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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Romans 4

Verses 1-25

Eighth Section.—Second proof of the righteousness of faith: from the Scriptures, and particularly from the history of the faith of Abraham, the ancestor of the Jews. Abraham is the father of faith to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, because he was justified in uncircumcision as a Gentile, and because he received circumcision as the seal of the righteousness of faith. David is also a witness of the righteousness of faith. (He is particularly so, since his justification was that of a great sinner.) Abraham, by his faith in the word of the personal God of revelation, and particularly in the promise of Isaac, is a type of believers in the saving miracle of the resurrection.

Romans 4:1-25

1What [, then,] shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found [found according to the flesh]?1 2For if Abraham were [was] justified by works [as is assumed by the Jews], he hath whereof to glory [he hath ground of boasting];2 but not before God. 3For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted [reckoned] unto [to] him for righteousness 4[Genesis 15:6]. Now to him that worketh [to the workman]3 is the reward not reckoned of [according to, or, as a matter of] grace, but of 5[according to, as a] debt. But to him that worketh not,4 but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted [reckoned] for righteousness. 6Even as David also describeth the blessedness [happiness]5 of the man, unto whom God 7imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed [Happy] are they whose 8iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered [atoned for]. Blessed [Happy] is the man to whom the Lord will not impute [reckon] sin [Psalms 32:1-2].6

9Cometh this blessedness [happiness] then upon the circumcision only, or [also] upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. 10How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 11And he received [Genesis 17:2] the [a] sign of circumcision,7 [as?] a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised [of the faith in the uncircumcision, τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ , or, of the faith which he had while in uncircumcision]: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised [while yet in uncircumcision]; that righteousness might be imputed [reckoned also] unto them also:8 12And 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 [which he had while in uncircumcision].9

13For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law [For not through (the) law is the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world], but through the righteousness of faith. 14For if they which [who] are of the law [οἱ ἐχ νόμου] be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none [no] effect [rendered powerless]: 15Because the law worketh wrath: for where10 no law is, there 16is no transgression [but where there is no law, neither is there transgression of the law]. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end [in order that] 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, 17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations [A father of many nations have I set thee; Genesis 17:5],) before him whom he believed,11 even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be [are] not as though they were:

18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the [omit the] father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be 19[Genesis 15:5]. And being not weak in faith, he considered not12 his own body now [already]13 dead, when he was [being] about a hundred years old, neither 20yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief [But with regard to the promise of God he wavered, or, doubted not in unbelief]; but was [made] strong in faith, giving glory to God; 21And14 being fully persuaded, that what he had [hath] promised, he was [is] 22able also to perform. And therefore [Wherefore also]15 it was imputed [reckoned] to him for righteousness.

23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed [reckoned] to him; 24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed [reckoned], if we believe on him that [who] raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25Who was delivered [up] for our offences, and was raised again [omit again] for our justification.16


General Remarks.—The theocratical Scripture proof for the righteousness of faith promised to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Enlargement of the Mosaic economy of particularism by the development of the germ-like universality of the Abrahamic religion. Survey: 1. Abraham’s justification was a justification by faith, and excluded justification by works. It was therefore only a justification of the sinner, as is shown by the beatitude prononuced by David (Romans 4:1-8). The opposite is the Jewish righteousness of works. 2. It was independent of circumcision and the law. Abraham did not obtain the blessedness of justifying faith in circumcision, but in uncircumcision; circumcision was then added to it as a seal of justification. Abraham was thereby set forth to be the father of the faithful, as well of the uncircumcised as of the circumcised (Romans 4:9-12). The opposite is Jewish particularism. 3. Justification is as universal as the promise, which constitutes even an antithesis to the law. Abraham’s justification is to him and to his seed a promise of the inheritance of the world. This promise is not limited by the law. Such a limitation would make the promise void; for the law produces that wrath (ὀργή), which looks rather to the destruction than the inheritance of the world. The promise is both conditioned and established by faith and grace (Romans 4:13-17). The opposite is Jewish legalism. 4. Abraham and Christians have in reality the same righteousness of faith. The analogy between Abraham’s faith and that of his believing children,—Christians: a. In relation to the same wonder-working God (Romans 4:17). b. In relation to the same conduct of faith: looking away from the contradiction of the natural life; strong confidence in the Divine word of revelation and promise (Romans 4:18-21). c. In reference to the same operation (Romans 4:22-25). The opposite is the external and superficial contemplation of the worldly sense.—Or also: a. The faith of Abraham (Romans 4:17-22); b. Application to the faith of Christians (Romans 4:23-25). The opposite, in general, is the hierarchical formalism and ceremonialism.

First Paragraph, Romans 4:1-8

[Paul exhibits Abraham as a truly evangelical character, as a man of faith, in order to confirm the doctrine that the ground of our salvation lies not in us, but outside of us in the free grace of God, and that this must be apprehended first by faith, before we can do any good works. James, on the other hand (Romans 2:21 ff.), in opposition to a barren orthodoxy and mere notional belief, represents Abraham as a man of holy obedience, who proved his faith by works. In the one case he appears as the champion of the righteousness of faith, in the other as the champion of the righteousness of life. Both views are right. Paul goes to the root of the matter, the vital principle, which animated Abraham; James looks at the fruit produced thereby. Faith and works, righteousness and holiness, are as inseperable as light and heat, as the tree and the fruit, as cause and effect. Paul himself, after laying the only true foundation, as strongly insists upon a holy life as James. There is, in the Old Testament, an evangelical as well as a legal element; and the gospel, or promise, precedes the law which came in between the promise and the fulfilment (Romans 4:20). Abraham represents the evangelical element, as Moses does the legal. Abraham’s faith differs from the Christian faith, as the promise differs from the fulfilment of the gospel salvation, and as hope differs from fruition; but the essential element, the ethical keynote, in both is unconditional confidence and trust in God’s truth and God’s mercy.—P. S.]

Romans 4:1. What, then, shall we say. The οὖν announces an inference from the previous statement (Romans 3:29), that God is the God of the Jews as well as of the Gentiles, considered in relation to Abraham’s history and its significance. But our inference is not a corroboration (Meyer), or confirmatio ab exemplo (Calvin). We have here rather a new proof, as deduced from the foregoing, namely, the explanation of Abraham’s history and of David’s words of faith. Likewise Tholuck observes, the οὖν cannot be explained if, in accordance with the view of recent expositors, this verse be connected immediately with Romans 3:31 of the previous chapter.—The construction: It may be asked, first, whether the question should be read as one question, or two? Grotius and others have placed an interrogation mark after ἐροῦμεν, and thus made two questions out of the sentence. Then διχαιοσύνην is supplied to εὑρηχέναι.—If the εὑρηχέναι be taken absolutely in the sense of the Grecian philosophy, this division could be made more easily. Yet the chief question here is not, what should be said, but what is Abraham’s advantage?—It may further be asked, whether χατὰ σάρχα relates to προπάτορα (πατέρα) or to εὑρ η̣ χέναι. Lachmann’s reading: τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν εὑρηχέναι ̓ Αβρ, &c., [see Textual Note1], is the one most favored by the Codd. (A. C. D., &c., and also the Sin.). “The suspicion that the transposition of the χατὰ σάρχα [of εὑρηχέναι rather.—P. S.] is to be laid to the charge of the copyist, is strengthened when we see that such expositors as Chrysostom, Theophylact, Gennadius in Œcumenius, who read εὑρηχέναι χατὰ σάρχα, nevertheless connect the latter with πατὴρἡμῶν” (Tholuck, p. 167). De Wette, Meyer [Tholuck, Alford, Wordsworth, Hodge], and most commentators, with the Peshito, connect χατὰ σάρχα, with εὑρηχέναι, and not (according to Origen, Ambrose, Calvin,17 &c.) with πατέρα ἡμῶν. But in Romans 4:9 ff., the subject is circumcision; while in Romans 4:1-8, it is only the contrast between righteousness by works and righteousness by faith. Therefore, according to Meyer’s construction, χατὰ σάρχα should correspond to the ἐξ ἔργων, yet not so that the two ideas should be identical, but that works should be embraced in the more general idea of χατὰ σάρχα. The σάρξ, in antithesis to the divine πνεῦμα, should then denote humanity given up to itself. Pelagius, Ambrose, and others, refer χατὰ σάρχα to circumcision. Rückert understands the word as embracing both circumcision and ἔργα. While Tholuck consents to the now customary connection of the χατὰ σάρχα with εὑρηχέναι, he does not grant that the works of faithful Abraham were ἔργα χατὰ σάρχα; although Flacius would include likewise the opera renati, as performed by men and not imputed by God, in the opera carnis; and Bullinger and others would make σάρξ equal to ἔργα. Tholuck therefore arrives at the conclusion, that Paul did not design to apply Christian justification in all its consequences to the patriarch. But how could he represent him here as the father of the faithful, if he would belittle or limit his justification? We go upon the supposition that, in accordance with the best Codd.,” ̓́ Αβράμπροπάτωρ ἡμῶν χατὰ σάρχα (Romans 4:1) is an antithesis to αὐτός πατὴρ πάντων τῶν πιστεύοντων, &c. (Romans 4:11), and to ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν (Romans 4:16). The principal subject is, therefore, Abraham, the natural ancestor of the Jews; and if it be asked, What hath he found? the emphasis rests on τί, and this refers to the διχαιοῦσθαι πίστει χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου (Romans 3:28), and especially to Romans 3:29 also. As God is a God of the Jews and Gentiles, Abraham, the προπάτωρ of the Jews, has become a πατήρ of Jews and Gentiles.

Romans 4:2. For if Abraham was justified [ἐδιχαιώθη] by works [in the opinion of the Jews]. The answer assumes that the view that Abraham was justified by the works of the law, was already denied in the question. Yet this very thing was believed by the legalistic Jew. “In the Talmud it was even deduced from Genesis 26:5, that Abraham observed the whole Mosaic law” (Meyer).18 The answer does not therefore assume an οὐδέν [omitted before εἰ γάρ] or an οὐδοτιοῦν (Tholuck), because χατὰ σάρχα [Romans 4:1] does not stand in connection with εὑρηχἑναι, [? comp. Textual Note1.—P. S.] To the question, Which of the two kinds of righteousness? it assumes the conclusion, that it was not the imaginary righteousness of works, but the true righteousness of faith. The supposition is so plain, that the Apostle proceeds at once to the proof.—Was justified by works. The sense can be: if he should be so justified, it could only be at a human tribunal, and not at the tribunal of God—as has been already described. But it can also be understood thus: if Abraham, according to the national prejudice of the Jews, has been really justified by works. This is the more obvious view. Conceding this kind of justification, Abraham has a χαύχημα (materiam gloriandi), but not before God. Not before God, first, because no flesh is justified by works in His sight (Romans 3:20); second, because we know definitely from the Scriptures that Abraham was justified in God’s sight, or at His tribunal, by faith. The ἐδιχαιώθη is made by Beza, Grotius, and others, to refer to a general opinion pronounced on Abraham; but by Calvin, Calov., and others, to an imaginary opinion, under the supposition of an incomplete conclusion (the major: he who is justified by works hath whereof to glory. The minor: but not before God. The necessary concluding statement: therefore Abraham is not justified by works).19 Tholuck thinks, with Meyer, that reference to God cannot disappear from ἐδιχαιώθη, and he follows him, with Theodoret, in explaining thus: “For if Abraham has been justified by God through works, he has certainly received—the perfect fulfilment of the law being granted,—glory, but not a divine glory, so far as such glory could not be traced back to God’s grace.” This explanation contradicts the previous suppositions: 1. That no flesh can be justified by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20); 2. That no external fulfilment of the law in the sense of νόμος ἔργων is conceivable, but only in the sense of νόμος πίστεως. A plain remark may aid in the understanding of this difficult passage: that διχαιοῦσθαι, always refers to a definite tribunal, but that this tribunal may be very different according to the different relations of διχαιοῦσθαι. Thus the tribunal of Jewish national prejudice already mentioned was very different from that of the theocratical communion of faith itself, which the passage in James 2:23 has in view (see the Commentary on James, chap. 2. Also, Psalms 106:31, on the justification of Phinehas). It has been counted to him for righteousness—from generation to generation, see Tholuck, p. 172, thereon. What Theodoret says is certainly true: that true justification before God must glorify the love of God; but for this very reason no other mode of justification before God is conceivable. (Singular explanation of Semler and others: Has he glory? No; before God, not! Protestation.)

Romans 4:3. For what saith the Scripture? Paul makes a true representation of Abraham in accordance with the Scriptures, in opposition to the false representation of the Jews.20—[But Abraham believed God, and it (viz., the believing, τὸ πιστεῦσαι, which must be supplied from ἐπὶστευσεν) was reckoned to him for righteousness, ̓ Επίστευσεν δὲ ̓ Αβραὰμ τῷ θεῷ, χαὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς διχαιοσύνην. Genesis 15:6, Sept. The emphasis lies on ἐπίστευσεν, placed first, or the faith of Abraham as distinct from works and as excluding merit on the part of man. Αογιζεσθαι εἰς διχαιοσύνην, to reckon, or count, or impute to any one as righteousness, and consequently to treat him as righteous, is identical with διχαιόω (see p. 130). On the controversy whether Abraham was justified per fidem (through the instrumentality of faith), as the Protestants rightly teach, or propter fidem (on account of the merit of his faith), as the Romanists assert; compare the remarks of Tholuck, p. 173 ff.; also the note of Alford in loc. Hodge enters here into a lengthy discussion of the doctrine of imputation, pp. 164–175, partly polemical against Olshausen.—P. S.] The quotation of Genesis 15:6, is from the Seputagint which has changed the active verb וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ into the passive ἐλογίσθη. Paul uses the more prominent expression δέ instead of the χαί of the Septuagint. Different explanations: 1. Rückert: Paul incorrectly used the passage for his purpose. 2. Roman Catholic expositors (and Bucer): Abraham submitted to the authority of God’s word, and that gave value to his faith. 3. Faith in the promise of a large posterity was, in view of its object, faith in the promise of the Messiah who was to come forth from his posterity (A Lapide, Calvin, Gerhard, Calov., and others). 4. Implicit faith in the Divine promise (Bullinger, and others). Tholuck adopts this view, though with hesitation. “Delitzsch, on Genesis 15:5, having more regard for the historical interpretation, says: ‘Every thing was contained in the person of Jehovah and in the promise of a numerous posterity to Abraham, which was separately disclosed and fulfilled in the New Testament time of redemption.’ But faith in a numerous posterity cannot effect the same nova obedientia as faith in a Christus satispatiens and satisfaciens can effect.” [Tholuck, p. 173.] Further particulars on the nova obedientia of Abraham may be read in Genesis 22:0. According to Tholuck, we should not introduce into the faith of Abraham the faith in the Messiah. But yet we must not reject it. According to the promise in Genesis 12:3, the question in Genesis 15:5—the passage here in mind—could not be the promise of a merely natural posterity. It is certainly consistent with the principles of historical interpretation, when we are considering later decisions, to look back at the earlier ones which lie at their root. Meyer [p. 161] more appropriately remarks: “In the πιστείειν τῷ θεῷ on the part of Abraham, Paul has perceived nothing really different from Christian πίστις; since Abraham’s faith referred to the Divine promise, and Indeed to the promise which he—one who was the friend of God, and illuminated by Him—has perceived to be the promise which embraced the future Messiah (John 8:56).”

Yet, under the supposition of the substantial identity between the faith of Abraham and that of Christians, we shall need to lay stress on the difference in form: The faith of Abraham is the essential beginning of the specific faith of salvation in the Old Testament; the faith of Paul and his companions is the completion of the same in the New. Faith in general, as well as in each of its particular parts, undergoes a great metamorphosis in its passage from that initial point to this terminal point.
But it remains the same faith in substance. And the peculiarity of this substance is, that the Divine object, and its human organic reception, constitute an indissoluble christological synthesis. The objective parts are: a. The personal God of revelation in His revelation; and especially as the creative, wonder-working God, who can call forth new salvation and life; b. His word of promise; c. The import of His word of promise—the future salvation of the nations with the seed of Abraham. Corresponding with these, are the subjective parts: a. The living knowledge, perception, and reception of the revealed God; b. Confident submission to the words of promise, against all the contradiction of sense and worldly appearance; c. The appropriation of the object of the promise as the principle and energy of the renewed life.

The operations correspond to this harmony of object and subject: 1. Justification. Freedom of conscience before God, according to the measure of the condemnation of conscience. The peace of God, Genesis 15:2. The sacramental, symbolical seal, Genesis 17:0, see Romans 4:11. Romans 4:3. Confidence, and acquirement of new life from condemnation to death, or even from death itself—internal death.

All these separate parts exist as germs in Abraham’s faith. De Wette, after an ill-founded remark on the Apostle’s arbitrary dialectics and scriptural application, admirably says: “When the Apostle in this way unites the climax of religious development with the historical point of connection—for the developing series commenced with Abraham—he gives evidence of great historical penetration.” Comp. the Commentary on Genesis , 1 Genesis 5:1-12.

Romans 4:4. Now to the workman [τῷ δὲἐργαζομένῳ, Lange: Dem aber, welcher den Werkdienst treibt]. The statements of Romans 4:6-7 are two sentences, which establish the doctrine of justification by faith, as well in its divine as in its human character. The work does not reach up to God, His grace, or His heaven; but it belongs to the sphere of gain, and makes the remunerator the debtor—which cannot be said of God without impiety. But as God’s grace is exalted above the claims of merit, so is man’s faith exalted. The believer does not rely on merit, but on the gracious strength of Him who justifies the ungodly, and he receives the righteousness in proportion to his faith. The first sentence establishes negatively, that Abraham, according to his relation to God, could not be justified by works; the second sentence establishes positively, that justification presupposes a relation of God’s grace to the sinner. It is therefore clearly intimated that Abraham was a sinner; besides, the introduction of David and his testimony proves conclusively that the justification is that of the sinner. But the root of the antithesis is in the ἐργαζόμενος and the μὴ έργαζόμενος; it is the continuation of the contrast in Romans 2:7-8. Those who strive untiringly, seek God as their only end; but partisans oppose God by their claims. The ἐργαζόμενος is not “the active man, whose characteristic is works” (Meyer), but he whose righteousness consists only of works, who relies on the merit of his works, and whose basis of confidence and pride are works. Therefore, his counterpart is not an οὐχ ἐργαζόμενος, but a μὴ ἐργ.

Is the reward (ὁμισθός) not reckoned according to (as a matter of) grace (χατὰ χάριν). That is, the earned reward, in accordance with the law of wages and labor. The λογίζεσθαι is a very flexible idea; in the case of works, denoting a literal settling up, a payment, according to the external quantitative relations; and in the case of faith, a respectful valuation or reward, according to the internal qualitative relations. But even in the latter case, there is no fiction, no untruth, but a decision in strict conformity with the actual condition. He who makes God his debtor for service rendered, reverses the poles of spiritual life; he conceits that God exists for his sake, and for the sake of his external work. Therefore, the mere worker becomes a culpable debtor in the judgment of God. Faith is the return to the normal relation with God. Here God is the absolute majesty, the justifier, the source, the giver of all things, the infinitely merciful; and before Him the believer stands in the sense of absolute need, dependence, poverty, impurity, and guilt. But when the believer commits himself to the burning and delivering arms of God’s love, his guilt vanishes as the cloud before the sun.—Not according to grace, but according to (as a) debt. The ἐργαζόμενος really declines grace; he claims a reward for his merit. And in the same way will his reward be reckoned according to his debt. Ὀφείλημ , the debitum, according to the relations of reward.—It is plain that such a relation did not apply to Abraham, from the fact that, according to Romans 4:3, he obtained God’s grace; and this in a definite case, where the question could not be one of merit (Genesis 15:0.).

Romans 4:5. But to him that worketh not (for hire), &c. Meyer properly remarks, in opposition to Reiche, who refers the statement directly to Abraham,21 that the sentence is a locus communis, and that it is left to the reader whether he will include Abraham in it or not. But, according to Paul, Abraham has certainly included himself. In the same way, Meyer properly observes that ἀσεβής, ungodly, must not be diluted into ἄδιχος, unrighteous. Faith perceives that the foundation of the ἀδιχία is the ἀσέβεια (Romans 1:21), alienation from God; and, because of its deeper knowledge of sin, applies to the grace of God. The πιστεύειν επί τινα cannot merely denote a faith in the direction toward some one, but a believing self-surrender on the ground of God’s grace (Acts 16:31, &c).

Romans 4:6. Even as David. The introduction of David completely establishes the fact that the justification of man is a justification of the sinner, and that the believer perceives his sins; for, in relation to David, both his guilt and pardon were conceded by the Jews. And now David must also testify to this truth. Even as (χαθάπερ) indicates that David is quoted for the elucidation and proof of what has been said already in Romans 4:4-5. He is quoted, not as a universal example of justification in general, but in special proof that it is such a justification of the sinner as excludes the merit of works. [Romans 4:7-8 prove clearly that the forgiveness of sins belongs to justification; but this is only the negative part, with which is inseparably connected the positive part, namely, the imputation and application of the righteousness of Christ, and this contains the germ and power of sanctification.—P. S.] Tholuck: “By the negative statement, Calvin was led to insist that the idea of the justificatio is exhausted with the condonatio peccatorum (Inst. iii. 11). The same thing is done by the Protestant doctrinal theology before the Formula Concordiœ—which first expressly added the υἱοθεσία, which is really included therein.” Compare, however, the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 60.22 The beatitude from Psalms 32:1-2 is quoted from the Septuagint. [See Textual Note6] The choice of verbs in Romans 4:7 corresponds to the substantives. The ἀνομία is a debt doomed to prison; it is released, and thus abolished; the ἁμαρτία is the ground of it, and is covered from God’s eye (&כָּסָה כָּפַר)—that is, abolished by Him.

Second Paragraph (Romans 4:9-12)

Justification applies also to the Gentiles. It is a justification for all.

Romans 4:9. (Is) this blessedness [ὁ μαχαρισμός, the pronouncing happy, congratulation, Seligpreisung], then, upon the circumcision. The question now is, whether the beatitude described by David applies only to the Jews. The expositors have supplied different words: Tholuck [Stuart, Philippi, Meyer, Exodus 4:0.], and others, ἐστί; Meyer23 [Fritzsche, De Wette, Alford, Hodge], λέγεται [comp. Hebrews 7:13; Mark 9:12], with reference to Romans 4:6 (others, πίπτει [Theophylact], ἦλθεν [Œcumenius], ἔρχεται [Olshausen], γέγονε). The λέγεται has less foundation than ἐστί. [It is always safer to supply the simplest word.—P. S.]—Or also upon the uncircumcision? The also shows that the previous clause is to be understood in the exclusive sense: upon the circumcision only. [Some MSS. add, μόνον.—P. S.]—For we say. The γάρ presupposes that the Apostle has already mentally expected an affirmative reply to the question, Or upon the uncircumcision also? [The form of the question, too, with ἤ χαί, presupposes an affirmative answer to the second clause, and this implied affirmation is made the ground of the argumentation, Romans 4:10-12. De Wette and Alford.—P. S.] The τῷ ̓ Αβρ. is certainly emphatic, as Fritzsche, De Wette [Alford], and others, maintain, though Meyer denies it; for the whole of the following argument proceeds from the person of Abraham. [For we say that to Abraham faith was reckoned for righteousness.—P. S.]

Romans 4:10. Not in circumcision, but. According to Genesis 15:0, Abraham was justified about fourteen years before his circumcision, Genesis 17:0 [Consequently his circumcision was not the effective cause and condition, but the Divine ratification of grace already received.—P. S.]

Romans 4:11. And he received a sign of circumcision [χαὶ σημεῖονἔλαβεν περιτομῆσ24]. Genitive of apposition [i.e., a sign which consisted in circumcision. Van Hengel and Hofmann, preferring the reading περιτομὴν to περιτομῆς, explain: As a sign he receiver circumcision, as a seal (σφραγῖδα in apposition to σημεῖον). Meyer objects that in the first case, σημεῖον, in the second, περιτομήυ, ought to have the article, and explains: Ein Zeichen mit welchem er durch die Beschneidung versehen ward, cmpfing er als Siegel—i.e., a sign, with which he was provided in circumcision, he received as seal. But the article is sometimes omitted where the reference is specific, and where there is no danger of mistake; comp. Winer, p. 118 f. σημεῖον, sign, token, symbol, אוֹת. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham, Genesis 17:11; God, on His part, promising the Messianic κληρονομία (Genesis 15:5; Genesis 15:18), and Abraham, on his part, exercising the obedience of faith which was reckoned to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Hence Paul represents it as a seal of the righteousness of faith. This was not only a “legitimate dogmatic inference” (Meyer), but, as Tholuck remarks, a historical necessity, since the sign of the covenant was granted in consequence of the faith previously shown.—P. S.]—The seal. The seal denotes here the symbolical and sacramental sealing; from this, the real sealing of Abraham, which was given him after the offering of Isaac, Genesis 22:1, is still to be distinguished (see the Biblework on Genesis 22:0.). “It is also represented in the Talmud as the sign and seal of the covenant. See Schöttgen and Wetstein in loc. These words belonged to the formula of circumcision: ‘Benedictus sit, qui sanctificavit dilectum ab utero, et signum (אוֹת) posuit in carne, et filios suos sigillavit (חָהַם) signo fœderis sancti;Beracoth, f. Romans 13:1.” Meyer [foot-note]. Christian writers [Acta Thomœ, § 26; Grabe, Spicileg. Patr. i., p. 333] speak in the same way of the water of baptism as a seal [ἡ σφραγὶς τοῦ λουτροῦ. A seal here means a mark of Divine ratification of a justification already received, a “signaculum rei actœ, ” not a “pignus rei agendœ;” comp. 1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Timothy 2:19. We have here an intimation of the true idea of sacraments: they are signs, seals, and means of grace, but not the grace itself. Circumcision is not the covenant, neither is baptism regeneration. A sign and seal can never be the substitute for the thing signed and sealed, nor should it be made a ground of confidence and hope; but it is all-important as a Divine ratification, and gives, so to say, legal validity to our claims, as the governmental seal to a written instrument. Without the seal of circumcision, Abraham would have had no certain guarantee of the Divine favor; and if justification by faith is abstractly separated from the church and the means of grace, it becomes a subjective fiction of man.—P. S.]—That he might be the father. The spiritual father is meant here. Abraham is the father of faith. ”The conception of author, founder, is also contained in that of father; comp. Job 38:28; Genesis 4:21; 1Ma 2:54;” Tholuck.—On the idea of Abraham’s spiritual children, see Matthew 3:9; John 8:37-38. Galatians 3:8; Galatians 3:29. is a parallel.—That righteousness might be reckoned also to them. This means the sense in which Abraham, as a believing Gentile, has become the father of believing Gentiles.

Romans 4:12. And the father of circumcision. Prominence is here given to the life of faith, the proof of faith, in connection with circumcision for faith. We remark on the language: 1. εἰς τὸ εἶναιαὐτόν must be mentally repeated after καὶ. 2. τοῖς, the dative commodi [for those], comes in the place of faith. 3. Instead of ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς στοικοῠσι, we should expect ἀλλὰ καὶ στοικοῦσι without the article. Tholuck: “The καὶ τοῖς is an unexampled solecism in the Apostle’s language.” Theodoret, Hervæus, Luther, and others, have assumed a transposition: τοῖς οὐκ, instead of οὐ τοῖς. Meyer and Tholuck reject this. Rückert defends the supposition of a transposition; Fritzsche excuses the article; Reiche defends it [so does Stuart; both regard it as a resumption of the sentence begun with the preceding τοῖς, and interrupted by the οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον, ἀλλὰ καί.—P. S.] It may be asked, whether οἱ οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον, ἀλλὰ καἰ οἱ στοικοῦντες could be said. And this would certainly be practicable, if we could place ὄντες after μόνον. They are not only the people of the circumcision, but also those who walk, &c. The faith of the real Jews is not only here made prominent, but also their life of faith; no doubt with reference to the fact that these believing Jews, like Abraham, should be the humane publishers of salvation to the Gentiles. [τοῖς ἴχνεσι, the dative after στοικεῖν is not local, but normative; comp. Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16; Meyer.—P. S.]

Third Paragraph (Romans 4:13-17)

Romans 4:13. For not through (the) law is the promise to Abraham, or to his seed, that he should he the heir of the world. (See Galatians 3:0.) Romans 4:13 does not simply establish the preceding (Meyer), since that is established of itself. The foregoing statement is indeed strengthened by the discussion which now follows (therefore: for); but the latter also sets forth a new privilege of the righteousness of faith, namely, its release from the law. See De Wette.—Not through the law. The law declared only the possession of Canaan by the Jews; but the promise which Abraham received pledged to him and his believing children the whole earth as an inheritance.—Through the law; that is, not per justitiam legis (Pareus, and others), but with the Mosaic legislation. [De Wette and Afford: “διὰ νόμου, not, ‘under the law,’ nor, ‘by works of the law,’ nor, ‘by the righteousness of the law;’ but, through the law, so that the law should be the ground, or efficient cause, or medium, of the promise.”—P. S.]—The promise (sc. ἐστί) to Abraham, or to his seed. This is the great Messianic ἐπαγγελία κατ̓ ἐξοκήν. The ἤ, or, expresses the indivisibility of the promise to Abraham and his seed—that is, his believing seed (Galatians 3:9)—and cannot be replaced by καὶ, or be divided thus: neither to Abraham nor his seed (Meyer). Abraham inherits with his seed, and his seed inherits with Abraham (see Matthew 8:11; Hebrews 11:0). According to Estius, Olshausen, and others, the seed is Christ, conformably to Galatians 3:16. Meyer says: “Not Christ;” which is just as incorrect as the limitation of the seed to Christ.—That he should be the heir of the world [τὀ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου]. The τό introduces an explanatory declaration of the import of the promise. The αὐτός refers to Abraham, because he, in his person, represents also his seed. “In the promises, Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 22:17-18, the blessing bestowed on Abraham in chap. 11. is expressly transferred to his seed;” Tholuck. It may be asked now, Where has this promise of the possession of the world been given to Abraham? The promises which the Old Testament furnishes in reference to the hereditary possession of Abraham seem to include only the land of Canaan; Genesis 12:7 : “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Canaan); Genesis 13:14-15 : “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever;” Genesis 15:18 : “From the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates;” Genesis 17:8; “All the land of Canaan;” Genesis 22:17 : ”Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies” (comp. Genesis 26:3, the repetition of the promise to Isaac; and Exodus 6:4, the legal establishment). In all these there is no promise of the inheritance of the world. It is not correct to consider κόσμος and γῆ as identical. Thus Meyer says: “The hereditary possession of the land of Canaan, which was promised to Abraham and his posterity (Genesis 12:7, &c.), was regarded in the Jewish christology as the government of the world by the Messianic theocracy, which was supposed to be typically indicated in Genesis 22:0. ‘Abrahamo patri meo Deus possidendum dedit cœlum et terram;’ Tanchuma, p. 163, 1; see also Wetstein. The idea of the Messianic sovereignty of the world, which underlies this Jewish particularistic view, is not set aside in the New Testament, but it is brought out by Christ Himself (Matthew 5:5) in allegorical form (Matthew 19:28 ff.; Luke 22:30; Matthew 25:21), divested of its Judaistic notion, and elevated to christological truth. It is necessary, because of the universal sovereignty to which Christ Himself is exalted (Matthew 28:18; John 17:5; Philippians 2:9; Ephesians 4:10, &c.); and because of the necessary communion between His disciples and Himself.” But we can hardly suppose that the Apostle would here apply against the Jews the promise of the land of Canaan to the Jews, in its higher signification. We must keep in view the significant passage, Genesis 22:17-18 : “Blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemy. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Here we have the germ of the same promise (Origen, Chrysostom, Bengel, and others). Superiority is declared by the very position of the one who blesses, and the earth itself is meant by the nations of the earth. Tholuck remarks, on the contrary, that by κόσμος we must then understand the σπέρμα itself, so far as it is led to faith, and that this cannot be regarded at once as κληρονόμος and κληρονομία. But the σπέρμα, as the organ of the world’s conversion, must be distinguished from the σπέρμα, as the converted world. God is the inheritance of believers, as believers are the inheritance of God. De Wette, in summing up the different explanations, says: “ἡ κληρονομία τοῦ κόσμον is not an indefinite allegorical blessedness (Flatt); not the reception of all nations into the theocracy (Melanchthon, Beza, Bengel, Chrysostom, Theodoret, &c.); not the possession of Canaan and some adjacent countries, ‘quœ felicitas arcanam gerebat imaginem œternœ felicitatis’ (Grotius); nor of the earth (Rosenmüller, Koppe, Köllner, Rückert), in the sense of the political sovereignty of the world; nor is it a possession of the future world (Calov.25); still less of the beneficia spiritualia (Bald.), or sub typo terrœ Canaan non modo spes cœlestis vitœ, sed plena et solida Dei benedictio (Calvin); but it is the dominion over the world, which, with all its opposing forces, shall be subjected to Christ and the Christians (Reiche, Meyer, Fritzsche).” Obviously too many negations!—We must bear in mind, that in the Messianic promise given to Abraham the struggle and the dominion are indicated only finally; the chief idea is the blessing. If all the nations of the earth were to be really blessed by Abraham’s seed, then his seed must be able to dispose of a world of blessing. [The promise will be literally fulfilled when the kingdoms of the world are given to the people of the Most High, and Christ will rule with His saints forever and ever; Daniel 7:27; Revelation 11:15; Revelation 12:10; Mat 5:5; 2 Timothy 2:12.—P. S.]—By the righteousness of faith. This was the fundamental gift by which the promise of the world was conditioned. Meyer thinks that, because of the date of the justification, Genesis 15:0. [i.e., after the promise had been given; Genesis 12:3; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15-16.—P. S.], Paul must have here in mind only later passages [Romans 15:18; Genesis 17:8, where the promise is repeated.—P. S.]. But, according to Genesis 12:0., Abraham’s life of faith had begun at the time of his emigration. [The faith of Abraham covered the whole period of the promise, which was made and repeatedly confirmed to his faith.—P. S.]

Romans 4:14. For if they who are of the law. Proof that Abraham’s believing children, but not they who, in contrast with them, rely on the law and its deeds, shall inherit the world. The νόμος, according to Flatt, the moral law; according to Meyer, the Mosaic law; both, according to Tholuck. The Apostle is certainly not concerned here exclusively with the idea of the Mosaic νόμος, as such, but rather with the idea of the legal standpoint, or of the law, considered abstractly in itself, and in contrast with the promise. And it may be said of the natural moral law, too, that it worketh wrath. ()ἱ ἐκ νόμου are not people who are still under the law as such, but whose life-principle is the law, and who wish to be justified by the law. [οἱ ἐκ νόμου, those of law = adherents of the law, legalists. This periphrase is of frequent occurrence; comp. οἱ ἐξ ἐριθείας, those of self-seeking = self-seeking partisans; Romans 2:8; οἱ ἐκ περντομῆς, the circumcised; Romans 4:12; Titus 1:10; Acts 10:45; Acts 11:2; οἱ ἐκ πίστεως, the believers; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; Romans 4:16; οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ, the Israelites; Romans 9:6; &c.; comp. Xenoph., Anab. Romans 1:2; Romans 1:18, οἱ ἐκ τῆς , the market people. The preposition ἐκ (out of) indicates here the origin and character.—P. S.]—Be heirs, faith is made void. At the time when this decisive word was uttered, it had not only a great spiritual, but also a great prophetical meaning. Judging from external signs, it was more probable that the Jews, rather than the Christians, would inherit the earth. They had a powerful prominence, wide dissemination, and synagogues all over the world. But the Apostle was sure of his cause, and wished clearly to distinguish the future of faith from the future of that darkened legalism. Yet his thought is not; if the legalists are heirs, believers cannot be; but if the legalists are heirs, there will be no inheritance of the promise at all. Faith is made void—that is, it loses its import, the righteousness of faith—by wrath in the conscience; the promise is made powerless by the wrath of historical judgments, because it was only intended for faith.

Romans 4:15. Because the law worketh wrath. The operation of the law is to reveal sin and to represent it as transgression, as well in the conscience as in the life itself. Therefore it produces wrath, which, according to the Divine sentence and government, bursts forth from the internal and external life as the severe judgment of dissolution and of death. For where there is no law, neither is there transgression (of the law); and where there is no transgression, there is no wrath. But inversely, the law fully reveals transgression, and, with transgression, wrath and condemnation to death. The proof that the law worketh wrath, is therefore negative. This operation is meant to apply first of all to the Mosaic law, as is proved by Romans 5:13-14, particularly by the distinction between ἁμαρτία and παράβασις (see 1 Timothy 2:14; Galatians 3:19). Tholuck quotes Augustine: “Sine lege potest esse quis iniquus, sed non prœvaricator,” and says that “ this difference has generally been observed ever since. But where it has not been observed, such παρερμηνεῖαι have arisen, as with Luther (on Galatians 3:19), who introduces, from Romans 7:5; Romans 5:20, the thought that the lust of sin is dormant without the law.” Tholuck also properly remarks, that the axiom of Romans 5:13, ἁμαρτία δἐ οὐκ ἐλλογεῖται μὴ ὄντος νόμου, can be understood only relatively of a less quantity of guilt, as is proved by the judgment of the Deluge, and other judgments. He quotes Thomas Aquinas: “Et tamen omne peccatum potest dici prœvaricatio, in quantum legem naturalem transgreditur.” [But Thomas adds: “Gravius tamen est transgredi simul legem naturalem et legem scriptam, quam solam legem naturœ. Et ideo lege data crevit prœvaricatio et majorem iram promeruit.”] Yet the ἐλλογεῖται of Romans 5:13 is to be emphasized so as to denote God’s real reckoning with the sinner by His law, which first causes the natural punishment of the sinner to assume the clear blaze of wrath. Man can obtain salvation only by this passage through the judgment of death. For this reason the Apostle does not deny the necessity of the law; but with him it is a means for an end, and constitutes the pedagogic point of transition for the pious under the law (ὑπὸ νόμον, Romans 6:14-15). But people of the law (οἱ ἐκ νόμου), who seek justification ἐξ ἔργων (Romans 4:2) because they are in feeling ἐξ ἐριθείας (Romans 2:8), make the means an end. They seek their life in the single precepts and observance of the law, in pride in the possession of the law, and in the settlement of their account with God; and by this course they find their existence in the fire of wrath, but, unlike the salamander, they find no comfort in the fire. They do not make the law their preparation for faith, but the antithesis of faith; and they endeavor, by the fire of their fanaticism, to entice from a joyous and bright life those who are happy in faith, and to draw them into their own gloomy heat. For other explanations of ὀργή, see Tholuck. Cocceius: The ceremonial law is the emanation of wrath; J. Müller: ὀργή must be understood subjectively—the consciousness of wrath; Melanchthon: The ὀργή is the sinner’s wrath toward the avenging God.

Romans 4:16. Therefore it is of faith. The inference from Romans 4:14-15. That cannot be; therefore this must stand true. ̓Εκ πίστεως. Supply: ἡ κληρονομία γίνεται (Beza, Bengel); ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῶ Αβρ. ἐστι καί τῶ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ (Grotius, Fritzsche, Tholuck in earlier editions, and others); δικαιοσύνη (Luther); or, better, οί κληρονόμοι εἰσί (Meyer, De Wette, and Tholuck, referring to Romans 4:14, where ἐκ πίστεως and ἐκ νόμου appear as antitheses). This last seems the most appropriate; yet in Romans 4:14 we read not οἱ κληρονόμοι, but οἱ ἐκνόμουκληρονόμοι; and further on it is οἱ ἐκ πίστεως. Therefore, we must merely supply either κληρονόμοι οr ἔστω.—That it might be by grace. Faith is here plainly denoted the homogeneous organ of grace. It is grace, and not man’s faith, that is the source of that general surety of God’s promise; but grace makes faith the organ, just as wrath manifests itself in the work of the law. ἵνα denotes here the consistency of the principle of faith, which certainly rests upon a Divine determination. Tholuck supplies ὦσιν.

In order that the promise might be sure to all the seed [εἰς τὸ εἰναι βεβαίαν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι]. The εἰς denotes the result designed by God—that the promise of His grace be communicated to faith. By this determination the fact is secured, that the promise holds good for his collective seed—that is, for his entire spiritual posterity.—Not to that only which is of the law, &c. The τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νύμου denotes here the historical origin of the whole body of faithful Jews. The τῷ ἐκ πίστεως,as antithesis, denotes the faithful Gentiles. They form a totality by which Abraham is the father of all (see Romans 4:11-12).

Romans 4:17. As it is written. Genesis 17:5; where a natural posterity of many nations is promised to Abraham in relation to his name.26 Yet this promise has its ground in his faith (Romans 4:18-19), and hence Paul very properly regarded it as the type of his spiritual posterity. The spiritual relation is also implied in the Divine appointment, τἐθεικά σε.—[It was] in the sight of him whom he believed [κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν θεοῦ27]. On account of the connection with what has preceded, the difficult word κατέναντι must be here explained [as far as the construction is concerned]. 1. Luther follows the reading ἐπίστενσας [before God, whom thou hast believed] of the Codd. F. G., It., and others, and finds here a continuation of God’s words. An attempt to explain the connection. 2. Bretschneider: “in view of which word,” οὗ sc. εἰρημένου. 3. Meyer, Tholuck [Alford, Hodge], and others: The quotation, καθώςσε, is parenthetical [so also in the E. V.], and κατέναντι must be connected with ὅς ἐστι πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν [i.e., Abraham is the father of us all, not physically, but spiritually, in the sight and estimation of God, with whom there are no obstacles of nature or time.—P. S.] Meyer [and also Winer, Gramm., p. 156, 7th ed.] thus resolves the attraction: κατέναντι τοῦ θεοῦ, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσε [i.e., before God, before whom, or, in whose sight he believed], according to the analogous attraction of Luke 1:4; and rejects the more common resolution [adopted also by Fritzsche] of the attraction κατέςαντι θεοῦ, ᾧ ἐπίστευσε [before God, whom he believed—a form of attraction with the dative, which is very unusual; see Winer, p. 156, and Meyer in loc.—P. S.]. See Meyer, for other attempts at construction. But what are we to understand by the expression: he is the father of us all before God? The idea of a substitution by Abraham, which might easily be inferred from the language, would be foreign to the Apostle. 4. We supply ἐγένετο [before κατέναντι], and explain thus: As it is written, ”I have made thee a father of many nations;” it took place in the presence of God, or, it came to pass there, in the place where he stood believing before God, that he was made the father of many nations; before Him, namely, God, &c. He who is justified, who receives God’s promise, stands before God. [Philippi, without parenthesizing καθῶςσε, supplies after this quotation: And as such—viz., as father of nations—he stands in the sight of God, &c—P. S.]

Fourth Paragraph (Romans 4:17-25)

A.—Abraham’s Faith (Romans 4:17-22)

Romans 4:17. Before him whom he believed, even God. Explanations of coram [κατέναντι, literally, down over against, opposite to, like the classical κατεναντιον; then = κατενώπιον, coram, so here, and often in the LXX., for לִפְנֵי—P. S.]: 1. According to the will (Reiche). 2. According to the decision (Rückert, and others). 3. Vi atque potestate divina (Koppe). 4. Before God’s omniscience (Olshausen). 5. Meyer [p. 173, footnote]: “We must leave it without explanation. Abraham is represented as standing before God who has appeared to him.” But it denotes the first element of the Abrahamic faith. Abraham, as the friend of God, stands in the view of the living God of revelation, the speaking God, who is at the same time the God of miracles and new creations; and it is while Abraham is there, that he is appointed the father of many nations. (Theodoret, Theophylact, and others, have explained κατέναντι as equal to ὁμοίως τῷ θεῷ; Grotius has divided the sentence into question and answer; see Meyer).—Κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν, standing before Him, he believed the promise on the spot.

Who quickeneth the dead. [The present tense ζωοποιοῦντος and καλοῦντος is used to indicate the continued manifestation of God’s creative power in every physical and in every spiritual birth.—P. S.] ”The ζωοποιεῖν τούς νεκρούς is the solemn characteristic of the omnipotent God,” says Meyer. The doctrine of the omnipotence of God, as the wonder-working power of the God of revelation, has been directed from the beginning to the consummation of the revelation in the resurrection of Christ, and subsequently to the special and general resurrection (Ephesians 1:19 ff.). This is evident from those passages of the Old Testament which represent the wonder-working power of God as a power to bring the dead to life, produced by it (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 53:10; Ezekiel 37:1 ff.; Hosea 13:14; Daniel 12:1-2; comp. Book of Wis 16:13; Tob 13:2; John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Timothy 6:13). The Apostle, with profound penetration, sees this miraculous power which raises the dead to life, foreshadowed already in the promise of Isaac. For he does not have in view the offering of Isaac (according to Erasmus, Grotius, Baumgarten-Crusius), although the stronger expression seems to have been selected also with reference to that last believing act of Abraham. Neither is the awakening of the spiritually dead chiefly meant (according to Origen, Anselm, and others). Nevertheless, we would not, with Meyer, altogether reject these explanations as false; for the external awakenings stand in the most intimate reciprocal relation with the internal. In fact, the former are generally conditioned by the latter; as we see that Abraham had to believe first in the promise given to him.

And calleth those things, which are not, as though they were [literally, calling things not being, as being, καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄνταὡς ὄντα. Τὰ μὴ ὄντα differs from τὰ οὺκ ὄντα in that it presents the non-existence as conditional: if they are not; or as relative only, inasmuch as all things preëxist ideally and subjectively in the Divine mind before they are created and set forth objectively.—P. S.]. Two explanations:28 1. Reference to the creative agency of God (Tholuck, and most expositors). Καλεῖν often denotes God’s creative call, to summon into being, into existence (Isaiah 41:4; Isa 48:13; 2 Kings 8:1; Book of Wis 11:25; comp. Psalms 33:9). Philo [De creat. princ., p. 728 B.]: τὰ μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσενεἰς τὸ εἶναι. This explanation admits of several modifications: a. The first creative act is thought of (Estius). b. God’s continued creation is in mind (Köllner; reference to the particip. prœs.). c. A constant attribute of God is denoted (Tholuck). Meyer holds that this whole interpretation is destroyed by the ὡς ὄντα; for, in the New Testament, ὡς is nowhere the same as εἰς. Yet Tholuck adduces proof in favor of the signification εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὡςὄντα. [He refers to 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Jude 1:24. Comp. Philippians 3:21, where the accusative σύμμορφον, like unto his glorious body, is the accusative of effect = so as to be like.—P. S.] De Wette: ὥς ὄντα can indeed not be a substitute for εἰς ὄντα = εἰς τὸ εἶναι, but it can be a substitute for ὡς ἐσόμἁνα, or for εἰς τὸ εἷναι ὡς ὄντα (Reiche, and others). 2. Meyer, and others (Rückert, Philippi): Who pronounces his enacting command over what does not exist, as over what does exist.29 It is not necessary to prove that, even in reference to the creation, this is the full sense (see Hebrews 11:3); the ideal preëxistence of things in the mind of God is therewith intimated. Nevertheless, the idea of the καλεῖν—to call into existence, or into appearance—must be retained. Meyer holds that the things which are not, that God called into existence, are, according to Genesis 15:0, the posterity of Abraham. But Abraham’s faith undoubtedly presupposed earlier deeds of omnipotence. The elements of God’s creative power, and of His renewing power, are comprehended together in the conception of His miraculous power. The creative word is a symbol and pledge of every new creative word which is spoken subsequently.

Romans 4:18. Who against hope believed in hope [ὃς παῤ ἐλπίδα επἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν]. Faith in miracles, which is itself a miracle, corresponds to the gracious God who worketh miracles. Established on the ground of hope, he believed against the appearance of hope. Meyer solves the oxymoron incorrectly: Abraham’s faith was against hope in an objective relation, and yet it was established on hope in a subjective relation. Tholuck’s view is better: His faith is a ”Yea” established on the word of God, in opposition to the “No” in the sphere of finite causes. ̓ Επ ̓ ἐλπίδι, 1 Corinthians 9:10. [ἐπ ̓̓ ἐλπίδι is not adverbial = confidently, but ἐπι signifies the subjective ground of his faith. Faith is the organ of the supernatural, and holds fast to the Invisible as if it saw Him. Hope is faith itself, as directed to the future.—P. S.].

That he might become. Three explanations of εἰς: 1. Of the result—so that he might become (Flatt, Fritzsche, and others). 2. He believed that he should be. That is, εἰς τὸ γεν. is the object of ἐπιστ. (Beza, Reiche, and others). 3. It contains the purpose of the ἐπιστ. ordained by God (Meyer, and others). This is favored by the following κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον. [So also Alford, Hodge: He believed, in order that, agreeably to the purpose of God, he might become the father of many nations.]—According to that which was spoken. See, in Genesis 15:5, the reference to the stars of heaven. Codd. F. and G. insert the comparison: as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the sea-shore (the latter from Genesis 22:17).

Romans 4:19. And being not weak in faith. A meiosis [μείωσις, diminution], according to Theophylact and Beza [i.e., the negative form for the positive: being strong. So also Tholuck and Meyer.] The sense is rather that, in the long trial, his faith did not grow weary, but stronger, in spite of the difficulties in his path.—He considered [not, οὐ], κατενοήσεν. Tholuck says: “The omission of the οὐ in important MSS., such as A. C. [to which must be added Cod. Sin. and B.—P. S.], the Syriac Version, and others, was occasioned by having regard to Genesis 17:17, where Abraham does certainly reflect upon finite causes. For this reason the sense was thought to be, that he reflected without being weak in faith. But Paul had in view only Genesis 15:5-6, according to which Abraham accepted the promise at once without hesitation.” [So also Meyer.] But Paul means plainly a steadfast faith, which became more vigorous by the trial of many years of waiting, and whose strength was augmented by the temptations occurring in the meantime.30His own body now dead. Abraham was more than ninety-nine years old when the promise was fulfilled (after the circumcision, Genesis 17:24), and Sarah was more than ninety years old. The terms νενεκρωμένον and νέκρωσις, in reference to generative death (Hebrews 11:12), must not be taken absolutely, but be considered according to the measure of experience and the usual course of nature. Bengel: “Post Semum (Shem) nemo centum annorum generasse Genesis 11:0 legitur.” [The difficulty concerning the later children of Abraham and Keturah, Genesis 25:1-2, Augustin (De civit. Dei, 16:28) and Bengel removed, by assuming that the generative power miraculously conferred upon Abraham continued to his death. Bengel: Novus corporis vigor etiam mansit in matrimonio cum Ketura. So also Philippi and Meyer.—P. S.]

Romans 4:20. He staggered not at the promise of God. The δέ, which is an expression of antithesis, appears at first sight to favor κατενόησε, the reading of the Codd. A. C., instead of οὐ κατενόησε. But it constitutes another antithesis. Romans 4:19 says, that he continued steadfast in faith, in spite of the contradiction of sensuous experience; that he did not regard natural appearance. Romans 4:20, on the contrary, expresses the idea: Neither was he doubtful by unbelief concerning the promise itself. For unbelief is not produced merely by reflecting doubtfully on the contradiction of sensuous experience, but also by an immediate want of confidence in the miraculous promise itself which belongs to the sphere of invisible life. He was not only not weak in faith in his disregard of sensuous improbability, but, while looking at the promise, he grew even stronger in faith; for he overcame the temptation of a subtle misinterpretation of the promise. According to Meyer, the δέ is only explanatory; but Tholuck, and most expositors, regard it as expressing an antithesis. According to Rückert, the article in τῇ denotes the unbelief common to man; but it denotes unbelief as such, whose nature is to doubt the promise of God. Therefore other explanations are superfluous (Meyer: in consequence of the unbelief which he would have had in this case).31 The passive form, ἐνεδυναμώθη, arises from his undoubting aim toward the promise. The promise has the effect of always strengthening the faith of him who looks at it. Therefore Grotius disturbs the real meaning of the word, when he takes it in the middle voice, he strengthened himself. Even the intransitive meaning which Tholuck accepts, “to grow strong,” fails in the same way to satisfy the relation between the promise and the steadfast gaze of faith.

Romans 4:20. Giving glory to God. To give God the glory (נָתַז כִּבוֹר לַיהוָֹה or, שׂוּם); a mark of faith which God, as the revealed God, can demand. John 9:24 was spoken hypocritically; John 12:43 is indirectly expressed. Comp. also Luke 17:18-19; Romans 1:21; 1 John 5:10; Revelation 19:7; comp. Philippi and Meyer on this passage, both of whom amplify the meaning. Tholuck says better: ”Then unbelief is a robbery of God’s glory. It does not easily occur except in a state of trial (?), but it does so occur in such a state. Therefore Calvin says” ‘Extra certamen quidem nemo Deum omnia posse negat; verum simulac objicitur aliquid, quod cursum promissionum Dei impediat, Dei virtutem e suo gradu dejicimus.’ ”

Romans 4:21. And being fully persuaded. According to Lachmann (contrary to Tischendorf), the καί before πληροφορηθείς is strongly attested by the Codd. A. B. C., &c. If the καί is omitted, we have here the reason for the fact that he gave God the glory. With the καί, the words suitably explain the manner in which he gave God the glory; for he was fully convinced that He was the El Shaddai, and that, by virtue of His omnipotence, He was able to fulfil what He in His truthfulness had promised. It was by this confident looking at the El Shaddai’s word of promise that he was made strong (“heroic;” Meyer) in faith. The πληροφ. denotes intellectual activity, knowledge in living faith.32

Romans 4:22. Wherefore also it was reckoned to him as righteousness. We must retain καί, as authorized by the Codd. A. C. [א.], and others. But we must not overlook the fact that we have here a justification of justification in its essential adaptation. The διδόναι δόξαν τῶ θεῷ in faith is a return to the paradisaical or angelic (Isaiah 6:3) attitude to God (Romans 1:21). Since man gives God the glory, he again participates in the δόξα θεοῦ which he had lost as a sinner (Romans 3:23). In justification, believers embrace in their hearts the righteousness of Christ as the principle of the δόξα (Romans 8:30; comp. Romans 4:18). Therefore the spirit of δόξα rests upon them (1 Peter 4:14) until the revelation of the δόξα of the Lord (1 Peter 4:13).

B.—The Faith of Christians (Romans 4:23-25)

[Application of the Scripture testimony of Abraham, the father of the faithful, to the believers in Christ. His method of justification is our method of justification. Calvin: ”Abrahœ persona specimen communis justitiœ, quœ ad omnes spectat.” This completes the argument for the vindication of the law through faith; Romans 3:31.—P. S.]

Romans 4:23. Now it was not written for his sake alone. Explanations: 1. Not to his praise, non in ipsius gloriam (Beza, Tholuck). 2. To explain the manner of his justification (Meyer). The sense is this: not only for the purpose of a historical appreciation of Abraham (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Galatians 3:8.), but also to represent him as the type of believers. In the same way the entire Bible has a universal destination for the believers of all times. Meyer quotes Beresh R. 40. Romans 8:0 : Quidquid scriptum est de Abrahamo, scriptum est de filiis ejus. [The aorist ἐγράφη, it was written, denotes the past historical act of writing, and is used here in order to emphasize the design of God’s Spirit at the time of composition: while the more usual perf. γέγραπται, it is written, is used in quotations of Scripture passages as we now find them, and as valid for present purposes. Comp. Philippi.—P. S.]

Romans 4:24. But for us also, to whom it [viz., the faith in God, or Christ, τὁ πιστεν́ειν τῶ θεῷ] shall be reckoned [supply: for righteousness, δικαιοσύνην, as Romans 4:22]. The μέλλλει refers to the divine determination of Christianity as righteousness by faith in all time to come; but, contrary to Fritzsche, it does not refer to justification at the general judgment.

If we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. [τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ”specifies the ἡμᾶς; and the belief is not a mere historical, but a fiducial belief;” Alford.—P. S.] Christian faith is specifically a faith in the risen Christ, or also in the living God of resurrection who raised Him from the dead. It is in this its central point that the finished faith of the New Testament is perfectly in harmony with the central point of Abraham’s faith. The germ and fruit of this faith are identical in substance, though they differ very much in form and development. The nearest formal analogy to Abraham’s faith is the birth of Christ from the Virgin. The highest exhibition of omnipotence was at the same time the highest exhibition of grace. [Christ’s resurrection was a triumph of God’s almighty power, similar, though much higher, than the generation of Isaac from the dead body of Abraham; by faith in the miracle of the resurrection, the resurrection is spiritually repeated in us, as we become new creatures in Christ, and walk with Him in newness of life; comp. Romans 6:3; Ephesians 1:19-20; Colossians 3:1.—P. S.]

Romans 4:25. Who was delivered up, &c. [“In these words the Apostle introduces the great subject of chaps. 5–8, Death, as connected with Sin, and Life as connected with Righteousness;” Alford and Forbes. ”Romans 4:25 is a comprehensive statement of the gospel;” Hodge. The διά means in both clauses, on account of, for the reason of, but with this difference, that it is retrospective in the first, prospective in the second: διὰ τὰ παραπτώ ματα, because we had sinned, or, in order to secure the remission of our transgressions; διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν, not because we had been, but that we might be justified.33 To the first διά we must supply: for the atonement, or, for the destruction of; to the second: for the procurement of. De Wette: zur Büssung—zur Bestätigung. παρεδόθη, a frequent designation of the self-surrender of Christ to death; Isaiah 53:12; Romans 8:32; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 5:25 : παρέσωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν. δικαίωσις, from δικαιόω, (only here and Romans 5:18, in opposition to κατάκριμα,) justification, i.e., the effective declaratory act of putting a man right with the law, or into the status of δικαιοσύνη, righteousness.—P. S.] The antithesis in Romans 4:25 [παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶνἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ᾑμῶν, the negative ἀφεσις and the positive δικαίωσις] is difficult. Tholuck [p. 194]: ”This separation, as also that in Romans 10:10, is generally taken as a rhetorical μερισμός, separating that which is in substance indivisible. Yet, in the contemplation of the Apostle, the δικαίωσις certainly is more nearly related to the resurrection of Christ than to His death, as is shown by the climax of Romans 8:34, and by the πολλῶμᾶλλον of Romans 5:10; comp. 2 Corinthians 13:4.” But the passages cited do not contain the same antithesis. According to Roman Catholic interpretation, δικαίωσις refers to sanctification (Thomas Aquinas, and others). The old Protestant explanation, on the contrary, referred the first clause to the destruction of sin, and the second to the ratification of the atonement secured thereby (Calvin). Meyer refers the first part to the expiation of our sins, and the second to our justification; with reference to 1 Corinthians 15:17. Tholuck distinguishes between the negative and positive abolition of guilt. In the latter—the δικαίωσις—Christ’s intercession is also included; for the Lutheran theology (Quenstedt) denotes the applicatio acquisitœ salutis as the purpose of the intercessio [the Reformed theology: patrocinium perpetuum coram Patre adversus Satanœ criminationes]. Melanchthon also remarks in this sense: “Quamquam enim Præcessit meritum, tamen ita ordinatum fuit ab initio, ut tunc signalis Applicaretur, cum fide acciperent.” We must bear in mind, however, that the antithesis is not: Christ’s death and resurrection, but the deliverance of Christ for our offences, and his resurrection on God’s part. The principal weight of the antithesis therefore rests upon the Divine deed of Christ’s resurrection; with which justifying faith was first called into living existence. This justifying faith is analogous to Abraham’s faith in the God of miracles, who calls new life into being. To this, the deliverance of Christ to death for our sins (transgressions, falls, παραπτώματα) forms a complete antithesis; and to this corresponds, in the single work of redemption, the antithesis: the abolishment of our guilt, and the imputation of His righteousness. Yet, in reality, these two cannot be separated from each other, and the δικαίωσις here means the general and potential justification which is embraced in the atonement itself, and which, in individual justification by faith, is appropriated by individuals only by virtue of its eternal operation through the intercessio, the gospel, and the spirit of Christ. [See Doctrinal and Ethical, No. 10.—P. S.]


1. As Paul has proved from the Old Testament the truth of the New Testament, and especially the doctrine of righteousness by faith, so can the evangelical Church confirm the truth of its confession by the best testimonies of the best fathers of the Catholic Church. The evangelical confession of sin and grace is defended against the Romanists by Augustine, and others, in the same way that Abraham defended the believing Gentiles against the Jews. [On Augustine’s doctrine of sin and grace, comp. my Church History, vol. iii. pp. 783–865. Augustine differs in form from the Protestant doctrine of justification, since he confounded the term with sanctification; but he agrees with it in spirit, inasmuch as he derived the new life of the believer exclusively from the free grace of God in Christ, and left no room for human boasting. The same may be said of Anselm, St. Bernard, and the forerunners of the Reformation.—P. S.]

2. Here, as in the Epistle to the Galatians, and especially in chap. 3, the Apostle characterizes the Old Testament according to its real fundamental thought—the promise of God, which was revealed in Abraham’s faith, and perfectly fulfilled in the New Testament covenant of faith. Accordingly, the Mosaic legislation is only a more definite Old Testament signature; but, as a stage of development, it is subordinate to Abraham’s faith (see Romans 5:20; Galatians 3:17).

Some errors of the present day concerning the Old Testament have in many ways obscured its true relation by the following declarations: (1) “The Old Testament is essentially Mosaism.” In this way the patriarchal system in the past, and the prophetic system in the future, are abolished. (2) “Mosaism is legal and statutory stationariness.” But, on the contrary, the Old Testament is a continuous and living development. (3) “This stationariness is theocratical despotism; the Jew is absolutely enslaved under the law.” This is contradicted by Moses’ account of the repeated federal dealings between Jehovah and His people, by the introduction to the Decalogue, as well as by the whole spirit of the Old Testament. It is particularly contradicted by the fact that Jehovah abandons the people to their apostasy, in order to visit them in justice.
3. The signification of Abraham for the doctrine of justification by faith is supplemented by David’s example and testimony. Abraham was justified by faith, notwithstanding his many good works; David was likewise justified by faith, notwithstanding his great offence. The righteousness of faith is therefore thus defined: (1) It does not presuppose any good works; but, (2) It presupposes a knowledge of sin. On the signification of the passage, Romans 4:3-5, for justification by faith, see Tholuck, p. 175.

4. As Abraham became the natural father of many nations, so did he become the spiritual father of the believing people of all nations, both Jews and Gentiles.
5. The designation of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of faith, is important for the doctrine of the sacraments. See the Exeg. Notes.

6. The great promise of faith (Romans 4:13). Its development (chap. 8.; Isaiah 65, 66; Revelation 20-22). There is a grand view in the reasoning of Romans 4:14. The men who are ἐκ νόμου, of the law, cannot be the heirs of the world: (1) Because they are particularists. But also, (2) Because the legal, human ὀργή, provokes the historical, divine wrath—the destruction of the world. Thus did legalistic fanaticism bring on the destruction of Jerusalem, the fall of Byzantium, the exhaustion of Germany by the Thirty Years’ War, the disorders in Spain, Italy, Poland, and other countries (see Matthew 5:5).

7. The identity of the faith of Abraham with that of Paul. We must define: (1) Its object; (2) Its subject; (3) Its operations. The difference, on the contrary, must be determined according to the developing forms of the revelation of salvation, and in such a way that the initial point will appear in the faith of Abraham, and the concluding or completing point shall appear in the saving faith of the New Testament. But it is a mistake to suppose that faith can be the same thing in a subjective view, and another in an objective. The objective and subjective relations will always thoroughly correspond to each other here; and the operations of faith will be shaped in accordance with them. For historical information on the question under consideration, see Tholuck, p. 173.

8. On the nature of saving faith, see the Exeg. Notes on Romans 4:19. Likewise, on the signification of the resurrection for faith, those on Romans 4:25.

9. The importance of the sentiment, ”He gave God the glory.” See the Exeg. Notes on Romans 4:20.

[10. On Romans 4:25. This important and comprehensive passage clearly shows the inseparable connection between Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection, as also the connection between the remission of sins and justification to a new life (comp. Romans 5:10; Romans 6:4). By His atoning death Christ has abolished the guilt of sin (Romans 3:25), and secured our pardon and peace; and hence it is generally represented as the ground of our justification (δικαίωσις)—i.e., the non-imputation of sin, and the imputation of Christ’s merits; comp. Romans 3:24-25; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:7. But, without the resurrection, the death of Christ would be of no avail, and His grave would be the grave of all our hopes, as the Apostle clearly says, 1 Corinthians 15:17. A gospel of a dead Saviour would be a miserable failure and delusion. The resurrection is the victory of righteousness and life over sin and death. It is by the fact of the resurrection that Christ’s death was shown to be the death of the innocent and righteous One for foreign guilt, and that it was accepted by God as a full satisfaction for the sins of the world. If man had not sinned, Christ would not have died; if Christ had sinned, He would not have been raised again. In the next place, as the resurrection is the actual triumph of Christ, so it is also the necessary condition of the appropriation of the benefits of His death. It is only the risen Saviour who could plead our cause at the mercy-seat, and send the Holy Spirit to reveal Him, and to apply the benefits of the atonement to believers. Just as little as the death and the resurrection, can we separate the effects of both—the remission of sins and the new life of Christ. The sinner cannot be buried with Christ, without rising with Him as a new creature; the death of the old Adam is the birth of the new, and the life of the new presupposes the death of the old.—P. S.]


Romans 4:1-8. Abraham and David as examples of the righteousness of faith: 1. Abraham; 2. David.—What hath father Abraham found? 1. No reward by works; but, 2. Righteousness by faith (Romans 4:1-5).—Abraham not only the natural, but also the spiritual father of his people (Romans 4:1-5).—Glory before God is better than the glory of works (Romans 4:2).—If the reward is reckoned of debt, man loses; but if it is reckoned of grace; he gains (Romans 4:4-5).—How blessed is the man to whom God imputeth not sin, but righteousness! (Romans 4:6-8).—Two beatitudes from the mouth of David (Romans 4:6-8).

Romans 4:9-12. Why must even the Jews acknowledge the Gentiles’ righteousness of faith? Answer: Because, 1. Faith was not counted to Abraham for righteousness while in circumcision; but, 2. His faith had already been counted to him for righteousness.—As the sign of circumcision was to the Jews a seal of the righteousness of faith, so are the signs of Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper seals to Christians of the righteousness of faith.—Abraham, a father of all believers: 1. From among the Gentiles; 2. From among the Jews (Romans 4:11-12).—Walking in the footsteps of Abraham (Romans 4:12).—The promise to Abraham of the inheritance of the world is, first, obscure, as a germ-like word. But, second, it is of infinitely rich meaning; for, in addition to the redemption of the world, it also embraces the renewal of the world and the heavenly inheritance.—To what extent does the law work wrath? (Romans 4:15).—It is only by faith that the promise holds good for all (Romans 4:16).

Romans 4:18-22. The strength of Abraham’s faith. It is shown: 1. In his believing in hope, where there was nothing to hope; 2. In holding fast to this hope against external evidence; 3. He did not doubt, but trusted unconditionally in the words of promise.—Believing in hope, when there is nothing to hope (Romans 4:18).—We must not grow weak in faith, even if it be long before our hopes are realized (Romans 4:19).—The worst doubt is doubting the promises of God (Romans 4:20).—How precious it is to know to a perfect certainty that God can perform what He has promised (Romans 4:21).

Romans 4:23-25. As Abraham believed that life would come from death, so do we believe in the same miracle: 1. Because God has given us a pledge in the resurrection of Christ; 2. Because this God is a living and true God, who will keep His promises for ever.—Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a faith in the Redeemer, who: 1. Was delivered for our offences; and, 2. Was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

Luther: Faith fulfils all laws; but works cannot fulfil a tittle of the law (James 2:10). A passage from the preface to the Epistle to the Romans is in place here: “Faith is not the human delusion and dream which some mistake for faith. … But faith is a Divine work in us, which changes us, and gives us the new birth from God (John 1:13); which slays the old Adam, and makes us altogether different men in heart, spirit, feeling, and strength; and which brings with it the Holy Spirit. Oh, faith is a living, creative, active power, which of necessity is incessantly doing good! It also does not ask whether there are good works to perform; but, before the question is asked, it has already done them, and is continually doing them,” &c.—He who believes God, will give Him the glory, that He is truthful, omnipotent, wise, and good. Therefore faith fulfils the first three (four) commandments, and justifies man before God. It is, then, the true worship of God (Romans 4:20).

Starke: The Holy Scriptures must not be read superficially, but with deliberation, and with careful reference to their order and chronology (Romans 4:10).—The holy sacraments assure believers of God’s grace, and forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation (Romans 4:11).—It is vain to boast of pious ancestry, if you do not walk in the footsteps of their faith (Romans 4:12).—God has His special gracious gifts and rewards, which He communicates to one of His believers instead of another (Romans 4:17).—We should rely on and believe in God’s word, more than in all the arguments in the world. It should be enough for us to know, “Thus saith the Lord” (Romans 4:18).—The heart can be established by no other means than by grace. But there can be no grace in the heart except by faith, which brings in Christ, the source of all grace (Romans 4:21).—Blessed are they who only believe, though they see not (Romans 4:22).—The Epistle to the Romans was also written for us, and it has been preserved until our day, and given to us as a precious treasure by Divine Providence.—If Christ has been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, His death is truly a sufficient offering and ransom for our sins (Romans 4:25).—Hedinger: Away with the leaven of Pharisaic delusion, that our own righteousness must build a ladder to heaven! God will glorify His compassion to publicans and sinners, but not to proud saints.—Faith is in its highest degree, strength, and adornment, when it beholds nothing but heaven and water, God and despair, and yet believes that all will be well, glorious, and happy (Romans 4:18).

Quesnel: The more faith in a soul, the less pride there is in it (Romans 3:27).—Ye magistrates, fathers, and mothers, if you set an example of faith, fear of God, love, righteousness, and other virtues, before those committed to you, you will truly become their fathers, just as Abraham became the father of the faithful by his faith (Romans 4:11).—He who makes a parade of himself, may easily despair afterwards because of his insufficiency in every respect; but he who trusts in the omnipotent God, gets strength and consolation from his own nothingness (Romans 4:18).—Cramer: The sacraments do not help for the work’s sake; otherwise Abraham would have been immediately justified and saved on account of circumcision (Romans 4:10).—All promises spring from the fountain of eternal grace (Romans 4:13).—Nova Bibl. Tub.: The laws of nature are set by God for nature, but they are not binding on God Himself. Faith looks beyond them (Romans 4:19).—Lange: As sin, because of its magnitude and multiplicity, is denoted by different words, so is justification, as something great and important, explained by three words: to forgive, to cover, and not to impute (Romans 4:7).—The creation and resurrection of the dead are those great works of God which confirm and explain each other. Therefore he who believes in creation will find it easy to believe in the resurrection of the dead (Romans 4:17).

Bengel: The divine promise is always the best support of faith and confidence (Romans 4:20).—Why do we believe in God? Because He has raised Christ (Romans 4:25).

Gerlach: Abraham only received the promise that his seed should possess the land of Canaan; but beyond the earthly, there lies the heavenly Canaan—the renewed world—which he and his real children, the believers, shall possess in Christ, his seed. The earthly Canaan was the prophetic type of this heavenly Canaan; it was the external shell which enclosed the kernel—the bud which bore and enclosed the still tender flower (Romans 4:13).—By the clearer knowledge of the commandment sin becomes more sinful, destruction appears more prominently, lust is not subdued but becomes more violently inflamed; therefore transgression increases (Romans 4:15).—If Abraham’s clear eye of faith could penetrate the veil with so much certainty of God’s majesty, how powerfully should we—to whom God has spoken by His own Son—be kindled by this love to raise our idle hands and to strengthen our weary knees (Romans 4:23).

Lisco: Abraham’s faith is an example worthy of our imitation by faith in Christ (Romans 4:18-25).—The resurrection of Jesus was a testimony and proof of what His death has accomplished for us (for, without the resurrection, He could not have been considered the Messiah, and His death could not have been deemed a propitiatory sacrifice for the blotting out of our sins), Isaiah 53:10 ff.; Romans 4:25.

Heubner: The appeal to Abraham’s example is: 1. Right in itself; 2. Was important for the Jews (Romans 4:1-6).—Why does Paul cite Abraham’s circumcision, and not father the offering of Isaac? Answer: 1. Circumcision was the real sign which Abraham received by the command of God Himself; 2. It was that which all the Jews, equally with Abraham, bore in their own person, and on which they founded their likeness to Abraham and their glory (Romans 4:1).—David’s feeling in the Psalms is humble, and was exalted only by grace.—The universal confession of God’s children is, We are saved by grace (Romans 4:6-8).—In the historical statement of Romans 4:10 there is an application to us; namely, that justification by faith must precede all good works, because no good work is possible without the attainment of grace.—The preaching of the law alone with the threatened penalty repels our heart from God; and when carried to excess, it makes man angry with God, because he is driven to despair (Romans 4:15).—Yea, if every thing were brought to us ante oculos pedesque, there would be no room for faith (Romans 4:18).—Abraham is an example of a holy paternal blessing, of holy paternal hopes, and the founder of the most blessed family among men (Romans 4:18).

Dräseke: Easter: the Amen of God, the Hallelujah of men.—Our faith must be preserved, and grow amid temptations (Romans 4:20).—The object of his faith is just as certain to the believer, as a demonstration is to the mathematician (Romans 4:21-22).—All the history of the Old Testament is applicable to us. The circumstances are different, but there are the same conflicts, and it is internally and fundamentally the same faith which is engaged in the struggle (Romans 4:23-24).—Similarity of the Christian’s faith to that of Abraham.

Besser: Luther calls Romans 4:25 a little covenant in which all Christianity is comprehended.

J. P. Lange: Abraham, the original, but ever-new witness of faith: 1. As witness of the living God of revelation and miracle; 2. As witness of the perfect confidence and divine strength of a believing reliance on God’s word; 3. As witness to the blessed operation of faith—righteousness through grace.—The life of faith not dependent: 1. On natural ancestry; 2. On works of the law; 3. On visible natural appearances.—Justification and sealing.—All faith, in its inmost nature, is similar to that of Abraham: 1. As faith before God in His word; 2. As faith in miracles; 3. As faith in the renewal of youth; 4. As faith in the rejuvenation of life from righteousness as the root.—The glorious operation of Christ’s resurrection.

[Burkitt: We must bring credentials from our sanctification to bear witness to the truth of our justification.—On the sacraments in general, and circumcision in particular. There is a fourfold word requisite to a sacrament—a word of institution, command, promise, and blessing. The elements are ciphers; it is the institution that makes them figures. Circumcision was a sign: 1. Representative of Abraham’s faith; 2. Demonstrative of original sin; 3. Discriminating and distinguishing of the true church; 4. Initiating for admission to the commonwealth of Israel; and 5. Prefigurative of baptism.—On faith. It has a threefold excellency: 1. Absenting to the truths of God, though never so improbable; 2. Putting men on duties though seemingly unreasonable; and 3. Enabling to endure sufferings, be they never so afflictive.—Doddridge: We are saved by a scheme that allows us not to mention any works of our own, as if we had whereof to glory before God, but teaches us to ascribe our salvation to believing on Him who justifieth the ungodly. He who has promised, is able to perform; for with Him all things are possible. Already He hath done for us that for which we had much less reason to expect, than we now have to hope for any thing that remains. He delivered His own Son Jesus for our offences.—Henry: It is the holy wisdom and policy of faith to fasten particularly on that in God which is accommodated to the difficulties wherewith it is to wrestle, and will most effectually answer the objections. It is faith indeed to build upon the all-sufficiency of God for the accomplishment of that which is impossible to any thing but that all-sufficiency.—Clarke: Romans 4:18. The faith of Abraham bore an exact correspondence to the power and never-failing faithfulness of God.

Hodge: 1. The renunciation of a legal self-righteous spirit is the first requisite of the gospel; 2. The more intimately we are acquainted with our own hearts, and with the character of God, the more ready shall we be to renounce our own righteousness, and to trust in His mercy; 3. Only those are happy and secure who, under a sense of helplessness, cast themselves on the mercy of God; 4. A means of grace should never be a ground of dependence; 5. There is no hope for those who take refuge in a law, and forsake God’s mercy; 6. All things are ours, if we are Christ’s; 7. The way to get your faith strengthened, is, not covers the difficulties in the way of the thing promised, but the character and resources of God who has made the promise; 8. It is as possible for faith to be strong when the thing promised is most improbable, as when it is probable; 9. Unbelief is a very great sin, as it implies a doubt of the veracity and power of God; 10. The two great truths of the gospel are, that Christ died as a sacrifice for our sins, and that He rose again for our justification; 11. The denial of the propitiatory death of Christ, or of His resurrection from the dead, is a denial of the gospel.—Barnes: On the resurrection of Christ (Romans 4:25). If it be asked how it contributes to our acceptance with God, we may answer: 1. It rendered Christ’s work complete; 2. It was a proof that His work was accepted by the Father; 3. It is the mainspring of all our hopes, and of all our efforts to be saved. There is no higher motive that can be presented to induce man to seek salvation, than the fact that he may be raised up from death and the grave, and made immortal. There is no satisfactory proof that man can be thus raised up, but by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.—J. F. H.]


Romans 4:1; Romans 4:1.—The reading in Lachmann, εὑρηκέναι Ἀβ ρ. τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν, is not only mostly authenticated (A. B. C., &c.), but, if well understood, it also gives the best sense; and we regard the opposite reading, which is now generally favored, as an explanatory transposition. See the Exeg. Notes. [The text. rec. puts Ἀβραὰμ τ ὸν πατέρα (not προπάτορα) ὴμῶν before εὑρηκέναι. Cod. Sin. sustains the reading of Lachmann, which is also adopted by Alford, who, however, brackets εὑρηκέναι as being of doubtful authority, since it is omitted by the Vatican Cod. (see Tischendorf’s edition, p. 1448). But it is indispensable, and abundantly sustained by the other uncial MSS. Meyer admits the weight of external authority in favor of Lachmann’s reading, but is disposed, nevertheless, to regard it as a later transposition to suit the connection of κατὰ σάρκα with τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν. The E. V., following the text. rec., adopts this connection, and Dr. Lange defends it in the Exeg. Notes. But with the majority of modern commentators, including Meyer, Alford, Hodge, I prefer to join κατὰ σάρκα with εὑρηκέναι. This is indeed necessary, if we follow the lectio recepta, and it is perfectly allowable, though not so natural, if we adopt the reading of Lachmann. In this case we must translate: What, then, shall we say that Abraham our father (forefather) found (or, gained, attained) according to (the) flesh (or, in the way of the flesh)—i.e., through his own natural efforts as distinct from the grace of God. Grotius: propriis viribus; De Wette, and others: nach rein menschlicher Weise. Meyer takes σάρξ here as the weak, unspiritual, sinful human nature. Abraham did indeed attain righteousness, but by faith, not by works. Codd. א. A. B. C*. sustain προπάτορα for the πατέρα of the Rec.—P. S.]

Romans 4:2; Romans 4:2.—[Lange translates: er hat Ruhm, glory. καύχημα (as also καύχησις) in the N. T., and in the LXX., means generally (not always, as Meyer says, p. 160) the object or ground of boasting, materia gloriandi; Romans 4:2; 1 Corinthians 9:15-16; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Galatians 6:4; Philippians 1:26; Philippians 2:16; and sometimes, as in the classics, the act of boasting or exulting, gloriatio; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Corinthians 5:12; 2 Corinthians 9:3.—P. S.]

Romans 4:4; Romans 4:4.—[τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ is well rendered by Luther: dem der mit Werken umgeht. Lange: dem welcher den Werkdienst treibl. Meyer: dem Werkthätigen. The word is frequent, and signifies a workman who works for pay. Conybeare and Howson, too freely: if a man earns his pay by his work. Young: too literally: to him who is working.—P. S.]

Romans 4:5; Romans 4:5.—[τῷ μὴ ἐργαζομἐνῳ, to him who worketh not for hireder nicht Werkdienst treibt.—P. S.]

Romans 4:6; Romans 4:6.—[μακαρισμόν, in allusion to the Hebrew form אֲטְרְי, Oh, the blessedness, or, happiness of. The N. T. of the Amer. Bible Union, and Robert Young, render μακάριος, here and elsewhere, even in the Sermon on the Mount, by happy, instead of blessed, which properly corresponds to εὐλογητός. There is the same difference between the German grücklich and selig. In a popular English Bible, I would retain blessed and blessedness where religious or eternal happiness is spoken of. The E. V. is inconsistent, and, without a fixed rule, alternates between happy and blessed.—P. S.]

[6] Romans 4:7-8.—[From Psalms 32:0 :, which describes the happiness and the condition of the forgiveness of sins. The following is a literal version of Romans 4:1-2 :

Blessed (Happy) is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.
Blessed (Happy) is the man
To whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity

And in whose spirit there is no guile.

Ewald (Die Psalmen, 3d ed., 1866, p. 65) renders the passage thus:

Selig dessen Missethat vergeben,

Dessen Sünde ist verziehn!
Seliger Mensch dem Jahve nicht anrechnet Schuld,
Und in dessen Geiste keine Täuschung!
—P. S.]

Romans 4:11; Romans 4:11.—The accusative περιτομήν [A. C*. Syr.] does not really change the thought, but rather strengthens it. It is probably an alteration or oversight [caused by the surrounding accusatives. The genitive περιτομῆς is attested by א. B. C2. D. F. K. L., &c.—P. S.]

Romans 4:12; Romans 4:12.—καὶ αὐτοῖς must be retained, contrary to Lachmann. [καί is wanting in א. B. Meyer defends it.—P. S.]

Romans 4:13; Romans 4:13.—Τῆς ἐν (τῆ) ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως [א. A. B. C. D1., &c., Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford]. The opposite reading is τῆς πίστ. τῆς ἐν τῇ . [Recommended by Griesbach, adopted by Scholz—contrary to the majority of the uncial MSS. It looks like a mechanical adjustment to Romans 4:11. τῇ is also to be omitted.—P. S.]

Romans 4:15; Romans 4:15.—οὖδέ is probably an exegetical correction; though strongly attested by A. B. C., Griesbach, Lachmann. [The text. rec. reads οὗ γάρ, for where, which is supported by א3. D. F. K. L., while א1. favors οὖδέ, But where.—P. S.]

Romans 4:17; Romans 4:17.—ἐπίστευσας, Codd. F. G., Luther [credidisti, dem du geglaubt hast, as if it was part of the Scripture quotation, instead of ἐπίστευσεν, credidit, which is sustained by Cod. Sin.—P. S.]

Romans 4:19; Romans 4:19.—The οὐ is wanting in the celebrated Codd. A. B. C. [and Sin.]. Also in Lachmann. According to Meyer, this omission arose from regard to Genesis 17:17. It could also have been occasioned by the antithesis in Romans 4:20. [The οὐ is inserted in D. F. K. L., Lat., Syr., &c. Alford brackets it. See Exeg. Notes.—P. S.]

Romans 4:19; Romans 4:19.—The ἥδη is wanting in B. F. G., &c. [and thrown out by Fritzsche and Tischendorf, but sustained by א. A. C. D. K. L. Lachmann and Alford bracket it.—P. S.]

Romans 4:21; Romans 4:21.—The καί is sustained by A. B. C., &c., Lachmann. [Cod. Sin. likewise favors καί, and Alford retains it.—P. S.]

Romans 4:22; Romans 4:22.—[The καί after διό is omitted by B. D1. F., but inserted by א. A. C. D3. K. L. Lachmann and Alford bracket it.—P. S.]

Romans 4:25; Romans 4:25.—[Luther, to whom above all others the Christian world is indebted for a lucid and forcible exposition of Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith, has made a strange mistake here by translating δικαίωσιν: Gerechtigkeit (righteousness), instead of: Rechtfertigung (justification). δικαίωσις is the divine act of setting a man right, or putting him into the state and possession of δικαιοσύνη.—P. S.]

[17][Hodge quotes Calvin for the opposite view, explaining κατὰ σάρκα in the sense naturaliter, ex seipso. But Calvin goes on to say: “Probabile tamen est epitheti loco Patri conjungi,” and gives the preference to the construction with πατέρα.—P. S.]

[18][Meyer quotas Kiddush, f. 82, 1; Ioma, f. 28, 2; Beresh. rabba, f. 57, 4. Tholuck says: “The justification of Abraham before God was a locus communis of Jewish theology.” P.S.]

[19][Calvin’s interpretation is given by him (ad Romans 4:2) in these words: “Epicherema [ἐπιχείρημα, an attempted proof, an incomplete syllogism] est, i. e., imperficta ratiotinatio, quæ in hanc formam colligi debet: Si Abraham operibus justificatus est, potest suo merito gloriari; sed non habet unde glorietur apud Deum; ergo non ex operibus justificatus est. Ita membrum illud, ‘Sed non opud Deum,’ est minor propositio syllogismi. Huic attexi debet conclusio quam posui, tametsi a Paulo non exprimitur.” Similarly Fritzsche: “Si suis bene factis Dei favorem nactus est, habet, quod apud Deum glorietur ?; sed non habet, quod apud Deum glorietur, quum libri s. propter fidem, non propter pulchre facta eum Deo probatum esse doceant ?; non est igitur Abr. ob bene facta Deo probatus.” So also Kraussold, Baur, Köstlin, Hodge. This interpretation would have been more clearly expressed thus: ἔχει καύχημα (πρὸς τὸν θεὸν) ἀλλ̓οὐκ ἕχει καύχημα πρὸς τὸν θεόν. But it certainly gives good sense and falls in best with the γάρ in Romans 4:3. We explain thus: If Abraham, as the Jews suppose, was justified by works, he has reason to glory before God (for then he can claim justification as a just reward for his merits, leaving no room for the display of God’s mercy); but, according to the Scripture, he has no ground to glory before God, for (Romans 4:3) the Scripture derives his justification from faith in God or from something outside of him, and not from works of his own. Meyer, in his former editions, defended the untenable view that ἐι ... ἐδικαιώθη was a question, and ἔχει ... θεόν the negative answer; but, in his last editions, he returns, with Tholuck and Wordsworth, to the interpretation of the Greek fathers (Theodoret, Chrysostom, Theophylact), which would require in Romans 4:3, ἀλλά, instead of γάρ.—P. S.]

[20][If Romans 4:3 contained the refutation of the inference, Romans 4:2, we would rather expect ἀλλὰ τί, instead of τί γάρ. But if the refutation is contained in ἀλλ̓ οὐ πρὸς θεὸν (ἔχει καύχημα, the γάρ is in its place and gives the proof for the answer from Genesis 15:6, showing that justification proceeded not from any work which Abraham performed, but from God in whom he put his trust. See note on p. Meyer, holding the old Greek interpretation of Romans 4:2, thus tries to explain the γάρ: “Mit Recht sage ich: οὐπρὸς τὀν θεόν, denn vom Glauben, nicht von den Werken Abraham’s leitet die Schrift ausdrücklich seine Rechtfertigung her, und zwar als etwas durch Zurechnung Empfangenes.”—P. S.]

[21]According to Reiche, Abraham is the μὴ ἐργαζόμενος, the ἀσεβής; and this word alludes to the early idolatry of Abraham, which is described by Philo, Josephus, and Maimonides. Grotius, and others, have adopted the same opinion.

[22][This question of the Heidelberg Catechism, which was first published in 1563, contains one of the best statements of the evangelical doctrine of justification, and clearly brings out the positive element, which Tholuck wrongly dates from the Form of Concord of the year 1577. It reads thus: “How art thou righteous before God? Answer: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. That is: although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and that I am still prone always to all evil, yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me, if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”—P. S.]

[23][This must refer to a former edition; for, in the 4th ed. of 1865, Meyer gives the preference to ἐστί: “Als das sich von selbst verstchende. Verbum wird am einfachsten ἐστί gedacht (vergl. Romans 2:9; Acts 4:33, al.); weniger naheliegend: λέγεται aus Romans 5:6.—P. S.]

[24][The order of the words is simply rhetorical and euphonic, and gives no emphasis to σημεῖον. See Tholuck and Philippi.—P. S.]

[25][By a typographical mistake, the original, in the second as well as the first edition, reads Calvin, instead of Calovius, who was a fierce Lutheran polemic of the seventeenth century, and author of the Biblia illustrata, in refutation of the commentaries of Grotius.—P. S.]

[26][Abraham, &#אַכ הֲמוֹן גּויִם אַכְרָהָם, father of a multitude, the new significant name given to Abram, אַבְרָם, i.e., father of elevation, high father, Genesis 17:5; Genesis 18:18.—P. S.]

[27][Lange makes a period after the quotation from Genesis 17:5, and then translates: Angesichts [war’s] des Gottes, dem er Glauben hielt. He supplies ἐγένετο, and commences here a new paragraph. See his interpretation below.—P. S.]

[28][Or three, rather; but the third, which refers καγε͂ν to the effectual calling of unborn men by the Holy Spirit, and explains: “God calls to be His children those who were not children,” is entirely foreign to the context. It is strange that even the rationalistic Fritzsche explains: “homines nondum in lucem editos tamquam editos ad vitam æternam invitat.” Theἐκλογή and πρόγνωσις of God precedes the birth, but the κλῆσις only refers to living men.—P. S.]

[29] [Tholuck doubts that καλεῖν, קָרָא, ever means, to command, to dispose of; but comp. Psalms 50:1; Isaiah 40:26; Isaiah 45:3; Isaiah 48:3. Meyer and Philippi quote two striking parallel passages from Philo, De Jos., p. 544, C., where he speaks of the imagination as forming τὰ μὴ ὅντα ὡς ὅντα, and Artemidor, i. 53, where it is said of the painter that he represents τὰ μὴ ὅντα ὡς ὅντα. To these quotations I may add the famous lines of Shakespeare on the creative power of the poet’s genius (Midsummer-Night’s Dream, Act v. Scene 1):

“The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”—P. S.]

[30][Stuart, Hodge, and Wordsworth take no notice of this important difference of reading. Alford brackets οὐ, but prefers it as being better suited to the context; the object being to extol Abraham’s faith. Omitting οὐ, the sense will be: “And not being weak in the faith, he was indeed well aware of,” &c., “but (δέ) did not stagger at the promise,” &c.; or, “although he was aware of,” &c., “yet did he not.” This agrees better with δέ in Romans 4:20; but we miss in this case μέν after κατενόησε. The dogmatic idea of the passage is well brought out by Calvin, who is followed by Philippi and Hodge. A similar obstruction of faith, as the one recorded of Abraham, Genesis 17:17, occurred in the life of John the Baptist; Matthew 11:2 ff.—P. S.]

[31][Meyer and Philippi take τῆ as an instrumental dative; τῆ πίστει as a dative of reference: “Er schwankle nicht Vermöge des Unglaubens (den er in diesem Fulle gehabt haben würde), sondern wurde stark am Glauben (den er hatte).—P. S.]

[32][Dr. Hodge, after quoting from Calvin, makes the following excellent remarks on πληροφορηθείς: “It is a very great error for men to suppose that to doubt is an evidence of humility. On the contrary, to doubt God’s promise, or His love, is to dishonor Him, because it is to question His word. Multitudes refuse to accept His grace, because they do not regard themselves as worthy, as though their worthiness were the ground on which that grace is offered. The thing to be believed, is, that God accepts the unworthy; that, for Christ’s sake, He justifies the unjust. Many find it far harder to believe that God can love them, notwithstanding their sinfulness, than the hundred-years-old patriarch did to believe that he should be the father of many nations. Confidence in God’s word, a full persuasion that He can do what seems to us impossible, is as necessary in the one case as in the other. The sinner honors God, in trusting His grace, as much as Abraham did, in trusting His power.”—P. S.]

[33][Bishop Horsley, as quoted by Alford and Wordsworth, takes διά, in the second clause, in the sense that Christ was raised because our justification had already been effected by the sacrifice of His death. But this is inconsistent with 1 Corinthians 15:17. Newman explains: because our justification is by the Second Comforter, whom the resurrection brought down from heaven.”—P. S.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Romans 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.