4:23-25 The history of Abraham, and of his justification, was recorded to teach men of after-ages; those especially to whom the gospel was then made known. It is plain, that we are not justified by the merit of our own works, but by faith in Jesus Christ and his righteousness; which is the truth urged in this and the foregoing chapter, as the great spring and foundation of all comfort. Christ did meritoriously work our justification and salvation by his death and passion, but the power and perfection thereof, with respect to us, depend on his resurrection. By his death he paid our debt, in his resurrection he received our acquittance, Isa 53:8. When he was discharged, we, in Him and together with Him, received the discharge from the guilt and punishment of all our sins. This last verse is an abridgement or summary of the whole gospel.
25. Who was delivered for—"on account of."
our offences—that is, in order to expiate them by His blood.
and raised again for—"on account of," that is, in order to.
our justification—As His resurrection was the divine assurance that He had "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," and the crowning of His whole work, our justification is fitly connected with that glorious act.
Note, (1) The doctrine of justification by works, as it generates self-exaltation, is contrary to the first principles of all true religion (Ro 4:2; and see on Ro 3:21-26, Note 1). (2) The way of a sinner's justification has been the same in all time, and the testimony of the Old Testament on this subject is one with that of the New (Ro 4:3, &c., and see on Ro 3:27-31, Note 1). (3) Faith and works, in the matter of justification, are opposite and irreconcilable, even as grace and debt (Ro 4:4, 5; and see on Ro 11:6). If God "justifies the ungodly," works cannot be, in any sense or to any degree, the ground of justification. For the same reason, the first requisite, in order to justification, must be (under the conviction that we are "ungodly") to despair of it by works; and the next, to "believe in Him that justifieth the ungodly"—that hath a justifying righteousness to bestow, and is ready to bestow it upon those who deserve none, and to embrace it accordingly. (4) The sacraments of the Church were never intended, and are not adapted, to confer grace, or the blessings of salvation, upon men. Their proper use is to set a divine seal upon a state already existing, and so, they presuppose, and do not create it (Ro 4:8-12). As circumcision merely "sealed" Abraham's already existing acceptance with God, so with the sacraments of the New Testament. (5) As Abraham is "the heir of the world," all nations being blessed in him, through his Seed Christ Jesus, and justified solely according to the pattern of his faith, so the transmission of the true religion and all the salvation which the world will ever experience shall yet be traced back with wonder, gratitude, and joy, to that morning dawn when "the God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran," Ac 7:2 (Ro 4:13). (6) Nothing gives more glory to God than simple faith in His word, especially when all things seem to render the fulfilment of it hopeless (Ro 4:18-21). (7) All the Scripture examples of faith were recorded on purpose to beget and encourage the like faith in every succeeding age (Ro 4:23, 24; and compare Ro 15:4). (8) Justification, in this argument, cannot be taken—as Romanists and other errorists insist—to mean a change upon men's character; for besides that this is to confound it with Sanctification, which has its appropriate place in this Epistle, the whole argument of the present chapter—and nearly all its more important clauses, expressions, and words—would in that case be unsuitable, and fitted only to mislead. Beyond all doubt it means exclusively a change upon men's state or relation to God; or, in scientific language, it is an objective, not a subjective change—a change from guilt and condemnation to acquittal and acceptance. And the best evidence that this is the key to the whole argument is, that it opens all the wards of the many-chambered lock with which the apostle has enriched us in this Epistle.