Saturday, June 2, 2018

Another Look at Romans 4:25

     Sometimes I'll read in print or hear preachers say something to the effect that "Christ paid for our sins by His death and resurrection." Or in the words of Free Grace author J. B. Hixson: "Jesus Christ . . . died and rose again to pay one's personal penalty for sin".1 

     But did Christ's resurrection help pay for our sins? Maybe Christ's payment wasn't "finished" (Greek tetelestai = paid in full, Jn. 19:30) on the cross after all? Sometimes Romans 4:25 is misunderstood as teaching this. But I like what Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer has written about it. Chafer writes in Volume 4 of his Systematic Theology:
"Because of a complicated translation in the A.V. [the "Authorized Version," i.e. the KJV] of Romans 4:25, the impression is abroad that in some way - not well defined - Christ was delivered to death for our sins, but was raised again to the end that believers might be justified. However, justification does not depend on the resurrection of Christ, but on His death; and this particular text really asserts a quite different idea. The A.V. rendering is, 'Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.' Romans 3:24 states that justification is 'through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus'; and, again, 'justified by his blood' (Rom. 5:9). The sense of Romans 4:25 is that, the ground having been provided for justification by His death, the Lord arose from the grave. Bishop Moule writes in the Cambridge Bible on this verse:
     Lit[erally]. because of our justification. The construction is identical [i.e., in this and the corresponding phrase earlier]. This, and the balance of the clauses, seem to demand the exposition: 'He was raised, because our justification was effected;' not, 'in order to give us justification,' as many interpret it. The parallel is complete: 'We sinned, therefore He suffered: we were justified, therefore He rose.' - To this it is objected that the thought is not doctrinally true; justification being, for each believer, dated not from the Lord's death, but from the time of faith (see ch. 5.1). But the answer is obvious: the Apostle here states the Ideal of the matter; he means not individual justifications, but the Work which for ever secured Justification for the believing Church. A close parallel is the 'IT IS FINISHED' (John 19.30). (See too the ideal language in 8.30; and instructive parallels in Heb. 1.3 and 10.14). In the Divine Idea every future believer was declared to be justified, through an accomplished Propitiation, when Jesus rose. His resurrection proved His acceptance as our Substitute, and therefore our acceptance in Him. No doubt the other interpretation is true as to fact: He was raised that, through the Gospel, (which but for His resurrection would never have been preached,) we might receive justification. But the Gr. [Greek] construction, and the balance of clauses, are certainly in favour of that now given. - 'Romans,' p. 98.
     To the same purpose, F. Godet writes, 'In the same way, as Jesus died because of our offences, that is our (merited) condemnation, He was raised because of our (accomplished) justification. Our sin had killed Him; our justification raised Him again. How so? The expiation of our trespasses once accomplished by His death, and the right of God's justice proved in earnest, God could pronounce the collective acquittal of future believers, and He did so. . . .  So long as the security is in prison the debt is not paid; the immediate effect of payment would be his liberation. Similarly, if Jesus were not raised, we should be more than ignorant whether our debt were paid: we might be certain that it was not. His resurrection is the proof of our justification, only because it is the necessary effect of it' (Romans, I, 312, cited by Griffith Thomas, Romans, I, 187)."2


1 Hixson, Getting the Gospel Wrong (Xulon Press, 2008), pp. 84, 89, 92, 99, 100, 104, 110, 145, 205, 229, 237, 242, 258, 285, 347, ellipsis added. I have already responded to Hixson's statement in my paper "The Free Grace Gospel Debate". So for a more thorough critique of his view, please click here.

2 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), 8 Vols., Vol. 4, pp. 88-89, emphasis, ellipsis, and first brackets his. NOTE: In the quotation above, the Bible verses in Roman numerals have been updated to the current format.

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