The Roman Resurrection Road – Part 3 – Resurrection and Justification

This blog is part of a series of blogs concerning the Resurrection realities found in the book of Romans. To read the intro to this series, go here.

The next resurrection reality we encounter in Romans happens in Chapter 4, the chapter that provides evidence for justification by faith in the Old Testament:

“23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

The latter half of Romans 3 is dedicated to the idea of justification (being declared righteous) by faith alone. In it, we find that God is both “Just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom 3:26). God is simultaneously “just” in punishing sin and accepting the payment for it, namely Jesus’ blood, while also releasing justification to those who would receive it.

In other words, God was not playing some game of pretend, wink-winking at our sin in declaring us righteous. It is not ignored or swept under the rug. He is “just” in releasing justification to us simply because the payment of the blood of Christ was sufficient. He accepted it.

Justified by His Blood

We know that we are justified “by His blood,” according to Romans 5:9. His blood is the mechanism by which we are justified. So what’s with the last part of Romans 4:25, quoted above? Is it because of His blood that we are justified, or because of His resurrection?

Let’s look at the purpose of Romans 4, which follows the clearest statement on justification by faith alone made in chapter 3. Romans 4 shows that the reality of justification by faith alone finds its roots in the story of Abraham, who walked the earth hundreds of years before the Law. The evidence that this is how a person can be declared righteous is right there in the Old Testament. Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness.

When you look at Romans 4, part of Abraham’s “believing God” has to do with the fact that He trusted God’s ability to resurrect. As a prototype, in a sense, for us all, “he in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and [s]calls into being that which does not exist (v.17). Further down, the deadness of Sarah’s womb becomes a shadow of the deadness of Jesus’ tomb.

To put it another way, Abraham not only believed God would do what He said, but that not even death could stop Him from doing so, as He alone can give life to the dead!

Abraham believed in the resurrection before the resurrection, and it was applied to Him as righteousness. There is a clear link between the resurrection and our justification, as Romans 4:25 demonstrates. 

So What is the Link Between Resurrection and Justification?

Let’s look at it again:

“25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

Some translations communicate the idea that He was raised in order that we would be justified, but that can lead to confusion. He was perfectly obedient and shed His blood in order that we would be justified. His resurrection was the Father’s attestation that Christ was in fact perfect, so the blood He shed could in fact, be satisfactory to pay for our sin! Christ was not imputed righteousness as we are, He was proven to be perfectly righteous in His resurrection as death only has a legal claim over the sinner. In fact, it was impossible for death to hold Him (Rom 2:24).

He was “delivered over” in order to identify with our transgressions, for our sin to be placed on Him. He was raised in order that we may now identify with His righteousness via imputation. He truly became sin who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God in Him! The resurrection proves that the righteousness imputed to us is THE righteousness accepted by the Father.

His blood was the payment that justified us. His resurrection is proof that Christ was perfect, so God accepted the sacrifice!

Jonathan Edwards put it in these terms:

“For if Christ were not risen, it would be evidence that God was not yet satisfied for [our] sins. Now the resurrection is God declaring his satisfaction; He thereby declared that it was enough; Christ was thereby released from his work; Christ, as he was Mediator, is thereby justified.”

What Does This Mean For You?

This means that, because of the resurrection, you can be sure that accepting the payment of Christ’s blood on your behalf is sufficient for you to be declared righteous. Not because you are perfect, but because HE is perfect. When you stand before God, covered in the blood of Jesus, you can be assured that God sees you as righteous. Because of the blood of Jesus, it is “just” for Him to do so.

Because Christ was raised, we can have assurance that the righteousness imputed to us is satisfactory to the Father!