Updated: Apr 7, 2022
Romans 4:1-25 a short commentary
Abraham Justified by Faith
Last time we looked at chapter 3:9-31 and we saw that whether you are a Jew or Gentile we are all under the power of sin and therefore deserving the wrath of God. Paul then went on to show the biblical evidence that we are all sinners, each and every one of us by quoting extensively from Psalms and also from Isaiah and Ecclesiastes. This evidence was like a ‘welcome to Human Nature Class 101’. Man’s fallen heart and mind are such that no one is in right standing with God, No one even wants to be right with God, No one does anything good as judged by God’s own standard of goodness. We use all our organs of speech, throats , tongues , lips and mouths for evil purposes. Man is prone to violence and we prefer lives of ruin and misery rather than the abundant life God offers. We ‘don’t do’ peace and we ‘don’t do’ reverential fear of God. The fallen nature of a human being is really like the bad boys in the Lord of the flies (by W Golding). Ordinary men are quite capable of becoming homicidal maniacs. We saw that there was absolutely no hope for fallen man unless God Himself intervened. Praise the Lord that He has indeed intervened by sending His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins and that His holy blood turns away the wrath of God when we place our faith in Him. Our only part in this wonderful salvation is to believe since it is by faith alone we are saved by the grace of God. Paul concluded that although the law does not save us it has many things to teach us including our accountability to God.
4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, the forefather of us Jews, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Background; ironically the unrighteous Jews in Paul’s target audience would have agreed with Paul’s choice of Abraham here for they considered that Abraham was one of only seven righteous men to have brought back the Shekinah glory to Israel and was made in right standing with God through his works i.e. he had earned his salvation. Paul goes on to make it clear that Abraham was made righteous through faith not by any good works
4:4 Now to anyone who works, their wages are not credited to them as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed are those whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
Even the measure of faith that each is given to each new believer is a gift from God and leaves absolutely no room for any of us to boast or brag. Christ died for us sinners whilst we were dead in our trespasses and sin. God owes us nothing, absolutely nothing. Paul here (v7-8) in quoting David in Psalm 32:1-2 shows a connection between forgiveness of our sins and being made righteous. David after ‘Bathsheba-gate’ greatly rejoiced his sins had been forgiven and so too can we greatly rejoice today because our own sins have been forgiven through Jesus Christ. God’s grace is very much in view here and please note only God is doing any work! Forgiveness of our sins is great but entering into place of blessedness goes beyond just being forgiven.
4:9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Paul now refers to Genesis 15:6 where because Abraham believed God, God credited it to him as righteousness. This righteousness is for all who have faith in God. Paul shows the time line for Abraham being credited as righteous was in Genesis 15:6 but he was not circumcised (outward sign of obedience to the Law) until Genesis 17:24. Even the most conservative estimates show that his righteousness came at least 14 years before he was circumcised. This clearly demonstrates faith producing right standing with God many years before the ‘work’ of circumcision was performed. Circumcision in itself just like communion and baptism today although powerful symbols cannot save us but rather it is our only our faith in God that saves us whatever our ethnic origin. Abraham truly is the father in faith of all who believe since he was the first man to be made righteous for his faith. This is a ground breaking message to the Roman Church.
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
God made Abraham various promises so which one is in view here where Paul talks about ‘heir of the world’? It is probably not the possession of Canaan or even having even offspring like the dust of the earth but it is more likely the promise ‘to be heir of the world’ meant that through Abraham all the nations would be blessed by simply following Abraham’s example and believing God. This promise of God (to be heir of the world) came before the Mosaic law since God knew in advance that man would not be able to keep the law and in a sense gave mankind a much better opportunity to become righteous.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”  He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
Spiritually speaking Abraham is the father of all who believe and like Abraham are counted as righteous by God and enter into His promise of salvation by faith just like Father Abraham. Paul explains this in Galatians 3:6-9 which says 6 So also Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. In spite of his old age and the fact that Sarah was past the age of child-bearing Abraham dared to keep believing that God would keep His promise and give him a natural son and heir. What about you are you remembering to keep believing the promises that God has given you. Are you fully persuaded that the Lord can and will do what He has promised to you? Is your dream still alive? Like Abraham our father in the faith our focus must also continue to be on the word and character of our faithful and trustworthy God. All the promises of God are yes, and Amen in Him. This is a thrilling message and one where the New Testament is clearly linked to the Old Testament.
22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.I keep saying in this study that it is relevant to us today and here is proof in v24 ‘but also for us’ when we exercise like faith in Jesus Christ. It is relevant today for us as we share the Good News with unbelievers that if they exercise faith in Jesus Christ they too will be counted as righteous and receive salvation. We ought to be full of gratitude about what God has done. Here is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 whose sacrifice was accepted by Father God as we find clear proof that salvation through faith by grace is firmly rooted in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
 Genesis. 15:6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness  Psalm 32:1 Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed are those whose sin the LORD does not count against them (and in whose spirit is no deceit).  Gen. 17:5 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers." 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4"As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.  Gen. 15: 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars--if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
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