Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4.23-25).
Justification is a word from the family of words belonging to the legal arena. Judge, jury, jurisprudence, justice, justify, jurisdiction are only a few others pertaining to the same field. We hope to demonstrate from the Scriptures the use of this word, justification, as it applies to the elect family chosen in Christ.
The elect were chosen in Christ before the world was fashioned. They had a vital union with Him as His seed. Even so it follows that they, the elect, could not have been eternally justified; it was a timely justification. Why were the elect justified in time and not eternity? Simply, the elect stood in no need of justification until they fell under the penalties of the law. Did that fall occur in eternity or in time? Of course the whole family of Adam fell in the garden, in time, not in eternity. Being in Christ, before there was a world, the chosen children were as pure as He was pure. It was the fall, in time, that plunged the chosen into a condition that required justification. Mark well, the elect stood in no need of justification until they fell in Adam. The law had no jurisdiction over the elect prior to Adam's fall. Justice had put in no claim against them. God the Judge was well pleased with them in His Son. Justification had no application for the unfallen elect.
We shall, the Lord enabling, show from the Bible that justification took place in time, consistent with all the glories of God's sovereignty and His eternal purposes. Be reminded, it is one thing to say God purposed justification in eternity. It is another thing altogether to say that justification actually took place before the elect fell. God purposed our quickening in eternity, or from everlasting. It was then, in eternity, as sure as if it had already come to pass. Nevertheless, we know of no serious student of the Word that believes anyone was actually quickened before they fell into sin and death resulting from the first transgression. So it is with justification. Purposed in eternity, it was accomplished in time by the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
ARE THERE MULTIPLE JUSTIFICATIONS?
Our text above (Romans 4.25) declares with absolute certainty the time of justification. The wording makes it perfectly clear that Jesus our Lord was raised again for our justification. We learn elsewhere in Scriptures that this was early on the morning of the first day of the week (Matthew 28.1-3; John 20.1). How then are we to understand other clear statements in the Word relative to justification by faith (Roman 3.28; Romans 5.1; Galatians 3.24). Is there some contradiction, created by our failure to acknowledge the import of these texts? And too, what of justification by His grace (Romans 3.24; Titus 3.7); justification by His blood (Romans 5.9); justification in the name of the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 6.11); justified by Christ, justified by the faith of Christ (Galatians 2.16,17)? When these various texts asserting justification are viewed together it will be seen that they are simply different expressions regarding the same thing. Each relates to one and the same justification. We shall give our evidence in a following article.
Advocates for the conditional system insist James teaches us of justification by works. The evidence, they say, is Abraham our father was justified by works (James 2.21); by works a man is justified (James 2.24); Rahab the harlot was justified by works (James 2.25). All controversy can quickly be dispatched, however, when it is seen that the works James speaks of are but fruits of a sinner justified; fruits that are the inevitable outgrowth of justification, and not the cause. James contended faith without works was dead. Then it follows, living faith must have works; not to make it a living faith, but because it is a living faith.
One additional thought on the justification of which James speaks: some well-meaning brethren advocate James argues that works justify us before men. In response, we ask, who has required this novelty of justification before men? The living family has received no commandment from God to justify themselves before a dead world. This is conduct we expect from Pharisees and other proud work-mongers. The living child prefers to conduct his business in the closet. The idea of justifying ourselves before men involves so many conjectural requirements that it is simply not worthy of serious consideration.
Finally, the words of Jesus in John 15 make clear the impossibility of His chosen children being justified before men. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15.19)." When the world's children see the children of God performing good works it will enrage them rather than cause them to justify the elect.
THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
Romans 4.23-25 mentions four different words vitally related to the theme of justification. They are, in order, Imputation, Belief, Delivered, and Raised Again. Of the first two we shall remark only briefly, not because they are unimportant, but due to space limitations. Fuller attention will be given Christ being delivered and His being raised again.
The everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son was that which brought all of this into motion. However, Israel and God entered into a covenant, commonly called the Old Covenant before Jesus Christ our Lord introduced the everlasting covenant.
God often made promises to the sons of men, but that did not constitute a covenant. Man often made promises to God, but neither does that constitute a covenant. With no desire to trivialize the meaning of the word covenant, we suggest that a covenant may be considered a mutual agreement based on promises made between two or more parties. The covenant called the Old Covenant was entered into by both God and man, specifically, the twelve tribes of Israel. That it was accurately called a covenant is evinced by the following: "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine (Exodus 19.5)." It is seen here that God reviewed with the tribes of Israel the imperative nature of the covenant stipulations (things upon which they mutually agreed) upon which they were about to enter.
Eager, although ignorant of their inability, Israel ratified their portion of the covenant. "And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord (Exodus 19.8)." It will be noticed that Moses acted as mediator between God and man in the acceptance of the Old Covenant. In this respect he was an important figure of Christ.
The elect family all fell in sin, along with the rest of the human family, when Adam first sinned. Thus we see the truth of Romans 5.12, where it is stated "death passed upon all men." But, according to Romans 5.13, sin was not imputed where there was no law, even though death would reign from Adam to Moses (verse 14). When Israel entered into covenant with God (that covenant was the law, reflecting God's holy standards for man) the parties in that covenant with God were bound to meet (keep) all its requirements entirely, fully, or suffer those consequences God lays upon covenant breakers. This was a serious situation if ever one existed.
Israel failed. They violated their obligations under the covenant. Remedy, in the form of restitution, reconciliation, and redemption, became imperative.
Blessedly there was already a remedy. It was the everlasting covenant. The Old Covenant, in reality newer than the New Covenant (which is the same as the everlasting covenant) would be taken away and replaced by the New Covenant, which was older than the old because of its eternal origin.
Those under the old (law) covenant had sinned. Because they sinned, the problem became more than just keeping a covenant. Not only had Israel failed to keep the covenant; they were then transgressors against the covenant. They were double debtors. If a way was provided to pay for their transgressions, that would clean the slate, so to speak, but it would not make them pure, holy or undefiled. This is where justification provides the remedy.
Here many seem to wander in theological conclusion.
Jesus would be delivered up to death. His death would pay the debt of all His chosen. But for their justification more was required. He would have to be raised again by the Father. The Father had covenanted with the Son to raise Him from the dead upon the Son's perfect completion of His redemptive (not justifying) work by His own blood. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from you fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (I Peter 1.18,19)."
In eternity past Christ covenanted with the Father to redeem His children by His own blood. This was to remedy the fall that was to subsequently transpire in the garden of Eden. This covenant is described by Paul in Hebrews 13.20: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant." The reader will notice the two elements of the text, being the everlasting covenant and the resurrection of the Lord from the dead. The covenant is mentioned again by Paul in the following: "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second (Hebrews 10.9)." What that will of the Father was is clearly spelled out by John: "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day (John 6.38,39)."
Those children which God gave Him, Jesus would raise up at the last day. The Apostle identified them as partakers of flesh and blood. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil (Hebrews 2.14)." This is a point of considerable importance. Jesus came and lived like His children, clothed in humanity. (See John 1.14.) Christ, our spiritual kinsman, also became our natural kinsman by partaking of flesh and blood. As the God-man He fully serviced the law of God in our behalf. He kept (fulfilled, Matthew 5.17) the law for us where we never could. This, His law-keeping, was imputed to us for righteousness. This righteousness is imparted in the quickening of each of the elect. We call this being born of the Spirit. Though Jesus met all the stern demands of the law for us - putting His righteousness on our account - we would yet be sinners before God were it not for justification.
The law's demands for a holy life were met for us by Him. But what of our previous transgressions? It was for this purpose he was delivered up. This was in keeping with His covenant with the Father to do for His people what they could not do for themselves.
What we have shown so far is this: Jesus died for our sins. This He promised the Father in the everlasting covenant to do. This would pay our debt but it would not make us just. Death was the portion for Jesus in the covenant. Raising Jesus from the dead and justifying those for whom he died was the Father's portion of the covenant. We examine that next.
DELIVERED UP FOR OUR OFFENCES
"Who was delivered for our offences." In what sense was Jesus delivered? We suggest several. "For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day (Mark 9.31)." The similarity here with our text in Romans 4.25 cannot go unnoticed. Jesus would be delivered, and He would be raised from the dead. Other comparable texts are Matthew 27.2, 18; Mark 10.33; 15.1. See also Luke9.44; 18.32; 23.25; 24.7, 20. The central thought of delivering Jesus up is found, however, in the following two texts: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things (Romans 8.32)?" "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up. . .(Acts 2.23,24)."
From these two texts it is clear our Lord was delivered in the will and purpose of His Father. Man's malice and rage unto Jesus notwithstanding, it was the fulfilling of the eternal purpose of God. The Father and the Son were in concert relative to the redemption and redeeming of the chosen flock. Paul makes this positively certain in Romans 8.32 where he wrote that God spared not His son but delivered Him up for us all. We shall have occasion to return to this text in due time.
Some ask why it was necessary for God to spare not His Son. The question of the free sacrifice of Jesus for His bride shall probably never be fully answered in this world. Sufficient it is for us to know, as our Lord exclaimed, "Even so Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." It seemed good to the Father, and the Son as well, for the only begotten Son to be delivered up. How? "By the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Jesus, fully innocent, free from personal sin, was delivered by the eternal will, and concurrently with, the wicked hands of those that slew him. Remember, the Son was pledged from everlasting to accomplish the redemption of all those the Father gave Him. So He was delivered up.
Jesus "...poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (Isaiah 53.12)." "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8)." These verses positively declare the great work for which Jesus was delivered up.
This, however, does by no means conclude the grand transactions of the everlasting covenant.
When Jesus bowed His head on the cross and gave up the ghost He had finished completely that for which He had been delivered, but the full purpose for the deliverance of the elect was by no means completed. We remind the reader - the everlasting covenant was entered into by both the Father and the Son. Jesus had accomplished all He promised the Father He would do. Now, after the Son was dead, the Father would do that on which the Son had faith He would do.
Here Bible students often conclude. They seem to believe Jesus alone, or as distinct from the Father, wrought our deliverance. The Father, contrary to the limited views of some, was as fully involved, and equally obligated, to the covenant as was the Son. This is distinctly obvious in the closing words of our text, "And was raised again for our justification."
It was the raising Jesus from the dead that testified the Father was satisfied with what the Son did. It also testified that the faith Jesus had in the Father to raise Him from the dead was not in vain.
For three days and three nights the Son of man, the Son of God, reposed in the borrowed tomb. That loathsome enemy of all departed flesh, corruption, was forbidden to enter the tomb where Jesus lay. It was a most sacred sanctuary. His flesh was resting in hope (Acts 2.26). Our Lord had, "For the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12.2)." Now, in the heart of the earth, he expected the fulfilling of the Father's promise to Him. Here was the time for the Scripture to come to pass where it was written: "I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession (Psalm 2.7,8)."
Let there be no confusion about this text. The begetting of Jesus was accomplished at the resurrection according to many texts. "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised Him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David (Acts 13.33,34)."
The Son of God had promised the Father (covenanted) to come and die as payment to the curse of the law. God the Father had promised the Son (covenanted) that after the death of the Son and following His burial for three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, He would raise Him from the dead. So He did, early on the morning of the first day of the week.
Thus Jesus was the first begotten of the dead (Revelation 1.5) and as well the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1.18). "Seeing then that we have a great high priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (Hebrews 4.14)." The Son laid down His life in His own blood. Following His resurrection He ascended on high and "...by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Hebrews 9.12)."
It is here at the entering into the holiest of all, upon His resurrection, that Jesus was accepted in all His priestly work as justifying His family. It was said, "He [the Father] shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53.11)." God saw the travail. He heard the Son cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me (Psalm 22.1)?" All the Son had promised He had performed. God the Father was satisfied. The Righteous Servant had justified many.
In a following article we shall go more fully into the latter part of Romans 4.25, "and was raised again for our justification." Additional texts relating to justification will be considered.
Elder J F Poole
Volume 12, No. 4 - July-August, 1998