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Romans 4:23-25

23. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;

23. Non est autem scriptum propter ipsum tantum, imputatum fuisse illi;

24. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

24. Sed etiam propter nos, quibus imputabitur credentibus in eum, qui excitavit lesum Dominum nostrum ex mortuis:

25. Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

25. Qui traditus fuit propter delicta nostra, et excitatus propter nostram justificationem.

23. Now it was not written, etc. A proof from example is not always valid, of which I have before reminded you; lest this should be questioned, Paul expressly affirms, that in the person of Abraham was exhibited an example of a common righteousness, which belongs equally to all.

We are, by this passage, reminded of the duty of seeking profit from the examples recorded in Scripture. That history is the teacher of what life ought to be, is what heathens have with truth said; but as it is handed down by them, no one can derive from it sound instruction. Scripture alone justly claims to itself an office of this kind. For in the first place it prescribes general rules, by which we may test every other history, so as to render it serviceable to us: and in the second place, it clearly points out what things are to be followed, and what things are to be avoided. But as to doctrine, which it especially teaches, it possesses this peculiarity, — that it clearly reveals the providence of God, his justice and goodness towards his own people, and his judgments on the wicked.

What then is recorded of Abraham is by Paul denied to have been written only for his sake; for the subject is not what belongs to the special call of one or of any particular person; but that way of obtaining righteousness is described, which is ever the same with regard to all; and it is what belonged to the common father of the faithful, on whom the eyes of all ought to be fixed.

If then we would make a right and proper use of sacred histories, we must remember so to use them as to draw from them sound doctrine. They instruct us, in some parts, how to frame our life; in others, how to strengthen faith; and then, how we are to be stirred up to serve the Lord. In forming our life, the example of the saints may be useful; and we may learn from them sobriety, chastity, love, patience, moderation, contempt of the world, and other virtues. What will serve to confirm faith is the help which God ever gave them, the protection which brought comfort in adversities, and the paternal care which he ever exercised over them. The judgments of God, and the punishments inflicted on the wicked, will also aid us, provided they fill us with that fear which imbues the heart with reverence and devotion.

But by saying, not on his account only, he seems to intimate, that it was written partly for his sake. Hence some think, that what Abraham obtained by faith was commemorated to his praise, because the Lord will have his servants to be forever remembered, according to what Solomon says, that their name will be blessed. (Proverbs 10:7.) But what if you take the words, not on his account only, in a simpler form, as though it were some singular privilege, not fit to be made an example of, but yet suitable to teach us, who must be justified in the same manner? This certainly would be a more appropriate sense.

24. Who believe on him, etc. I have already reminded you of the design of those periphrastic expressions: Paul introduced them, that he might, according to what the passages may require, describe in various ways the real character of faith — of which the resurrection of Christ is not the smallest part; for it is the ground of our hope as to eternal life. Had he said only, that we believe in God, it could not have been so readily learnt how this could serve to obtain righteousness; but when Christ comes forth and presents to us in his own resurrection a sure pledge of life, it then appears evident from what fountain the imputation of righteousness flows.

25. Who was delivered for our offences, 150150     It is διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμων, “for our offenses,” and διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμων, “for our justification.” The preposition διὰ, has here clearly two meanings: the first signifies the reason why, and the second, the end for which. How is this to be known? By the character of the sentence, and by what is taught elsewhere. For, to which Johnson attaches forty meanings, is commonly understood here as having a different sense, and this is sufficiently indicated by what is connected with it. But in case a doubt arises, we have only to consult other passages in which the subject is handled.
   Take the first instance — “for our offenses.” There are those who say that διὰ here means because of, or, on account of; and this, in order to evade the idea of a propitiation. The preposition, no doubt, has this sense; but is this its sense here? If the sentence itself be deemed insufficient to determine the question, (though to a plain reader it is,) let us see what is said elsewhere of Christ’s death in connection with our sins or offenses. He himself said, that he came “to give his life a ransom (λύτρον — a redeeming price) for many,” Matthew 20:28. It is said, that he “gave himself a ransom (ἀντίλυτρον — a redeeming price for another) for all,” 1 Timothy 2:6. It is expressly declared, that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9:28. And more to the purpose still, if possible, is the testimony of John, when he says that Christ “is the propitiation (ἱλασμός — expiation) for our sins,” 1 John 2:2. Now, can it be that we can give any other meaning to the text, than that God delivered his Son as a sacrifice for our offenses? This is the doctrine of Scripture throughout. — Ed.
etc. He expands and illustrates more at large the doctrine to which I have just referred. It indeed greatly concerns us, not only to have our minds directed to Christ, but also to have it distinctly made known how he attained salvation for us. And though Scripture, when it treats of our salvation, dwells especially on the death of Christ, yet the Apostle now proceeds farther: for as his purpose was more explicitly to set forth the cause of our salvation, he mentions its two parts; and says, first, that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, — and secondly, that by his resurrection was obtained our righteousness. But the meaning is, that when we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness. By separating his death from his resurrection, he no doubt accommodates what he says to our ignorance; for it is also true that righteousness has been obtained for us by that obedience of Christ, which he exhibited in his death, as the Apostle himself teaches us in the following chapter. But as Christ, by rising from the dead, made known how much he had effected by his death, this distinction is calculated to teach us that our salvation was begun by the sacrifice, by which our sins were expiated, and was at length completed by his resurrection: for the beginning of righteousness is to be reconciled to God, and its completion is to attain life by having death abolished. Paul then means, that satisfaction for our sins was given on the cross: for it was necessary, in order that Christ might restore us to the Father’s favor, that our sins should be abolished by him; which could not have been done had he not on their account suffered the punishment, which we were not equal to endure. Hence Isaiah says, that the chastisement of our peace was upon him. (Isaiah 53:5.) But he says that he was delivered, and not, that he died; for expiation depended on the eternal goodwill of God, who purposed to be in this way pacified.

And was raised again for our justification. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the completeness of his favor appears more clear by his coming to life again. 151151     Christ is said here to have been raised from the dead by God, as well as delivered into death. “However much of the import of this,” says Chalmers, “may have escaped the notice of an ordinary reader, it is pregnant with meaning of the weightiest importance. You know that when the prison door is opened to a criminal, and that by the very authority which lodged him there, it envinces that the debt of his transgression has been rendered, and that he stands aquitted of all it’s penalties. It was not for his own, but for our offenses that Jesus was delivered unto the death, and that his body was consigned to the imprisonment of the grave. And when an angel descended from heaven, and rolled back the great stone from the door of the sepulchre, this speaks to us, that the justice of God is satisfied, that the ransom of our iniquity has been paid, that Christ has rendered a full discharge of all the debt for which he undertook as the great surety between God and the sinners who believe in him.” — Ed.

But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life. 152152     “Either therefore as the evidence of the acceptance of his suffering as our substitute, or as a necessary step toward securing the application of their merit to our benefit, the resurrection of Christ was essential to our justification.” — Professor Hodge He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.


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