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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

Romans 4

Verse 1


Of Abraham, our racial ancestor. Paul has said that being put right with God has nothing to do with the Law. It is through faith, from beginning to end (Romans 1:17). Now he shows the example of Abraham. What was his experience? Paul asks: “Was Abraham put right with God by works of law, or by faith?”

Verse 2


By the things he did. If he was put right with God by his OWN MERIT, this would give him something to boast about. But he cannot. See Romans 3:19-45.3.20 and notes.

Verse 3


The scripture says. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 here, and in Galatians 3:6; also James 2:23. Abraham believed God’s promise to him of a son by Sarah, and this faith was the basis on which God accepted him as righteous. Faith obeys (see note on James 2:19).

Verse 4


A man who works is paid. Lipscomb says: “If one relies on his own works to merit salvation, the reward is reckoned not as a favor [grace] from God, but as payment of debt for works. This is contrary to the whole principle of justification by grace. Man is a lost and helpless sinner, saved by the grace of God; but he must accept [seize it and make himself part of it] that favor by complying with the conditions God has enjoined [decreed] for his enjoying [receiving] it.”

Verse 5


But the man who has faith. This speaks of the man who does not try to earn salvation through his own merit. If human merit were required for salvation, then no one could be saved at all because of the principle in James 2:10. Our actions can never be anything but imperfect (1 John 1:8-62.1.10). However, faith cannot be perfect EXCEPT through the obedience of faith (James 2:19; James 2:23 and notes).

Verse 6


This is what David meant. Paul has shown us Abraham was put right with God through his faith, rather than through the things which he did. Now he shows us David speaking about the same faith.

Verse 7


Whose sin he has covered over. This uses the symbolism of the sacrifices of the Law in which the blood of the sacrifice covered over the sins so they could be forgiven.

Verse 20


His faith did not leave him. He did not argue the impossibility of the promise, but waited patiently for it to come true!

Verse 21


That God would be able to do. He believed God had the ability to do this, and he believed that God would keep his promise to him.

Verse 22


That is why. Because he was absolutely sure! This faith demonstrated itself in everything he did.

Verse 23


Were not written for him alone. This speaks of the one who was inspired to write these words [Moses, in Genesis 15:6]. He pointed forward to Christ, and those who would be accepted as righteous through their faith in him.

Verse 24


They were written also for us. We are shown the example of Abraham so that we also might believe. Compare Romans 1:16-45.1.17.

Verse 25


He was given over to die. See Hebrews 2:9-58.2.10. This was God’s act in Christ to set men free. When Christ was raised to life, this became the guarantee of all our hopes. Paul makes the death, burial, and resurrection the focal point of the Good News (1 Corinthians 15:1-46.15.4). Note how he stresses the raising from death (1 Corinthians 15:12-46.15.20). Note how he speaks about the act of baptism (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:3-45.6.4).

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Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Romans 4". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.