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Bible Commentaries
Romans 4

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

What then shall we say? (τ ουν ερουμεν?). 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 (προπατορα). Old word, only here in N.T. Accusative case in apposition with Αβρααμ (accusative of general reference with the infinitive).

Hath found (ευρηκενα). Westcott and Hort put ευρηκενα in the margin because B omits it, a needless precaution. It is the perfect active infinitive of ευρισκω in indirect discourse after ερουμεν. The MSS. differ in the position of κατα σαρκα.

Verse 2

The Scripture (η γραφη). Genesis 15:6.

Was justified by works (εξ εργων εδικαιωθη). 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 θεον). 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 (ελογισθη εις δικαιοσυνην). First aorist passive indicative of λογιζομα, old and common verb to set down accounts (literally or metaphorically). It was set down on the credit side of the ledger "for" (εις as often) righteousness. What was set down? His believing God (επιστευσεν τω θεω).

Verse 4

But as of debt (αλλα κατα οφειλημα). An illustration of the workman (εργαζομενω) who gets his wages due him, "not as of grace" (ου κατα χαριν).

Verse 5

That justifieth the ungodly (τον δικαιουντα τον ασεβη). 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 (λεγε τον μακαρισμον). old word from μακαριζω, to pronounce blessed (Luke 1:48), felicitation, congratulation, in N.T. only here, verse Romans 4:9; Acts 4:15.

Verse 7

Blessed (μακαριο). See on Matthew 5:3.

Are forgiven (αφεθησαν). First aorist passive indicative of αφιημ, without augment (αφειθησαν, regular form). Paul quotes Psalms 32:1 and as from David. Paul thus confirms his interpretation of Genesis 15:6.

Iniquities (ανομια). Violations of law whereas αμαρτια (sins) include all kinds.

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

Verse 8

To whom (ω). But the best MSS. read ου like the LXX and so Westcott and Hort, "whose sin."

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

Verse 9

Is this blessing then pronounced? (ο μακαρισμος ουν ουτοσ?). "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 περιτομη οντ). Dative masculine singular of the present active participle of ειμ; "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 περιτομης). It is the genitive of apposition, circumcision being the sign.

A seal of the righteousness of the faith (σφραγιδα της δικαιοσυνης της πιστεως). Σφραγις 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 τη ακροβυστια), "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 εινα αυτον). This idiom may be God's purpose (contemplated result) as in εις το λογισθηνα below, or even actual result (so that he was) as in Romans 1:20.

Though they be in uncircumcision (δι' ακροβυστιας). Simply, "of those who believe while in the condition of uncircumcision."

Verse 12

The father of circumcision (πατερα περιτομης). The accusative with εις το εινα to be repeated from verse 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 κα τοις στοιχουσιν). The use of τοις here is hard to explain, for ου μονον and αλλα κα both come after the preceding τοις. All the MSS. have it thus. A primitive error in a copyist is suggested by Hort who would omit the second τοις. Lightfoot regards it less seriously and would repeat the second τοις in the English: "To those who are, I do not say of circumcision only, but also to those who walk."

In the steps (τοις ιχνεσιν). Locative case. See on 2 Corinthians 12:18. Στοιχεω 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 εινα κοσμου). The articular infinitive (το εινα) with the accusative of general reference in loose apposition with η επαγγελια (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 4:13-17) 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 (κληρονομο). No predicate in the Greek (εισιν). See 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 (κεκενωτα, perfect passive indicative of κενοω) and the promise to Abraham is made permanently idle (κατηργητα).

Verse 15

Worketh wrath (οργην κατεργαζετα). Because of disobedience to it.

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

Verse 16

Of faith (εκ πιστεως). As the source.

According to grace (κατα χαριν). As the pattern.

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

Sure (βεβαιαν). Stable, fast, firm. Old adjective from βαινω, to walk.

Not to that only which is of the law (ου τω εκ του νομου μονον). Another instance where μονον (see verse Romans 4:12) seems in the wrong place. Normally the order would be, ου μονον τω εκ του νομου, αλλα κα κτλ.

Verse 17

A father of many nations (πατερα πολλων εθνων). 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 (κατεναντ ου επιστευσεν θεου). Incorporation of antecedent into the relative clause and attraction of the relative ω into ου. See Mark 11:2 for κατεναντ, "right in front of."

Calleth the things that are not as though they were (καλουντος τα μη οντα ως οντα). "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' ελπιδ επιστευσεν). "Past hope in (upon) hope he trusted." Graphic picture.

To the end that he might become (εις το γενεσθα αυτον). Purpose clause again with εις to and the infinitive as in verses Romans 4:11-16.

Verse 19

Without being weakened in faith (μη ασθενησας τη πιστε). "Not becoming weak in faith." Ingressive first aorist active participle with negative μη.

Now as good as dead (ηδη νενεκρωμενον). Perfect passive participle of νεκροω, "now already dead." B omits ηδη. He was, he knew, too old to become father of a child.

About (που). The addition of που (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 διεκριθη τη απιστια). First aorist passive indicative of old and common verb διακρινω, 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 (ενεδυναμωθη τη πιστε). First aorist passive again of ενδυναμοω, late word to empower, to put power in, in LXX and Paul and Acts 9:22.

Verse 21

Being fully assured (πληροφορηθεις). First aorist passive participle of πληροφορεω, from πληροφορος and this from πληρης and φερω, 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 on Luke 1:1; Romans 14:5.

What he had promised (ο επηγγελτα). Perfect middle indicative of επαγγελλομα, to promise, retained in indirect discourse according to usual Greek idiom.

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

Verse 23

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

Verse 24

Him that raised up Jesus (τον εγειραντα Ιησουν). First aorist active articular participle of εγειρω, 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 ημων). The first clause (παρεδοθη δια τα παραπτωματα) is from Isaiah 53:12. The first δια with παραπτωματα is probably retrospective, though it will make sense as prospective (to make atonement for our transgressions). The second δια 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.

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Romans 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwp/romans-4.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.
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