posted on Oct, 4 2019 @ 05:07 PM
Having a particular interest, I believe, in convincing his fellow-Jews in Rome, Paul has been explaining why the world needs the revelation of the
He’s already shown that Jews and Gentiles are judged by God on equal terms, and will find approval on equal terms.
So he now turns to considering the salvation of “our forefather Abraham” (ch4).
That “our” confirms that Paul is still addressing the Jews, in his intention. As I’ve said before, I find it hard to believe that this was
merely a rhetorical device for the benefit of Gentile readers.
Where does Abraham, the acknowledged ancestor of the Jews, fit into the gospel story?
IF we are all justified by faith, as established at the end of the previous chapter, it follows that Abraham could not have been justified by
Had he been justified by his works, he would have achieved something to boast about, and human boasting cannot be allowed before God.
Putting the same thing another way, the man who works has earned the recompense which he receives, but this conflicts with the character of
grace as a free gift.
Paul rests his case, as he did in Galatians, on the statement in Genesis;
“Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
So Abraham was considered righteous not because of his works, but because of his trust in God (vv1-5).
(Pursuing the course of the argument, I move on to v10)
On the subject of circumcision, the key point is that Abraham was reckoned righteous before he was circumcised.
He received circumcision afterwards as the symbol that he was already righteous.
This makes him the father of two groups of people, to wit;
Those who are circumcised and share the same faith.
And those who are not circumcised, but share the same faith.
By implication, incidentally, this dictum excludes those who are circumcised without following the example of faith. The implication is that
this last group are not genuine descendants of Abraham at all (vv10-12).
(Paul has inserted a parenthesis (vv6-9) from one of the Psalms, quoting it on David’s authority, as another way of making the point that
circumcision is not relevant.
The Psalm pronounces a blessing on the man whose sins are “covered” and forgiven, because God will not “reckon” his sins against him.
Since David says “the man”, meaning anyone who fits the description, this must be applicable to the uncircumcised as well as to the
Then Paul brings in the promise, which followed the non-sacrifice of Isaac, that the descendants of Abraham would inherit the world.
This promise, too, must work through the righteousness of faith rather than through the law.
This follows from the same reason that he gave in Galatians; any successful way of obtaining the inheritance makes other ways redundant. If it were
possible to inherit through the law, the route of “faith in the promise” would be null and void. So if we believe in inheritance through promise,
we cannot believe in inheritance through law.
(In v15 he offers the additional reason, that the only effect of the law is to bring wrath and awareness of sin.)
That is why the promise must depend on faith and rest on grace, being secured to all the descendants of Abraham, those who share his faith. For he is
our father, in the eyes of the God in whom he believed, who said “I have made you the father of many nations”.
Then Paul develops the thought that Abraham was believing in a God who gives life, as shown in the extreme cases of giving life to the dead or
creating a world (v17).
The writer of Hebrews will use that thought in connection with Abraham’s faith when he took Isaac to the place of sacrifice; “He considered that
God was able to raise men even from the dead” (Hebrews ch11 v19).
But Paul is focussing on Abraham’s faith in the prospective birth of Isaac, which is part of his faith in the promise of descendants.
“In hope he believed against hope”; that is, he set his godly hope (faith directed towards the future) against the limited human hope, which would
have given up more easily.
He was not deterred by the fact that his body was “as good as dead” (Hebrews borrows this phrase as well), or by the barrenness of Sarah’s
No distrust made him waver; he grew strong in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God would keep his promise.
And THAT was the kind of faith which was reckoned as righteousness.
The fact that our faith is in a God who gives life brings in the resurrection of Christ.
Righteousness was reckoned to Abraham, because he believed in him who gave life to Isaac.
In the same way, righteousness will be reckoned to us, if we believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.
Jesus was put to death on account of our trespasses (which separate us from God), and he was raised from the dead for the sake of our justification
(which reconciles us with God) (vv24-25).
And that is how Jesus made the gospel possible, as will be explained in more detail in the next chapter.