“Would you like your receipt?”
I’m asked this question daily: the grocery store, Starbucks, even the automated payment screen at the gas station. I don’t really like clutter so I usually say “no thanks.” However, there are some stores where you don’t have a choice. You NEED to take your receipt.
Consider a trip to the following stores: (in order of my preference of them) Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club. It is the practice of all of these stores to check your receipt at the door before you can leave. In fact, if you don’t have your receipt you cannot leave with all of the stuff in your cart – all of a sudden this piece of paper has more value than you thought. The receipt serves as proof that you bought the items with which you are trying to leave the store.
The picture of a receipt is a helpful illustration of the importance of the resurrection. Consider two texts in Paul’s letter to the Romans, paying particular attention to the underlined words:
Concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:3-4).
[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).
For Paul, the resurrection has a way of validating the person (who he is) and work of Jesus (what he has done). Romans 1:4 validates the person of Jesus and Romans 4:25 validates the work of Jesus.
First, in Romans 1:4 Jesus’ true identity is confirmed in the statement “declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection powerfully declared him the Son of God. In other words, the resurrection demonstrated that Jesus was in fact who he said he was, God incarnate. The resurrection validated all of the claims Jesus ever made about himself in the gospels.
The meaning of the Greek word for “declared” is related to the idea of our word “horizon.” Horizon refers to the boundary between heaven and earth. In other words Paul is saying that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead distinguished Jesus as the divine Son just like the horizon distinguishes heaven and earth.
It’s not that Christ was made a Son by resurrection, but that His resurrection powerfully asserted (declared) His Sonship. We can trust that Jesus is who he claimed to be, God in human flesh, because he was raised from the dead.
Second, the work of Jesus was validated by his resurrection as described in Romans 4:25: Paul says Jesus, “was delivered up for our trespasses.”
God planned the death of Jesus in order to satisfy his wrath against sinners and demonstrate his love toward sinners. Jesus was delivered up to death to atone for the sins of those who would believe. This points to the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death. (1 Corinthians 15:3; Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21)
The second part of this verse is not quite what we might expect Paul to say. He writes that Jesus was “raised for our justification.”
This is a strange phrase. Usually we would expect to read “died for our justification.” If you were doing a crossword puzzle and had 6 letters and the clue was _ _ _ _ _ _ for our justification. You might think “killed” was the right word.
But Paul says “raised!”
What does Paul mean when he says that Jesus was “raised for our justification”? How does Jesus’ resurrection relate to our justification (being declared to be positionally righteous before God)? Remember in John 19:30 when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Jesus had accomplished the work the father had given him and had made atonement for the sins of those who would believe. The resurrection proved this statement was reliable and true.
So taken together, these two verses show that in the death of Jesus we see justification accomplished and in the resurrection of Jesus we see justification accepted. Jesus was raised to guarantee that God in fact declares righteous those who place their faith in him.
Thomas Schreiner writes,
To say that Jesus was raised because of our justification is to say that his resurrection authenticates and confirms that our justification has been secured…The resurrection of Christ constitutes evidence that his work on our behalf has been completed (Thomas Schreiner, Romans: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT, 244).
How do we know that Jesus’ death for our sins was effective in God’s sight for declaring us righteous?
The answer is that God showed his approval by raising Jesus from the dead. Thus, the resurrection serves as God’s receipt, proving that Jesus’ death as the payment for sin was a sufficient and acceptable payment to God.
Just as you can be confident that the store will allow you to leave with the stuff you bought because you have a receipt, so you can be confident that God will allow you to enter his presence in heaven because of the receipt which is Jesus’ resurrection – proving that he has paid, in full, the price for your forgiveness and that his form of payment has been accepted.
Most of the time you probably do not keep your receipts after you buy something. Paper receipts mean little because of the value of what we have bought. People keep the title to their home because it is very valuable.
But the resurrection is the receipt that all of our sins have been paid for in whole on the cross. This is the kind of truth (receipt) worth holding onto closely. It is a truth worth mediating on regularly especially when you are tempted to think that some of your sin is not paid for by God.
Next time someone asks you, “would you like your receipt” remember the one receipt you do need.