If you haven't seen it already, I would recommend "The Chosen"! The first episode of Season 2 can be viewed by clicking here!

Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Romans 4


c. 4. This condition of faith is already seen in Abraham, typical of righteousness under the covenant of promise.

[1] Abraham was admittedly a righteous man: but how did he become so? [3] The scripture connects his righteousness with his faith. [6] So David makes forgiveness an act of GOD’s grace. [9] Nor is this grace confined to the Covenant people; for in Abraham’s case the covenant was not the precedent but the confirmation of his righteousness, (11b) so that he is father (according to the promise) of all that believe though uncovenanted and of the covenanted only so far as they share his faith. [13] For the promise was given not under law but under a state of righteousness due to faith. [14] If the law is a condition of inheritance of Abraham, then Abraham’s faith has no effect, and the promise made to him is annulled—for the effect of the law is wrath; where law is not, neither is there transgression. [16] And the reason for this dependence upon faith is clear: it is that righteousness may be absolutely GOD’s gift, and therefore free, in fulfilment of the promise, to all the true seed of Abraham, that is to those who derive from him not by the link of the law but by that of faith, by virtue of which he, as the promise said, is father of all of us who believe, both Jews and Gentiles, (17b) all standing before the same GOD in whom Abraham believed, the GOD who quickens the dead and ascribes being to that which is not: [18] the particular act of faith required absolute trust in Him who gave the promise in spite of supreme difficulties, trust both in the truth and in the power of GOD. [22] This trust was reckoned for righteousness. [23] The incident has reference to us: righteousness will be reckoned to us too for our trust in GOD: for us too He has shown His truth and power by raising Jesus our Lord from death, delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification.

The case of Abraham is taken to illustrate the preceding argument: the Jews would quote it as a clear case of justification under the old covenant, and therefore presumably under law; it would follow that the promise made to Abraham was limited to his descendants who were under the covenant of law. S. Paul points out, to the contrary, that here all depended on faith, and on an act of faith parallel to that which the Gospel demands. It follows that the principle of δικαιοσύνη ἐκ πίστεως held under the old dispensation as under the new; and that in this respect as in others the Gospel is not a breach with the old, but a revival of its fundamental principles in a form in which they reach their perfect exemplification; cf. Romans 3:21. The case of Abraham was a current thesis of the Rabbinic schools; cf. Lightfoot, Gal., p. 158 ff.

Verse 1

3, 4., 1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:18.

Verse 2

2. εἰ γὰρ Ἀ. The question bears on our argument, for if Abraham was justified from works, he has the right to boast, and is an exception to our principle which would be a precedent for other exceptions.

ἀλλ' οὐ πρὸς θεόν, sc. ἔχει καύχημα. Scripture shows that his condition was due to a free act of GOD not therefore of works, not therefore a subject for personal boasting.

Verse 3

3. τί γὰρ ἡ γρ. λ. Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23.

ἐπίστευσεν. Here primarily of belief in GOD’s word: but this belief implied trust in the faithfulness and power of GOD, and was therefore essentially faith in the full sense.

ἐλογίσθη, was reckoned for something more than it actually was because it contained the seed, was the necessary precedent, of that more. For the word in LXX[116] cf. Leviticus 7:8; Leviticus 17:4, with the legal sense of imputation familiar to the Jews; cf. S. H. ref., Weber, Altsyn. Theol., p. 233; cf. above Romans 2:26, Romans 9:8; 2 Corinthians 5:19.

Verse 4

4. τῷ δὲ κ.τ.λ. S. Paul argues from the precise words of scripture: it was an act of faith that was met by the act of GOD. No works are mentioned, therefore no works were included in the consideration; if there had been works, the language would have expressed the act of GOD as conferring a due reward; but there is no such suggestion in the words; they clearly imply a free favour on the part of GOD.

ἐργαζομένῳ has frequently the idea of working for hire, for a living, etc.; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:9, alibi

Verse 5

5. ἐπὶ τὸν δικ. τὸν ἀσεβῆ. This goes beyond the strict relevance of the qu. in Romans 4:3 and prepares the way for the enlargement of the idea by the qu., Romans 4:7-8. πιστ. ἐπὶ brings into explicit statement the notion of trust, not expressed in Romans 4:3. Cf. Moulton, p. 68, who suggests that the substitution of εἰς or ἐπὶ w. acc. for the simple dative after π. is peculiarly Christian, and coincides with the deepening of the sense of π. from belief to trust or faith. The change here is very significant, going, as it does, with the advance from the idea of GOD as simply faithful to His word (Romans 4:3) to the idea of GOD as acting upon man.

τὸν δικαιοῦντα here, as above, = who declares righteous, not who makes righteous; Romans 3:24; Romans 3:26; Romans 3:30. See Introd. p. xxxvi.

τὸν ἀσεβῆ. Not of Abraham, but with the wider reference of the whole clause: of the sinner as ignoring or neglecting GOD cf. Romans 1:21. It here expresses the thought of the man about himself in the very act of trusting.

Verse 6

6. Δαυεὶδ. Psalms 32:1-2. The qu. emphasises the act of GOD in putting away man’s sin, without naming conditions; and is used by S. Paul to bring out the wider reference of faith in GOD, not only as fulfilling promise but as removing and not imputing sin.

τὸν μακαρισμὸν = the blessing (art.)—the act of μακαρίζειν. Romans 4:9 shows that here the blessing is not the congratulation of other men, but comes from GOD.

χωρὶς ἔργων. Conclusion drawn from the absence of any mention of works in qu.

Verse 9

9. ὁ μακ. οὖν. The blessing mentioned in the ps. is essentially the same as ‘the reckoning’ of Romans 4:3; and the question is raised whether it extends to the circumcision only or to all. This is answered by insisting on Abraham’s circumstances at the time.

Verse 10

10. ἐν περιτομῇ. The true place of περιτομή in the history of GOD’s dealings with man: it was a sign (Romans 4:4) of a state already existing and due to GOD’s free gift.

Verse 11

11. περιτομῆς. The gen. of description—not practically different from περιτομήν.

σφραγῖδα. App. a common Jewish term for circumcision; cf. S. H., Wetst. ad loc[118], “signum foederis, sigillum Abrahami.” For the Jew circumcision marked the inclusion of the individual in the Covenant: here S. Paul treats it as a mark of the righteousness reckoned by GOD to Abraham as a result of his faith (a different interpretation), consequently not as excluding others, but as an outward sign and acknowledgment of Abraham’s actual position; cf. Ephesians 1:13.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐ. π. The essential characteristic of A. was righteousness imputed to faith. Circumcision confirmed this, and consequently itself points to the lineage of A. being a lineage dependent on sharing his faith, not on sharing his circumcision.

δι' ἀκροβυστίας = while in a state of uncircumcision. = ἐν, Romans 4:10; cf. Romans 2:27 n.

τὴν δικαιοσύνην = the same righteousness that was imputed to Abraham.

Verse 12

12. καὶ πατέρα περιτομῆς. περ. probably abstr. for concrete, = τῶν περιτεμνομένων.

τοῖς οὐκ ἐκ κ.τ.λ. Among the circumcised only those are sons of Abraham who follow in the steps of the faith which he had before he was circumcised. This is obviously the meaning, but requires the assumption of a primitive error in text. Hort suggests καὶ αὐτοῖς for καὶ τοῖς; W. H., appendix, ad loc[119]; cf. S. H. and Giff. The alternatives are to accept Hort’s emendation or to omit τοῖς before στοιχοῦσιν.

Verse 13

13. οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου, γάρ = this is a full statement of the case, for law does not come in to qualify it.

διὰ νόμου, under conditions of law. Abraham was not under law when the promise was made; nor could the fact that his seed came under law affect the range or condition of the original promise; because promise and law have two quite different offices in GOD’S hands: to make inheritance, really based on promise, depend on law is to evacuate the faith, which accepted the promise, of all meaning, and in fact to annul the promise; because while the promise is given to faith, the law has for its function to emphasise the nature of sin, and transgression can occur only when there is law.

ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, ‘the seed’ (Genesis 22:18) is introduced here as recipient of the promise, so as to enforce the above argument as applying to more than Abraham.

τὸ κλ. α. ε. κ. A free summary of the promises.

διὰ δικ. π., under conditions of a righteousness given in response to faith.

Verses 13-16

13–16. The relation of law to promise is very briefly treated, just to meet the possible objection that the law is a condition of inheriting the promise, even though it was not an original condition of the promise itself.

Verse 14

14. οἱ ἐκ νόμου, those who base a claim on law, and those only.

κεκένωται ἡ π. κ. κ. ἡ ἐ. The two principles are mutually exclusive. ἡ π. = the act of faith seen in Abraham.

κεκένωται = is made, by such a qualification, pointless; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14; 1 Corinthians 1:17.

κατήργηται = is robbed of all meaning; cf. Galatians 3:17.

Verse 15

15. ὁ γὰρ νόμοςκατεργάζεται. This verse indicates the true function of law, to show that it can have no effect upon the promise; it neither makes nor unmakes the kinship with Abraham, which is a kinship of character (faith) not of works. What the law does is to develop the moral sense of GOD’S will; in doing so it inevitably creates the sense of guilt; it cannot in itself evoke faith.

οὐδὲ κ.τ.λ. This clause seems to be added almost automatically; at least its bearing on the context is very difficult to see. Is it possible that it is a primitive gloss? Otherwise = where law is not in question (as in the case of faith and promise), neither can transgression be in question (we have not to consider the acts and doings of Abraham and his true seed, as qualifying them for the promise, but only their attitude towards GOD, their faith). The subject is worked out in ch. 7; cf. for similar anticipations Romans 3:20; Romans 3:24.

Verse 16

16. διᾲ τοῦτο κ.τ.λ. Here follows the positive side of the argument, of which the negative has been given—not ἐκ νόμου but κατὰ χάριν. Observe that νόμος as laying conditions upon men is contrasted with πίστις, as implying the action of GOD with χάρις. See. below.

διὰ τοῦτο. Antecedent to ἵνα; for this cause, with this object; cf. Blass, p. 132, § 42, 1. Cf. 2 Corinthians 13:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Timothy 1:16; Philemon 1:15; Hebrews 9:15 (w. ὅπως).

ἐκ πίστεως, sc. ἡ δικαιοσύνη ἐστίν.

ἵνα κατὰ χάριν, sc. γένηται, that it might depend on and be measured by GOD’S favour in contrast to man’s earning; cf. Romans 3:24 and below, chh. 5, 6.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν. Only if righteousness is the free gift of GOD could the promise be guaranteed to all the seed: other conditions would have imported an element of insecurity.

παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι determines the meaning of τῷ σπέρματι in Romans 4:13; contrast Galatians 3:16.

τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου. The promise is secure to these too, if besides starting from law they have Abraham’s faith.

τῷ ἐκ π. It is implied that these have not τὸν νόμον; cf. Romans 3:30.

ὅς ἐστιν κ.τ.λ. expands and emphasises παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι. ἡμῶν, in the widest possible sense.

Verse 17

17. κατέναντι οὗ κ.τ.λ Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19; and esp. Acts 8:21 : = κατέναντι τοῦ θεοῦ ᾦ ἐπίστ.

The clause is to be taken with the main sentence, not with the relative clause: the promise to Abraham is secure for the faith of Abraham, wherever it is found, because the promise comes from and the faith rests on the one and the same GOD who, then as now, now as then, quickens, etc. (Giff., S. H. take it with the relative clause: W. H. and Lft, ad loc[120], as above.)

τοῦ ζ. τ. ν. As Romans 4:19, the type is the birth of Isaac: the antitype is the quickening of man under the action of GOD’S grace; cf. 1 Timothy 6:13; cf. John 5:21; John 5:25 (n. connexion between καλεῖν and ζωο.).

καλουντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα. Cf. Hosea 2:23; qu. Romans 9:25; not = calling into being things that are not (= εἰς τὸ εἶναι), but either ‘naming things that are not as though they were’ with reference to the imputed righteousness, or ‘summoning to His service things that are not as though they were,’ of the call of the descendants of Abraham in the lineage of faith. Then the making the unborn child the vehicle of the promise is typical of this. The context (ζωοπ.) points to the latter and fuller meaning, as also does S. Paul’s use of καλεῖν; cf. S. H.

It was on the creative power of GOD that Abraham rested, as is further emphasised in Romans 4:18.

Verse 18

18. παρ' ἐλπίδα ἐπ' ἐλπίδι, when hope was passed, he took his stand on hope and trusted, so that he became, etc.

Verse 19

19. καὶ μὴ ἀσθενήσας. μὴ in N.T. and all later Greek is normally used with part.; cf. Moulton, pp. 170, 232.

κατενόησεν. Really a μὲν clause—though he fully saw … yet (εἰς δὲ …).

Verse 20

20. εἰς = in regard to.

διεκρίθη. Cf. Matthew 21:21; Mark 11:23; James 1:6; = did not hesitate; cf. S. H.; cf. Field, ad loc[121] τῇ ἀπ., under the disbelief which was natural.

ἐνεδυναμώθη τῇ πίστει. With S. H. = was empowered, by his faith, to beget a son; cf. Hebrews 11:11-12, and Talmud qu. S. H.

ἐνδυναμοῦν. Cf. 2 Timothy 2:1; Ephesians 6:10. Formed from ἐνδύναμος; the preposition therefore does not govern a case following; cf. ἐνεργεῖν.

δοὺς δόξαν—because he acknowledged GOD’S power to fulfil His promise; ct[122], Romans 1:21.

Verse 21

21. πληροφορηθεὶς. Cf. Hebrews 10:22; see Lightfoot, Colossians 4:12; Kennedy, Sources, p. 119. = persuaded, convinced. “Almost exclusively Biblical and Ecclesiastical,” Lft, l.c[123], Ecclesiastes 8:11 only in Sept. “A word esp. common among the Stoics,” S. H.—on what authority? One instance is quoted by Nägeli (p. 63) from the Papyri (2nd cent. A.D.).

ὅ ἐπήγγελται, mid.

Verse 22

22. διὀ καὶ sums up and restates the argument, and so leads to the statement of the parallel between Christians and Abraham, justifying the conclusions of ch. 3.

Verse 23

23. οὐκ ἐγράφη δὲ κ.τ.λ. Cf. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 2 Timothy 3:16.

Verse 24

24. τοῖς πιστεύουσιν = οἳτινες π.

ἐπὶ τὸν ἐγ. . [1] The trust is personal in a Personal Power, whose Power and Character are revealed in the crucial act. [2] The raising of Jesus is a kind of antitype of the birth of Isaac. Note that the name Jesus is used alone to emphasise the historic fact—τὸν κ. . = whom we acknowledge as Lord.

Verse 25

25. ὃς παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ π. As Romans 3:25; cf. Isaiah 53:12 LXX[124] Joh. Weiss (op. cit[125]), p. 172, points out that the two clauses are an instance of the Hebrew tendency to parallelism, and that consequently they must not be regarded as independent statements of distinct elements in the process of redemption; the verbs might be interchanged without affecting the sense; cf. Romans 8:32; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25. Cf. below, Romans 5:9, δικ. ἐν τῷ αἵματι α.

ἠγ. διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡ. Another summary statement developed later. διὰ = with a view to.

δικαίωσιν. Romans 5:18 only; justification as an action = διὰ τὸ δικαιοῦν ἡ.

From one point of view, the resurrection of Christ as the act of GOD is the testimony of GOD to the perfection of the Humanity of Christ as well as to His Divinity, the declaration of the complete righteousness of Jesus. As it is through that perfect Humanity, and by union with It, that the Christian is made one with the Christ, the object of the Resurrection is the declaring righteous of those who, by faith, accept the offered condition of righteousness. This leads to the actual making righteous: but that further thought is not included in this statement; δικαίωσις is limited, as is δικαιοῦν, to the description of GOD’S attitude to the sinner. See Introd. p. xxxvi.

On the Resurrection, see S. H. add. note, pp. 116 ff., and on the connexion of justification with the Resurrection cf. Gifford.

This concludes the first part of the Epistle, in which is set forth what may be called an historical account of the relation of man, both Jew and Gentile, to the revelation of GOD’S Will and to the performance of the same. It has been shown that the revelation of that Will in the Death and Resurrection of Christ answers to the necessities shown to exist both among Jews and Gentiles; the attitude of both to the Will of GOD and the character and issues of His dealings with them all point to the Gospel as the one adequate message of righteousness for man. The treatment then has been historical: the great ethical and spiritual principles involved have been used and stated, but not explained; there follows now the description of these principles as seen by an analysis of the case of the individual sinner (5–8) and of the sinning people (9–11); and then (12 f.) the main characters of the Christian life are explained. The argument that follows, in fact, deals with the Gospel as a power of salvation.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Romans 4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.