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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Romans 4

Verse 1

What then shall we say? (τι ουν ερουμενti oun eroumeṅ). Paul is fond of this rhetorical question (Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7; Romans 8:31; Romans 9:14, Romans 9:30).

Forefather (προπατοραpropatora). Old word, only here in N.T. Accusative case in apposition with ΑβρααμAbraam (accusative of general reference with the infinitive).

Hath found (ευρηκεναιheurēkenai). Westcott and Hort put ευρηκεναιheurēkenai in the margin because B omits it, a needless precaution. It is the perfect active infinitive of ευρισκωheuriskō in indirect discourse after ερουμενeroumen The MSS. differ in the position of κατα σαρκαkata sarka f0).

Verse 2

The Scripture (η γραπηhē graphē). Genesis 15:6.

Was justified by works (εχ εργων εδικαιωτηex ergōn edikaiōthē). Condition of first class, assumed as true for the sake of argument, though untrue in fact. The rabbis had a doctrine of the merits of Abraham who had a superfluity of credits to pass on to the Jews (Luke 3:8).

But not towards God (αλλ ου προς τεονall' ou pros theon). Abraham deserved all the respect from men that came to him, but his relation to God was a different matter. He had there no ground of boasting at all.

Verse 3

It was reckoned unto him for righteousness (ελογιστη εις δικαιοσυνηνelogisthē eis dikaiosunēn). First aorist passive indicative of λογιζομαιlogizomai old and common verb to set down accounts (literally or metaphorically). It was set down on the credit side of the ledger “for” (ειςeis as often) righteousness. What was set down? His believing God (επιστευσεν τωι τεωιepisteusen tōi theōi).

Verse 4

But as of debt (αλλα κατα οπειλημαalla kata opheilēma). An illustration of the workman (εργαζομενωιergazomenōi) who gets his wages due him, “not as of grace” (ου κατα χαρινou kata charin).

Verse 5

That justifieth the ungodly (τον δικαιουντα τον ασεβηton dikaiounta ton asebē). The impious, irreverent man. See Romans 1:25. A forensic figure (Shedd). The man is taken as he is and pardoned. “The whole Pauline gospel could be summed up in this one word - God who justifies the ungodly” (Denney).

Verse 6

Pronounceth blessing (λεγει τον μακαρισμονlegei ton makarismon). old word from μακαριζωmakarizō to pronounce blessed (Luke 1:48), felicitation, congratulation, in N.T. only here, Romans 4:9; Acts 4:15.

Verse 7

Blessed (μακαριοιmakarioi). See note on Matthew 5:3.

Are forgiven (aphethēsan). First aorist passive indicative of aphiēmi without augment (απετησανapheithēsan regular form). Paul quotes Psalm 32:1. and as from David. Paul thus confirms his interpretation of Genesis 15:6.

Iniquities (απιημιanomiai). Violations of law whereas απειτησανhamartiai (sins) include all kinds.

Are covered (ανομιαιepekaluphthēsan). First aorist passive of αμαρτιαιepikaluptō old verb, to cover over (upon, επεκαλυπτησανepi) as a shroud. Only here in N.T.

Verse 8

To whom (ωιhōi). But the best MSS. read ουhou like the lxx and so Westcott and Hort, “whose sin.”

Will not reckon (ου μη λογισηταιou mē logisētai). Strong negation by double negative and aorist middle subjunctive.

Verse 9

Is this blessing then pronounced? (ο μακαρισμος ουν ουτοσho makarismos oun houtoṡ). “Is this felicitation then?” There is no verb in the Greek. Paul now proceeds to show that Abraham was said in Genesis 15:6 to be set right with God by faith before he was circumcised.

Verse 10

When he was in circumcision (εν περιτομηι οντιen peritomēi onti). Dative masculine singular of the present active participle of ειμιeimi “to him being in a state of circumcision or in a state of uncircumcision?” A pertinent point that the average Jew had not noticed.

Verse 11

The sign of circumcision (σημειον περιτομηςsēmeion peritomēs). It is the genitive of apposition, circumcision being the sign.

A seal of the righteousness of the faith (σπραγιδα της δικαιοσυνης της πιστεωςsphragida tēs dikaiosunēs tēs pisteōs). ΣπραγιςSphragis is old word for the seal placed on books (Revelation 5:1), for a signet-ring (Revelation 7:2), the stamp made by the seal (2 Timothy 2:19), that by which anything is confirmed (1 Corinthians 9:2) as here. The circumcision did not convey the righteousness, but only gave outward confirmation. It came by faith and “the faith which he had while in uncircumcision” (της εν τηι ακροβυστιαιtēs en tēi akrobustiāi), “the in the state of uncircumcision faith.” Whatever parallel exists between baptism and circumcision as here stated by Paul argues for faith before baptism and for baptism as the sign and seal of the faith already had before baptism.

That he might be (εις το ειναι αυτονeis to einai auton). This idiom may be God‘s purpose (contemplated result) as in εις το λογιστηναιeis to logisthēnai below, or even actual result (so that he was) as in Romans 1:20.

Though they be in uncircumcision (δι ακροβυστιαςdi' akrobustias). Simply, “of those who believe while in the condition of uncircumcision.”

Verse 12

The father of circumcision (πατερα περιτομηςpatera peritomēs). The accusative with εις το ειναιeis to einai to be repeated from Romans 4:11. Lightfoot takes it to mean, not “a father of a circumcised progeny,” but “a father belonging to circumcision,” a less natural interpretation.

But who also walk (αλλα και τοις στοιχουσινalla kai tois stoichousin). The use of τοιςtois here is hard to explain, for ου μονονou monon and αλλα καιalla kai both come after the preceding τοιςtois All the MSS. have it thus. A primitive error in a copyist is suggested by Hort who would omit the second τοιςtois Lightfoot regards it less seriously and would repeat the second τοιςtois in the English: “To those who are, I do not say of circumcision only, but also to those who walk.”

In the steps (τοις ιχνεσινtois ichnesin). Locative case. See note on 2 Corinthians 12:18. Stoicheō is military term, to walk in file as in Galatians 5:25; Philippians 3:16.

Verse 13

That he should be the heir of the world (το κληρονομον αυτον ειναι κοσμουto klēronomon auton einai kosmou). The articular infinitive (το ειναιto einai) with the accusative of general reference in loose apposition with η επαγγελιαhē epaggelia (the promise). But where is that promise? Not just Genesis 12:7, but the whole chain of promises about his son, his descendants like the stars in heaven, the Messiah and the blessing to the world through him. In these verses (Romans 4:13) Paul employs (Sanday and Headlam) the keywords of his gospel (faith, promise, grace) and arrays them against the current Jewish theology (law, works, merit).

Verse 14

Be heirs (κληρονομοιklēronomoi). No predicate in the Greek (εισινeisin). See note on Galatians 4:1. If legalists are heirs of the Messianic promise to Abraham (condition of first class, assumed as true for argument‘s sake), the faith is emptied of all meaning (kekenōtai perfect passive indicative of kenoō) and the promise to Abraham is made permanently idle (κεκενωταιkatērgētai).

Verse 15

Worketh wrath (οργην κατεργαζεταιorgēn katergazetai). Because of disobedience to it.

Neither is there transgression (ουδε παραβασιςoude parabasis). There is no responsibility for the violation of a non-existent law.

Verse 16

Of faith (εκ πιστεωςek pisteōs). As the source.

According to grace (κατα χαρινkata charin). As the pattern.

To the end that (εις το ειναιeis to einai). Purpose again as in Romans 4:11.

Sure (βεβαιανbebaian). Stable, fast, firm. Old adjective from βαινωbainō to walk.

Not to that only which is of the law (ου τωι εκ του νομου μονονou tōi ek tou nomou monon). Another instance where μονονmonon (see Romans 4:12) seems in the wrong place. Normally the order would be, ου μονον τωι εκ του νομου αλλα και κτλou monon tōi ek tou nomouclass="translit"> alla kai ktl f0).

Verse 17

A father of many nations (πατερα πολλων ετνωνpatera pollōn ethnōn). Quotation from Genesis 17:5. Only true in the sense of spiritual children as already explained, father of believers in God.

Before him whom he believed even God (κατεναντι ου επιστευσεν τεουkatenanti hou episteusen theou). Incorporation of antecedent into the relative clause and attraction of the relative ωιhōi into ουhou See Mark 11:2 for κατεναντιkatenanti “right in front of.”

Calleth the things that are not as though they were (καλουντος τα μη οντα ως ονταkalountos ta mē onta hōs onta). “Summons the non-existing as existing.” Abraham‘s body was old and decrepit. God rejuvenated him and Sarah (Hebrews 11:19).

Verse 18

In hope believed against hope (παρ ελπιδα επ ελπιδι επιστευσενpar' elpida ep' elpidi episteusen). “Past hope in (upon) hope he trusted.” Graphic picture.

To the end that he might become (εις το γενεσται αυτονeis to genesthai auton). Purpose clause again with ειςeis to and the infinitive as in Romans 4:11-16.

Verse 19

Without being weakened in faith (μη αστενησας τηι πιστειmē asthenēsas tēi pistei). “Not becoming weak in faith.” Ingressive first aorist active participle with negative μηmē

Now as good as dead (ηδη νενεκρωμενονēdē nenekrōmenon). Perfect passive participle of νεκροωnekroō “now already dead.” B omits ηδηēdē He was, he knew, too old to become father of a child.

About (πουpou). The addition of πουpou (somewhere, about) “qualifies the exactness of the preceding numeral” (Vaughan). The first promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah came (Genesis 15:3.) before the birth of Ishmael (86 when Ishmael was born). The second promise came when Abraham was 99 years old (Genesis 17:1), calling himself 100 (Genesis 17:17).

Verse 20

He wavered not through unbelief (ου διεκριτη τηι απιστιαιou diekrithē tēi apistiāi). First aorist passive indicative of old and common verb διακρινωdiakrinō to separate, to distinguish between, to decide between, to desert, to dispute, to be divided in one‘s own mind. This last sense occurs here as in Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:23; Romans 14:23; James 1:6. “He was not divided in his mind by unbelief” (instrumental case).

Waxed strong through faith (ενεδυναμωτη τηι πιστειenedunamōthē tēi pistei). First aorist passive again of ενδυναμοωendunamoō late word to empower, to put power in, in lxx and Paul and Acts 9:22.

Verse 21

Being fully assured (πληροπορητειςplērophorētheis). First aorist passive participle of πληροπορεωplērophoreō from πληροποροςplērophoros and this from πληρηςplērēs and περωpherō to bear or bring full (full measure), to settle fully. Late word, first in lxx but frequent in papyri in sense of finishing off or paying off. See note on Luke 1:1 and note on Romans 14:5.

What he had promised (ho epēggeltai). Perfect middle indicative of epaggellomai to promise, retained in indirect discourse according to usual Greek idiom.

He was able (ο επηγγελταιdunatos estin). Present active indicative retained in indirect discourse. The verbal adjective επαγγελλομαιdunatos with δυνατος εστινestin is here used in sense of the verb δυνατοςdunatai (Luke 14:31; Acts 11:17).

Verse 23

That (οτιhoti). Either recitative or declarative οτιhoti It makes sense either way.

Verse 24

Him that raised up Jesus (τον εγειραντα Ιησουνton egeiranta Iēsoun). First aorist active articular participle of εγειρωegeirō to raise up. The fact of the Resurrection of Jesus is central in Paul‘s gospel (1 Corinthians 15:4.).

Verse 25

For our justification (δια την δικαιωσιν ημωνdia tēn dikaiōsin hēmōn). The first clause (παρεδοτη δια τα παραπτωματαparedothē dia ta paraptōmata) is from Isaiah 53:12. The first διαdia with παραπτωματαparaptōmata is probably retrospective, though it will make sense as prospective (to make atonement for our transgressions). The second διαdia is quite clearly prospective with a view to our justification. Paul does not mean to separate the resurrection from the death of Christ in the work of atonement, but simply to show that the resurrection is at one with the death on the Cross in proof of Christ‘s claims.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.