Chapter [ 1 ] four discusses salvation by faith by utilizing Abraham as a precursor. The patriarch is an example of justification by faith. Justification is apart from the Law of Moses. Abraham, the father of the faithful, received God's blessing before being circumcised and prior to the giving of the Mosaic Law. This demonstrates that salvation is not by the OT Law but through faith. Abraham's strong faith was imputed to him for righteousness (see chart ROMANS 4 OUTLINE).
Chart ROMANS 4 OUTLINE
1. Abraham an example of justification by faith
2. Justification apart from Law of Moses (Ro 4:8-10).
3. Abraham received God's blessing prior to being circumcised and before the giving of the Mosaic Law (Ro 4:11, 12).
4. Thus salvation is not by OT Law but through faith (Ro 4:13-18).
5. Abraham's strong faith was imputed to him for righteousness (Ro 4:19-25).
4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to
What then shall we say? [what then are we to say, what shall we say
then?].[ 2 ] The Jews looked to Abraham as an outstanding example. The point
Paul will make is that the Gentiles as well as the Jews may be saved by the gospel
(see verse 9).
That Abraham, our father [about Abraham our forefather].[ 3 ] Abraham is
the father of many nations (Ro 4:17). That is, spiritually, he is the father of all
believers. He is the father "of us all" (Ro 4:16).
Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham (Ga
3:7; see 3:9; Lu 19:9).
Has found according to the flesh [as pertaining to the flesh hath found].[ 4 ]
In Scripture, the OT Law is sometimes called "the flesh" (see note on Ga 3:3).
In the present context, "according to the flesh" means "according to the Law."
The present phrase has nothing to do with Abraham being the actual, fleshly father
of the Jewish nation. Paul asks what Abraham has found, discovered, attained or
obtained. He was asking, "What has Abraham obtained by works of the Law?".
Romans 4:2 also connects "the flesh" with works [of the Law]. And yes, Paul was
fully conscious that Abraham lived before the Mosaic Law was given. To the
Jews, circumcision of the flesh was a major point of the Mosaic Law (see Le 12:2,
3). Not only was Abraham justified without that Law but he was justified without
being circumcised, without the temple and without numerous Jewish traditions of
which the Jews were prideful (see charts WAS ABRAHAM LOST BEFORE
GENESIS 15?; ABRAHAM WAS RIGHTEOUS at Ro 4:22).
Charles Williams, following Westcott-Hort and "best" manuscripts, renders verse
1 in its entirety, "Then what are we to say about our forefather?" Note that he
completely omits "has found" and "according to the flesh."[ 5 ]
Judaizers insisted works required by the Law of Moses would make them
righteous. When Paul was writing the epistle to the Romans, James had already
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his
son on the altar? (Jas 2:21).
I do not think it mattered to the Jews whether or not Abraham's works were done
before the Law was given. To those with minds so oriented, works were works
whether or not they were of the Law of Moses.
The question is, "Should Gentiles be required to obey a Law that Abraham
himself was not required to keep?" If God could justify the patriarch without
circumcision, surely he could save Gentiles without it and without the Law of
God called Abraham out of an idolatrous family (Jos 24:2). The two paragraphs
below show that he was not a lost, unbelieving, disobedient, alien sinner up until
Genesis 15 when his faith was reckoned for righteousness (see chart WAS
ABRAHAM LOST BEFORE GENESIS 15?).
1. God appeared, commanded him to leave his country and promised spiritual blessings (Ge 12:1-3).
2. At that time, he believed and obeyed (Heb 11:8).
3. In Shechem, God appeared to him. He worshipped (Ge 12:6, 7).
4. Between Bethel and Ai, God appeared to him again (Ge 12:8).
5. After leaving Egypt, at Bethel he called on the name of the Lord (Ge 13:4).
Before the justification described in Genesis 15:6, several events had occurred.
God had appeared to Abraham, commanded him to go to a land he would show
him, and promised to bless him. At that time he believed and obeyed God.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going (Heb 11:8).
Notice that it was "by faith" that Abraham "obeyed." In Shechem, God again
appeared to him. There he built an altar and worshipped. He worshipped again
on a mountain between Bethel and Ai. He came from Egypt to Bethel and "called
on the name of the LORD" (Ge 12:8). After the slaughter of the kings,
Melchizedek blessed him.
And he blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth (Ge 14:19).
After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,
saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great
reward" (Ge 15:1).
Everything recorded in Genesis in chapters 12, 13, 14 and five verses of chapter
15 happened before this statement:
And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness
Those who try to parallel this to the salvation of an alien sinner in the church age
are without support in Scripture or in logic. Are we to believe that Abraham
(Abram) was lost up until the event in Genesis 15:6? I do not think so. The
offering of Isaac is not recorded until Genesis 22:1-14; compare Jas 2:21). Long
before that, Abraham's faith had been reckoned for righteousness (Ge 15:6). His
early faith was also an obedient faith (Joh 8:39; Heb 11:8).
Paul is using this to show the Jews that the Gentiles may also have God's
blessings. Abraham, who received God's approval before he was circumcised, and
long before the Law of Moses was given, was unanswerable proof that
circumcision was not necessary for justification.[ 6 ]
4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about,
but not before God.
For if Abraham was justified by works [for if Abraham were, has been,
justified on the principle of works].[ 7 ] The translation "justified by anything he
had done"[ 8 ] is weak. When Abraham believed he did something. Actually, he
performed the work of belief. One should never try to rule out faith itself as a
This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom He sent (Joh 6:29; compare Joh 3:18; 8:24; Ro 10:13,17; Heb 11:6).
When James said Abraham was justified by works when he offered up Isaac, he
did not imply he was justified by works of the Law of Moses but by works of
obedience (see Jas 2:21). To the Jews "works" generally meant keeping the Law
of Moses. Some maintained works would earn them heaven. That kind of mind
set made it difficult for them to be receptive to the doctrine of salvation by the
faith. Amazingly, they also tended to reject gospel obedience along with the faith
in Christ that prompts it. The book of Romans promotes salvation by faith as well
as by obedience to the gospel of faith (Ro 1:5; 6:17; 16:26).
Littrell pointed out that works of the Law, works of merit, works of one's own
righteousness, of which one might boast, cannot save (Eph 2:9; Tit 3:5). On the
other hand, Works of faith are required. All who would please God perform
them. "The faith" is the gospel, God's power to beget (1Co 4:15; Jas 1:18; Lu
8:11). It reveals God's grace to all people (Mk 16:15, 16; Ro 1:16, 17; Tit 2:11-14). Grace teaches (Tit 2:11, 12). It is "the word of His grace" that is able to
guide (Acts 20:32).
He has something to boast about [he hath whereof, of which, to glory].[ 9 ] Were Abraham's works meritorious? Did he earn his salvation? Hardly. If by works he had earned salvation he could have bragged but, as it was, before God, he had no ground for boasting.
But not before God.[ 10 ] Some make a point about Abraham being justified
"before God." They explain James 2 by saying that chapter speaks of being
justified before men. What foolishness! God did not waste precious NT verses
telling people how to be justified before men.
Abraham never boasted of any kind of justification that God owed him because of his works before God or before men. The Bible is silent as a tomb on that. He knew he was justified by faith. He even knew it when he offered up Isaac. Most of all, God knew it. That ruled out boasting. Justification by faith today likewise rules it out.
For what does the Scripture say? [for what saith the scripture?].[ 11 ] Paul
recognized the authority of the written word.
Abraham believed God [and Abraham believed God].[ 12 ]
And it was accounted to him [and it was reckoned, counted, credited, unto
him].[ 13 ] This does not mean that righteousness was somehow mysteriously
transferred to Abraham. In only means that God counted his faith as
For righteousness [to, as, righteousness].[ 14 ] Abraham's faith was "for" or "to"
righteousness in two senses: (1) His sins were forgiven [ultimately through Christ].
(2) He conformed his life to God's will. Along this line, W. E. Vine wrote:
For in these places is EIS, which does not mean "instead of" but "with a
view to." The faith thus experienced brings the soul into vital union with
God and Christ, and inevitably produces righteousness of life, that is,
conformity to the will of God.[ 15 ]
4:4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
Now to him who works [but to one, the one that worketh, working].[ 16 ] Is
Paul belittling people who teach the necessity of baptism or any other obedience
to Christ, such as repentance? Of course not. He himself taught obedience again
and again (Ro 1:5; 6:3, 4, 17; 16:16; 2Th 1:8, 9). Actually, he is countering the
works-of-the-law position taken by the Judaizers. If the Law was kept perfectly,
salvation would have been due as a debt (Ro 10:5; Ga 2:12). However, no one
earned it (Ro 3:9, 19, 23; 11:32; Ga 2:16; 3:22).
His wage [the reward, is the reward].[ 17 ] Some of the Jews may have thought
that doing works of the Law would earn them a reward. Paul does not imply that
wages are given "as grace."
Are not counted [not, is not, reckoned, credited][ 18 ] (see chart ROMANS 4:4
DOES NOT TEACH).[ 19 ]
As grace [as a gift, of, as of, according to, grace]. [ 20 ] Salvation is a matter of
grace, not of debt.
But as debt [of, but according to, debt, what is owed, his due].[ 21 ] I suppose
God who rejoices when one sinner repents (Lu 15:7) finds more joy in saving
people by grace than He would have by debt if the latter were even possible.
Certainly a woman or a man saved by God's grace finds immense joy in salvation
and motivation to praise Him. Grace eliminates the momentary pleasure of
just as David also
describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart
from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose
sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin."
But to him who does not work [to, and to, one who does not work, that
worketh not, the one not working].[ 22 ] Paul is still countering the false Judaizing
teachers who would have Gentiles (and Jews) obey the OT Law, or at least parts
of it, in order to be saved.
But believes on Him who justifies the ungodly [but trusts, but who believes,
but believeth, him, that justifieth the ungodly].[ 23 ]
His faith is accounted for righteousness [his faith is reckoned, is counted,
credited, to, as, righteousness].[ 24 ] Saving faith is obedient faith. Faith is like
a germinating seed. God honors it even before a person becomes mature in
[4:6] Just as David also describes the blessedness [ so also, even also, even as,
David speaks, pronounces, pronounceth, describeth, also declares, blessing,
a blessing].[ 25 ] Paul cites David as one who lived under the Law of Moses. His
keeping the Law did not save him, although he said it was his desire to sincerely
observe it with his whole heart.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe
it with my whole heart (Ps 119:34).
David lived and died under the OT Law. Yet he was justified in the same
manner as Abraham. Neither were justified by works of merit. Both were
justified by faith and by the merits of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.
Of the man to whom God imputes righteousness [upon the man, person, unto
whom God, the Lord, reckons, reckoneth, imputeth, credits, righteousness].[ 26 ]
Apart from works [without works].[ 27 ] The NEB translators confusingly used five words to translate ERGOON works. Just what did they intend by "apart from any specific acts of justice"? Is this but one more effort to slip into the text the doctrine of salvation by faith only? Wordings like this have led some to say:
Therefore, that's how we're justified--totally by faith with no recourse to
works.[ 28 ]
[4:7] Blessed are those [saying, Blessed they, are they].[ 29 ]
Whose lawless deeds are forgiven [whose iniquities, lawlessnesses, have been
forgiven].[ 30 ] Paul brings to attention Psalm 32:1, 2, where the Holy Spirit adds:
"and in whose spirit there is no deceit." In the Psalm, David had in view his own
forgiveness (see Ps 32:5). True, as a servant of God he was a man after God's
heart (Ac 13:22). But he sinned. God pardoned him and counted him righteous.
His lawless deeds were forgiven. Hence, the statement quoted below:
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in
whose spirit there is no deceit (Ps 32:1, 2).
And whose sins are covered [and whose sins have been covered].[ 31 ] Covering of sins is a metaphor that means they were forgiven.
Blessed is the man [blessed the man, is the man].[ 32 ]
To whom the Lord shall not impute sin [against whom the Lord will not, shall not at all, does not, reckon, account, his sin].[ 33 ] When a person turns to God in faith and obedience his sins are covered. After sins are covered and forgiven, God no longer holds them on account.
4:9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the
uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for
Does this blessedness then come? [ is this blessing upon, pronounced, then
pronounced, cometh this blessedness then?].[ 34 ] Finally, Paul asks a question
that reveals the point he has been leading up to since verse 1. He wants HIS
Jewish readers to understand that God saves Gentiles as well.
Upon the circumcised only [rest on the circumcision, only upon the
circumcised?].[ 35 ] Although some other peoples are thought to have practiced
circumcision,[ 36 ] the circumcised, in this verse, are Jewish people.
Or upon the uncircumcised also [or also on the uncircumcised, the
uncircumcision also]. [ 37 ] The uncircumcised in the present verse are Gentiles.
For we say [we say].[ 38 ]
That faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness [to Abraham his
faith has been reckoned as righteousness].[ 39 ] If we take EIS as in order to,
David and Paul are saying, God reckoned, counted or credited Abraham's faith in
order that He might forgive his sins. When forgiven, he would be righteous.
Some outrageously paraphrase Paul's words to make him imply the fundamental
acts of obedience to the gospel are not necessary. Some are guilty of a sin of
omission by leaving off obedience to the command to be baptized for the remission
of sins (see Ac 2:38). They talk of salvation from sin but, at the same, time
commit sin by leaving undone that which the Scriptures plainly say to do.
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin
4:10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircum-cised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
How then was it accounted? [how then was it, how was it then, how then has
it been, reckoned, reckoned to him?].[ 40 ]
While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? [was it before or after he had
been circumcised, when he was in circumcision, or, or in, uncircumcision?]. [ 41 ]
Paul presses this important question in order to stress his point that Gentiles can
be saved. He proceeds to answer the question.
Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised [it was not after but before
he was circumcised, not in circumcision but in uncircumcision].[ 42 ] This
particular account of Abraham's justification is in Genesis 15:6. He was not yet
86 years old (inferred from Ge 16:3, 16; 17:25). The record of his circumcision
is in Genesis 17:24. He was 99 at that time.
Paul is spending much time on this point because of its great importance in the
first century. Many Jewish Christians held to circumcision. Some insisted it was
a necessity and wanted the Gentile Christians to become circumcised in order to
be saved (see Ac 15:1).
4:11, 12 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness
of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father
of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness
might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who
not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith
which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
And he received the sign of circumcision [he received circumcision as a
sign]. [ 43 ] This is an example of the genitive of apposition, where the genitive takes
the place of a word in apposition to the noun on which it depends.[ 44 ] The meaning
is that the sign of circumcision is the sign consisting of circumcision.
Circumcision did not make Abraham or anyone else a member of, or partaker
of, the covenant. It was a sign, mark or indicator of it. We know this because
descendants of Abraham were born into the covenant. If they were not
circumcised they were cut off from it.
And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his
foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My
covenant (Gen 17:14).
Babies were born into membership of God's people. They remained so for at
least eight days (Ge 17:12). If they were not of God's people at birth, they could
not have been cut off for not being circumcised at a later time.
A seal [or, as seal].[ 45 ] Following are quotes from Robertson L. Whiteside and
E. M. Zerr, respectively:
Circumcision was more than a sign to Abraham; it was a seal of the
righteousness of his faith, a stamp of God's approval to his faith. To the
Hebrews it was a sign of the covenant; to Abraham it was a seal of the
righteousness of faith which he had in uncircumcision.[ 46 ]
An inspector does not put his stamp of approval on an article to make it
pure, but to indicate that it was already pure.[ 47 ]
Of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised [of
the righteousness which he had by faith, of faith which he had, while he was
in uncircumcision].[ 48 ] Note that Abraham had "the righteousness of the faith"
before he was circumcised. He was known as a righteous man almost a quarter
of a century before he was circumcised (see Ge 12:4; 15:6; 17:24; see charts LIFE
OF ABRAHAM A and B). It is quite out of line to say he was saved by
circumcision. It is equally wrong to say he was counted as righteous for the first
time at the event of Genesis 15:6.
That he might be the father of all those who believe [the purpose was to
make him, the father of all, of all them, that believe].[ 49 ] Notice the phrase,
"all those who believe." This is vital in Paul's argument to show that Gentiles
may also be saved by the gospel.
Though they are uncircumcised [without being circumcised, being, though,
though they be, in uncircumcision]. [ 50 ] Circumcision was not necessary in order
for the Gentiles could be saved. They did not have to become Jews before
obeying the gospel.
That righteousness might be imputed to them also [in order that, and who thus, have righteousness reckoned, might be accounted, unto them, unto them also].[ 51 ] When Jews (or Gentiles) obey the gospel, they are saved by faith and righteousness is reckoned to them (see Ro 6:3, 4; 17; 2Th 1:7-9). That is, they are forgiven.
[4:12] And the father of circumcision [and father, and the father, and
likewise the father, of the circumcised].[ 52 ]
To those who not only are of the circumcision [to them who not only, not
only to those, who are not merely, circumcised, are, who are not of
circumcision only].[ 53 ] Paul refers to the Jews and implies physical circumcision
was not sufficient to make them righteous. Faith plus some response, that is,
some act of obedience was necessary.
But who also walk [but also, but to those also, who walk, follow].[ 54 ] Paul
adds another characteristic to those who can claim Abraham as their spiritual
father. Notice that he does not include all Jews as sons of Abraham. To be a
circumcised Jew was not enough. He must also walk in the steps of Abraham's
faith. Notice how Paul expands on the Jewish idea of "father Abraham." He now
includes Gentiles who follow Abraham's example of faith. All Christians are
children of Abraham (Ga 3:29). In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and
Gentile (Ac 15:9; Ga 3:28, 29; 5:6).
In the steps of the faith [the example of the faith, of that faith].[ 55 ] The point
is that we are to walk in the steps of Abraham's faith which he had before age 99
when he was circumcised (see Ge 17:24). We are also to imitate his faith in
obedience as he obeyed the command to be circumcised, to offer Isaac and other
acts of submission. The commands to us are different but the faith that prompts
them is similar.
Which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised [of our father Abraham had, which he had, before he was circumcised, in, during, uncircumcision, while, being yet, uncircumcised].[ 56 ]
4:13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to
Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of
For the promise [the promise].[ 57 ]
That he would be the heir of the world [that they should inherit the world,
that he should be heir of the world].[ 58 ] The inheritance of God's Son is "the
nations" (Ps 2:8). He has all authority (Mt 28:18). He is "heir of all things"
(Heb 1:2). All things are put in subjection under his feet (Heb 2:8). It was
people to which He was made heir.
The inheritance of Christ is parallel to the inheritance of Abraham. Abraham
was heir of the world. The land promise is not under consideration here. That
was limited to "all the land of Canaan" (Ge 17:8; also 12:7; 13:15, 17). Abraham
realized the earthly land was not the totality of God's promise:
For he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker
is God (Heb 11:10).
Abraham knew also that his inheritance was not military might, although his descendants would possess the gate of their enemies.
Blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your
descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the
seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies (Ge
22:17; also 24:60).
Abraham's many physical offspring did not fulfill the promise that he would be
heir of the world (Ro 9:8). How then was he to be heir of the world?[ 59 ] In
several related senses (see chart ABRAHAM WAS HEIR OF THE WORLD).
Was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law [to, was to, Abraham
and his descendant, descendants, not, it was not, did not come, for by law,
through the law].[ 60 ] The Law in this context is the Law of Moses. Until Christ
came it was the best law ever given. Some think that by extension it includes
many other legal systems.[ 61 ]
But through the righteousness of faith [but by righteousness of faith].[ 62 ]
4:14, 15 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the
promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where
there is no law there is no transgression.
For if those who are of the law [if it is, the adherents, they, they which,
that, are of law, of the Law].[ 63 ] Although among "those who are of the law"
were some Gentiles, the thrust of Paul's statement is directed to Jews.[ 64 ] When
he questioned if they were heirs in any sense of the word, he jolted those who
"kept" the Law but "did not seek it by faith" (Ro 9:32). If those who lived by the
Law were heirs of heaven then two extremely important things were useless: faith
and the promise. In the first century, not only were there Jews who thought they
could be righteous by keeping the Law but they sought to bind at least part of it
upon the Gentile converts as well (see Ac 15:1, 10).
Are heirs [be, who are to be, the heirs].[ 65 ] Paul uses the term "heirs" in the
sense of those going to heaven.
Faith is made void [faith, then the faith, is, is made, null, vain].[ 66 ] Paul
argues strongly against the idea that keeping the Law of Moses saves from sin.
If the Law made people heirs then faith was made null and void. If justification
came about by keeping the OT Law then the teaching about Abraham's faith being
reckoned for righteousness amounted to nothing. It was, to say the least,
unnecessary (see Ge 15:6). The Greek has the article "the" before "faith"
suggesting that "the faith" is the law of Christ. His teaching would be made void
if righteousness could have been obtained through the Law of Moses (see Ga
And the promise made of no effect [and the promise nullified, is void, is
made of none effect].[ 67 ] If the Law made men righteous, the spiritual promise
of Genesis 12:1-3, that looked toward Christ, had no meaning. The result would
denote that man could be saved without its fulfillment in Christ.
Because the law brings about wrath [for the law brings, works, worketh,
wrath].[ 68 ] The law brought the wrath of God because men violated it (see Ro
1:18; 5:9; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; 1Jo 3:4).
For where there is no law there is no transgression [but where no law is,
neither is there, transgression].[ 69 ] Abraham did not violate the Law of Moses
because it had not been given to him. NT commands such as confession and
baptism did not apply in his day either (Ro 10:9, 10; Ac 2:38; 10:48; 22:16).
Infants and imbeciles were not subjects of the OT Law. Neither are they subjects
to the gospel. They are "alive" spiritually without the law (Ro 7:9).
4:16-18 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the
promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law,
but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the
presence of Him whom he believed-- God, who gives life to the dead and calls
those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope,
in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to
what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."
Therefore [that is why, for this cause]. [ 70 ] Why has God arranged things so
that salvation is by faith? Paul answers.
It is of faith [it depends on faith, on the principle of faith]. [ 71 ] When Paul
says justification is of faith, he implies it is not of works, that is, works of the
Law (inferred from Ro 11:6, 7). However, salvation by faith takes the merit out
of all kinds of works.
That it might be according to grace [in order that it may be, it might be, that
the promise may rest, on, by, according to, grace].[ 72 ] If one is saved without
his own merit, his salvation can only be by grace. It is simply marvelous that man
can be saved that way instead of by works of merit. The latter would effectively
rule out heaven for everyone.
So that the promise might be sure to all the seed [to the end, in order to, the
promise, being sure, may be sure, and be guaranteed, to all his
descendants]. [ 73 ] If the spiritual promise to Abraham required keeping the Law
of Moses, it would not have been sure to anyone, let alone to all the seed. The
reason? No one ever kept the Law perfectly. How is the promise to Abraham
made sure? The only way the promise could be sure to all his descendants is for
it to be by grace through faith (see Eph 2:8, 9).
Not only to those who are of the law [not to that only, which is, the
adherents, of the Law].[ 74 ] A ray of light finally shines on the faithful OT Jews
who were "of the Law." They may be included in the salvation by faith of which
But also to those who are of the faith of Abraham [but also to those who
share, but to that also which is of, Abraham's faith]. [ 75 ] Those "who are of the
faith of Abraham" include a much larger number than the faithful Jews.
Who is the father of us all [who is, for he is the, father of us all].[ 76 ]
Abraham is the spiritual father of all Christians, both Jews and Gentiles (Ga 3:7).
This idea was easily accepted by Gentiles but Paul has now gone to some length
in this letter to convince Jews of it. We should not take this truth for granted.
As it is written [according as it is written].[ 77 ] Once again, Paul, through the
Holy Spirit, recognizes the authority of the written pages the Bible.
I have made you [have I made thee].[ 78 ] Although all the nations did not at the
time exist, God spoke of them when He said:
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be
Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations (Ge 17:5).
God's appointment of Abraham as the father of many nations (Christians) was
not by fleshly lineage but by special arrangement, namely, salvation by grace
A father of many nations [father the father, of many nations].[ 79 ] God
changed the patriarch's name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of
a multitude). Because of the immediate context, especially Romans 4:16, we may
infer the "many nations" are Christians.
In the presence of Him whom he believed-- God [before the God in whom he
believed, even God].[ 80 ] The Levites praised the Lord saying:
You are the LORD God, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of
the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham; 8 You found his heart
faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the
Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the
Girgashites-- to give it to his descendants. You have performed Your words,
for You are righteous (Ne 9:7, 8).
Abraham stood in God's presence and believed that he would be the father of
many nations. The promise was given by God. It is valid before Him. Also, the
Genesis account which contains it was written by Moses before Him, that is, in
God's presence. There is no doubt that the promise is an inspired statement.[ 81 ]
The NEB captures some of the sense with, "This promise, then, was valid before
God, the God in whom he put his faith."
1. Giving life to the dead (De 32:39; 1Sa 2:6; 2Ki 5:7; 2Co 1:9; 1Ti 6:13; compare Ne 9:6).
2. Father can raise the dead.
3. So can the Son (Joh 5:21; 1Co 15:22; Re 1:18).
4. Jesus Christ is deity, although this argument
by itself is not conclusive.
Who gives life to the dead [who quickens, quickeneth, giveth life to, the
dead].[ 82 ] Paul alludes to God's command to offer Isaac when Abraham's faith in
the resurrection shone brightly (see verses 18, 21; Heb 11:19).
And calls those things which do not exist as though they did [and calleth into
existence the things that do not exist, things, the things, that are not, which
be not, as being].[ 83 ] The "many nations" of Christians did not exist when the
promise was made. God is able to "call"[ 84 ] things into existence, such as the
Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has
stretched out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand up together (Isa
As a result of God's "calling" Abraham, his spiritual descendants multiplied.
Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him
alone, and blessed him and increased him (Isa 51:2).
[4:18] Who, contrary to hope in hope believed [in hope he, believed against
hope, who against hope, who, when things were against hope, believed in
hope].[ 85 ] Abraham believed just because God promised he would be the father
of many nations. There was every earthly reason for him to disbelieve God.
There was no natural prospect at all for Abraham and Sarah to have a child.
However, Abraham's strong unwavering faith (verse 20) went beyond natural
anticipation. He steadfastly believed in God's word. The faith of Christians
today, in God and his word, like Abraham's, must be strong in spite of modern
philosophies false and atheistic ideas taught in some classrooms and pulpits.
So that he became the father of many nations [that, to the end that, he
should, he might, be, become, to his becoming, father, a father, of many
nations].[ 86 ]
According to what was spoken [as, according to that, he had been told,
which was, which had been, spoken].[ 87 ] Abraham was looking at the stars when
God's word was spoken to him. God's words were later recorded by Moses in
Genesis 15:5. When God spoke, the fulfillment was as certain as if it had already
happened (compare Isa 51:2).
So shall your descendants be [so shall, thus shall, thy seed, your posterity,
be]. [ 88 ] God promised to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations (Ge
17:5). The same promise was repeated to Jacob (Ge 28:14; 32:17). The Hebrew
writer sums up what the immediate context says about Abraham.
Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as
the stars of the sky in multitude-- innumerable as the sand which is by the
seashore (Heb 11:12; see Ge 15:5).
4:19-21 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body,
already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of
Sarah's womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief,
but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully
convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
And not being weak in faith [he did not weaken, and without being, and
being not, weakened, in the faith].[ 89 ] "Not being weak in faith" is a Hebraism
used in order to emphasize the positive by denial of the negative. Abraham was
strong in faith. Peter walked on the water but when he "saw that the wind was
boisterous" he began to sink (Mt 14:30). When Joseph was returning from Egypt,
he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in the room of his father Herod (Mt
2:22). Were these good men afraid? Were they weakened in faith? Perhaps so.
But not Abraham. His faith remained strong (but see note on verse 22).
He did not consider his own body [he considered, when he considered, his
own, not his own, body].[ 90 ] Like a child gazing down from a tall tower
undaunted by the height, Abraham pondered his antiquated body. He probably
wondered how long he could retain the ability to father children. Perhaps he
considered himself impotent at the time. He contemplated his own body but his
faith in God's promise remained strong.
Already dead [already become, now, which was as good as, dead].[ 91 ] This
may be an hyperbole, that is, exaggerated language. At his age, Abraham was
quite virile. He was about eighty-five (Ge 16:16). At that time, he was able to
father a child (Ge 16:4). Or was Ishmael's conception also miraculous? Later,
he said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!" (Ge 17:18).
God pointed out that Sarah would have a son, Isaac (Ge 17:19; 18:10). Sarah
had passed the age of childbearing. At that time Abraham (about 100) and Sarah
(90) "were old, well advanced in age" (Ge 18:11; 21:5). God's miraculous cure
for male impotence for a 100 year-old man appears to have been long-lasting.
Years later, he fathered six children by Keturah and others by concubines (Ge
25:1, 2, 6).
Since he was about a hundred years old [being, when, he being, because he
was, a hundred, about an hundred, years old].[ 92 ] Think about the one
hundred-year "patriarchs" with whom you are acquainted and compare them to
Abraham. Many no longer possess their mental competence nor their physical
vigor and bounce.
And the deadness of Sarah's womb [and the deadening, or, or when he
considered, neither yet, the barrenness, of Sarah's womb]. [ 93 ] Sarah had been
childless during her long marriage to Abraham. Without God's assistance, no
doubt, she probably would have remained barren.
Yet, with respect to the promise of God [concerning, yet, looking unto, and hesitated not at, the promise of God].[ 94 ] The revealed word of God contained the promise that Abraham trusted.
[4:20] He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief [no distrust
made him waver, he wavered not, staggered not, in unbelief].[ 95 ] We may
never know the laughter nor the mental struggle and turmoil Abraham endured.
Yet, any doubts that entered his mind were quickly overcome by his triumphant
But was strengthened in faith [but he grew, waxed, but, in his faith, through
faith, being, strong, but found strength].[ 96 ] Since faith comes by hearing the
word of God (Ro 10:17), each time God spoke to Abraham, his faith grew
stronger. Reading and hearing the word has the same effect on people today (see
Joh 20:30, 31).
Giving glory to God [gave, as he gave, glory to God].[ 97 ] Moses wrote,
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a
child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah,
who is ninety years old, bear a child?" (Ge 17:17).
The manner of "giving glory to God" in this instance is a little different from the
solemn or even gloomy worship services in some liberal and traditional churches.
Abraham fell flat on his face laughing. An interesting act of worship! According
to Josephus, he gave thanks.
Abram therefore gave thanks to God for these blessings; and then he, and
all his family, and his son Ishmael, were circumcised immediately; the son
being that day thirteen years of age, and he ninety-nine[ 98 ]
[4:21] And being fully convinced [fully convinced, and being fully assured,
fully persuaded, in full assurance].[ 99 ] Abraham had not a doubt in the world
that God would fulfill his promise. History bears out the fact that he was right.
Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments (De 7:9).
That what He had promised [that what he has promised].[ 100 ] Long before
the events in Abraham's life under consideration in the present verses, God had
promised to save Noah (Ge 6:18), not to again destroy the world by water (Ge
9:8-13), that He would make of Abraham a great nation, would bless him and
make his name great. Also He would bless them that blessed him and curse them
that cursed him, and in him all families of the earth would be blessed (Ge 12:2,
He was also able to perform [God is, was, able, able also, to do].[ 101 ]
Congress may pass a law without appropriating money to carry it out or to enforce
it. A general may attack an undefeatable enemy. A builder may start but be
unable to complete the construction. However, God is Almighty. He is able to
fulfill his promises. When he speaks, the outcome is as certain as if it had already
come to pass.
[4:22] And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness" [therefore,
wherefore also, it was, it was unto him, reckoned, imputed, credited, to, as,
Therefore also [that is why, now, but].[ 102 ] Because of his faith as evidenced
by his prostrate position and laughter during his worship his faith was reckoned
to Abraham as righteousness.
It was reckoned unto him as righteousness [his faith was reckoned to him as
righteousness, that it was imputed to him].[ 103 ] The fact that Abraham was
righteous by faith is stated at least four times in Scripture (see chart ABRAHAM
James stressed Abraham's works when he offered up Isaac (Jas 2:21-23). Paul
may not have emphasized them because Abraham's long-term obedience was spotty
and imperfect. For example, when he was told to get out of his country from his
kindred and from his father's house (Ge 12:1). He took his father and his nephew
along. His father died in Haran, some 600 miles from Ur (Ac 7:4). Later, at
least twice, he made false statements about Sarah's relationship to him (Ge 12:13,
19; 20:2, 5, 12).
4:23-25 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up
Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our
offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Now it was not written for his sake alone [it was not written, but the words
were written not, because of him only, on his account alone].[ 104 ] God laid
down a principle to Abraham that applies to us today. The Holy Spirit caused
Moses to write it for our learning (Ro 15:4). That principle is that through Christ
there is lots of forgiveness.
That it was imputed to him [that it was reckoned unto him, to whom it shall
be imputed, credited].[ 105 ] The obedient believer is saved by grace when his
faith is reckoned for righteousness.
But also for us [ but on, for, ours also, us also, because of us, our sake
also].[ 106 ] The promise to Abraham has an application for us today. The truths
in Genesis were written for us--not to be obeyed as law but as lessons about God's
promises, dependability, forgiveness and His concern for sinners.
It shall be imputed [it will be reckoned, to, unto, whom it shall be
credited]. [ 107 ] Did Abraham believe in the coming of Christ? Certainly. Jesus
said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad"
(Joh 8:56). Just as Abraham's faith was reckoned for righteousness, it is God's
intent and purpose to reckon righteousness to believers today.
For with the heart one believes EIS unto, in order to righteousness, and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Ro 10:10).
To us who believe in Him [to those who believe, if we believe, on him, to
whom, believing on him].[ 108 ] Believers, both Jews and Gentiles, are of all
Who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead [that raised, that raised up,
who has raised, from, from among, the dead, Jesus our Lord].[ 109 ] Can one
have saving faith and not believe in the resurrection of Christ? The Scriptures do
not hold out a promise of heaven to those who disbelieve it. His resurrection is
a fundamental part of the gospel (see Ro 10:9, 10; 1Co 15:1-4).
[4:25] Who was delivered up [who was, has been, delivered, put to
death].[ 110 ] In the present context, Paul alludes to the death and resurrection of
Jesus. Later on he will explain how penitent sinners obey a form of that doctrine
in baptism (Ro 6:3, 4, 17, 18). God delivered Jesus up "for us all" (Ro 8:32;
compare Ro 5:8). Judas also betrayed Him or delivered Him up, the Greek being
identical for the two expressions (see Mk 3:19; Lu 22:3; Joh 6:71; 13:2, 21-26).
He delivered Him over to death. Christ gave Himself (Ga 1:4; 2:20; Eph 5:2).
Because of our offenses [for our, because of our, trespasses,
transgressions].[ 111 ]
And was raised [and, raised, and was, and has been, raised again].[ 112 ] The
great power of the righteous God is seen in the resurrection of Christ.
Because of our justification [for our justification, that we might be
justified].[ 113 ] Not only did the resurrection of Christ confirm the adequacy of
His sacrifice but it enabled Him to become mediator and intercessor.
Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God
through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb
7:25; see also Heb 8:6; 9:14, 15; 24; 12:24).
Also because of His resurrection, He is able to be a priest forever and, as such,
is the guarantee or surety of the better covenant (Heb 7:21, 22, 28; compare Zec
The main point in this chapter is that Gentiles as well as the Jews may be saved
by the gospel. Abraham's justification is not a model for alien sinners to be
justified in the church age. However, like him, people today are to have an
obedient faith. Commandments for us are different than for him. Paul's teaching
on Abraham's justification "apart from works," in context, means "apart from
works of the Mosaic law." This emphasis was never intended to belittle
confession and baptism.
Sentence praises: God's name is exalted above all blessing and praise (Ne 9:5). He has magnified His word above all His name (Ps 138:2).