Study of Romans 4:1-12

Abraham Justified by Faith

Rom 4:1  What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 
Rom 4:2  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 
Rom 4:3  For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 
Rom 4:4  Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 
Rom 4:5  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 
Rom 4:6  just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 
Rom 4:7  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 
Rom 4:8  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 
Rom 4:9  Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 
Rom 4:10  How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 
Rom 4:11  He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 
Rom 4:12  and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 

v1 – This is the primary objection a Jew would have regarding what Paul is saying. This objection does not necessarily come from anyone, he is simply asking the question so as to address the issue before it is asked. In essence, the question is basically how does this doctrine of justification by faith you are telling us line up with their scriptures telling of the story of Abraham? He was circumcised, did Abraham derive any advantage from it in regards to justification from the covenant which God made with him? The object of the apostle now is to answer this inquiry. This is basically a similar issue he dealt with in chapter 3 as well. ” Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?” Rom 3:1

v2 – Paul gives this answer to the question. If Abraham was justified on the grounds of what he did, then he would have a reason to boast about his good works. He may even consider himself the prime cause of his justification. There was absolutely no cause for self confidence or boasting.

v3 – Lets look at Gen 15:1-6, where he quotes verse 6. ” After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

v4-5 – Paul is saying that if you do any works to attain your salvation based on the Law and the covenant of circumcision, then this salvation is basically a payment due us. it is not grace and the work of Christ would have nothing to do with it. In fact, Christ would not have had to die if it is due us on account of what we do.

v6-8 – The two verses is basically a quote from Psalm 32. (See Psa 32:1-11) Look at these verses and you will find David speaking about sin he had committed, which he acknowledged to God not trying to cover it up, he confessed it to God and the Lord forgave him.

v9-10 – Paul then asks the question, is this blessing only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? He answers this by declaring it was before He was circumcised. In fact, it was somewhere between 17 and 25 years prior to the day he was circumcised. This will be important in his discussion throughout this chapter.

v11 – He was circumcised as a seal of his justification by God through faith while he was still uncircumcised. To “seal” an instrument is to make it sure and truly binding. This similar to sealing a deed or a will. when we are sealed, we are vouching for the truth of God and assume the propitiation (the covering of our sins) as true and secure.

v12 – And this was done to show that both the circumcised and the uncircumcised are justified (righteousness imputed to them or declared) to them not through works but through faith. Abraham was declared righteous due to his faith, not by anything he did, and the same is true of us. And because of this, circumcision based on the law, and all other parts of the law could not have been the reason for his justification.

Go Forward to Chapter 4 Part 2

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