38. Why is the translation “because of” used in Romans 4:25? Why does the EHV translate the Greek term dia as “because of” in Romans 4:25? I’m used to the translation “for,” as in “for our justification.” What is the meaning of this verse?

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You’ve asked an important question. Here is the EHV translation of the verse with the key terms you are asking about underlined:

Romans 4:25 He was handed over to death because of our trespasses and was raised to life because of our justification.

In using because of in Romans 4:25, EHV is not going it alone. Other translations that use because of include NKJV, NASB, and GWN.

Many people are probably used to the NIV translation (again the key terms are italicized):

Romans 4:25 (NIV) “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

By using the word for” the NIV (1984, 2011) and other Bible versions (ESV, HCSB, CSB) are not as helpful as they could be. Clearly, the common meaning of this Greek term (dia + accusative) is “because of.”[1] Some translations might intend to indicate the idea of “cause” by using the term “for.” Unfortunately, the causal meaning of “for” is not at all clear in our common use of the English language. It would be unlikely that an English reader would understand that “for” really means “because of” in this verse. Would you say at the end of the day, “I am going home, for I am done”? We usually don’t talk that way anymore. So, English readers might misunderstand and think that “for” here means something else, for example, purpose. (Dictionary.com lists “because” as the 34th meaning of “for.”)

Another reason why this word here means “because of” is the clear parallelism in this verse:

He was handed over to death because of our trespasses
and was raised to life because of our justification.

This passage answers two questions:

Q. Why did Jesus die? Jesus died “because of our trespasses.”
Q. Why did Jesus rise? Jesus rose “because of our justification.”

Siegbert Becker explained this passage this way:

We could also translate, “He was delivered over to death because we had sinned and was raised to life because we had been justified.” Some Lutherans who deny universal justification insist that since the previous verse speaks of believers, therefore the truth expressed in this verse must be limited to believers, because only believers are justified. But surely there is no Lutheran who would hold that Christ was delivered over to death only for the sins of believers. He died for all. He paid the ransom price for all. He took away the sin of the world. He is the propitiation or the cover for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. His resurrection is the proof that the sins of the world are cancelled and forgiven.[2]

When Paul says that Christ was delivered because of our transgressions the “because of” [διά] is without doubt retrospective. He was put to death because our sins had been imputed to him. And while it is true that “our” in this context refers to believers and only believers can say what Paul says here, yet it is crystal clear that what Paul asserts here of believers is true of all men… It is clear that “was delivered over because of our transgressions” [παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν] stands in exact parallelism to “was raised because of our justification” [ἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν]. If “because of” [the διὰ] is retrospective in the first member of the parallelism it is very natural that we should understand the second “because of” [διὰ] as retrospective also.[3]

How many sins were laid on Jesus when he died?

Isaiah 53:6 (EHV)

We all have gone astray like sheep.
Each of us has turned to his own way,
but the LORD has charged all our guilt to him.

How many people did Jesus die for?

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (EHV)

One died for all; therefore, all died. 15And he died for all….

Jesus died, because the LORD laid on him the sins of all of us (all people). Then on the third day, God the Father raised Jesus to life as a public verdict of justification for all of us (all people). The resurrection demonstrated that God the Father had accepted Jesus’ payment for all sin and that Jesus was absolved of all of our sin that had been charged to him.

In his classic commentary on Romans, Georg Stoeckhardt explained Romans 4:25:

Since God raised Jesus from the dead, he has in fact declared that the death of Jesus has fulfilled its goal, that sin has been atoned for, that he has accepted the atonement, and thus the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—this glorious victory over death and sin—is also at the same time the actual, solemn, formal absolution which God has pronounced on sinful people. Just as the atonement for sin is, so this verdict of justification is universal and applies to the whole world of sinners.[4]

In the People’s Bible Commentary, Armin Panning explained Romans 4:25 this way:

Because we had sinned, we deserved to die. Instead of requiring our death, however, God sent his Son to earth to live the perfect life we could not live and die the death we should have died. By his life he earned righteousness for us, and by his death he paid for our sins. In Christ, God now views us as righteous; in him we have been justified. The sinner’s justification is an accomplished fact, punctuated by Christ’s cry on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). And to show that he had accepted his Son’s sacrificial death for the justification of all sinners, God raised his Son from death on Easter morning. In doing so God made a statement to all the world…. We might paraphrase that in this way: Christ had to die because we had sinned, but he could be raised to life because we had been justified by his death.[5]

In his Romans commentary, David Kuske explained the “cause” relationships:

Paul is not saying Jesus’ resurrection was the cause of our acquittal. Just the opposite, our acquittal was the cause of Jesus’ resurrection. Our acquittal was established by Jesus’ paying the ransom price for us on the cross (3:24). Because this was an established fact, God brought Jesus back to life. Or to put it another way, by raising Jesus, God was assuring us that Jesus had indeed accomplished our salvation.”[6]

Franz Pieper reflected the teaching of C.F.W. Walther (the first president of the Missouri Synod), while explaining Romans 4:25:

Now, then, if the Father raised Christ from the dead, He, by this glorious resurrection act, declared that the sins of the whole world are fully expiated, or atoned for, and that all mankind is now regarded as righteous before His divine tribunal. This gracious reconciliation and justification is clearly taught in Rom. 4:25…. The term δικαίωσις [justification] here means the act of divine justification executed through God’s act of raising Christ from the dead, and it is for this reason called the objective justification of all mankind. This truth Dr. Walther stressed anew in America. He taught that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is the actual absolution pronounced upon all sinners. To refer the words: “Who was raised again for our justification,” to the so-called subjective justification, which takes place by faith, not only weakens the force of the words, but also violates the context. Calov, following Gerhard, rightly points out the relation of Christ’s resurrection to our justification as follows: “Christ’s resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin…. As God punished our sins in Christ, upon whom He laid them and to whom He imputed them, as our Bondsman, so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, and so He absolved also us in Him.”[7]

Note on the terms objective justification and subjective justification: In this context, the term objective refers to something that happens outside of us, something that does not depend on our knowledge or feelings. Objective justification is the declaration of God that he has accepted Christ’s payment for all of the sins of the world. The key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:18-19: All these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, inasmuch as God is making an appeal through us. We urge you, on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. Objective justification is the act of God by which he has declared that  the sins of the world are forgiven because Christ paid for them in full. When the gospel is preached to people, they appropriate this verdict to themselves by faith. This justification by faith is called subjective because it involves our minds and hearts. We are saved by grace through faith.

[1] Gk: διὰ + accusative = cause.  BDAG, p. 225 (B 2); Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 368-369.

[2] Siegbert Becker, “Universal Justification,Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, vol. 83:1, pp. 16 (Winter 1986).

[3] Siegbert Becker, “Objective Justification,” p. 10 (WLS Essay File). Translations were inserted for this audience.

[4] Translated especially for this paper by James L. Langebartels, from: Georg Stoeckhardt, Römerbrief: Commentar über den Brief Pauli an die Römer, p. 214 (CPH, 1907).

[5] Armin Panning, Romans, p. 78 (NPH, 1999).

[6] David P. Kuske, “A Commentary on Romans 1-8,” p. 237 (NPH, 2007).

[7] F. Pieper, vol. 2, Christian Dogmatics, p. 321 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953).