This week we are taking a short break from Mark to talk about how we as Christians can reflect the Justice of God in an unjust world.
The Christian’s Union with Christ Guarantees
I. God’s Love for the Christians (Rom 8:28ff)
II. God’s Sovereign Power for the Christian (Eph 1:22-23)
III. God’s Sovereign Plan to Lovingly Allow Adversity for the Christian (Jn 15:18)
Easter is a day to remember the resurrected Lord. In a sense – a very real sense – every day fits this description. Furthermore, every Sunday is the “Lord’s Day”. But today, Resurrection Sunday – is especially a day to remember our resurrected Lord. Today we gather to remember him and rejoice at what he has accomplished. But where do we begin? Of all that Jesus is and has accomplished, where do we start?
We could go back to the Old Testament to see all of his pre-incarnate appearances. While we are there we could look at all of the prophecies he fulfilled. Or, if we wanted to start in the New Testament, we could remind ourselves of the miracle of the virgin birth. There is just so much to choose from. He turned water into wine. He walked on water. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and helped those in need. He preached with a power and authority that no other man had ever possessed. He was a leader of men, teaching his disciples with divine patience. Accomplishment after accomplishment just keeps piling up. We have not even mentioned raising Lazarus from the dead, or his victory over Satan, or many other accomplishments recorded in the words of the New Testament.
In addition to this, the Apostle John reminds us that:
“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book.” (John 20:30)
As the hymn puts it:
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the Love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.”
Today is a day to remember our resurrected Lord, but where should we begin?
I’d like to propose that we begin with a text of Scripture that describes the two greatest accomplishments of Jesus. The text of Scripture I’d like to draw your attention to today is found in Romans 4:25. In this brief passage, the Apostle Paul is describing the Lord Jesus for his readers, and in the process reminds us of the two greatest accomplishments of the resurrected Lord. This is the perfect place for us to begin as we endeavor to remember our resurrected Lord. In this passage Paul describes Jesus as the one:
“who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4:25)
Here we are reminded of the 2 greatest accomplishments of our resurrected Lord.
I. He was delivered up
A. Delivered up to the cross
B. Delivered up for our trespasses
II. He was raised up
A. Raised up from the tomb
B. Raised up for our justification
I. He was Delivered Up (v. 25a)
The first great accomplishment of our resurrected Lord is that he was “delivered up”. We see this at the beginning of verse 25 where Paul describes Jesus as the one “who was delivered up for our trespasses…” Of all the accomplishments of Christ, this hardly seems like it should be considered among the greatest. To be delivered up sounds like something a package could do. More accurately, it is something done to a package. So how is it that being delivered up is one of Jesus’ greatest accomplishments? Upon further reflection, we realize the significance of Paul’s comment.
A. Delivered up to the Cross
What makes this accomplishment so great is that Paul is talking about when Christ was delivered up to the cross. The word that Paul uses here is frequently translated “handed over” or “betrayed”. It is the same word used when John the Baptist was arrested (Mk1:14) and it is the same word that is used frequently of Judas’ betrayal (Mt 10:4). When Paul reminds us that Jesus was delivered up, he is reminding us that Jesus was sent to the cross where he died an excruciating death. Mark 15:16-32 reminds us of the details of Christ’s death, and these details are what Paul has in mind when he describes one of Jesus’ two great accomplishments as being delivered up.
It is still a bit surprising that Paul would describe Jesus’ great accomplishment in the passive voice. You, like that package, don’t deliver yourself up. In this case, it was Judas who handed Jesus over (Mk 14:10). He, along with the Jewish leaders, was the one who delivered Jesus up to be crucified. This is true. We know it to be so. But it is not the only thing we know to be true in this case. In this case, there was someone behind and above Judas who acted to deliver Jesus up to the cross. That Person, of course, is the first person of the Trinity. The Father is the One who delivered his Son up into this world (Jn 3:16). It was His plan that included Jesus being delivered up to the cross. In Romans 8:32, Paul puts it this way:
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all…”
There Paul uses the exact same Greek phrase we find in our passage. The Father is ultimately the one who planned, sent and delivered up Christ. He is the Divine Architect of the plan.
It is still, however, noticeable that Jesus’ accomplishment seems to be nothing more than what others did to him. Was this great accomplishment nothing more than being a religious martyr?
Not hardly; it was much more than that.
The Son wasn’t a helpless victim to Judas, the Jews, the Romans, or the Divine Plan. Jesus, unlike that package, was much more than an inactive participant in his delivery. As the second member of the Trinity, Jesus was an active participant in the eternal plan that sent him to the cross. Jesus knew the will of the Father and he came into this world to accomplish that will (Jn 6:38). This is why Paul was right to describe one of Jesus’ great accomplishments as being delivered up. He came to accomplish the will of the Father and that’s exactly what he did. Jesus was no passive victim. He could have called down 72,000 angels to stop the men who arrested him (Mt 26:53). He could have trained and empowered his disciples to fight against Pilate’s soldiers (Jn 18:36). He could’ve stopped the whole thing. He had the power necessary. But he didn’t use it. Instead he gave his life willingly. As Jesus said in John 10:17-18:
“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
This willingness to be delivered up and entrust himself to the judgment of the Father (I Pt 2:27) is what makes this one of the 2 great accomplishments of Jesus.
Yet, the unresolved question still lingers. Why? Why would the Father initiate this plan? Why would he allow Judas to act according to his sinful inclinations? Why would he allow the Jews to seemingly win the day, and the Romans to be complicit in the sin? Or, for that matter, why would Jesus willingly allow himself to be delivered up?
Paul doesn’t leave the question unresolved for long.
B. Delivered up for our trespasses
In the very next phrase of v.25 Paul answers the “why” question with the words “for our trespasses”. Here we see that the reason for Jesus being delivered up is found within us. It was our trespasses that necessitated Jesus being delivered up. What are our trespasses?
The word Paul uses for trespasses is a derivative of a word that means to fall. The “imagery [is] of one making a false step”. (BDAG,770). It is referring to specific offenses, or sins, against God. In fact, when Paul uses the term “sin” in his letters he is usually referring to sin generally with all its controlling power and influence (EDNT, Vol.3, 22). When he uses the word “trespasses” he has in mind specific acts of sin. It is the specific acts of sin done by particular individuals that Paul has in mind here. As the words of the modern hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” put it:
Behold the man upon the cross
My guilt upon his shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held him there
It was my sin that held him there. It was your sin. Not just sin generally; but the specific trespasses of people like us required the death of the Son of God.
We take our sins far too lightly. We rationalize, excuse, medicate, facilitate, and ignore them. Despite our best efforts, however, they don’t go away. We might not think all that much about it, after all, to err is human. That may be true, but ultimately you and I have a court date with a judge who is not human. Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed once for man to die then judgment. That day is coming for each and every one of us. The Bible is quite clear about what will happen to us if we come to that appointment without having done anything about our sin. Rom 3:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death. If we go before a perfectly holy God with one trespass the judgment will be death. God cannot permit sin in his kingdom.
So what do we do? Do we work harder? That won’t work. Jeremiah tells us that even our deeds of righteousness are like filthy rage before a holy God. Plus, we have sinned against an infinite God. The punishment we deserve is infinite. That’s why hell is everlasting. We can’t overcome it. We need an infinite sacrifice. We need a substitute. We need God to do something. This is why Jesus was delivered up!
Our trespasses separated us from God, earned us divine wrath, and excluded us from the kingdom of God. Jesus expiated sin, propitiated wrath and gained us access in the kingdom. As Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 5:19-21:
“…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sakes he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is the great accomplishment of Christ: That by being delivered up he is able to reconcile God and man. What makes this accomplishment even more remarkable is that it is exactly what the prophet Isaiah predicted would happen in Isaiah 53:5:
“He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace;
And with his wounds we are healed.”
This is also what Paul is talking about in Romans 4:25, and this is what Christ accomplished when he was “delivered up for our transgressions”. Like the Apostle Paul, I beg you to be reconciled to God – put your faith in Christ Jesus. Let his great accomplishment be your salvation, hope, and assurance in the judgment to come. Don’t wait any longer. Look to Christ and you won’t be disappointed. What he accomplished by being “delivered up” is the only solution sufficient to deal with your trespasses.
II. He was Raised Up (v.25b)
As remarkable as the first great accomplishment of Christ was, it wouldn’t mean anything without the second great accomplishment. Paul goes on to say that not only was Jesus “delivered up”, but he was also “raised up”. This is the second great accomplishment that Paul reminds us of in this verse.
A. Raised up from the tomb
When Paul tells us that Jesus was raised we immediately recognize that Paul is referring to the resurrection of Christ. Paul is reminding us that Jesus was raised up from the tomb in which his lifeless body had been laid. Matthew 29:1-9 describes for us the details of the resurrection.
It was on a Sunday morning – the Lord’s Day – when Jesus rose from the grave. 3 days dead, and now alive forevermore. Unlike Lazarus, or others raised from the grave, Jesus’ resurrection was permanent. He fought the great enemy, death, and won an eternal victory.
In the days following his resurrection, Jesus authenticated the reality of his resurrection by eating food, appearing to over 500 witnesses, and ministering to his disciples. As hard to believe as this might seem, it is actually what the Old Testament predicted. Specifically, Psalm 16:10 prophetically spoke about the Messiah with these words:
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption”
Additionally, Job, in the oldest book in the Bible, said,
“I know my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25)
God had been preparing the world for the resurrection throughout the entire Old Testament.
If you believe there is a God who created the universe, it shouldn’t be any harder for you to accept the resurrection. The resurrection is not beyond belief. It is the reason to believe. It is confirmation that Jesus is God. As Romans 1:4 says:
“[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”
With 500 witnesses, 4 Gospel records, the book of Acts, and the confirmation of the Spirit inspired text of Scripture we have more confirmation of the resurrection than any other event in history. The very fact that churches fill up every Easter confirms that something happened. That something is what Paul is pointing to here in Romans 4:25.
The resurrection of Christ is the incomparable accomplishment of the true Son of God. Go look for Buddha; look for Mohammed; look for Mary. You know what you’ll find? Occupied graves. Jesus is the one who was raised up. This is his great accomplishment.
Yet again, we find ourselves wondering how great an accomplishment it can be when Paul describes it in the passive voice. Paul says Jesus was raised. Doesn’t this mean that someone else was really the source of this accomplishment? The answer is yes! The same divine Father who ordained Jesus’ death sovereignly ordained his resurrection. Just one verse earlier, Paul refers to “him who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus.” (v. 24) Paul is referring to the Father. In Romans 6:4 Paul says that Jesus “was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.” And Acts 5:30 says that “The God of our Fathers raised Jesus…” The Bible gives the credit for the resurrection to the Father. He is the fountain from which the power of the resurrection flows.
Doesn’t this mean, then, that the resurrection is the great accomplishment of the Father, not the Son. No! The God of the Bible is a triune God – three in one. The Father’s role in the resurrection excludes neither the Son nor the Spirit (Rom 8:11). I would point you back to the words of John 10:17-18. There, you will remember, Jesus said that he had the authority to lay down his life and take it up again. Jesus was not a passive onlooker with his death and he was certainly not inactive in his resurrection. This is the great accomplishment of the Trinity, and without this accomplishment we would have nothing.
Preaching on the “power of the Resurrection”, George Whittfield said, “without this, Christ would have died in vain.” With even more weight the Apostle Paul said:
“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1Cor 15:17)
How can the same person who reminded us that Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses say this? We find the answer in the last phrase of Rom 4:25, “for our justification”.
B. Raised up for our Justification
Jesus had to be raised up so that we could be justified. The work of Christ had to be completed so that our salvation could also be complete. This is Paul’s point here. Our salvation wasn’t completed until Christ’s work, including the resurrection, was completed. Once Christ finished his work, it guaranteed our justification.
What exactly is this justification that is available to us through the completed work of Christ? To answer that question it is helpful to look back at the context of Paul’s statement here. In the fourth chapter of Romans, Paul is using Abraham as an example of a person who is saved by faith. Paul is reinforcing the point that we cannot be saved by our work. Our only hope of salvation lies with God, which is why we must put our faith in him in order to be saved. This is precisely what happened with Abraham. Verse 22 says that “his faith was counted to him as righteousness”. In other words, he got a righteousness that he couldn’t earn credited to his account by God’s grace through his faith. God graciously credited him with an alien righteousness because of his faith. I’d say that was a pretty good deal for Abraham. He gets the perfect righteousness he needs to be acceptable before God and all he had to do was trust God to provide it for him.
Why is Abraham’s story significant for us? Verse 23-24 goes on to say that “the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.’” In other words, we can get in on the same deal that Abraham had. His justification was not an isolated incident, it was the pattern for us all. When you believe in the message of the Gospel, God declares you to be righteous and worthy of his kingdom even though you aren’t. That is what justification means. God vindicates our faith and declares us to be righteous.
The word here for justification is what one might call courtroom language. What this means is that God does not actually make us righteous, but instead renders his verdict that we are now considered to be righteous in his eyes. This occurs when we put our faith in Christ. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says:
“For it is by grace through faith we are saved. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This justification – the sovereign sentence of righteousness – is our only hope. It is available to anyone who will repent of self-faith and turn to Christ in faith. Just like Abraham, you can be declared righteous and receive the credentials you need for eternal life.
There is just one problem.
Doesn’t the whole thing seem just a little arbitrary? How can a righteous God just declare you to be righteous when you are anything but righteous? This is where the completed work of Christ comes into play. God doesn’t just arbitrarily justify people. He justifies those who have put their faith in Christ because Christ became their substitute. The righteousness of justification is not imaginary righteousness. It is the righteousness of Christ credited – imputed – to our accounts. This is why the completed work of Christ is required for justification. This is why Paul says that Jesus was raised for our justification.
How exactly does the resurrection assure the believer’s justification? It is not as if the crucifixion is only to remove sin and the resurrection of Christ alone accomplishes our justification. You can’t divide the work of Christ or our salvation in this way. Paul’s point is that the completed work of Christ is required for the completed work of salvation.
Think for a moment of the role that the resurrection plays in our salvation. The resurrection assures us that Jesus’ sacrifice was indeed acceptable to the Father. Hebrews 10:12 says that Jesus:
“offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, [and] he sat down at the right hand of God.”
Jesus paid the price once, and because of his infinite goodness, that was enough to be acceptable to the Father. He didn’t have to keep paying the price. He died once, was raised up, and was accepted back at the right hand of God.
The resurrection was also necessary because Jesus had to apply the sacrifice that he made. Just as the Old Testament priest would kill the animal sacrifice and take it into the altar to sacrifice it, Jesus had to pay the sacrifice with his death, and then he was raised to apply the sacrifice of his blood in heaven. Hebrews 9:24 says:
“ For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
The resurrection is also necessary for our salvation because Christ has to continually intercede and mediate on our behalf. Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus:
“…is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
He could not intercede, and thus save, if he wasn’t alive. Romans 8:34 confirms this aspect of our resurrected Lord’s work:
“Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
Add to this the fact that the resurrection defeated the reign of death, which lasted from the time of Adam. It provides the basis for our eternal life and resurrected bodies (Jn 11:25, 1Pt 1:3). No wonder Paul reminded us of the resurrection as the second great accomplishment of the Lord Jesus Christ, and no wonder the church has been celebrating the resurrection ever since that first resurrection Sunday. If you want to understand how important this great accomplishment is just look one last time at how Paul describes the justification accomplished by Christ. Paul calls it “our justification”. Just as the trespasses were “ours” so, too, the justification is “ours” through the work of Christ. If you are believing in Christ Jesus then just as sure as you can remember your sins, you can count on God’s grace to justify you. This is a promise that cannot be matched because it took an incomparable accomplishment to guarantee it for us.
Years ago the philosopher Nietzche famously remarked that God is dead. Nietzche was wrong. God was dead, but then he rose again. And now he justifies all those who believe in Him. So what about you? Romans 4:25 has shown us the 2 great accomplishments of our resurrected Lord. He was delivered up, and he was raised up. Because of these accomplishments, you can be forgiven of your trespasses, declared righteous, and share in the Eternal Kingdom of God. This is all guaranteed by the great accomplishments of Christ. Is this the message of your life? Is this your only hope? Is this the resting place for your faith? I pray that it is, and if it isn’t I pray it will be.