Richard Gaffin on the Resurrection

Why was Jesus raised from the dead? What does it mean? What does it have to do with redemption? What is its relationship to the doctrine of Justification?

I ask, because Romans 4:25 puzzled me when I first read it. I remember reading it back in 1997. I remember it like yesterday. I was stunned. And I was sitting there thinking, “What does this mean?”

Why was Romans 4:25 a puzzle?
If the text is not a puzzle to you, then maybe if you can soak in my dilemma, you will be able to relate. It was a puzzle for me because I had been learning about the death of Christ and the accomplishment of atonement and the work of justification. Christ died for my sins. His death was directly related to my forgiveness, and so his death and his forgiveness cohere with a tight logic. The logic of it made pretty good sense to me: he took my sins, and I get his righteousness in exchange. It is the great exchange. I am declared innocent in the heavenly court because of the meritorious work of Jesus. My guilt (my sin) was atoned for on the cross, and so the verdict of innocent could be delivered upon me, a sinner. Jesus was condemned, he took my sin and so I am justified by the active obedience of Christ (active meaning: what he actively chose to do and his real work under the Law)!

Given that, what does Romans 4:25 mean when it says that the resurrection was for my justification? I know how the cross works in my justification, but this is what Romans 4:25 adds:

He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification (NASB).

Raised because of our justification? What does that mean? I thought that the death of Jesus was sufficient for that.

The puzzle for me was that I knew the logic of the cross (how it worked to accomplish what it meant to accomplish). In my system, the resurrection did not add to the justification accomplished by his death. At best, the resurrection (as I always understood it) was to prove that Jesus is God. I had tied a doctrine to the resurrection — but not a working doctrine. That is, the resurrection did not add to the active obedience of Jesus, for he was passive in it (as it were). His active obedience (which is given to me in exchange for my sins) was the life he lived under the Law and including his active participation in accepting death. But reading Paul in Romans 4:25, I found that the resurrection worked for my justification too.

Head spinning…

My head was spinning not because the Bible is unclear or because any of this is beyond language. My head was spinning because my theology did not have a place for the resurrection in the formula, “Redemption was accomplished on the Cross.”

Also, I didn’t have an issue with the truth of Romans 4:25, I just didn’t know how to make sense of it with respect to the completed work of the Cross. I wasn’t sure what Romans 4:25 meant.

Let me put it another way. If Romans 4:25 was not in the Bible, my theology would have been just fine and I would not have missed it. I didn’t know to miss it. And I didn’t recall any conference speakers or books talking about it (at that time, I was studying the doctrine of justification pretty heavily).

So I started researching Romans 4:25. My first questions was: Who has written on this subject from a Reformed perspective? On the B.B. Warfield List (an old dial-up email list popular before the Internet was really web based), I asked for help. And I was told to read Richard Gaffin’s book, Resurrection and Redemption. So I did. And that book blew me away. And it still does!

Gaffin’s book put me on a journey that I never imagined possible, and I am still on it. I am still exploring the ramifications of the resurrection, and thanks to Dick Gaffin, I have glimpsed an amazing trail of thinking.

Instead of me going more deeply into Romans 4:25 and telling you what I have found (though look here for a list of findings), I think I will let Dr. Gaffin do the heavy lifting. He is the one who first exposed me to some solutions, so I’ll let you have that same blessing. Buy his book on Amazon — and enjoy!

This article was published under Book Reviews, Justification, Resurrection.

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