OUR FOREFATHER: Abraham is not the "father' of
faithless Jews: see John 8:33-41. He is, however, the "father" of faithful
Gentiles (v 16)!
IF ABRAHAM WAS JUSTIFIED BY WORKS...: In other words,
if Abraham had been pronounced righteous because of his perfect
TO BOAST ABOUT: Cp Rom 3:27.
ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD...: Cit Gen 15:6. To "believe" is
to rely on, intelligently: cp Rom 1:16,17. Abraham was completely dependent upon
God to fulfill His promises (vv 16-22); out of his personal weakness, therefore,
came faith (cp 2Co 12:10).
The nature of Abraham's faith was essentially the same as that
of the NT believer despite the difference in time. (Abraham looked forward to
something God would do, whereas the Christian looks back to what God has
provided in Christ.) In each case, too, the object of faith is the same,
implicit in the promise to Abraham, explicit in the gospel? Abraham trusted in a
promise that pointed to Christ (John 8:56; Gal 3:16)!
No amount of works, by themselves, can "earn" salvation (cp
Rom 6:23). It is quite true to say that Abraham DID something. But what he DID,
in its very nature, excluded any works as a basis whereby he might earn
righteousness himself. The history of Abraham reveals a man walking by faith
rather than sight, showing that he was guided and brought to his desired
destination by an external agency (Heb 11:8). He was in no position to provide
for himself what he needed!
THE WICKED: The word "asebes" is used generally of
mankind being universally under the dominion of sin. The condition of Abraham
before his calling by God. Where faith is not exercised, man remains ungodly,
and therefore exposed to the wrath of God (Rom 5:6).
OT law required the judge to condemn the wicked and justify
the righteous (Deu 25:1), but where God is both Judge and Savior the wicked have
an opportunity denied to them in human reckoning. The prophetic word anticipated
this result through the work of the Servant (Isa 53:5,6,11). In saying that God
justifies the ungodly, the text is not singling out Abraham as the sinner par
excellence but rather is pointing to the type of man who is desperately in need
of justification, which actually embraces all (cf Rom 5:6), including
CREDITED: Whatever is "reckoned" (or counted) to a
person, cannot have been his originally and naturally. Viewed from the divine
viewpoint, Abraham was destitute of a personal righteousness. Because of
Abraham's faith, and a recognition of his own helplessness, Abraham received a
gift from God: something "credited" to his account!
Vv 6-8: Cit Psa 32:1,2 (for background, see also Psa 51 and
2Sa 12:1-6). Blessing involves the forgiveness of sins, and has to do with
eternal life and the inheritance of the promises to Abraham.
DAVID: Selected for this example because he was guilty
of a crime for which the Law provided no release or sacrifice (Psa 51:16).
In the case of Abraham, righteousness was credited to him,
apart from works, on the basis of faith. In the case of David obviously no good
work is involved, but on the contrary, sin has been committed. So the
far-reaching nature of justification is seen to still greater
Since David was actually already a justified man, known as the
man after God's own heart, thus it may be seen that sin in the life of a
believer does not cancel justification. God is able to forgive. His gifts are
irrevocable (Rom 11:29). At the same time, God showed his displeasure regarding
David's sin, severely chastening him until the sin had been fully confessed.
Even afterward, his sins produced havoc in his family. David suffered the
humiliation of the revolt led by Absalom. Yet God did not withdraw His favor and
THE BLESSEDNESS: Or "happiness". Notice how the Psalms
begin with the "blessing" or "happiness" of the man who commits no sin (Psa 1),
and then come -- after a bit -- to the "blessing" or "happiness" of the man
whose sin is forgiven, or covered.
APART FROM WORKS: AV has "without works": Paul is not
counseling man to AVOID doing good works, but rather stating that -- no matter
how many good works one might do -- they would never be enough to EARN
Forgiveness is granted after full confession is made,
resulting in peace of mind (John 14:27; Acts 10:36; Rom 3:17; 5:1; 8:6; 1Co
7:15; Phi 4:7), but not always free of mental conflict (Rom 16:20). This is not
the same as condoning sin (1Co 14:33).
WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NEVER COUNT AGAINST HIM: It is
treated as the cancellation of a debt.
In other words, was circumcision a prerequisite for the
receiving of forgiveness of sins?
BLESSEDNESS: In this context, sig forgiveness of sins
IT WAS NOT AFTER, BUT BEFORE!: At least 13 years before
his circumcision (Gen 17:1,2,4,25). "We cannot doubt that circumcision was
delayed in order to teach the believing Gentiles of future ages that they may
claim Abraham as their father, and the righteousness of faith as their
inheritance" (Beet). It could even be said that the Gentile has first claim on
the patriarch, who was just like himself when justified.
SEAL: "Sphragis" = the impression of a seal, a
distinctive mark, a token. The "seal" is an endorsement of something that
already exists. An approval of a previous condition.
THE FATHER OF ALL WHO BELIEVE...: Whether circumcised
(Jew) or not (Gentile). Abraham's sons are those who are energized by the same
principles of life as he was: Luk 19:9; Joh 8:39.
BUT HAVE NOT BEEN CIRCUMCISED: Circumcision is the
endorsement of a previously existing faith, which is the more important factor
(Gal 6:15). Therefore a mark in the flesh is irrelevant to one who is
circumcised in heart and in mind (Rom 2:29), and has no confidence in the flesh
(Phi 3:3,11). Ct Deu 10:16; 30:16 with Exo 6:12,30; Lev 26:41; Jer 6:10; 9:26;
and cp 1Co 7:18,19.
ALSO THE FATHER OF THE CIRCUMCISED...: Abraham means
"father of a great multitude", which includes both Jews and Gentiles (Gen 12:3;
WHO ALSO WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS...: Their deeds indicate
the character of faith (Jam 2:14,17). Ritual must be matched by performance (Jam
FAITH: Trust and confidence in all that God has
promised: vv 20-25.
BEFORE HE WAS CIRCUMCISED: By Jewish reckoning, even
their "father" Abraham was a "Gentile" at this time! Abraham lived in the land
of promise 25 years before his circumcision (Gen 12:4; 17:1). His promised
"fatherhood" (Gen 17:6) preceded his circumcision.
NOT THROUGH THE LAW: Abraham was "justified" approx 400
years before the Law was given, through Moses. The Law only condemned man for
his failure to obey it perfectly (Rom 3:20). Cp Gal 3:17,18.
HIS OFFSPRING: The seed of Abraham, ie those who have
the faith of their "father" Abraham, are also heirs with Christ (Gal
HEIR: One to whom property has been assigned, but who
has not yet actually received it. Cp Heb 1:2; Jam 2:5. Christ is heir: (a) of
universal domain (Gen 1:26,28; Psa 8:4-8; Heb 2:6-8); (b) of the Land of
promise, as son of Abraham (Gen 22:16-18; Heb 2:16; Rom 4:13; Gal 3:29); (c)
heir to the Throne, as son of David (Mat 1:1-6; Luk 1:30-33); and (d) heir of
all things, as son of God (Heb 1:1,2; Acts 10:36).
THE WORLD: Gr "kosmos", the order or arrangement of
things: in this case, the nations of the earth (Gen 17:4-6). The whole "world",
not just Canaan, will be the inheritance of the righteous: Matt 5:5. Cp the
"blessing of Abraham": Gal 3:8,9.
BUT THROUGH THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH:
Faith implies trust in another, not in oneself. God accepts us as righteous on
the basis of our trust (full persuasion) in Him (see Rom 4:3; 3:21,22). The
covenant was one of grace, not like a contract of today where each contractor
receives equally as he is given. Cp Gen 15:6; 17:2,3 -- where Abraham is
prostrated as an expression of his inability to stand in the presence of God.
Vv 14-17: "If life is earned by keeping the law, neither
promise nor faith enter in... By law comes knowledge of sin and consciousness of
guilt and liability to punishment. Under law, sinning man comes under wrath. And
man cannot keep the law; so law works wrath upon all. Therefore the apostle
concludes, 'For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace.'
Because of the impossibility of it being by law, if the promise and the
inheritance are received at all, it must be by grace, operative through faith.
And so it is. And so the promise is secure to all the seed; secure alike to the
believing Jew, the seed who lived under the law, and the believing Gentile. This
is involved in the promise that Abraham was made the father of MANY nations. If
inheritance were of law, he could only be the father of those under law. Since
law could give no title, the promise then would not be 'sure' to any. But the
purpose of God, who made the promise, is sure. Abraham is appointed the father
of many nations by God; in the sight of God -- 'before God' -- he was such then.
'I have made thee a father', said God to him, when there was as yet no seed, and
Abraham and Sarah were old. But God, who could, and did, quicken 'dead' but
believing Abraham and Sarah, so that a child was born of her past age, called
those things which then had no existence as though they already had come into
being (v 17)" (CRom).
Faith is useless (ie having no value) if the promise can be
obtained by works of law, and if so, then the promises to Abraham are void (or
powerless). As soon as the inheritance of God's promises is made conditional
upon perfect obedience, then the promises have been effectively
LAW BRINGS WRATH: In trying to be justified by
obedience to Law, one must keep every detail of that Law. But human beings will
always fail, and thus bring upon themselves divine wrath. However, faith calls
forth divine love, which mercifully provides a covering for sins (Rom
TRANSGRESSION: Gr "parabasis", lit a stepping over.
Always implies a breaking of law, esp the Law of Moses: cp Rom 2:23; Heb 2:2;
9:15. It is used of the prohibition in Eden (Rom 5:14; 1Ti 2:14).
BY FAITH... BY GRACE: "Faith" expresses the believer's
need, and "grace" expresses God's answer to that need! The fulfillment of the
promise is not according to man's merit but according to Yahweh's unmerited
favor. Thus promise, faith, and grace are set in contrast to Law, works, and
ALL ABRAHAM'S OFFSPRING: Gentiles, as well as Jews,
taken from many nations (Gen 17:5; Mal 3:16,17; Acts 15:14). The multitudinous
seed of Christ (Gal 3:29).
THE GOD WHO GIVES LIFE TO THE DEAD: Both spiritually
dead (Eph 2:5) and physically dead (1Co 15:45). This relates also to the
barrenness of Sarah (Gen 17:16,17). The prerogative and power for this belongs
to Yahweh alone, for it is an act requiring almighty power (Deu 32:39; 1Sa 2:6;
2Ki 5:7; Psa 68:20).
AND CALLS THINGS THAT RE NOT AS THOUGH THEY WERE: An
unconditional promise of God has no doubt as to its fulfillment. It is so sure
of being done that future things are spoken of as in the present and past tense
(Luke 1:51-55; 20:36-38; 2Ti 1:9,10). There is therefore no doubt that it will
come to pass. The primary application of this principle was to Isaac.
"The word 'calls' in this case does not mean to describe or
designate, but rather 'summon,' perhaps 'call into being.' It may be used in
this sense for his creative activity (see Isa 48:13, NEB). Isaac was real in the
thought and purpose of God before he was begotten" (EBC).
AGAINST ALL HOPE: Lit, "beyond hope", that is, where
the laws or course of nature left no room for hope. After making the original
promise (Gen 15:5), God waited until it was physically impossible for this
couple to have children. Then he repeated His pledge (Gen 17:5). Abraham's act
of faith was essentially the same as on the previous occasion, but meanwhile
circumstances had made the fulfillment of the promise impossible apart from
supernatural intervention. He was shut up to God and was able to rest his faith
IN HOPE BELIEVED: "Hope" is "elpis": (a) the happy
anticipation of something good (Tit 1:2; 1Pe 1:21); (b) the ground upon which
hope is based (Acts 16:19; Col 1:27); and (c) the object upon which hope is
fixed (1Ti 1:1). Cp Paul's use of "hope" in Rom 5:2,4,5; 8:20,24; 12:12;
JUST AS IT WAS SAID TO HIM: Here the "hope" is defined:
it is "what God said"! The "hope" was in God, and there it might safely rest --
no matter how unlikely, humanly speaking, the fulfillment seemed -- for nothing
is too difficult for Him to accomplish, if it be according to His
SO SHALL YOUR OFFSPRING BE: Cit Gen 15:5: the object of
the hope was the provision of a "seed" to Abraham.
WITHOUT WEAKENING IN HIS FAITH: Cp Rom 8:3; 2Co 13:3.
Man has no strength or power of his own, and strength of faith is really a
confession of weakness of physical or mental or moral abilities! In Abraham's
case he lacked the ability to produce his own seed.
HE FACED THE FACT: The KJV has "considered NOT", but
the better mss omit the "not". Abraham DID consider the evidence, but he was not
swayed by it!
SARAH'S WOMB WAS ALSO DEAD: Abraham's impotency was due
to his old age (100 years), but Sarah had never been able to bear children, even
in her youth.
"Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of
all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the
land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide
it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be
with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be
discouraged' " (Deu 31:7,8). No temptation has seized you except what is common
to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can
bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can
stand up under it" (1Co 10:13).
HE DID NOT WAVER: Cp Mat 21:21; Mark 11:23.
THROUGH UNBELIEF: If Abraham had disbelieved, he would
have rejected not so much Yahweh's promise, as Yahweh Himself, and His ability
to direct history (cp 1Sa 8:1,3-9).
THE PROMISE OF GOD: Which was irrevocable (Rom 11:29).
The fact that God had promised it was its own assurance.
WAS STRENGTHENED IN HIS FAITH: Not so much "strong in
faith", but strengthened to hold on to his faith -- a faith which he held in his
own weakness! "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about
my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's
sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in
difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Co 12:9,10). "He is not
weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For to be sure, he was
crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in
him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you. Examine yourselves
to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that
Christ Jesus is in you -- unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that
you will discover that we have not failed the test" (2Co 13:3-6).
AND GAVE GLORY TO GOD: Cf Rom 1:21,23. The credit for
what happened to Abraham belonged only to God, and human boasting was
BEING FULLY PERSUADED: "That spontaneity and liberality
of soul which unhindered by obstacles grasps promises of God and His ability to
perform them" (Vine).
And so Paul returns to his original quotation, Gen 15:6, in v
CREDITED: Or "reckoned": vv 3,6,8,11. To put something
to one's account, either in his favor or what he must be answerable for. See 2Co
5:19; Gal 3:6; Jam 2:23.
NOT FOR HIM ALONE: The OT scriptures are not merely a
record of facts, but they are designed for the guidance of all believers: For
everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through
endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom
15:4). Abraham's life is recorded as an example of the state of mind expected in
his spiritual offspring.
Righteousness is available to any and all -- on the basis of
their faith in God!
HIM WHO RAISED JESUS OUR LORD FROM THE DEAD: Our belief
in resurrection is the same as Abraham's faith in Isaac's birth, which was "life
from the dead" (the dead body of Abraham, and the dead womb of Sarah). Abraham
further demonstrated this same faith in offering that same son Isaac (Gen 22;
Jam 2:21), because he believed that God would raise him up from the dead (Heb
11:19). The risen Christ is a confirmation of what Abraham hoped to see (v 17).
As we have a partial fulfillment of the promise (Rom 15:8), our faith should be
even stronger than his. Christ's resurrection (a) demonstrates Yahweh's almighty
power (1Pe 1:21; Eph 1:19,20), and (b) is the cornerstone of gospel truth (1Co
DELIVERED OVER TO DEATH: "Deliver" is the Gr
"paradidomi", to hand over or deliver up: see Rom 8:32; 1:24,26,28.
FOR OUR SINS: This is the meaning of Rom 3:9-23.
RAISED TO LIFE: "Egeiro" = to excite, arouse, or waken,
restore to health. Christ was "rebuilt" on an eternal basis. His resurrection to
eternal life is proof of the efficacy of his sacrifice. It is with this
resurrected Lord that we must identify ourselves (Rom 6:4,5).
FOR OUR JUSTIFICATION: The basis of our justification
has been laid in the death of Christ; all that remained was the necessity on
God's part to raise him from the dead to effect our justification. "Beyond
question, the statement owes much to Isa 53, where in LXX the Servant is
pictured as delivered up on account of the sins of the many. Justification
appears in the Hebrew text of that chapter (v 11). Moreover, the resurrection,
though not stated in so many words, is implied in vv 10,12" (EBC).