Jesus’ death on the cross is at the center of the Christian faith and at the center of the Christian’s faith. But when we talk about Christ’s death on the cross, of course we also talk about how he was raised from the dead. The cross and empty tomb go together; they are inseparable. Paul says as much about Christ’s humiliation and exultation in Philippians 2:6-11. Romans 4:25 is also clear on this: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (NIV). I appreciate how Charles Hodge explained this verse:
His death and his resurrection were both necessary. His death was a satisfaction of divine justice: he “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (see 1 Peter 2:24); that is, he bore the punishment of our sins.
His resurrection was no less necessary. First, it was a proof that his death had been accepted as an expiation for our sins. Had he not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what he claimed to be. We would still be in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17) and therefore still under condemnation. In that case our ransom, instead of being publicly accepted, would have been rejected.
And, secondly, in order to secure the continued benefits of the merits of his sacrifice, he rose from the dead and ascended on high, where he appeared before God for us. He stands at the right hand of God, always making intercession for his people and so securing for them the benefits of his redemption. With a dead Savior, a Savior over whom death had triumphed and held captive, our justification would have remained an impossibility. Since the high priest, under the old economy, not only slayed the victim at the altar but carried the blood into the most holy place and sprinkled it on the mercy-seat, so it was necessary not only that our great High Priest should suffer in the outer court, but that he should pass into heaven to present his righteousness before God for our justification.
Therefore, both as the evidence of the acceptance of his satisfaction on our behalf and as a necessary step to secure the application of the merits of his sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ was absolutely essential, even for our justification [Charles Hodge, Romans, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), Ro 4:25].
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