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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament
Romans 4



Other Authors
Verse 1

Hath found; hath obtained. The meaning is, "What advantages are derived by the Jews through the Abrahamic covenant and ritual?"

Verse 2

But not before God; that is, he has no cause to glory before God The meaning appears to be that, however high and honorable the character and memory of Abraham might be in the estimation of men, in the eye of God, he was a sinner,--to be saved, like other men, by grace.

Verse 4

Of grace; of favor.--But of debt; that is, as justly due.

Verse 5

To him that worketh not; to him who has no meritorious works on which he can rely.

Verse 6

Even as David also describeth; that is, David in a similar manner describeth.--Unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works; whom God justifies and saves, though he has not performed his duty. The force of the passage quoted from David in the Psalms 32:1,2; Romans 4:7,8, in respect to its application to the apostle's argument, appears to be this,--that it represents spiritual blessedness as consisting in the pardon of sin, and not in the reward of goodness; and this sustains the position that Paul has been aiming to establish, viz., that human salvation is, in all cases, dependent on grace,--that is, on undeserved favor,--and not on merit.

Verse 9

Cometh, &c. Having thus shown that the Jews, or, as he expresses it, the circumcision, are entirely dependent on the mercy of God, he proceeds to prove that the uncircumcision, that is, the Gentiles, are not excluded from this mercy, by showing that Abraham enjoyed the gracious acceptance of God, before the rite of circumcision was performed.

Verse 11

And he received, &c.; that is, circumcision, far from being the cause of his acceptance with God, was the seal and consequence of it. The Jews attached ideas of great spiritual efficacy to their religious rites. We see precisely the same tendency in the human mind at the present day. The peculiar religious observances pertaining to our respective branches of the Christian church, which have descended to us from our fathers, and which we have been accustomed to regard from infancy with feelings of solemnity and awe, come at last to be invested in our minds with a certain spiritual efficacy of their own. They lose the character of a symbol and a seal, and assume that of an intrinsic effectiveness, until, at length, we regard them as forming a pale, beyond which, like the Jew of old, we can scarcely believe that there is any salvation.--That he might be the father; the type or exemplar. The meaning of this clause, and of the Romans 4:11,12, clearly is, that Abraham, through his acceptance with God previous to his circumcision, was constituted the father of all believers of every age or nation, and that, by the ceremonial observances afterwards instituted, he became the spiritual representative and head of the Jewish communion; although only those of that communion can consider him as truly their father; who follow his example in the inward spirit of their minds, as well as in outward ceremonies.

Verse 13

Or to his seed through the law; to those who were his seed or descendants through the law, that is, through the Jewish system. In other words, by the seed of Abraham were intended all who were spiritually like him, not merely those connected with the ceremonial system of which he was the head. That this is the meaning, is evident from Romans 4:16.

Verse 14

The promise made of none effect; made unmeaning, since it was originally based upon faith, and not obedience.

Verse 15

The law worketh wrath; by demanding the punishment of transgression.

Verse 16

It is of faith; meaning that salvation is of faith.--By grace; favor.

Verse 17

Who quickeneth the dead, &c.; who has all power to accomplish his promises.

Verse 18

Who; referring to Abraham.--Against hope; against all apparent evidence.

Verse 19

He considered not; was not influenced by the consideration, so as to distrust God.

Verse 20

Staggered not; was not perplexed and uncertain.

Verse 25

We are not probably to attempt to separate the two clauses of this verse, and to give to each its distinct signification: the form of construction seems to be only rhetorical. The meaning is, as if it were written, "Who died, and rose again, that we might be justified and saved."


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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Romans 4:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

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Friday, December 4th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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