Abraham Justified by Faith
4 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 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. 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, 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.
The Promise Realized Through Faith
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 4 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Abraham was known and still today to the Jews as the Father of Israel. From the very beginning when God called him to leave his homeland and travel – it was without a destination just a calling. Packing up the family he traveled trusting his encounter with God. As his story unfolds in Genesis, we see situation after situation where he was met with decisions and a need to trust and believe. Some of them were simply normal things a person would face. Others were calling him to believe something way beyond reality.
One such thing was he would be the Father of the nation and would have too many children to count. The problems with this from a human standpoint were numerous. First, there was impotence. The second was he was old; Sarah in particular way past her age of normal childbearing. We painfully read how at one point they took matters into their own hands, where Sarah gave her servant to Abraham to bring an offspring. This took place and another nation would be born through him. But this was not the fulfillment of the promise God had made.
Abraham was called to believe again and again that God would fulfill His promise even though it was impossible and as the years passed by seemed more distant. God continued to call Abraham to trust His plan regardless.
“We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.”Romans 4:17-18 MSG
Over and over again God calls us to believe and trust Him beyond what we can see. He continually speaks to us beyond the reality of life even. You may be in that same place right now as Abraham was where what you sense God speaking to your spirit is beyond the scope of ever happening. You may be living in the shadow of a calling seemingly yet to be fulfilled. There may be things God continues to affirm to you even though you see nary a reality of them happening.
As God has done throughout the ages, as He continues to do today with people, He calls us to trust Him despite and believe in hope His word will come to pass. The turning point more than likely many a day when Abraham struggled was he decided not to live on what he saw but on what God said He would do.
God has a plan. Trust Him.
Romans 4 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
In Romans 4, Paul contrasts the ideas of “works = righteousness” with “faith = righteousness.” Abraham was counted as righteous in the sight of God because of his faith, not because of his works. The important detail here is that he was counted or credited with righteousness. He was not made righteous himself. This can be described today as the difference between Jesus’ death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, we are counted, or credited, with righteousness. It is not us, but Christ alone. Once we receive that credit, the Holy Spirit begins to make us righteous through divine intervention as we respond to conviction and open our lives to Him.
Many in Paul’s time believed that adhering to the law would prove someone to be a man of God. Others believed you needed to be circumcised to be counted as righteous. Paul debunks both these theories by focusing on faith alone, and uses the Old Testament patriarch, Abraham, before his good deeds or his circumcision. It was a heart choice to trust and follow God under any and all circumstances.
The solution in the Old Testament and the solution today remain the same. Sin cannot be defeated by the works of man. It can only be defeated by God himself. When we put our faith in His plan for Salvation, we become a completely new person.