Romans 4
People's New Testament
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
4:1 Abraham Justified While Still a Gentile


Abraham Not Justified by Works, but by Faith. His Faith Reckoned for Righteousness. David Describes the Same Blessedness. This Blessedness of Forgiveness for Gentiles As Well As Jews. Abraham Counted Righteous Before He Was Circumcised. The Promise of a Redeemer and of a Land Made to Abraham Before. He Was Circumcised. The Greatness of Abraham's Faith. To All, Whether Jew or Gentile, Righteousness Will Be Imputed,. Who Have Abraham's Faith.

What shall we then say? Paul, having show that faith is the essential principle of justification, now inquires concerning Abraham's faith and justification.

Abraham, our father. Our forefather according to the flesh, in the Revised Version. The ancestor of the Jewish race.

Hath found. The thought is, Hath he found justification by works, or by faith?

For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
4:2 Hath whereof to glory. If Abraham was justified by his own righteous works, he would have ground for glorying in himself.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4:3 For what saith the scripture? The passage quoted is found in Ge 15:6, and is quoted three times in the New Testament--here, and in Ga 3:6 and in Jas 2:23. God promised an heir to Abraham, and, although it seemed contrary to nature, he believed the promise. His faith in the promise was

counted unto him for righteousness. It was the ground of his acceptance with God. His faith was a trusting faith, which contained in it the element of obedience. No other faith justifies.

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
4:4 To him that worketh. Who earns wages as a servant. To that one a reward is not

reckoned of grace, a free gift, but a debt. If one has rendered himself righteous by his works, this is true of him.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
4:5 But to him that worketh not. Does not trust his works for acceptance with God.

But believeth, etc. Trusts in the mercy of him who justifies sinners who come to him penitent and believing.

His faith, etc. It is made the ground of his acceptance with God. By faith he clings to Christ, the Savior.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
4:6 Even as David also. Paul has shown that Abraham's justification which is not due to our own righteousness, but to God's mercy. Such names as that of Abraham, the father of their race, and David, the great king, would be authoritative with the Jews.
Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
4:7 Saying. The quotation is from Ps 32:1,2. David himself had been a great sinner, and had been forgiven.

Blessed are they. The class described as blessed are those

whose iniquities are forgiven, counted righteous because their sins are blotted out.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
4:8 Blessed is the man, etc. This is another form of the thought of Ro 4:7. One whose sins have been forgiven will not find them imputed to him at judgment. We obtain this blessedness by a faith in Christ which leads us to accept the gospel.
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
4:9 Cometh this blessedness upon the circumcision only. The next question is, Who shall enjoy this blessing of forgiveness? Shall it be Jews only, or shall

the uncircumcision also, the Gentiles, enjoy it? Abraham's faith was counted for righteousness; will this be true of all, both Jews and Gentiles?

How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
4:10 How was it then reckoned? To settle the question, whether this blessedness applies to Gentiles as well as Jews, the inquiry is made whether Abraham was a Jew or Gentile when it was said of him, His faith was counted for righteousness (Ro 4:5). He was not circumcised for at least fourteen years after this statement was made of him. Compare Ge 15:6 with Ge 17:25. He was then justified, without circumcision, while yet a Gentile.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
4:11 He received the sign of circumcision. The outward mark in the flesh.

A seal. A seal is often appended to a legal document as a proof. The covenant is made before the seal is annexed. Circumcision was not the covenant, but an outward mark of a covenant that before existed. The righteousness, of which it was a seal, had been acknowledged many years before.

That he might be the father of all them that believe. Both Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised. The righteous, uncircumcised Abraham belonged to the latter class.

And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
4:12 The father of circumcision. The circumcision described in Ro 2:29. Abraham is the great father, the father,

not of the circumcision only, but of all who have such faith as he had before he was circumcised. When Abraham was counted righteous through faith, there was no difference between Jew and Gentile. Christianity, by its revelation of righteousness through faith, leads back to the same condition.

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
4:13 For the promise. The reference is to the substance of various promises to Abraham for himself and his seed. See Ge 12:7 13:14 15:18.

Was not... through the law. Was not through law, the article being wanting in the Greek. No body of law had been given. The Mosaic law was given many years afterward. The law of circumcision had not been enacted. It was

through the righteousness of faith, not of law, or works of law, that Abraham secured the promise.

For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
4:14 For if they who are of the law are heirs. Of law, the article wanting. If keeping law makes men heirs, then

faith is made void. It sets aside God's plan of counting faith as righteousness, and destroys the promise which depends on faith.

Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
4:15 Because the law worketh wrath. The law threatens punishment to all who break its enactments, and since none keep it perfectly, it works punishment for all.

For where no law is, there is no trangression. Whereas, if no law had been given, there could be no transgression of its demands.

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
4:16 Therefore it is of faith. The inheritance promised to Abraham and his seed. It comes through faith, and hence is a free gift (of grace).

That it might be... sure. It could not be sure if it had to be secured by the righteousness that is of law, since none can keep the law perfectly. But all can secure it through faith.

To all the seed. To all children of Abraham, whether those

of the law, the Jews, or those

of the faith of Abraham, who become his children by exercising his faith, whether Jew or Gentile. See Ga 3:7.

(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
4:17 As it is written. See Ge 17:5.

A father of many nations. The name of the patriarch was changed from Abram ( a father ) to Abraham ( father of a multitude ).

Before him whom he believed. This is to be joined with Ro 4:16, who is the father of us all... before... God.

Who giveth life to the dead. Abraham had to believe that the Divine power, which can give life to the dead, would give new life to his aged body and that of Sarah.

Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
4:18 Who against hope. Though an old man, and his wife an aged woman, far beyond the time of child-bearing, he yet believed the promise that he would have numerous offspring.
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
4:19 Being not weak in faith. Strong in faith, though weak in body.

His own body now dead. Its vital powers exhausted. But God could quicken the dead, and he had the promise of God.

He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
4:20 He staggered not. He accepted the promise with unfaltering faith.
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
4:21 Being fully persuaded. He was certain that God not only could, but would do what he promised.
And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. The faith that secures God's righteousness is a faith that does not falter, but accepts and acts upon God's promise.
Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone. But in order that we might have an example of God's plan of justification.
But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
4:24 For us also. If we believe our faith shall save us.

On him that raised Jesus. The same God who quickened Abraham's body, as good as dead, raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
4:25 Who was delivered for our offences. He died for us (Ro 5:8 1Th 5:10); was made sin for us (2Co 5:21). He was to be cut off, but not for himself (Da 9:26).

Raised again for our justification. The resurrection of Christ was his own justification against the condemnation of the world. In his justification, all for whom he died, who have laid hold on him by faith and are found in him, are justified with him, in that their sins are forgiven. Without the resurrection, the sepulcher of Christ would be the grave of all our hopes. This is beautifully symbolized in baptism. We are buried by baptism into death (Ro 6:4), his death, planted in the likeness of his death (Ro 6:5), figuratively die with him. We are also planted in the likeness of his resurrection (Ro 6:5). We rise with him, new creatures (2Co 5:17), justified by his resurrection.

The People's New Testament by B.W. Johnson [1891]

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