Romans 4:25 is easily understood when we notice that Paul is simply trying to apply the benefits already enjoyed by Abraham to all the rest of us who believe. Verse 23 reads: “Now it was not written because (δια) of him only, that [faith] is accounted to him, but because (δια) of us also, to whom [faith] is about to be getting accounted, who are believing on Him Who raises Jesus our Master from among the dead, who was surrendered because (δια) of our offenses [too!] and was raised because (δια) of our justifying [too!]” (Romans 4:23-25). So Paul is pressing into service the most general preposition he had access to in order to make a rather pedestrian point! All the fumbling over whether δια is “retrospective” or “prospective” becomes pedantic when we grasp the simple (and syntactically rather obvious—almost embarrassingly so) point of including everyone else who has faith in the same boat with father Abraham.
I said “almost” embarrassingly so. Because what trips up our thinking so that we get honestly distracted from the plain grammatical structure that would clue us in to Paul’s rhetorical point is the striking association of resurrection with justification. On the assumptions of Anselmian “vicarious satisfaction” theory of the Atonement, this doesn’t make sense. Even less so does it compute if “penal substitution” is presupposed. So even though Paul is not engaged in making a precise technical thrust in this particular passage about how the two are related, they jolly well are! And the clues are replete throughout the book of Romans, starting with 1:1-5! Then comes 1:16-17! For the “righteousness of God” which “is getting unveiled” (1:17) or “has gotten manifested” (3:21) in the proclamation is the resurrection of the surrendered and treacherously executed Messiah Jesus! Now if this unveiling or manifestation (as in the usual interpretation) actually transpired at Golgotha instead of the garden tomb—on “Good” Friday rather than “Easter” Sunday—isn’t it kinda funny that the term “cross/crucify” is only found ONCE in the whole long book of Romans, and then only as a compound, “crucified together” (6:6), referring more to our immersion than to Messiah’s ordeal? GO FIGURE!
Whereas on the assumption that God’s righteousness only became clear at our Master’s resurrection, the entire argument of Paul in Romans becomes luminous with fresh glory, and the epistle opens up anew like ripe fruit. The high point of this connection is the whole chapter immediately following the climax of the Abraham illustration in 4:25—a verse whose puzzling locutions, as so many others of Paul’s (think only of II Corinthians 5:21!), solve themselves with a flourish on the grounds of the empty garden tomb. [10/20/06]
Jesus’ “battle” on the cross was, as ever, to live up to his name, to become the Savior of the world instead of its destroyer, to which Satan was then tempting him on behalf of self preservation. Had he caved in to that fleshly impulse instead of enduring the pain by the power of the agelong Spirit, there would never have been the justly overcompensating proliferation of Holy Spirit that—praise God to all ages!—we actually did start to enjoy at Pentecost. Jesus made good as the Sponsor and Mediator of a fresh, New Covenant! [12/20/06]