NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
by Dr. Robert R Seyda
BOOK OF ROMANS
Chapter 4 (Lesson XVIII)
Scottish theologian Robert Haldane has quite a bit to say about this marvelous act of Christ in suffering for our sins, and God’s miraculous act of raising Him from the dead: “The Father gave over the Son to death, delivering Him into the hands of wicked men. Here we must look to a higher tribunal than that of Pilate, who delivered Him into the hands of the Jews. He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. When Herod, Pilate, and the Gentiles, with the people of Israel, were gathered together against Him, it was to do whatsoever God’s Word and counsel had determined before to be done.1 The crucifixion of Christ being the greatest of all crimes, was hateful and highly provoking in the sight of God; yet it was the will of God that it should take place, to bring to pass the greatest good. God decreed this event; He willed that it should come to pass, and ordered circumstances, under His guardianship, in such a way that it gave men an opportunity to carry out their wicked intentions.”
Then Haldane makes this point: “God had no part in their sin; and His determination that the deed should be done, formed no excuse for its perpetrators, nor did it in any degree extenuate their wickedness, which the Scriptures indicts them to the fullest manner: ‘Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’2 This was an example of the same truth declared by Joseph to his brethren, ‘As for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.’3 For our offenses or on account of our offenses. — This shows the need of Christ’s death. It was not as an example, or merely as a witness, but for our offenses. Raised again for our justification. — That is, He was raised that He might enter the holy place not made with hands, and present His own blood, that we might be made righteous, through His death for us. As the death of Christ, according to the determinate counsel of a holy and righteous God, was a demonstration of the guilt of His people, so His resurrection was their acquittal from every charge.”
Haldane concludes with this: “Having substituted Himself in the place of sinners, Jesus Christ suffered in His own person the punishment of sin, conformable to that declaration, ‘In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.’4 He came forth from among the dead, in testimony that what God demanded was accomplished, and as a pledge of the acceptance of His sacrifice, and that by His obedience unto death Divine justice was satisfied, the law honored and magnified, and eternal life awarded to those for whom He died, whose sins He had borne in His own body on the tree.5 He was quickened by the Spirit;6 by whom He was also justified,7 from every charge that could be alleged against Him as the Guarantor and Covenant-head of those whose iniquities He bore. The justification, therefore, of His people, which includes not only the pardon of their sins, but also their title to the eternal inheritance, was begun in His death, and perfected by His resurrection. He wrought their justification by His death, but its efficacy depended on His resurrection. By His death He paid their debt; in His resurrection He received their relationship. He arose to assure to them their right to eternal life, by fully discovering and establishing it in His own person, for all who are the members of His body.”8
Charles Ellicott also addresses this two-fold redemption: “The death of Christ is the proper cause of justification, or means of atonement, according to St. Paul; the resurrection of Christ is only the in-between or secondary cause of it. The atoning efficacy lay in His death, but the proof of that efficacy – the proof that it was really the Messiah who died – was to be seen in His Resurrection. The Resurrection, therefore, gave the greatest impulse to faith in the atoning efficacy of the death upon the cross, and in this way helped to bring about justification. ‘If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins’9 – i. e., you have no guarantee that your sins have really been remitted; if the death of Christ had not been followed by His resurrection, the inference would have followed that it was merely the death of an ordinary man, and without any special saving efficacy.”10
Professor F. F. Bruce has quite a bit to say about this tandem of justification and salvation: “Who was put to death for our trespasses. This may be a quotation from some primitive confession of faith; the language appears to be based on Isaiah 53. The verb put to death is literally ‘delivered up’ (paradidōmi), which occurs twice in the Septuagint version of that chapter: in Isaiah 53:6, ‘the LORD has delivered Him [the suffering Servant] up for our sins’ and Isaiah 53:12, ‘because of their sins He was delivered up.’ Elsewhere it is by the sacrificial death of Christ that His people are justified,11 but His sacrificial death would not have been effective apart from the resurrection. The preposition ‘for’ in both clauses of this verse represents dia (‘because of’); Christ was ‘delivered up’ to atone for His people’s sins and raised to guarantee their justification. (We must not interpret the two clauses so woodenly as to suggest that His resurrection had nothing to do with the atonement for our sins and His death nothing to do with our justification.)12
Jewish theologian David Stern gives a summary on what he sees at the end of this chapter: “Here it constitutes the background for the conclusion of our passage, which says that we who have become followers of Yeshua have the same kind of resurrection faith as Abraham because we have trusted in Him who raised Yeshua our Lord from the dead (v. 24), just as Abraham ‘had concluded that God could even raise people from the dead’. That is why the words, ‘it was credited to his account…’ were not written only for him, but for us also, who will certainly have our account credited too (vv. 23–24). This is a radical statement, for it says that Abraham was not special. Whereas Jewish midrashim1 attribute unique ability, holiness, and power to Abraham, enabling him to have trust far beyond what ordinary people can attain to, Paul insists that such trust is available to everyone. This is the Good News that through Yeshua the Messiah anyone can have the same close personal relationship with Almighty God that Abraham had! Indeed, many believers have received promises from God just as Abraham did and have seen God fulfill them. The content of our ‘hope’ (v. 18; 5:2, 4-5) is that because we have fully identified with Yeshua, who was delivered over to death because of our offences and was raised to life in order to make us righteous, we too will be resurrected to sinless, eternal life with God (6:5, 23; 8:23).”2
It would be hard for anyone to say that such a plan for the redemption, calling, justification, salvation, and glorification of sinful mankind from being slaves of the devil into becoming children of God could ever exist in man’s imagination. It makes no sense when sifted through human logic. And why the eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God of the universe would pick out a speck of dust in His universe called Earth, and populate it with a new species apart from the angels and heavenly beings that already existed, just so that He could show His virtues of love, grace, and mercy, is above and beyond all mankind’s creative thinking. But that was on purpose. God did not want us to accept His plan because it made sense to us, but because it would require faith in His message that it was the only way people could live forever with Him, His Son, and His Spirit in heavenly places. May He increase our faith to trust Him more and believe that what He says is true for eternity, and will come to pass.
The end of Chapter 4.
1 Acts of the Apostles 4:28
2 Ibid. 2:23
3 Genesis 1:20
4 Ibid. 2:17
5 1 Peter 2:24
6 Ibid. 1 Peter 3:18
7 1 Timothy 3:16
8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 182-184
9 Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17
10 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
11 Cf. 3:24–25; 5:9
12 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, pp. 123–124
13 Midrashim are the volumes of exegesis of Torah texts along with homiletic stories as taught by Chazal (Rabbinical Jewish sages of the post-Temple era) that provide an intrinsic analysis to passages in the Tanakh (Old Testament).
14 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.