“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rm 4:25)
The Resurrection of Jesus
After describing Abraham’s faith, Paul said at the end of chapter 4,
“The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Rm 4:23-25)
Paul said that the righteousness Abraham received wasn’t only for him, but also for us. It means that we can also have this same, ‘credited’ righteousness. And, the only way for us to be credited as righteous before God is to believe in Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected from the dead.
Actually, that was the blessing God promised to give Abraham when he first called him. In Genesis 12:2-3, God said, “…I will bless you… and you will be a blessing. … And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3)
The blessing God gave Abraham was to be credited as righteous by faith. As Paul said in Galatians, ℗ “Those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (Gal 3:9)
What’s important about God’s blessing is that the one who receives it comes to have the responsibility to be a blessing to others. That’s why God blessed Abraham. God blessed him so that he could be a blessing and so that all people would be blessed through him. The blessing of God was transferred from generation to generation through the predecessors of our faith and now it has reached us.
Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness, and now we can also be considered righteous through our faith in Jesus. Galatians 3:6-8 says,
“So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Gal 3:6-8)
What we need to focus on with regard to the important characteristic of Abraham’s faith is that he believed in what God said “against all hope.” He didn’t believe what made sense to him. He believed God’s promise even though it didn’t make sense at all from the point of view of the world. And, the Bible tells us that that’s the kind of faith we need to have. God doesn’t require us to believe what makes sense to us, but in what seems impossible to us—the resurrection of Jesus.
In order to be saved, we must have specific faith. A lot of people believe that God exists. They believe that this world was made by a higher power. However, that kind of faith can’t save us. Only when we truly believe that Jesus was hung on a cross and rose again from the grave, will our faith be credited as righteousness.
Then, why is it so important for us to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus?
Paul said, “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins” (Rom 4:25a) Jesus suffered and died on the cross in our place in order to receive the penalty of God's wrathful judgment on our sin.
However, that wasn’t the end. Paul continued, “[He] was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25b).
Jesus' death on the cross itself couldn’t complete our salvation. I’m not saying the resurrection of Jesus is more important than His crucifixion. What I want to emphasize is that without the resurrection of Jesus, his crucifixion would’ve had no meaning at all because our salvation was not completed on the cross but in the empty tomb.
The most central message when it comes to the gospel is that Jesus was raised from the dead. That’s the most important event in Christianity. So, why is the resurrection of Jesus so important in Christian faith? To understand this, we need to know what high priests did on the day of atonement in the Old Testament.
Once a year, on the day of atonement, all the Israelites’ sins could be forgiven. Only on that day, could a high priest enter the most holy place with bull’s blood and goat’s blood to atone for all of Israel’s sins.
What's important here is that the high priest could die during this procedure if the sins of the Israelites were too severe. So, when he entered the most holy place with the animals’ blood, all of the Israelites began to get nervous because if he died, it meant the Israelites' sins were so severe that they couldn’t be forgiven.
It meant that the Israelites could only be sure of their forgiveness and acceptance by God if the high priest came out of the Most Holy Place alive. And, the same principle is applied to Jesus.
According to Hebrews, Jesus went into the Most Holy Place as our High Priest. However, the difference was that He didn’t go with animals’ blood, but with His own blood, which He shed on the cross. But His death itself didn't complete our salvation.
In order to complete our salvation, Jesus had to be resurrected from the dead just as the high priests in the Old Testament had to come out of the Most Holy Place alive. That’s the significance of Jesus' resurrection and the most powerful evidence that all our sins are really forgiven.
This explains the meaning of Rom 4:25, which says,
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rm 4:25)
Paul also said,
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1Co 15:14,17)
The resurrection of Jesus not only shows us that there is eternal life, but it also gives us the confidence that we are truly forgiven and justified. Jesus’ resurrection makes it possible for His righteousness to be credited to us. Christ died in our place to pay the price for our sins so that we could be made righteous in Him. And He was raised from the dead so that we could also receive His eternal, resurrected life, as a gift of God's grace. That’s the essence of the gospel and that’s what we must believe as Christians.
However, justification is only the first step in the story of salvation. Once justified, we must recognize that our old lives are in the past and nail them to the cross, while we should become mature in faith to live out our new lives in Christ.
We should be gradually sanctified. We are to keep growing in God’s grace. That’s how we live righteously in the world—with faith that is credited to us as righteousness.