Bible Topics In The Christian Library
 
ROMANS CHAPTER 4

Verses 1-5 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 - For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 - For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 4 - Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. 5 - But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

A. "What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?"
1. Paul continues his argument that men are saved by faith apart from obedience to the Law of Moses. 4:1 must be understood as an extension of 3:28, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." 

2. Abraham was the most cherished figure known to the Jews. Many of the Jews actually believed that he, Isaac, and Jacob were justified by their perfect obedience. The Jews believed that the Gentiles could now be saved, but only through circumcision, thus making them subject to the Law of Moses. If Paul could make the case that Abraham, as righteous and holy as he was, was saved by faith apart from the Law of Moses, then all could indeed be saved outside of the Law.

B. "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God."
1. If Abraham was saved by his works of righteousness, then he could boast of saving himself. In that event, God would not receive glory.

2. Paul says that Abraham did not have anything to boast of before God. He will proceed to prove his premise by appealing to the Scriptures.

C. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
1. This is a near verbatim quote of Genesis 15:6. 

2. Itís also important to note that James uses the same passage, Genesis 15:6, to illustrate that people are saved by works instead of faith only. See James 2:18-24.

3. See Hebrews 11:8

D. "Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt...."
1. Paul is saying that anyone who works received wages. It is not a gift because he earns his paycheck. But those who trust in God for their salvation is justified by their faith (faithfulness).
a. Abraham was not made perfect (justified) in his works because they were not perfect. He was faithful, following God to the best of his ability, but he was not faultless in his life.
2. When understood in context this passage and James 2 makes perfect sense. Faith does not preclude obedience. Paul clearly is teaching that we cannot be saved by the deeds of the Law, or any works of righteousness. James says that saving faith is trust and obedience (works of obedience) to Godís will.

3. Jesus in Luke 17:10 and Paul in Galatians 5:6 teach these principles.
 
 

Davidís Example

Verses 6-8 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."

A. "Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works"
1. Paul turns for a moment to David to give further scriptural evidence for salvation by faith apart from the works of the Law of Moses.

2. David was also a revered figure in Jewish history. 

3. It is also significant that Paul uses David to support imputation of righteousness through faith. It was obvious to all that David had not been sinlessly perfect in his obedience, even though he was called "the man after Godís own heart." (Acts 13:22)

4. God imputes (counts to our account) righteousness that we have not done. It is through the blood of Christ that we receive the benefit through faith.

B. "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered..."
1. This passage is taken from Psalm 32. A study of that psalm shows what Paul was teaching concerning salvation by faith. 

2. Psalms 32:10 - Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him.
 
 

BOTH JEW AND GENTILE CAN BE SAVED BY FAITH
 
 

Verses 9-12 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 - How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 - 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.

A. "Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also?"
1. In spite of the Apostles speaking strongly on the subject, the matter of circumcision still troubled the church. Paul devoted one whole book (Galatians) and large portions of others (Colossians, Ephesians, Romans, among others) to blunting the false teachings of the false teachers. 
B. "How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised." 
1. Abraham was justified before the Law, before even circumcision. Abraham received circumcision in Genesis 17:10, after God changed Abramís name to Abraham.
C. "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"
1. Circumcision was a seal applied to Abraham after his justification, but it was not given before justification. 

2. All who obey the gospel are spiritual descendants of Abraham. He serves as the conduit for the promise of God to bless all nations through Christ. See Galatians 3:26-29, also verses 6-9.

3. Verses 11-12 name both Jew and Gentile as being spiritual heirs, if the walk by faith like Abraham. Again, this walking by faith was commended before he had his name changed to Abraham and before he was circumcised. 
 
 

Romans 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 faith. 14 - 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. 16 - 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;
 
 
A. "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 faith"
1. The Law was never intended as Godís means of salvation. The promise referred to here is that one found in Genesis 12:1-3. Especially in view is the promise that in Abramís seed all of the earth would be blessed. The New Testament clearly shows that the Law of Moses was never envisioned here. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
B. "For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect"
1. Those under the Law could not be heirs of the promise because those who seek to be justified by the Law are condemned, not justified. 

2. The promise given to Abraham was that through his see all nations of the earth would be blessed. This has to refer to justification.

C. "because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression." 
1. Abraham was justified before he was subject to the Law of Moses through his faith (Genesis 15:6). If one does not live under a law he cannot be a transgressor of that Law. Paul clearly says that the Law brings about wrath (condemnation). Therefore, justification is outside the Law of Moses.
D. "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"
1. The reason for the promise to be by faith and not of the Law is to provide salvation to all, both Jew and Gentile.

2. Abraham becomes a spiritual father to both Gentile, as well and Jew.

E. " (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;"
1. Paul uses Godís physical promise to make Abraham the physical father of many nations to illustrate that Abraham would be the spiritual father over more than the Jews.
Verses 18-22 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. 19 - 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. 22 - And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."
 
 
A. "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." 
1. When Abraham first received the promise he was able to bear children. But as the years went by he advanced well beyond the normal child bearing age. It is likely that both he and Sarah had given up any hope of having a child after the birth of Ishmael. But because God had said it, he had faith in the sureness of the promise.

2. In normal worldly thinking there was no basis for any hope but Abraham was not hoping in that way. Biblical hope is firmly anchored in the assurance of Jehovah God, who always keeps His promises. See Hebrews 10:23.

B. "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief..."
1. Even though he did not understand how God would fulfill His promise to him, he never wavered in his faith that God would do so. Abraham may be accused of a lack of wisdom (as in Ishmael) but never unbelief.

2. See Hebrews 11:11-12

C. "and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."
1. This is the essence of faith. It is being fully convinced that God is able to keep His promises. Faith is not merely some mental agreement (James 2:19) BUT it is a complete trust in God which enables a person to do what God wants Him to do. This is borne out in 1 Peter 3:21.

2. This is illustrated in Abraham complete obedience of God in the command to sacrifice Isaac. See Hebrews 11:17-19

3. It is not wrong to not be able to see how God can make things right. But it is wrong to doubt that God is able to make things right and will make the right, in His good time.

D. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."
1. This is the strength of Abrahamís confidence. Abraham was not perfect. He made mistakes. But his faith was such that it never departed from itís trust of God and obedience to His will. This is why Paul uses him to show that we are saved by our trust in God without perfect obedience. 

2. But trust must prompt obedience and faithfulness.
 
 

Verses 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.
 
 
A. "Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 - but also for us."
1. The Old Testament was written for our learning. See Romans 15:4; Psalm 78:5-7

2. Abrahamís faith was an example for us today. We must:

a. Completely trust, even though we do not understand all of Godís motivations.

b. Have confidence that God is able and will keep His promises.

c. Step out on faith, doing the will of God.

B. "It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead"
1. Our faith in Christ and His work on the cross will be the means of our forgiveness. 

2. Just as Abraham believed in the one who was able to raise up Isaac from the dead, we must believe on Him who raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead.

C. "who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification."
1. Jesus suffered because he took upon himself the penalty for our sins. See Isaiah 53:5.

2. But the resurrection made the sacrifice of Jesus more than one of the dead offering of the Law. It brought the power of a raised life to the gospel. We partake of that new life when we are baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. See Romans 6:1-4.


 

Copyright 1999 by Grady Scott may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.


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