectives in the fourth chapter was to show that the doctrine of justification by faith
was not new, that it was taught in Old Testament days, that it pre-dated the Law of Moses, and that it was
not abrogated by the Law of Moses.
All who believe are justified apart from the law through the redeeming blood of JESUS CHRIST. Romans 3:21-5:11.
It is through faith, not works of law, that God justifies and reckons the ungodly as righteous. Romans 4:1-8.
Abraham is cited as an example of one whose faith was reckoned by God as righteousness. David is cited as one who spoke of the fact that God reckons righteousness apart from works.
"(1) What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the "flesh, has found? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about: but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? 'And Abraham believed God. and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' (4) Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, (6) just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: (7) 'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. (8) Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.'" Romans 4:1-8. NASV.
In Romans, chapter 4, verse 1, Paul framed a question in order to start a discussion of another of the Jews' objections to the doctrine of salvation by faith. Apparently the Jews had said that they obtained salvation through their works under the Law. Perhaps some had claimed salvation simply on the basis of having Abraham as their ancestor. So Paul framed the question: What has Abraham found? That is, what is the truth about this matter according to Abraham? Or perhaps, what has Abraham obtained through works of the Law"?
Paul then pointed out in verse 2 that, if Abraham was justified by his own works, then his justification was not brought about by God. He could have boasted in his own works but he could not have boasted before God because his justification could not have been attributed to God. This was all very hypothetical because, in fact, Abraham was not justified by his works under the Law.
In verse 3 Paul called attention to the only source of true information on the subject by asking another question. He asked, "What does the Scripture say?" He then quoted Genesis 15:6 which said, simply, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." To be "reckoned as righteous" was to be "justified". The Scripture did not attribute Abraham's justification to Abraham's own works. It attributed Abraham's justification to his faith, that is, to his belief in, and his obedience to, God's message to him. Because of Abraham's faith, God "reckoned" him as righteous.
The word "reckoned" was a uniquely suited word to explain how righteousness was imputed to Abraham and how Abraham was to react in his reception of the gift. Scholars have indicated that the word "reckon" (Greek, LOGIZOMAI) was basically an accounting term used to describe the figuring of monetary or other kinds of numerical accounts. The reckoning of accounts was something which could be done accurately. Only true facts could be accounted. Money could be counted accurately and the exact amount could be entered into the account book. This was "reckoning." It was not "make believe." One could not "reckon" what one did not actually have.
Righteousness was "reckoned" to Abraham by God. God could give "righteousness" to Abraham for God actually had it to give. In fact, God was the only one who had it and could "reckon" it to anyone. When it was "reckoned" to Abraham, then Abraham actually had it.
The use of the word "reckoned" also gave insight concerning the deep meaning of the word "faith." It was in response to Abraham's "faith" that God "reckoned" righteousness to him. What was the nature of the "faith" that moved God to give such a substantial, factual gift as righteousness? The "faith" of Abraham must have been exhibited in a confidence of similar substance and fact. Abraham's belief in what God would give in the future was equivalent in its effect on his immediate life to the actual receipt of the gift.
In verse 4 Paul stated a truth well known to people who reckoned the accounts of laborers. "Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due." However, the application of this truth to Abraham's acquisition of "righteousness" was only hypothetical. If Abraham could have earned the right to "righteousness" by his own work, it would not have been a gift of God but a wage that was due. Of course, it was impossible for an ungodly person to do work of such value to God that it would earn for him the superlative wage of "righteousness." To strive for such a wage as "righteousness" would have been useless. So the thought of not doing useless work at all became plausible.
In verse 5 Paul wrote of "one who does not work," thus advancing the idea that an ungodly person should not foolishly attempt to earn "righteousness" by works of merit. Rather, one should believe in Him who justifies the ungodly. "His faith is reckoned as righteousness," just as was the faith of Abraham.
In Paul's mention of "the one who does not work", he did not mean the "good works" he spoke of in Ephesians 2: 10 for which Christians "are created in Christ Jesus." In Ephesians he spoke of "good works" of Christians who were already justified. The "good works" for which Christians were created (Ephesians 2:10) were not works of merit under law by which they strove to be justified. They were "works" which Christians, already justified, were called upon to do in obedience to Christ's summons to servanthood. Similarly, it was not "works of merit under law" which James referred to when he said, "Faith, if it has no works, is dead ... I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:17- 18.) The "works" James spoke of were also acts of servanthood which Christians, already justified, were called upon to do. In Romans Paul spoke of the doing of such Christian work simply as the "bearing of fruit" by dedicated Christians. Paul indicated that this Christian work was to be done in "obedience of faith".
Still there were some important senses in which "one does not work." One could not perform works that earned merit toward a state of "righteousness." People simply could not attain "righteousness" through their own work. "Justification" and "righteousness" were granted to ungodly believers only as unmerited gifts from God.
Also, it is true that "one does not work" in the sense Paul used when he said, "It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13.) Paul also said, "I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." (Colossians 1:29.) And again, Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:21.) These statements from other writings of Paul illustrate an important sense in which it becomes true that the Christian, already justified by the blood of Christ, "does not work," indeed, a sense in which the Christian cannot work. Paul taught seriously in this vein in the 6th, 7th, and 8th chapters of the Roman letter as He showed Christians how to overcome the sin principle in their lives and begin to bear fruit for Christ. But Paul was not discussing the works of Christian "fruit bearing" in chapter 4. He was discussing something more elementary, the futile works of the non-Christian in striving under law to merit the wage of justification from sins.
Paul's arguments at this point were further developments of his earlier arguments in chapters 2 and 3 to
convince the Jews that they actually were "ungodly" and did not already possess "righteousness." The first
step on one's path to justification and righteousness was to come to the realization that one was inherently
"ungodly" and "unrighteous." Those Jews who thought that they inherited "righteousness" from their
father Abraham were not inclined to think that they needed to do anything at all. Some of those who
realized that they were not righteous already, may have thought that they would earn righteousness through
their keeping of the Law. Abraham's example spoke to both these groups of Jews. Abraham realized his
inherent natural condition of ungodliness and unrighteousness. He also understood the uselessness of his
trying to earn righteousness. Therefore, he was a fit candidate for reception through faith of God's gift of
Abraham's faith was reckoned as righteousness before he was circumcised in the special covenant through which God established the Jewish nation. Therefore, it was not through the righteousness of the Law that Abraham became heir of the world, but through the righteousness of his faith. Romans 4:9-22.
"(9) Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also: For we say. 'Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.' (10) How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised. but while uncircumcised." Romans 4:9-10. NASV.
God's principle of salvation by faith was in effect even before the time of Abraham. The first person listed in Hebrews chapter 11, of the people of faith whom God reckoned as righteous, was Abel, the son of Adam and Eve. Abel lived long before Abraham. Of course, Abraham was among those listed also. It was first said of Abraham, while he was still called Abram, "Then he believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6.) Later, when Abram was 86 years old, Ishmael was born. Then when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and changed his name to Abraham. At that time the Lord commanded that "every male among you shall be circumcised." (Genesis 17:10.) Then on the very same day, "Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin." (Genesis 17:23.) At this time Abraham was 99 years old, his son Ishmael was 13 years old, and his son Isaac had not yet been born. The book of Genesis recorded the time in Abraham's life when he was first "reckoned as righteous" and the time in his life when God's covenant with him was sealed by circumcision. Abraham was "reckoned as righteous" 13 or more years before the rite of circumcision was commanded.
Paul intimated that the timing of these events in the life of Abraham were important to all who lived after Abraham. The timing was especially important to indicate to the Jews of Paul's day that it was only to people of faith that God reckoned righteousness. The seal of circumcision given to a special people (the Jews) did not set aside the necessity of their faith. They could not be justified from their sins merely because they had complied with God's command to a special people to be circumcised. They had to approach God in obedience of faith in order to receive God's gift of righteousness. The fact that Abraham was reckoned as righteous at a point in time before he was circumcised proved this, reasoned Paul.
It also proved that both Gentiles and Jews could be reckoned as righteous. It proved that the blessing of the forgiveness of sins was not for faithful Jews only but also for faithful Gentiles. Abraham did not take on the mark of a Jew (circumcision) until late in his life. But righteousness was reckoned to him before he took on the mark of a Jew. Therefore, the blessing of God pronounced through Abraham was not for Jews only, but also for the Gentiles as well.
"(11) And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, (12) and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised." Romans 4:11-12. NASV.
First of all God gave the sign of circumcision to Abraham as a seal of the faith that he had before he became circumcised. By this "seal" Abraham was set apart as the "father of the faithful." But the "seal" of circumcision was not given to all the faithful and it did not set apart all of the faithful. There were many other faithful people of whom God did not command circumcision. Thus Abraham was the "father of all who believe without being circumcised." It was in this sense that Paul said in Galatians 3: 8, "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the nations shall be blessed in you." The faithful Gentiles of Rome to whom Paul wrote the Roman letter were among those blessed of God in Abraham.
Secondly, it was because of the faith of Abraham that God chose him and certain of his faithful descendants for a special task and set them apart with the sign of circumcision. Those faithful descendants of Abraham who received the sign of circumcision became known as the Jews. Abraham was certainly the father of the faithful among the Jews. But it was because of the "faith which he had while uncircumcised" and not because the sign of circumcision started with him. Circumcision alone did not make a Jew a true follower of Abraham. The true followers of Abraham were those who imitated the faith of Abraham. Paul said later in Romans 9: 6, "They are not all Israel who are descended from Israel." This was another way of saying that all the Jews (those descended from Abraham through Jacob) were not true followers of the faith of Abraham.
"(13) For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified: (15) for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation." Romans 4:13-15. NASV.
The promise in which Abraham had faith was not given to him because of his keeping of law. The word "Law" (capitalized in most translations) does not refer specifically to the Law given to Moses for Abraham lived many years before Moses. It refers simply to the law which Abraham was given even before he was circumcised, the law which God placed in the hearts of individuals who lived under a system which we call the Patriarchal system. The promise to Abraham and to his descendants was not given because of Abraham's k:eeping of law which God imposed on him. Abraham could not have been reckoned as righteous through law for he did not keep his law perfectly. The promise was given to Abraham because of the righteousness which God accounted to him on the basis of his faith.
If those who received law were heirs of the promise through law, then faith had no place in God's accounting of righteousness, and the promise, in which one could have faith, was nullified. One object of God's promise was to call forth faith in God's followers. The promise to Abraham called forth his faith and Abraham demonstrated that faith. If people had been reckoned righteous through law, then they could not depend upon any promise made on the basis of faith. They cut themselves off from the promise by depending upon their own keeping of law rather than upon their faith in the promise.
"The law brings about wrath." Paul had already discussed that fact. The law provided no remedy for the wrath of God against law breaking. Everyone had broken law and, without a remedy, were destined to receive the wrath of God. "But where there is no law, neither is there violation." Therein lies the remedy, Paul intimated. By God's reckoning of righteousness through faith, he took away the law and the wrath that was destined for law breakers. With the law taken away, there was no violation of the law and, therefore, no guilt for law breaking.
The only way anyone could be free from guilt for breaking God's law was not to have any law to break. God wanted to free people from their guilt and the wrath to come. Therefore, God saved believing law breakers from His just wrath by taking law out of the way and justifying them through their faith.
The law was taken out of the way through the Cross of Christ. Abraham lived hundreds of years before the Cross. But Abraham was saved through faith because the law was taken out of the way by Christ. The time difference between the justification of Abraham and the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross presented no difficulty to God for "in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed" before the Cross. (Romans 3: 25. )
To the Jews of Rome the word "Law" signified God's special law given to them through Moses. Paul's argument to them was that the Promise, of salvation through faith, was given at a point in time before the Law of Moses was given. Therefore, the Jews were foolish to insist that they were to receive the Promise through the keeping of the Law of Moses. Works of the Law, always being imperfect, could only bring wrath. But God made it clear before the Law of Moses was given that salvation could be received only through the principle of faith whereby one could be reckoned righteous without dependence upon perfect works under the Law of Moses.
"(16) For this reason it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the descendants, not only to those who are or the Law, but also to those who are or the faith or Abraham, who is the rather or us all, (17) (as it is written, 'A father of many nations have I made you') in the sight or Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." Romans 4:16-17. NASV.
"For this reason it is by faith," said Paul. In other words, for this reason the promise God gave to Abraham was carried out through the principle of faith. For what reason? For the reason that it could not come by law which inevitably made violators of all of its adherents. Salvation had to come in some way in which people could be justified despite their sins. Justification by God's principle of faith was the only way. "For this reason it is by faith."
Long before God gave the Law of Moses to the Jewish descendants of Abraham, God had promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. (Genesis 12:3.) This timing was intentional by God in order that all the descendants of Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles, might understand that this promised gift was simply in accordance with God's grace to everyone, and that all of "Abraham's descendants" might be certain that they could be recipients of the promise.
Moreover, Paul made it clear that "Abraham's descendants" were not determined by fleshly blood lines but by "faith lines." The promise was "to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." Abraham became known as the "father of the faithful" and all people, Jews or Gentiles, who followed in the faith of Abraham became his descendants and inherited the promise given to Abraham. The "blessing" of God to all the families of the earth was revealed in the Roman letter to be the "reckoning of righteousness" and "justification from sin" to those who have faith like unto the faith of Abraham.
Actually, God planned the principle of justification by faith even before the creation of the earth, even before He gave law to any of mankind. Paul intimated in Romans 1:20ff, and in Romans 2:15, that the grace of God has always been revealed to people who accept his truth. The list (in Hebrews 11) of those whom God reckoned righteous because of their faith began with Abel, a member of the first human family on earth.
The phrase "in the sight of Him whom he believed" seems to refer to the statement that "those who are of the faith of Abraham" are his descendants just as "those who are of the Law." This fact was not easily understood by mankind. It was especially hard of understanding to the Jews. But it was understood "in the sight" of God. God was not restricted to a rule that "descendants" came only through "blood lines," and God had no difficulty in reckoning descendants through "faith lines."
In Genesis 17:5 it was recorded that God told Abraham, "A father of many nations have I made you." God said that to Abraham before his son Isaac, who fathered the Jewish nation, was conceived. And yet, God stated it as if it had already happened. At the time of God's statement in Genesis 17:5, Abraham had already fathered Ishmael through Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar. In Genesis 21:13, God told Abraham concerning Ishmael, "And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant." Thus the Jews should have understood from their reading of the Genesis record that the Jewish nation was not the only nation of promise. There were at least two nations of promise.
But the original promise by God to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 12:3, was that "In you (Abraham) all the families of the earth shall be blessed." The nations that were formed by the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac encompassed only a part of "all the families of the earth." And how were they all to be blessed? Did the promised blessing refer simply to the inclusion of families in earthly nations descended from Abraham? No! The promised blessing had reference to "descendants" who would come through the power of God exercised by the giving of "life to the dead" and the calling "into being of that which does not exist!"
The God "who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist" was an amazing God.
Yet it was just this capability that God Almighty had revealed and demonstrated to mankind. This was a
truth revealed by the "eternal power." "divine nature," and " invisible attributes" which were "clearly seen"
and "understood through what has been made" (Romans 1:20), and revealed by that which God wrote "on
the hearts" of mankind (Romans 2: 15). This was a truth to which people, who did not exchange the truth
of God for a lie (Romans 1:25), were led. This was a truth which people have been held responsible to
learn throughout all time since the creation of the world. Belief in this truth was an essential part of the
faith required of mankind to which God responded by reckoning righteousness.
"(18) In hope against hope he believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, 'So shall your descendants be.' (19) And without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb: (20) yet, with respect to the promise of God. he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, (21) and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. (22) Therefore, also it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Romans 4:18-22. NASV.
Abraham had a "hope" given to him by God in response to the fact that he "believed" that God "gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." That "hope" was contained in the promise God had made to him, recorded in Genesis 15:1-6:
"The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.' And Abram said, '0 Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?' And Abram said, 'Since Thou has given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.' Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.' And He took him outside and said, 'Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:1-6.
Paul cited this passage in Genesis 15, which was familiar to the Jews, by quoting just one phrase from God: "So shall your descendants be." Apparently he expected the Jews of Rome to know the scripture in Genesis.
Paul pointed out that Abraham contemplated the fact that he was about 100 years old and beyond the age of ability to father a child. And he contemplated the fact that his wife Sarah was about 90 years old and beyond the age of ability to carry a child in her womb. In addition, Abraham and Sarah had not been able, even during their younger years together, to have a child. Yet these facts did not make Abraham become "weak in faith" concerning the promise of God. "With respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith." God spoke the promise to Abraham as if it were already done. Abraham believed it as strongly as if it had already been done. And he gave glory to God for doing it even before it had happened.
The writer in Hebrews 11:1 affirmed that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Abraham affirmed the same thing hundreds of years before the writing of Hebrews. Abraham's faith was his full assurance that the thing that God promised, God was able to do. Thus, the faith of Abraham was his "assurance" that he and Sarah would have a child, and his "conviction" that the child would father a nation of people as vast as the stars of heaven. Even though God's bringing forth a child from the bodies of Abraham and Sarah would be 1ike bringing 1ife from the dead, Abraham had no doubt that God would bring it to pass.
Abraham then acted in accordance with God's instructions to him as God worked in his life to bring the promise to fruition. "Therefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness" by God. Thus through Abraham was demonstrated the "obedience of faith" that Paul wrote about in the Roman letter. This was an example of the faith through which the "righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith." (Romans 1: 17.)
The faith of those who believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead will, like the faith of Abraham, be reckoned to them for righteousness. Romans 4:23-25.
"(23) Now not for his sake only was it written, that it was reckoned to him, (25) but for our sake also, to whom it will be reckoned, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification." Romans 4:23-25. NASV.
The Genesis record of God 's reckoning of righteousness to Abraham was written for the sake of those who would live after Abraham and also receive God's reckoning of righteousness through their faith. Paul said that the story of Abraham was preserved especially for the sake of those living in the Christian dispensation, even the Romans to whom Paul wrote this letter. Paul intimated that the Romans were among those to whom righteousness "will be reckoned" if they believed in God' s power to "give life to the dead."
Whereas Abraham was called upon to believe in God's abi1ity to bring forth a child from the bodies of a couple beyond the age of childbearing, the Romans were called upon to believe:
(1) that God raised Jesus from the dead, and
(2) that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus had implications concerning their "transgressions" and their "justification."
In Romans 4:25 Paul gave God's purpose for some of the things which occurred during the happenings which we refer to as the "death, burial, and resurrection" of Jesus. The first statement of purpose was that "He was delivered up because of our transgressions." The facts of history state that Jesus was accused of blasphemy and sedition and was "delivered up" by a mob of Jews to the Roman civil authorities for judgment, sentencing, and punishment. Although found innocent of the charges by the Roman authorities, nontheless He was "delivered up" to the demands of the Jewish mob that He be crucified. The Jewish demand for His crucifixion was then satisfied by the carrying out of the crucifixion by Roman soldiers. So, from the standpoint of worldly history, He was "delivered up" because of the actions of a Jewish mob in conjunction with Roman authorities.
But, Jesus was the Son of the Almighty Spiritual God and He had for protection great forces of spiritual angels who would have protected Him at His command. Should the Father or the Son have desired that Jesus be spared the pain and humiliation of the Cross, the mob of Jews and the Roman authorities would have been prevented from carrying out the crucifixion. Thus it was clear that Jesus was not only "delivered up" to die by the Jews and the Romans, He was "delivered up" by God the Father and by His own willingness to die. God the Father offered Him as the perfect propitiation for the "transgressions" of mankind. And He was willing to die for the justification of mankind from their "transgressions."
Of course, the very act of "delivering up" the innocent Jesus was a transgression against God. Yet the death of Jesus which resulted from the "delivering up" was for the benefit of those who willfully transgressed by taking part in the "delivering up." It was just this kind of conduct on the part of mankind which Paul referred to later when he said in Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;" and in Romans 5:10, "While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son." Thus in many meaningful ways Paul said, "He was delivered up because of our transgressions."
To what was Jesus "delivered up?" Of course He was "delivered up" to cruel physical torture and death of His body on the Cross. But He was "delivered up" to something much more devastating than that. He was "delivered up" to separation from God!
When Jesus was "delivered up" to be crucified, He had heaped upon Him the guilt for all the transgressions (sins) of mankind. Although personally innocent of any transgression, He had agreed willingly to assume the guilt for all transgressions. Thus God was enabled "to see" the punishment of Jesus as "just" in that Jesus, in those moments of crucifixion, was guilty of the transgressions of any and all human beings. Such a guilty One could not remain in the grace or presence of God. God had given Himself no choice but to withdraw from His Son. The fact that God the Father did separate Himself from Jesus was attested to by the utterance of Jesus as He hung on the Cross, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46.) In all this is seen the "delivering up" of Jesus "because of our transgressions."
Paul not only said in Romans 4:25, "He was delivered up because of our transgressions," he also said, "He was raised because of our justification." The first statement pertained to God's purpose for Jesus' death and burial. The second statement pertained to God's purpose for Jesus' resurrect ion. In what sense was Jesus "raised because of our justification?"
Jesus went to the Cross with all transgressions heaped upon Him and submitted to separation from God because He desired to make it possible for people to be justified from their sins. When His death and His separation from God was complete, "our justification" was complete. Then because it was complete, Jesus was freed from the obligation He had taken and could then be "raised" from the dead.
Jesus was inherently innocent. Therefore His separation from God was not allowed to continue one moment longer than necessary to satisfy the "just" Father. It appears that His propitiation was complete at least by the time when He uttered from the Cross the words, "It is finished." (John 19:30.) It was also recorded that Jesus said just before dying, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit." (Luke 23:46.) He could not commit His spirit to God while He was still "forsaken" by God. This also seems to indicate that the time of Jesus' complete separation from God was a limited period while He hung on the Cross. Jesus was then "raised because of our justification." His job of justifying people from the guilt of their sins was complete. He was ready for the next significant step assigned to Him under God's purpose for Him as the "second Adam," the step of experiencing resurrection from the dead.
In Christ 's resurrection from the dead the Romans could see, by faith, the same exercise of God 's power that Abraham saw. Abraham believed that God gave life to the dead. Abraham's faith was so strong that He believed it even before God gave the life. The Romans could see that God gave life to Jesus when He raised Him. Also, the resurrection of Jesus assured the Romans in their hope that God would resurrect them at the proper time.
Through Paul's letter to the Romans, we who live today are also admonished. Our faith must be like Abraham's faith in that we too must believe that God "gives life to the dead". If we discard from our faith a belief in God's ability and intention of giving life to the dead (which some call supernatura1 and impossible), then we are not people of faith at all. God "gives life to the dead!" That's miraculous! Quite right! We can't have the faith that God reckons as righteousness unless we believe and fully expect God to perform' this miraculous thing.
(This was taken from the book, "God's Righteousness Revealed," a commentary on the Roman Letter by F. M. Perry.)
©2002, F. M. Perry