But what does it mean for me? You ask that about a change in tax law, a new employee policy at work, a new regulation at school. In Romans 4, Paul answers the question what faith, the kind of faith that Abraham had, means for you. In Romans 4:25 he focuses on what Christ’s resurrection means for you.
Christ was delivered over for your offenses. Abraham’s faith is relevant to your situation. Abraham lived about 2,000 years before the coming of Christ. You live about the same length of time after his death and resurrection. What bearing could the words written about Abraham’s faith have on your situation? Abraham believed God, and God said (through Moses in Genesis 15:6) that it was counted to him for righteousness. But those words were intended, not just for Abraham, but for all who share his faith. Thus they were relevant for the church in Rome that read Paul’s letter. And they are intended for you and me today. God’s absolute sovereignty, his power, his ability to do what he has promised, his faithfulness to his covenant, are all unchanging. They are as true for you as they were for Abraham. God revealed that faithfulness in the strange scene in the last part of Genesis 15, when the burning torch, representing the presence of God, passed between the butchered animals. When you face a situation that seems beyond your control, when God’s promises appear to be empty air, when discouragement sets in, remember God’s faithfulness to Abraham. When you struggle against sin in your life, focus on the power of the God who raised Christ from the dead. As you face that ugly intruder, death, in your grief you remember that God’s promises are greater even than that last enemy.
That faithfulness comes to bear in a most crucial situation. Because you offended, Christ was delivered to die. You have offended. You violated the law of God, not just some arbitrary regulations, but a law that reflects his perfect character, his utter holiness. You are guilty of your own transgressions, and you are involved in the sinfulness of your first parents, Adam and Eve. Thus you stand before God guilty. Sinners that we are, we tend to minimize the seriousness of our sins. But transgression is the violation of that which God’s glory demands of us. It strikes at the very character of God. Because you violated the holiness of God, Christ was delivered to die. Paul’s emphasis is on what Christ suffered for you. He was the Lamb of God, offered to bear your punishment, to take upon himself your guilt. Christ’s death results from his union with his people. He was made sin for you, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ’s death is his involvement with us as the second Adam.
Paul speaks not only of Christ’s death, but also of his resurrection. Christ was raised for your justification. Christ was raised. This verse sets the background for Romans 5 and 6, where Paul focuses on Christ’s death and resurrection as the second Adam. Paul emphasizes Christ’s passivity. While he in no way denies Christ’s own involvement in his resurrection, Paul typically stresses that Christ was raised. His resurrection parallels his suffering and death on the cross. He was delivered to die, he was raised from the dead. The activity of the Father is what Paul wants you to focus on. He was raised triumphantly. Death could not hold him, for even though the sin-bearer, he was not guilty. The Spirit who was powerfully active in raising the Son is operative in your life as a Christian, Romans 8:11.
“[W]hen we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness…. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome…..”John Calvin, Commentary on Romans at 4:25
Christ’s resurrection means that Christ was justified. The idea may sound strange to our ears, for we associate the concept with the justification of sinners. Paul in no way implies that Christ was a sinner. The point he is making is that the death of Christ calls for his resurrection. A dead Christ justifies no one, 1 Corinthians 15:12ff. Christ was justified. God declared him righteous. He vindicated him, 1 Timothy 3:16. Christ resurrection is the public declaration of his acceptance by the Father, Romans 1:4.
And because he was justified, so are you. Christ’s resurrection is your justification. Christ’s resurrection, that unique event, was not for himself alone. You are involved in it. He was raised, not for himself alone, but for you. He is raised as the firstfruits of those who sleep, 1 Corinthians 15:20. In him you are just. You stand righteous before God as you trust in Christ. He was raised as the second Adam. You stand before God innocent, declared”Not guilty!” because of Christ’s resurrection.
“In other words, as our substitute, a crucified but unresurrected Christ still bears the guilt of our sins; as long as he remains in a state of death, its penal force continues and he (and believers) are unjustified. The resurrection is his justification and so secures the believer’s justification. This is the likely sense in Romans 4:25 of the formula, whether or not taken over by Paul, ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’”Richard B. Gaffin Jr. “Atonement in the Pauline Corpus,” Word and Spirit, p. 289
The guilt of your sin is gone. Your conscience to longer has grounds to accuse you. God’s verdict is public and final. It can be reversed no more than the resurrection of Christ can be undone.
Because Abraham, living 2,000 years before Christ, trusted in that promised Messiah, because he knew that God can call the things that are not as though they are, his faith is relevant to you. Two millennia after the coming of Christ you can trust that same God. The power that raised up Christ is operative in your life as a Christian, as one who trusts Christ. It is that power that sustains you in difficult times. It is that power that draws you to God and gives you peace.