In Chapter One, we see Paul expounding upon the unbelieving group of Israel, how that God had demonstrated all sorts of things to them, even invisible things concerning His eternal power and Godhead and yet, professing themselves as wise, they became fools by worshiping the creature more than the Creator.
In Chapter Two, Paul reminds that judging their failure is futile because he who judges it has essentially condemned himself because he is guilty of the same. Paul goes on to describe how a Jew is not a Jew just because he has the law or because he is circumcised because a Gentile can do by nature the things of the law and could certainly be circumcised, but that doesn’t make the Gentile a Jew. Why? Because as Paul says, the Jew is not defined by the circumcision of the flesh, which is outward, but rather the circumcision of the heart, which is inward.
Chapter Three brought the Romans to the realization that ALL have been concluded under sin and therefore ALL are in need of the remedy. Whether Jew or Gentile, it matters not, for their is no difference when it comes to our tie back to Adam. Paul lays out that the remedy is to be justified (made righteous) in the sight of God and he points out that this is by faith. Romans 3:22 states that the righteousness of God is unto all and upon all them that believe, for there IS NO DIFFERENCE. The circumicion (Jews) would be justified by faith and the Uncircumcision (Gentiles) would be justified through the very same faith. The idea of this righteousness being by faith is key for Chapter Four.
Romans 4:1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 4:3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4:4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
First, Paul mentions Abraham and the fact that he was justified by faith. Abraham found something, as it related to his flesh and that was that if he were justified by his performance, then he would have the right to glory in HIMSELF but NOT before God. Paul cites the scriptures that Abraham believed God and it (that belief) was accounted unto Abraham for righteousness. When this happened, was Abraham a Jew? No, he was a Gentile – a Babylonian nonetheless, having come out of Ur of the Chaldese.
Paul says that if the reward (righteousness) is reckoned by performance, then the reward (righteousness) is no longer given on the grounds of grace, but rather on the grounds of debt – as if God is indebted to our performance and therefore needs to pay up. How absurd!
No, Paul says, but it is to him that WORKETH NOT, but BELIEVETH on him that JUSTIFIETH the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness.
Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 4:7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Paul doesn’t waste any time on this subject of justification by faith. He calls back to Abraham and now David – probably the two most revered men of Israel’s history outside of Moses. David understood that the non-imputation of sins was an act of justification by faith.
Romans 4:9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 4:10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 4:11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 4:12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Paul continues on making arguments that substantiate his point that Abraham was justified by faith. And, remember, he is using Abraham as an example to the Romans (and us, by extension). He is showing that we are justified in the very same manner as Abraham was. In verses 9 through 12, Paul reminds them that Abraham was justified PRIOR to his circumcision (laying to rest any idea a Jew would have that his circumcision played into his righteousness). Paul then explains that circumcision was the seal or evident token of the covenant. In other words, circumcision simply testified of what was ALREADY TRUE about them. The circumcision did not make their justification true, but simply demonstrated something that was already established. It is through this, that Abraham becomes not only the father of those who are in circumcision (Jews), but also of those who walk in the same steps of faith yet being uncircumcised (Gentiles).
Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 4:14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. 4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Paul demonstrates that the promise of righteousness was to Abraham and it was NOT through the law (obviously, since the law was some 400 years later). And, as Paul writes in Galatians 3, the law being 400 years after Abraham didn’t nullify the promise of faith. Why can’t the promise of faith come by the law? Because where righteousness is concerned, the law can only work wrath because of its revealing properties – it reveals just how unrighteous and how unworthy you are of His righteousness (to earn it by your performance). Therefore, Paul says, it is of faith so that it might be of grace.
Romans 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. 4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; 4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. 4:22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Paul is simply continuing his point that it was of faith that the promise transferred. Paul demonstrates that it was out of DEATH – the deadness of Sarah’s womb – that the Promise would be transferred. In death, there is no work or effort, for it is dead. Abraham was fully persuaded that what God had promised, God would perform. Therefore, it was imputed to him for righteousness. So, you might ask, how do we know that this wasn’t just a special instance for Abraham? Let’s keep reading 🙂
Romans 4:23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 4:25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
The great news is that it wasn’t recorded for Abraham’s sake alone, but this very same righteousness shall be imputed unto US, by the very same faith. The promise of God that we are fully persuaded He was able (and did) perform was the resurrection of Christ. Christ was delivered for the very offences (sins) of us all and was raised for our justification (righteousness).