Romans 4:25 proclaims that Jesus was “raised for our justification.” For years I read this little clause with consternation. What does it mean?” What is the connection between Christ’s resurrection and our justification?
To understand the answer we must remember that Jesus died a criminal’s death. In fact, he experienced one of the most heinous forms of capital punishment ever devised by man. His crime? He was a liar. He claimed to be king of the Jews, and the Jews and Romans were convinced he wasn’t. The plaque on his cross read “King of the Jews.” In other words, his crime was this: He claimed to be King of the Jews.
Three times he claimed that he would raise himself from the dead. His contemporaries knew this was impossible.
He talked more about hell than anyone in the Bible, and said those that tried hardest to please God by being good, the Pharisees, were most apt to go there. His first century contemporaries believed that God would never send a sincere person to hell. In that assumption they are just like us today.
Last, he claimed to be God. He said he was one with YHWH. “I and the Father are one.” “Before Abraham was I AM!” Men worshipped him, and he did not stop them. He commanded the winds. and they stopped. His disciples prostrated themselves in worship.
He commanded demons and they fled.
From birth every Jew learned that death was the penalty for sin. When Jesus died on the cross their assumptions were confirmed. He was a liar and imposter. Had he been sinless death could not have taken him. He was the sinner they assumed he was. He was certainly not God. He was not the Messiah. His statements about Hell, judgment, and the futility of performance based acceptance were obvious exaggerations. Now they could dismiss him.
In other words, the Jews and the Romans crucified Jesus because they thought he was unrighteous. His death confirmed their suspicions.
That is one crucial reason why God raised Christ from the dead. God raised Jesus to justify him, to declare his righteousness. This ideeas was behind Paul’s words to his disciple, Timothy, (1 Tim. 3:16) “He was vindicated by the Spirit” (1 Tim 3:16). It is also what Paul meant when he opened the letter to the Romans saying that Jesus ” was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).
If God raised Christ his claim to Messiahship is true. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies.
If God raised Christ his claim to deity was true.
If God raised Christ then all of his words were true. His threats about final judgment were true. His warnings about Hell were true. His offer of salvation was and is completely reliable. His declaration of love for the common man is true and trustworthy. We can bank our life on it. His statements about the exclusivity of the Christian religion were true. “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through by me” (Jn.14:6).
Most importantly, Christ’s resurrection was also our justification. Faith not only unites us with Christ in his death, it also unites us Christ in his resurrection.
This is Good News indeed! It means that Christ’s justification is our justification. It means that when God raised his Son to justify him, we get justified also. Despite our sins and failings, God declares us “not guilty” because we are raised with Christ in his justification. His righteousness becomes ours. His justification becomes our justification.
This is what Paul meant when he said, Jesus “was raised for our justification.”