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Bible Commentaries

Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Romans 4

Verse 1

As pertaining to the flesh ; in the way of the outward ordinances and works of law. These words should be connected with the following, hath found ; that is, found as an advantage or cause of boasting. The answer, which the apostle omits, is, He hath found nothing. And this he proceeds to show.

Verses 2-3

He hath whereof to glory ; if his works are the meritorious ground of his justification, he is saved of debt, not of grace. He might glory in his works as the ground of his salvation, and take to himself the praise.

But not before God ; that is, but he has not before God any thing whereof to glory. It follows that he was not justified by works. And this agrees with the word of God.

For what saith the scripture? see Genesis 15:6 .

It ; his belief.

Was counted unto him for righteousness ; was the ground of his being accepted as righteous.

Verse 4

That worketh ; so as to be saved on the ground of his own merit.

The reward ; his salvation.

Not of grace , but of debt ; if, in obedience to law, a person is justified, his salvation is merited, not bestowed as a gratuitous favor.

Verse 5

That worketh not ; who does not depend on his works for justification.

The ungodly ; sinners who believe in Christ.

His faith ; is the means of his justification and salvation, through the atonement and righteousness of Christ.

Verse 6

David ; Psalms 32:1-2 .

Imputeth righteousness ; accepts and treats as righteous, though he is a sinner. Saints under the Old Testament were saved in the same way as saints under the New: not on account of their own works, but on account of Christ, and through faith in him.

Verse 7

Sins are covered ; not punished, but forgiven.

Verse 8

Not impute sin ; not charge it upon him, or inflict the suffering threatened against those who commit it.

Verse 9

This blessedness ; the blessedness of having sin forgiven, being accepted of God, and rewarded as righteous.

The circumcision ; those only who are circumcised.

Uncircumcision ; upon those also who are not circumcised.

Verse 10

Not in circumcision ; not after he was circumcised.

In uncircumcision ; before he was circumcised.

Verse 11

A seal of the righteousness of the faith ; a token, or visible sign, that by means of the faith which he exercised before he was circumcised, he was justified and accepted with God.

The father ; the model or pattern as to the way of acceptance with God, for all who should believe, though not descendants of Abraham, and not circumcised: to encourage them to exercise such faith as he did, that they also might be justified, and through grace be delivered from the punishment of sin and rewarded with eternal bliss. It is dangerous to put the sign for the thing signified, or make the one a substitute for the other. Those who depend on the sign are destitute of the thing signified; and so long as they continue to do it will remain destitute. Glorying in the shadow, they lose the substance.

Verse 12

The father of circumcision ; of his natural descendants who were circumcised, provided they exercised faith in Christ.

Verse 13

Heir of the world ; Genesis 12:2-3 ; Genesis 15:5-6 ; Genesis 17:4-8 ; Galatians 3:6-9 ; Galatians 3:14 ; Galatians 3:16-18 ; Galatians 3:29 .

Not-through the law ; not on the ground of obedience to the law, or through the merit of human works, but through the righteousness bestowed upon him by God through faith. Verse Romans 4:3 . The way of salvation through faith in Christ is suited to all classes and conditions of men. None are so good that they can be saved in any other way; and none are so bad that they cannot be saved in this.

Verse 14

They which are of the law ; those who seek justification by their own works.

Be heirs ; if they are by their own merits entitled to the blessings which God promised to Abraham.

Faith is made void ; is not needful.

The promise ; which God made to faith.

Of none effect ; useless. To connect this with the following verse, supply in thought, But the promise cannot be through the law; "because," etc.

Verse 15

Because the law worketh wrath ; that is, this is its effect upon fallen sinful men. It lays God’s authority upon their consciences, without furnishing the grace needful to enable them to overcome their corrupt passions. Instead of making them holy, therefore, and fit for heaven, it works wrath in two ways: first, by laying duty upon them which they do not perform, it becomes the occasion of provoking against them the divine wrath; secondly, in the same way it fills their minds with a sense of guilt and fearful apprehension of wrath to come.

Where no law is , there is no transgression ; were it possible that one should be absolutely without law, he could be guilty of no transgression; and the less clearly the divine law is revealed, the less does it operate to work wrath. Instead of saving those who have violated it, and yet seek to be justified by it, the law condemns them. As all men have violated it, none can be saved by it. If the promises were made only to those who should perfectly obey it, all would fail of the blessing. See note to chap Romans 5:20 .

Verse 16

Therefore it is of faith ; the promise of justification and salvation made to Abraham and his seed, that Jehovah would be a God to him and his seed, Genesis 17:2-7 , and referred to in Galatians 3:29 , was not made on condition of perfect obedience to law, or on the ground of human merit, but of grace through Jesus Christ to all who should believe.

Sure to all the seed ; that all who should in faith imitate Abraham, might obtain the blessing promised to him and his seed, of having Jehovah for their God and portion.

Not to that only which is of the law ; not to Jews only, but to Gentiles also-to all who believe.

The father of us all ; all of every nation who exercise faith in Christ.

Verse 17

As it is written ; Genesis 17:5 .

Before him ; in his sight, and according to his promise.

Quickeneth ; giveth life to.

Things which be not ; which have not taken place. Though they may appear to men impossible, he speaks of them as if they were already accomplished, and thus shows their certainty.

Verse 18

Against hope ; against all human expectation, or apparent possibility, In hope ; that the things promised would certainly take place.

The father ; an illustrious pattern of faith, for the imitation of all who should believe.

Verse 19

Dead-deadness ; as to what was promised, they being at a time of life when it would not be according to the ordinary course of nature.

Verse 20

He staggered not ; he did not let his advanced age, or that of his wife, prevent him from believing that they should have a son and receive the blessings which God had promised.

Giving glory to God ; by the manifestation of strong faith in him. We should never doubt the truth of what God has declared, on account of any difficulties in the way of its fulfilment; but should expect its fulfilment as certainly as if there were no obstacles in its way. Isaiah 40:8 ; Isaiah 46:10 ; Luke 21:23 .

Verse 22

It ; his unwavering confidence in God.

Was imputed to him ; as the means of his being accepted of God and graciously treated as righteous.

Verse 23

That it ; that his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. What is written in the Scriptures was written for the instruction of men, not only of that age but of all ages. They are given by inspiration, and are all profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. They should therefore be studied by all who have them; and should be sent to all the destitute, that they may be led to believe on Christ, and thus obtain eternal life.

Verse 24

It shall be imputed ; if we possess and manifest faith similar to that of Abraham, our faith shall be imputed to us for righteousness, as his was to him. This account of Abraham was transmitted to us to induce us, by exercising similar faith, to become his spiritual seed, and heirs to the eternal blessings promised to him.

Verse 25

Was delivered for our offences ; delivered to death on account of our sins.

For our justification ; in which is implied the resurrection of our bodies, and our admission, complete in soul and body, to the enjoyment of eternal life in heaven. Both the death of Christ and his resurrection were necessary to complete the work of our redemption. But the apostle naturally ascribes to the former the expiation of sin; to the latter, our introduction, through the justifying grace of God, to a new divine life in holy communion with him.

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Bibliographical Information
Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Romans 4". "Edwards' Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.