************ Sermon on Romans 4:25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 26, 1998
Gracious Arithmetic. That is what I am talking about this evening. Something bad is subtracted or taken away. Something good is added or put in its place.
Imagine a homeless person living in his cardboard box. You pull him out of his box and burn it. You set him up in a brand-new apartment. That is gracious arithmetic.
Or, someone has leukemia. His blood cells are going crazy. Doctors drain away his bone marrow. You replace it with your own healthy marrow. Gracious arithmetic.
Someone is using pornography: Penthouse, Playboy, Hustler. You take them away and give him a Bible. Gracious arithmetic.
Two classmates are fighting. You pull them apart and make them shake hands with each other. Gracious arithmetic.
In front of us this evening is another instance of gracious arithmetic. Paul point us to a bloody cross and an open grave, the crucifixion and the resurrection. At the cross something is taken away. At the grave something is added. Gracious arithmetic.
I Delivered Over to Death for our Sins
A Christ "was delivered over to death for our sins," says the Spirit-inspired apostle. Actually, a number of different things are called to mind by the phrase "delivered over." Scripture uses it for the betrayal of Judas who delivered Jesus over to the chief priests and elders of the people (Mt 26:16, 24). Jesus is delivered over to Pilate by the Sanhedrin (Mt 27:2). Pilate delivered Jesus over to the will of the people (Lk 23:25). And, Jesus was delivered over to the soldiers to be crucified (Mt 27:26).
B Jesus "was delivered over to death." In the original Greek it is clear that this was God's will for Jesus. As Peter, inspired by the Spirit, puts it in his Pentecost Day sermon to the assembled Jews: "This man [meaning Jesus] was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge" (Acts 2:23). Or, as God says through His prophet Isaiah about the Suffering Servant (Whom we know to be Jesus): "Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer" (Is 53:10).
C Jesus "was delivered over to death." This also speaks of His willingness to die; it speaks of His sacrificial love. "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter" says the prophet Isaiah (Is 53:7). He didn't try to pull away. He was "obedient to death – even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8). He willingly drank from the cup of the Lord's wrath.
D Jesus "was delivered over to death for our sins." Again we turn to what God says through Isaiah the prophet:
(Is 53:5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Why? Why was Jesus delivered over to death for our sins? Why was He pierced for our transgressions? Because of sin. I realize that sin is not a popular topic today. In fact, sin is in danger of disappearing. Yet, it is necessary to talk about it.
Jay Leno is the host of the Tonight Show. Leno frequently does "man-on-the street" interviews, and one night he collared young people to ask them questions about the Bible. "Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?" he asked two college-age women. One replied, "Freedom of speech?" Mr Leno said to the other, "complete this sentence: Let he who is without sin ..." Her response, "have a good time?"
This kind of ignorance is very widespread today. For one thing, many parents do not instruct their children on right or wrong any more. For another thing, our public school system allows no Bible reading, prayer, or moral guidance. Public school officials misinterpret the American Constitution to teach freedom from religion instead of freedom of religion. The net result is that we have an entire generation of children growing up without any moral absolutes. The whole concept of right and wrong, what we know as sin and righteousness, is totally foreign to them. Why else would teenagers kill each other for a pair of shoes? Why else would a fourteen year old girl this past week repeatedly stab her sixteen year old sister in an argument about a blouse? Why else would two boys open fire with guns on their classmates in a school-yard? Why else would a boy kill a police man here in Visalia?
An astonishing number of today's young people are doing volunteer work (70% of college students, according to one survey of freshmen). They donate blood to the Red Cross in record numbers and deliver food to housebound elderly people. They spend Spring or Summer vacations working with deaf children in Mexico. Yet, many of these same kids have no real concept of right or wrong. They either refuse or are incapable of making any moral judgments. The net result: for many people there is no such thing as sin anymore.
But what does God's Word say? God's Word tells us there are moral absolutes, there are rights and wrongs. God's Word further says that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). In other words, everyone of us is a sinner – no exceptions. And God's Word also says "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). In other words, all of us deserve the eternal fires of hell for doing what is wrong.
But the Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus was delivered over to death so we can have forgiveness of sins.
E What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is never to be confused with toleration. For God does not tolerate sin. He will not overlook it, or wink at it, or pretend it makes no difference. The Scriptures tell us over and over again that sin is an offense to and an act of disobedience against God.
Because Jesus was delivered over to death, God does some gracious arithmetic: He takes away our sin. Because Jesus was delivered over to death the sins of those who believe are forgiven.
Forgiveness is an amazing, wonderful, beautiful thing; too many people, I am afraid, never experience it, never show it, and do not know at all what it is. To forgive sin means that the forgiver no longer lets the sin "come between" him and the offender; the sin is regarded as over, gone, done, removed. Further, the forgiver will not accuse the offender on the basis of this sin any longer; the sin will no longer be used or held against the offender. Finally, to forgive means that the forgiver will no longer dwell on the sin; he will not nurse it, or harbor a grudge on account of it.
Because Jesus was delivered over to death the sins of those who believe are forgiven. In other words, God no longer lets the sin come between Him and us; He regards the sin as over, gone, done removed. Further, God will not accuse us on the basis of our sin; the sin will not be used or held against us. Finally, God does not dwell on our sin, or nurse it, or harbor a grudge on account of it.
Remember, we are talking about gracious arithmetic. Because Christ was delivered over to death for our sins, God takes away our sin, He forgives us our sin.
II Raised to Life for our Justification
A To be acceptable in God's sight it is not good enough to merely have our sins forgiven or covered or removed. All that forgiveness does is remove our debt of sin but it still leaves us with no credit or standing before God. The cup of God's wrath has been emptied, but it is still an empty cup. Of what use is an empty cup? It is no good unless it is filled again.
In other words, it is not enough that Christ "was delivered over to death for our sins." Something more is needed. That something more we see in the second half of our text where we are told that Christ "was raised to life for our justification."
B In telling us this, Paul reminds us this evening about what lies at the center of our faith. What lies at the center of our faith? What is of first importance? If your answer is the cross, or Christ crucified, I am afraid I have to give you a failing grade. Your answer is wrong because it is incomplete. In fact, your answer is heresy because it leaves you and me in our sins, without hope, without God, and without faith. The fact of the matter is that the Christian faith has two center points: the cross and the grave, the crucifixion and the resurrection. And the one can never be seen without the other. We can never talk about Christ crucified without also saying in the same breath that Christ has been raised.
Topic: ResurrectionTo that we can only add our "Amen." Because, as Paul tells us in our text, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." The two go hand-in-hand. And the one without the other is an incomplete Gospel and even an heretical Gospel.
Subtopic: Of Christ
Title: Don't Forget
A man was going down a street when in a store window he saw a very beautiful picture of the crucifixion. As he gazed spellbound at the vividly pictured story, he suddenly became conscious that at his side stood a young boy. The boy, too, was gazing at the picture, and his tense expression made the man know that "The Crucifixion" had really gripped the eager little soul. Touching the boy on the shoulder, the man said, "Sonny, what does it mean?" "Doncha know?" he answered, his face full of the marvel of the man's ignorance. "That there man is Jesus, an' them others is Roman soldiers, an' the woman what's cryin' is His mother, an'" he added, "they killed 'im!"
The man did not want to move from in front of that impressive piece of artwork but he had other things he had to do, so he turned and walked away. In a few moments he heard footsteps on the street behind him, and there came rushing up the boy. "Say, mister," he exclaimed breathlessly, "I forgot to tell you, but He rose again!"
C Thank God that death did not have the final word in Christ's life. "Death has been swallowed up in victory," says the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:54). Christ "was raised to life for our justification."
Again, the original Greek makes it clear that this was the work of God. It was God Who, by His power, raised Jesus from the grave and swallowed up death in victory.
D According to God's will Jesus was raised to life for our justification. In mind here is some more gracious arithmetic. God not only takes away our sin, but He also adds in its place an alien righteousness. Because Jesus was raised from the grave His righteousness is added to us, if we believe!
What is this righteousness of Jesus? Jesus loved His friends and treated them perfectly. He spent time and energy on unpopular people. He firmly resisted temptation. He criticized self-righteous people but accepted unrighteous people. He was willing to die rather than go against the will of God.
Because of Christ's resurrection all this righteousness of Jesus is mysteriously transferred to us – as if we had acted in just the same way. Jesus' holiness is added, or granted, or credited to our account. Because of the resurrection, says the Heidelberg Catechism:
God grants and credits to meGracious arithmetic.
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. God engaged in gracious arithmetic. Because of Christ's death He took away our sin. Because of Christ's resurrection He added Christ's righteousness in its place.
Do you know the result? When God looks at us on the Judgment Day, He no longer sees our sin – it has been taken away. When God looks at us on the Judgment Day, He sees the righteousness of Christ – it has been added to our account.
Because Christ died and Christ arose God engages in gracious arithmetic.
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