Mar/Apr 1994 Easter and Justification
From the March / April 1994 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
EASTER AND JUSTIFICATION
What does Easter have to do with Justification or the Forgiveness of Sins? Very little– if you consider what is generally preached and taught today in the so-called Christian churches throughout our nation. O, much excited activity goes on about Easter in the churches of our land, but is it of the right kind? Is it a joyful excitement which is in harmony with the analogy of faith as set forth in the Word of God? Generally NOT! Churches, which neglect to preach what the Bible teaches about the totally corrupt condition of all mankind by nature since the Fall of Adam and how from such a totally corrupt human nature flows an incessant stream of sins in thoughts, desires, words, and deeds, cannot properly celebrate Easter and emphasize its vital importance as the great Apostle Paul does when he writes in Romans 4:25, “[He] was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification!”
Moved by His love for the sinful human race, God the Father “delivered” Christ, His only-begotten Son, “for our offences.” For OUR sins, the Lord Jesus was delivered by His heavenly Father into shame, ignominy, mockery, suffering, death, and even into the pit of Hell itself when He cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”–and “not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2). Everything that we deserve because of our sins, Christ suffered in our place, as our Substitute, that He might redeem us from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil. In this way, Jesus was “delivered for our offences.”
Those, however, who do not believe what the Bible so plainly teaches us about sin, cannot properly understand the vicarious atonement (substi-tutional satisfaction) of Christ through His bitter suffering and death, and can only deduce that Christ suffered and died on Calvary as a martyr for His own cause and that we should, therefore, emulate Him in our lives and be saved by our Christlikeness. Of course, all who minimize sin, to that same extent dilute the vicarious atonement of Christ and teach work-righteousness all the way from being able to make one’s own decision for Christ and refraining from willful resistance to being able, by nature, to keep any part of God’s Holy Law in heart or life by thought, word, or deed. The first part of St. Paul’s statement in Romans 4:25, “He was delivered for our offences,” becomes therefore either meaningless or its strength and power is blunted to such an extent that eternal salvation for such people becomes virtually an impossibility–except in the case of a “blessed inconsistency.”
What, then, about the second part of Romans 4:25, “and was raised again for our justification?” The eternal Son of God became a true man and “was made under the Law,” that He might be able to take the place of every man, woman, and child ever to live on earth; to keep the Holy Law of God perfectly in their stead, and to suffer the punishment of Hell on the accursed tree of the cross as their Substitute–earning by this, His work of Redemption or Atonement, a perfect righteousness, full forgiveness of all sins, and everlasting salvation in heaven for all mankind. The resurrection of Christ proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God the Father has indeed accepted the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of the whole world and that, in the risen and living Savior, He has declared the whole world righteous and has forgiven the sins of all mankind. How plainly this is stated in Romans 3:22-24, “There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified (declared righteous) freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and also in Ephesians 1:7, “In whom (our risen Savior) we have redemption through His blood, the FORGIVENESS OF SINS, according to the riches of His grace.” In Christ, God was “RECONCILING the world unto Himself,” II Corinthians 5:19, not charging their sins against them. In the risen and living Savior, God “JUSTIFIES (declares righteous) the ungodly,” Romans 4:5, therefore also you and me.
The Reformed, and even some Lutheran churches, give the impression that we make the forgiveness of sins happen because of our faith in Christ. They say that God has done His part in sending Christ to suffer and die for our sins; NOW WE MUST DO OUR PART by asking Him to take away our sins, and by committing our life to Him. This, of course, is a blatant untruth. We do not make the forgiveness of sins happen because of our faith or because of anything we do. The forgiveness of sins is already an accomplished fact paid for in full by the redemptive work of Christ (His active and passive obedience), sealed by His holy, precious blood and by His innocent suffering and death, declared in God’s eternal counsels and verified by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
This is what our faith receives, namely, the forgiveness of sins which is based on what our Savior has done for us, verified by God the Father through Christ’s resurrection, and pronounced by Him upon all people ever to live on this earth. So Christ “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification,” as the Apostle Paul so plainly proclaims in his letter to the Romans. What a thrilling Easter Message, establishing in our hearts the great and important purpose of our Savior’s resurrection from the dead. The Lord God has done everything for our salvation in and through the risen and living Savior who is Himself true God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. This we believe, not by any power of our own–for even our faith must never be regarded as our own accomplishment–BUT by God’s grace ALONE through the power of His Word “which liveth and abideth forever,” I Peter 1:23.
He is arisen! Glorious Word!
Now reconciled is God, my Lord;
The gates of heav’n are open.
My Jesus did triumphant die,
And Satan’s arrows broken lie,
Destroyed hell’s direst weapon.
Oh, hear What cheer!
Christ victorious Riseth glorious, Life He giveth–
He was dead, but see, He liveth! Amen. –TLH 189
–P. R. B.