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Bible Commentaries
Romans 4

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

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Verses 1-25

Acceptance by Faith foreshadowed in the old Dispensation

In Romans 3:21.; St. Paul set forth the great truth of acceptance by faith. A Jew might object that it was new, and therefore not true. In Romans 3:31; St. Paul answered that in the Law and in faith there is the same moral and religious ideal, which is more completely developed and more perfectly fulfilled by faith. Now he turns to the past, to show that acceptance by faith is not a new idea. It was faith for which Abraham was accepted, not works (Romans 4:1-8), nor circumcision (Romans 4:9-12), nor on account of obedience to the Law (Romans 4:13-17). The history shows the nature of the faith which God accepts (Romans 4:18-22), in our case as well as in Abraham’s0.

1-8. It was faith, not works, for which Abraham was accepted.

Paraphrase. ’(1) Take, e.g., the case of Abraham. His descendants should readily admit the force of his case, which shows that acceptance by faith is no new principle. (2) If he had been accepted on account of his deeds, he would have had something to be proud of in man’s sight. And we men do honour him, and rightly. Yet even then he could not claim merit before God. (3) For the Scripture says that it was on account of his faith that he was reckoned as righteous. (4) Now reward for work would not be so spoken of. There is no favour in paying wages that are due. (5) Such an expression as “his faith is reckoned for righteousness” is only properly used of one who makes no claim for work done, but simply puts faith in God. (6-8) Notice, too, how David pronounced a man happy, although he had sinned deeply, simply because God forgave him and reckoned him as righteous.’

1. What.. then] refers to Romans 3:27. That] RM ’of.’ As pertaining to the flesh] i.e. by natural descent. The question is put in the mouth of a Jew. Therefore it does not follow that the Roman Christians were chiefly Jews. Cp. also 1 Corinthians 10:1, ’our fathers,’ though the Corinthian Christians were mostly Gentile. Hath found] RM omits.

2. Abraham] St. James also refers to Genesis 15:6, but concludes ’that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,’ James 2:23. St. James wrote of mere intellectual belief: cp. James 2:19. St. Paul meant by ’faith’ a complete change of relation towards God, which would affect the believer’s actions: cp. Romans 6. Genesis 15:6 was a common text for discussion among the Jews. Possibly St. James was thinking of perversions of St. Paul’s teaching. Glory] cp. Romans 3:27.

3, 5. Counted] RV ’reckoned.’

4. Worketh] i.e. a workman in daily life.

5. Worketh not] i.e. as ground of acceptance. Ungodly] not meant of Abraham; the extreme case is put: cp. Romans 5:6.

6. Describeth, etc.] RV ’pronounceth blessing upon.’ Imputeth] RV ’reckoneth.’ Without] RV ’apart from.’

7. Blessed] i.e. happy; from Psalms 32:1.

9-12. The blessing was not dependent upon circumcision, to which as signifying admission to covenant with God, the Jews attach such importance.

Paraphrase. ’(9) Again. The blessing was irrespective of circumcision. (10) For at the time that Abraham’s faith was reckoned for righteousness, he was uncircumcised. (11) His circumcision was but a token, by which God sealed that acceptance which was his as a believing man. Hence, all Gentiles who believe are his spiritual children, and have righteousness reckoned to them. (12) And those Jews are his children who are not merely circumcised, but believe as he believed.’

9. Cometh] RV ’Is this blessing then pronounced.’

10. Abraham’s faith preceded circumcision by many years: cp. Genesis 15:6; Genesis 17:10, Genesis 17:24.

11. sign] cp. Genesis 17:11, ’a token of the covenant.’ Seal] ratifying his acceptance. Imputed] RV ’reckoned.’

13-17. The promise was independent of any system of law.

Paraphrase. ’(13) Again. The promise to Abraham of world-wide inheritance was not to take effect by obedience to law. (14) For if the inheritance be for those who keep a law, then faith has lost its value, and the promise has been nullified. (15) For the effect of law, which reveals the requirements of a righteous God, is to bring about, not blessing, but consciousness of sin and expectation of God’s wrath; transgression cannot exist without some law to be broken. (16) Therefore acceptance was made to depend upon faith, that it might proceed from God’s bounty not our merit, and that all Abraham’s descendants might be certain of obtaining the promise. And by his descendants I mean, not Jews only, but all those who have the faith which he had. (17) For in spite of his old age, he fully believed God who promised him seed, and God has made him the father of all who believe in Jesus Christ.’

13. Heir of the world] i.e. by the universality of the reign of Christ: cp. Genesis 12:2.; Genesis 22:17.

14. Void] because an opposite condition would have been brought in: cp. Galatians 3:18.

15. Cp. Romans 3:20. For where] RV ’but where.’

16. By grace] RV ’according to grace,’ i e. on the principle of free gift. Sure] because, (1) not depending on the fulfilment of a law which would certainly be broken, and (2) admitting Jew and Gentile by the same gate of faith. Of the law] i.e. believing Jews.

Abraham] who was not under the Law.

Us all] i.e. Christians, from ’many nations.’

17. Father] cp. Genesis 17:5. Before.. God] i.e. God regards Abraham as father of all believers.

Quickeneth] i.e. makes alive. When God promised Isaac, Abraham, and Sarah were as though dead: cp. Romans 4:19. Calleth] i.e. summons. Which be not] i.e. the promised seed.

18-22. It was because Abraham’s faith was so unwavering, that it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.

Paraphrase. ’(18) His confident faith, when it was against human probability that God’s promise of a son should be realised, led to the fulfilment of the promise. (19) His faith did not fail at the apparent impossibility. (20) Fixing his eye on God’s promise, he received fresh youth, acknowledging God’s power and truth (21) with complete certainty. (22) And because his faith was unwavering, God accepted it as though it were righteousness.’

18. Believed in hope] i.e. had confident faith. That he might] RV ’to the end that he might.’ So] i.e. as the stars: cp. Genesis 15:5.

19. Being not weak] RV ’without being weakened.’ Considered not] RV ’considered,’ i.e. he realised his weakness, but still believed.

Dead] RV ’as good as dead.’

20. RV ’yea, looking unto the promise of God, he wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith.’

21. Persuaded] RV ’assured.’

22. Imputed] RV ’reckoned.’

23-25. Abraham’s faith is the pattern of ours.

Paraphrase. ’(23) Thus the history of Abraham’s justification teaches us the principle on which God proceeds. (24) As Abraham trusted in God to bring Isaac as it were from death to fulfil His promise, so, if we believe on Him who raised up Jesus to fulfil His purpose, our faith will be accepted. (25) For Christ, who died because we had offended, was raised to bring about our acceptance.’

23, 24. Imputed] RV ’reckoned.’

24. Us] RV ’our sake’: cp. Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10. If we believe] RV ’who believe.’

25. Delivered] RV ’delivered up,’ i.e. by the Father: cp. Romans 8:32 equally by Himself: cp. Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:2. Our justification] The Resurrection brings about our justification, because (1) it shows the divinity of Christ, and therefore the value of His death: cp. 1 Corinthians 15:17; (2) through the Resurrection, faith in the Atonement became possible, for it showed that the Atonement was complete: cp. Romans 3:25.; Romans 6:10; (3) Christ risen becomes the source of new life to us by our union with Him: cp. Romans 6:11.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Romans 4". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/romans-4.html. 1909.
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