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1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
Ver. 1. As pertaining to the flesh ] That is, As touching his works, Romans 4:2 , called also the letter, Romans 2:27 , and the law a carnal commandment,Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 7:16 .
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Ver. 2. But not before God ] Who when he begins to search our sacks, as the steward did Benjamin’s, can find out those our thieveries that we thought not of; bring to mind and light those sins that we had forgotten, or not observed. When he comes to turn the bottom of the bag upwards it will be bitter with us. Abimelech’s excuse was accepted, and yet his sin was chastised, Genesis 20:6 . Vae hominum vitae quantumvis laudabili, si remora misericordia iudicetur. The best lamb should abide the slaughter, except the rams were sacrificed, that Isaac might be saved.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Ver. 3. Abraham believed God ] Latomus of Louvain was not ashamed to write that there was no other faith in Abraham than what was in Cicero. And yet our Saviour saith, Abraham saw my day and rejoiced; so did Cicero never. Another wrote an apology for Cicero, and would needs prove him to have been a pious and penitent person, because in one place he hath these words, Reprehendo peccata mea, quod Pompeio confisus, eiusque partes secutus fuerim. A poor proof: Hoc argumentum tam facile diluitur, quam vulpes comest pyrum. (Joh. Manl.)
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
Ver. 4. Now to him that worketh ] Yet it is an act of mercy in God to render to a man according to his works, Psalms 62:12 ; Exodus 20:6 . God’s kingdom is not partum, but paratum, Matthew 25:34 , not acquired, but prepared.
But of debt ] Not so indeed, Romans 11:31 , but according to the opinion of the merit monger, who saith as Vega, Caelum gratis non accipiam. I may not receive heaven by grace.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Ver. 5. His faith ] Yet not as a work, not in a proper sense, as Arminius and Bertius held, but as an act of receiving Christ.
That justifieth the ungodly ] i.e. Him that was ungodly; but being justified is made godly also; or the ungodly, that is, him that is not perfectly godly; for Abraham is here made the ungodly person.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
Ver. 6. Unto whom God imputeth ] Ten times the apostle mentioneth this grace of imputed righteousness in this chapter. Yet the Papists jeer it, calling it putative righteousness, so speaking evil of the things they know not. Stories tell us of a Popish bishop that lighting by chance upon this chapter, threw away the book in great displeasure, and said, O Paule, an tu quoque Lutheranus factus es? Art thou also a Lutheran, Paul? But if the faith of another may be profitable to infants at their baptism, as Bellarmine holdeth, why should it seem so absurd a thing, that Christ’s righteousness imputed should profit those that believe on him? The Jews indeed at this day being asked, Whether they believe to be saved by Christ’s righteousness? They answer, That every fox must pay his own skin to the slayer. Thus they reject the righteousness of God, Romans 10:3 . As their fathers did, so do they, Acts 7:51 . The Lord open their eyes, that they may convert and be saved.
7 Saying , Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Ver. 7. Are covered ] Sic velantur ut in iudicio non revelentur; so covered as that he never see them again, but as the Israelites saw the Egyptians dead on the shore.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Ver. 8. Imputeth not ] Chargeth it not, setteth it not upon his score,2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:19 .
9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only , or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
Ver. 9. Cometh this blessedness ] This is the third time that the apostle avoucheth the universality of the subject of justification. For this he had done once before, Romans 3:23 , and again,Romans 3:29-45.3.31; Romans 3:29-45.3.31 . The Scripture doth not use, saith one, to kill flies with beetles, to cleave straws with wedges of iron, to spend many words where there is no need.
10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
Ver. 10. In, circumcision ] As the Jew would have it. No such matter.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
Ver. 11. A seal of the righteousness ] Circumcision is called a sign and a seal by a doctor of the Jews more ancient than their Talmud Zohar, Gen 17:9-14
That righteousness might be imputed ] How foolish is that inference of Thammerus, that because the word here used to signify imputed comes of a word that signifies reason, therefore the righteousness of faith must be such as a man may understand and comprehend by reason ( λογισθηναι, λογος ).
12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Ver. 12. Walk in the steps ] That herein personate and express him to the life, as Constantine’s children, saith Eusebius, did their father.
13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Ver. 13. Heir of the world ] That is, of heaven, say some; of Canaan, say others, the pleasant land, more esteemed of God than all the world besides, because it was the seat of the Church. A man is called every creature,Mark 16:15; Mark 16:15 ; the Church is called all things, Colossians 1:18 . So Canaan is called the world, and Tabor and Hermon put for the east and west of the whole world, Psalms 89:12 .
14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
Ver. 14. Faith is made void ] See Trapp on " Gal 3:12 " See Trapp on " Gal 5:2 " That Epistle to the Galatians is an epitome of this to the Romans, and lends light to it. It is compendium, sed non dispendium.
15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
Ver. 15. No transgression ] sc. Is imputed by men where there is no law written. See Romans 5:13 .
The law worketh wrath ] That is, manifesteth it, and so seemeth to work it, as likewise affliction doth corruption in God’s children; stir the puddle with a stick, and the mud will soon be on the top of the water. Rub the brand, and sparkles will fly abroad.
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Ver. 16. It is of faith ] Fidei mendica manu.
That it might be by grace ] Paul was a great advancer of the grace of God, and abaser of man. For he knew that as wax and water cannot meet together, so neither can Christ and anything else in the work of man’s salvation.
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Ver. 17. Who quickeneth the dead ] As he doth when he maketh a man a believer, Ephesians 1:19 ; he fetcheth heart of oak out of a hollow tree, and a spiritual man out of a wild ass colt. See both these metaphors, Job 11:12 .
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
Ver. 18. Who against hope, &c. ] Elegans Antanaclasis propter speciem contradietionis, saith Piscator. Spes in terrenis, incerti nomen boni; spes in divinis, nomen est certissimi, saith another.
Believed in hope ] It is the nature of faith to believe God upon his bare word; and that against sense in things invisible, against reason in things incredible: sense corrects imagination, reason corrects sense, but faith corrects both. It will not be, saith sense; it cannot be, saith reason; it both can and will be, saith faith, for I have a promise for it.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:
Ver. 19. He considered not ] Gr. ου κατενοησε , He cared not for all his own body, &c.; he never thought of that.
When he was about a hundred years old ] This the Scripture makes a great matter; whereas Terah was a hundred and thirty when he begat Abraham; but because Abraham had his child by faith, therefore was it a great matter. And so, saith a divine, in all ather things that we have, do, or suffer, if they he by faith, they are great things.
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
Ver. 20. Giving glory to God ] Confessing and exalting God, asLuke 17:18; Luke 17:18 , giving him a testimonial, as it were, John 3:33 ; cf. Deuteronomy 32:4 .
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Ver. 21. Being fully persuaded ] Gr. πληροφαρηθεις , being carried on with full sail, and going gallantly towards heaven.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
Ver. 22. See Trapp on " Rom 4:5 " See Trapp on " Rom 4:6 " God, by reason of his faith, held him to be as sufficiently disposed to obtain the accomplishment of his promises, as if he had had all the righteousness required by the law to receive God’s benefits. (Diodat.)
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
Ver. 23. For his sake alone ] But for our instruction and encouragement,Romans 15:4; Romans 15:4 . See Trapp on " Rom 15:4 "
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
Ver. 24. That raised up Jesus ] And with him all believers,Colossians 3:1; Colossians 3:1 ; Romans 6:4 .
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Ver. 25. Who was delivered, &c. ] Not that his death had no hand in our justifying, but because our justification, begun in his death, was perfected by his resurrection. Redemption we have by Christ’s abasement, application of it by his advancement. This one verse is an abridgment of the whole gospel, the sum of all the good news in the world, the grand inquest of all the ancient prophets,1 Peter 1:11; 1 Peter 1:11 . Adore we the fulness of the Holy Scriptures.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Romans 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent