Romans 4

Abraham Justified through Faith[a]

Chapter 4

Justified through Faith, Not Works.[b] 1 What then are we to say about Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 If Abraham was justified by the works he did, he has good reason to boast, but not in the eyes of God. 3 For what does Scripture say? “Abraham placed his faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]

4 Now when a man works, his wages are not regarded as a gift but as something that is due to him. 5 However, when someone who does not work places his faith in one who justifies the godless, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6 [d]In the same way, David speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God attributes righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven
and whose sins are blotted out.
8 Blessed is the man
to whom the Lord imputes no guilt.”

Justified before Being Circumcised.[e] 9 Is this blessedness granted only to the circumcised, or does it apply to the uncircumcised as well? We have asserted that Abraham’s faith “was credited to him as righteousness.” 10 How was it credited? Was it when he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not when he was circumcised, but when he was uncircumcised.

11 Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. In this way, he was the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness credited to them. 12 Therefore, he is the father of the circumcised who have not only received circumcision but also follow that path of faith traversed by Abraham before he was circumcised.

13 Justified Apart from the Law.[f] It was not through the Law that Abraham and his descendants received the promise that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 If those who live by the Law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the Law produces only wrath, and where no Law exists, there cannot be any violation.

16 Therefore, the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and the promise may be guaranteed to all descendants, not only to the adherents of the Law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham. For he is the father of all of us, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations,” in the sight of God in whom he believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.

18 The Power of Faith.[g] Though he hoped against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations, in fulfillment of the promise, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 His faith was not shaken when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (for he was about one hundred years old), and the barren womb of Sarah. 20 Confident in the promise of God, he did not doubt in unbelief; rather, he was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 remaining fully convinced that he was able to fulfill his pledge. 22 Therefore, his faith “was credited to him as righteousness.”

23 “It was credited to him” was not written with Abraham alone in mind. 24 This was also meant for us as well, to whom it will be credited as righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord 25 who was handed over to death for our sins and who was raised to life for our justification.

Footnotes

  1. Romans 4:1 There is but one dispensation, that of grace and faith, which excludes all human pride and allows us to receive everything from God with thanksgiving. The story of Abraham is the purest illustration of this truth. Christian faith is present germinally in the faith of the father of believers (see Gal 3:6-8).
  2. Romans 4:1 The father of believers can do nothing that is of value before God. He is regarded as just, i.e., holy and close to God, because he acknowledges that he is poor and entrusts himself wholly to the Lord. To forgive sins constitutes the gratuitous act par excellence, the act of God (vv. 7-8).
  3. Romans 4:3 At first glance, it seems that the Letter of James (2:24) goes against this statement of Paul. However, it is clear from the context in James that the phrase “by works and not by faith alone” does not mean that genuine faith is not sufficient for justification but rather that faith unaccompanied by works is not genuine. Thus, the teaching of James does not conflict with that of Paul.
  4. Romans 4:6 When a sinner repents, God takes away his unrighteousness by forgiving him when he confesses his sins (see Ps 32:3-5; Ezek 18:23, 27f, 32; 33:14-16).
  5. Romans 4:9 Abraham became the friend of God (see Gen 15:6) before being circumcised (see Gen 17:19). This means that circumcision is neither the source of nor the condition for being justified; it is simply given as a sign of the promise that God made to Abraham because he believed (Gen 17). Circumcision is the external mark of the Covenant—not the source of righteousness. It is faith that links Christ to the chosen people, who are neither Jews nor Gentiles.
  6. Romans 4:13 Abraham owes nothing to the Law, for this came into force a long time after him (see Gal 3:17). Moreover, no law can do anything but “lay bare” sin and condemn the sinner (see Gal 3:10). Now, the promise of salvation is something else—it is a grace of God. In Abraham, it is assured to all who believe. Thus, all believers have access to the historic plan of God, and Paul loves to celebrate the universality of faith.
  7. Romans 4:18 God is the “Master of the Impossible”; he is even powerful enough to bring about the raising of a dead person. It is in such certitude that believers live. Abraham believed in the word of the Lord who announced that two “dead” bodies, i.e., sterile people, himself and Sarah, would give life to Isaac (Gen 15:5). Moreover, circumstances called into question the fulfillment of the promise; yet Abraham—ever the father of believers—never doubted. Thus, he shared the condition of Christians who steadfastly believe in Life because they believe in the risen Jesus, the Son of the Living God. The object of faith is the Passover of Christ.

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