by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC January 10, 2006
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
1901 ASV Translation:
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was reckoned unto him;
24 but for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
I. The "Application" of What Was Written.
A. Paul argued in 4:9-12 that because Abraham received the "righteousness of faith" before he was given the seal of that righteousness, "righteousness by faith" is available to any who believe.
B. In 4:16 he argued that the "seed" are those who are of the faith of Abraham.
C. In the text before us Paul declared that any and all who "believe" that Jesus is Lord are also reckoned righteous.
1. The question is this: how does a person come to understand that God is addressing him/her with His promises?
a. There is no question that the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah was made to them. In dealing with the relational reality of a God Who directly addressed him, Abraham had no struggle with whether God meant "him" when he made the promise.
b. For me, however, there is this question: what has God said to "me"? How do I take His words to others in respect to His willingness to apply them to me? Which of the words He has spoken to others is He willing to fulfill in my life?
c. In the ministry of Paul, he had no question that the offer of eternal life through the forgiveness of sins by means of the redemption provided by Jesus was available to all [Note Acts 17:30]. This lack of questioning arose on the heels of the commission given to him on the road to Damascus [Note Acts 9:6 and 15-16 and then Paul's own testimony of that event in Acts 26:14-18 where we read more of what Jesus said to him on the road that day].
d. Thus, we may say that God's words through the apostles are us-applicable. The words to Israel were for Israel. The words to Abraham were for Abraham. The words of the apostles are "for" us.
1) Thus we may say that "what was written was for our sake" because an apostle has declared it so.
a) But, his declaration was not all-inclusive of all that was written. It was only that part which declared how Abraham was declared righteous that was "written for our sake".
b) The point is this: Paul did not say that the promise of a land was written for our sake; he did not say that the promise of a seed was for our sake; he did not say that the promise of a great name was for our sake; he only said that "it was reckoned to him" was written for our sake.
c) We must be careful in the arena of "application" that we do not take things written to others as "automatically" written to us. In 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 Paul does say that the records of Scripture are examples for us so that we may learn what is proper, but even in that text he does not say that if we copy a bad example, the same consequence will fall upon us.
2) And we may also reason that since what was written is addressing the issues of how any man can be reunited to God, it must be applicable to any man who is to be reunited to God.
a) A necessary corollary to this reasoning is this: if the words of God are only specifically addressed to an individual or group, they "apply" only to that individual or group unless they carry within themselves a type of meaning that is "universal" in the sense that it is true of all men. In that case, all of whom it speaks are included in what is said.
b) This is how the apostle can declare that what was written of Abraham was written for our sake -- because there can only be one true body of truth that declares how righteousness can be reckoned to fallen men by a just God. God did not have many ways to establish men as righteous; He had only one. Thus, any who wish to be righteous have to accept those aspects of the written records that address how righteousness can be attributed to men as "for their sake".
2. The basic universal truth is that in the current fallen world where Sin is a major player, God accepts faith in His promise(s) as the "functional equivalent" of "acting according to His commands".
a. Jesus the Lord was the actual Actor according to the commands (He was born under the Law and kept all of it without fail; He did not sin). We are "reckoned" to be "in Him" when we "believe upon" the One Who raised Him from the dead. When our "faith" comes to the point of accepting as genuine the reality of God as the One Who gives life to the dead and calls the things that shall be as if they already are, we are "of" the faith of Abraham and are, by that, the seed of Abraham who are to be included in the final outworking of the Plan of God.
b. We are the "believers" who "give glory to God" -- i.e., attribute to Him what is true of Him so that we expect from Him what those attributions mean.