Verse 23. "Now it was not written for his sake alone" - The fact of Abraham's believing and receiving salvation through that faith is not recorded as a mere circumstance in the patriarch's life, intended to do him honour: see ver. 24.
Verse 24. "But for us also" - The mention of this circumstance has a much more extensive design than merely to honour Abraham. It is recorded as the model, according to which God will save both Jews and Gentiles: indeed there can be no other way of salvation; as all have sinned, all must either be saved by faith through Christ Jesus, or finally perish. If God, therefore, will our salvation, it must be by faith; and faith contemplates his promise, and his promise comprehends the Son of his love.
Verse 25. "Who was delivered for our offenses" - Who was delivered up to death as a sacrifice for our sins; for in what other way, or for what other purpose could He, who is innocence itself, be delivered for our offenses? And was raised again for our justification.] He was raised that we might have the fullest assurance that the death of Christ had accomplished the end for which it took place; viz. our reconciliation to God, and giving us a title to that eternal life, into which he has entered, and taken with him our human nature, as the first-fruits of the resurrection of mankind.
1. FROM a careful examination of the Divine oracles it appears that the death of Christ was an atonement or expiation for the sin of the world: For him hath God set forth to be a PROPITIATION through FAITH in HIS BLOOD, chap. iii. 25. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ DIED FOR the UNGODLY, chap. v. 6. And when we were ENEMIES, we were RECONCILED to God by the DEATH of his Son, Romans v. 10. In whom we have REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the FORGIVENESS of SINS, Eph. i. 7. Christ hath loved us, and GIVEN HIMSELF FOR US, an OFFERING and a SACRIFICE to God for a sweet-smelling savour, Ephesians v. 2. In whom we have REDEMPTION THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the FORGIVENESS OF SINS, Col. i. 14. And having made PEACE THROUGH the BLOOD of his CROSS, in the BODY of HIS FLESH, through DEATH, Col. i. 20, 22. Who GAVE HIMSELF a RANSOM for all, 1 Tim. ii. 6. Who GAVE HIMSELF FOR US, that he might REDEEM us from all iniquity, Tit. ii. 14. By which will we are sanctified, through the OFFERING of the BODY of Jesus Christ, Heb. x. 10. So Christ was once OFFERED TO BEAR THE SINS of many, Heb. ix. 28. See also Eph. ii. 13, 16; 1 Pet. i. 18, 19; Rev. v. 9. But it would be transcribing a very considerable part of the New Testament to set down all the texts that refer to this most important and glorious truth.
2. And as his death was an atonement for our sins, so his resurrection was the proof and pledge of our eternal life. See 1 Cor. xv. 17; 1 Pet. i. 3; Eph. i. 13, 14, &c.,&c.
3. The doctrine of justification by faith, which is so nobly proved in the preceding chapter, is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this? Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbour. God, in his mercy, has provided a saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made an atonement to God for thy transgressions; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition, that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it as such, by confident faith, to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; i.e. it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.
4. The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, as held by many, will not be readily found in this chapter, where it has been supposed to exist in all its proofs. It is repeatedly said that FAITH is imputed for righteousness; but in no place here, that Christ's obedience to the moral law is imputed to any man. The truth is, the moral law was broken, and did not now require obedience; it required this before it was broken; but, after it was broken, it required death.
Either the sinner must die, or some one in his stead: but there was none whose death could have been an equivalent for the transgressions of the world but JESUS CHRIST. Jesus therefore died for man; and it is through his blood, the merit of his passion and death, that we have redemption; and not by his obedience to the moral law in our stead. Our salvation was obtained at a much higher price. Jesus could not but be righteous and obedient; this is consequent on the immaculate purity of his nature: but his death was not a necessary consequent. As the law of God can claim only the death of a transgressor-for such only forfeit their right to life-it is the greatest miracle of all that Christ could die, whose life was never forfeited.
Here we see the indescribable demerit of sin, that it required such a death; and here we see the stupendous mercy of God, in providing the sacrifice required. It is therefore by Jesus Christ's death, or obedience unto death, that we are saved, and not by his fulfilling any moral law. That he fulfilled the moral law we know; without which he could not have been qualified to be our mediator; but we must take heed lest we attribute that to obedience (which was the necessary consequence of his immaculate nature) which belongs to his passion and death. These were free-will offerings of eternal goodness, and not even a necessary consequence of his incarnation.
5. This doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is capable of great abuse. To say that Christ's personal righteousness is imputed to every true believer, is not Scriptural: to say that he has fulfilled all righteousness for us, or in our stead, if by this is meant his fulfillment of all moral duties, is neither Scriptural nor true: that he has died in our stead, is a great, glorious, and Scriptural truth: that there is no redemption but through his blood is asserted beyond all contradiction; in the oracles of God. But there are a multitude of duties which the moral law requires which Christ never fulfilled in our stead, and never could. We have various duties of a domestic kind which belong solely to ourselves, in the relation of parents, husbands, wives, servants, &c., in which relations Christ never stood. He has fulfilled none of these duties for us, but he furnishes grace to every true believer to fulfill them to God's glory, the edification of his neighbour, and his own eternal profit. The salvation which we receive from God's free mercy, through Christ, binds us to live in a strict conformity to the moral law; that law which prescribes our manners, and the spirit by which they should be regulated, and in which they should be performed. He who lives not in the due performance of every Christian duty, whatever faith he may profess, is either a vile hypocrite, or a scandalous Antinomian.