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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Romans 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 27

27–4:25.] JEWISH BOASTING ALTOGETHER REMOVED by this truth, NOT however BY MAKING VOID THE LAW, nor BY DEGRADING ABRAHAM FROM HIS PRE-EMINENCE, but BY ESTABLISHING THE LAW, and shewing that Abraham was really JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, and is the FATHER OF THE FAITHFUL.


Verse 1

1. οὖν] The Apostle is here contending with those under the law from their own standing-point: and he follows up his νόμον ἱστάνομεν, by what therefore (‘hoc concesso,’ ‘seeing that you and I are both upholders of the law’) shall we say, &c. This verse, and the argument following, are not a proof, but a consequence, of νόμον ἱστ., and are therefore introduced, not with γάρ, but with οὖν.

εὑρηκέναι [if read]] viz. towards his justification, or more strictly, earned as his own, to boast of.

κατὰ σάρκα belongs to εὑρ., not (as Chrys., Theophyl., Erasm.) to προπάτορα ἡμ. For the course and spirit of the argument is not to limit the paternity of Abraham to a mere fleshly one, but to shew that he was the spiritual father of all believers. And the question is not one which requires any such distinction between his fleshly and spiritual paternity (as in ch. Romans 9:3, Romans 9:5). This being so, what does κατὰ σάρκα mean? It cannot allude to circumcision; for that is rendered improbable, not only by the parallel expression ἐξ ἔργων in the plural, but also by the consideration, that circumcision was no ἔργον at all, but a seal of the righteousness which he had by faith being yet uncircumcised (Romans 4:11),—and by the whole course of the argument in the present place, which is not to disprove the exclusive privilege of the Jew (that having been already done, chs. 2. 3.), but to shew that the father and head of the race himself was justified not by works, but by faith. Doubtless, in so far as circumcision was a mere work of obedience, it might be in a loose way considered as falling under that category: but it came after justification, and so is chronologically here excluded. κατὰ σάρκα then is in contrast to κατὰ πνεῦμα,—and refers to that department of our being from which spring works, in contrast with that in which is the exercise of faith: see ch. Romans 8:4, Romans 8:5.


Verses 1-5

1–5.] Abraham himself was justified by faith. The reading and punctuation of this verse present some difficulties. As to the first (see var. read.), the variation in the order of the words, and the reading προπάτορα seemed to me formerly, however strongly supported, to have sprung out of an idea that κατὰ σάρκα belonged to πατέρα. This being supposed, εὑρηκέναι appeared to have been transposed to throw πατέρα ἡμ. κατὰ σάρκα together,—and then, because Abraham is distinctly proved (Romans 4:11) to have been in another sense the father of the faithful, πατέρα to have been altered to the less ambiguous προπάτορα, ancestor, a word not found in the N. T., but frequent in the Fathers. I therefore in the 3rd edition of this vol., with De Wette, Tholuck, and Tischendorf (in his last [7th, not 8th] edn.), retained the rec. text. Being now however convinced that we are bound to follow the testimony of our best MSS., and to distrust such subjective considerations as unsafe, and generally able to be turned both ways, I have adopted the reading of (20)((21))(22) (23) (24) (25) &c., bracketing εὑρηκέναι as of doubtful authority, omitted as it is by B.

Grot., Le Clerc, and Wetst. punctuate, τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν; εὑρηκ.… σάρκα:—and Matthaï, τί οὖν; ἐροῦμ.… σάρκα; supplying δικαιοσύνην (or more rightly an indefinite τι) after εὑρηκέναι. But as Thol. well remarks, both these methods of punctuating would presuppose that Paul had given some reason in the preceding verses for imagining that Abraham had gained some advantage according to the flesh: which is not the case.


Verse 2

2.] For if Abraham was [not ‘were’ as E. V.] justified (assuming, as a fact known to all, that he was justified by some means) by works, he hath matter of boasting (not expressed here whether in the sight of men, or of God, but taken generally: the proposition being assumed, ‘He that has earned justification by works, has whereof to boast’). Then, in disproof of this,—that Abraham has matter of boasting,—whatever men might think of him, or attribute to him (e.g. the perfect keeping of the law, as the Jews did), one thing at least is clear, that he has none before God. ( πρός, probably as in the second ref., with, in the sense of chez: apud Deum.) This we can prove, (Romans 4:3) for what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God (God’s promise) and it ( τὸ πιστεῦσαι) was reckoned (so LXX. Heb., ‘He reckoned it’) to him as (ch. Romans 2:26) righteousness.

The whole question so much mooted between Protestants on the one hand, and Romanists, Arminians, and Socinians on the other, as to whether this righteousness was reckoned (1) ‘per fidem,’ being God’s righteousness imputed to the sinner; or (2) ‘propter fidem,’ so that God made Abraham righteous on account of the merit of his faith, lies in fact in a small compass, if what has gone before be properly taken into account. The Apostle has proved Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin: utterly unable by works of their own to attain to righteousness. Now faith, in the second sense mentioned above, is strictly and entirely a work, and as such would be the efficient cause of man’s justification,—which, by what has preceded, it cannot be. It will therefore follow, that it was not the act of believing which was reckoned to him as a righteous act, or on account of which perfect righteousness was laid to his charge, but that the fact of his trusting God to perform His promise introduced him into the blessing promised. God declared his purpose (Genesis 12:3) of blessing all the families of the earth in Abraham, and again (Genesis 15:5) that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, when as yet he had no son. Abraham believed this promise, and became partaker of this blessing. But this blessing was, justification by faith in Christ. Now Abraham could not, in the strict sense of the words, be justified by faith in Christ,—nor is it necessary to suppose that he directed his faith forward to the promised Redeemer in Person; but in so far as God’s gracious purpose was revealed to him, he grasped it by faith, and that righteousness which was implied, so far, in it, was imputed to him. Some have said (Tholuck, e.g.) that the parallel is incomplete—Abraham’s faith having been reckoned to him for righteousness, whereas, in our case, the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to us as our righteousness, by faith. But the incompleteness lies in the nature of the respective cases. In his case, the righteousness itself was not yet manifested. He believed implicitly, taking the promise, with all it involved and implied, as true. This then was his way of entering into the promise, and by means of his faith was bestowed upon him that full justification which that faith never apprehended. Thus his faith itself, the mere fact of implicit trust in God, was counted to him for righteousness. But though the same righteousness is imputed to us who believe, and by means of faith also, it is no longer the mere fact of believing implicitly in God’s truth, but the reception of Christ Jesus the Lord by faith, which justifies us (see Romans 4:23-25 and note). As it was then the realization of God’s words by faith, so now: but we have the Person of the Lord Jesus for the object of faith, explicitly revealed: he had not. In both cases justification is gratuitous, and is by faith; and so far, which is as far as the argument here requires, the parallel is strict and complete.


Verse 4

4. τῷ ἐργαζομ.] (q. d. τῷ ἐργάτῃ, but the part. is used because of the negative τῷ μὴ ἐργαζ. following)—to the workman (him that works for hire, that earns wages, compare προσηργάσατο, Luke 19:16) his wages are not reckoned according to (as a matter of) grace (favour), but according to (as a matter of) debt. The stress is on κατὰ χάριν, not on λογίζεται, which in this first member of the sentence, is used hardly in the strict sense, of imputing or reckoning, but of allotting or apportioning:—its use being occasioned by the stricter λογίζεται below. And the sentence is a general one, not with any peculiar reference to Abraham,—except that after κατὰ χάριν we may supply ὡς τῷ ἀβραάμ, if we will; for this is evidently assumed.


Verse 5

5.] But to him who works not (for hire,—is not an ἐργάτης looking for his μισθός) but believes on (casts himself in simple trust and humility on) Him who justifies (accounts just, as in Romans 4:3) the ungodly (‘impious:’ stronger than ‘unrighteous:’—no allusion to Abraham’s having formerly been in idolatry,—for the sentence following on Romans 4:4, which is general and of universal application, must also be general,—including of course Abraham: ἀσέβεια is the state of all men by nature),—his faith is reckoned as righteousness. κατὰ χάριν is of course implied.


Verse 6

6. λέγ. τὸν μακ.] pronounces the blessedness, ‘the congratulation:’ in allusion perhaps to the Heb. form, אַשְׁרֵי ‘(O) the blessings of,’.… It is very clear that this righteousness must be χωρὶς ἔργων, because its imputation consists in the remission and hiding of offences, whereas none can be legally righteous in whom there is any, even the smallest offence.


Verses 6-8

6–8.] The same is confirmed by a passage from David. This is not a fresh example, but a confirmation of the assertion involved in Romans 4:5, that a man may believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, and have his faith reckoned for righteousness. The applicability of the text depends on the persons alluded to being sinners, and having sin not reckoned to them.

ἀσεβεῖς and λογίζομαι are the two words to be illustrated. The Psalm, strictly speaking, says nothing of the imputation of righteousness,—but it is implied by Paul, that the remission of sin is equivalent to the imputation of righteousness—that there is no negative state of innocence—none intermediate between acceptance for righteousness, and rejection for sin.


Verse 8

8.] οὐ μὴ λογίσηται, as the same construction usually in the N. T., is future (Winer, edn. 6, § 56. 3), and must be referred to the great final judgment. Or we may say with Olsh. that the expression is an O. T. one, regarding sin as lying covered by the divine long-suffering till the completion of the work of Christ, at which time first real forgiveness of sins was imparted to the ancient believers; compare Matthew 27:53; 1 Peter 3:18. In this last view the future will only refer to all such cases as should arise.


Verse 9

9. ἐπί] sc. λέγεται, see reff.

The form of the question, with ἢ καί, presupposes an affirmative answer to the latter clause; which affirmative answer is then made the ground of the argumentation in Romans 4:10-12 :—On the uncircumcision (-cised) also. For we say, &c. The stress is on τῷ ἀβραάμ, not on ἡ πίστις: for we say that TO ABRAHAM faith was reckoned for righteousness.


Verses 9-12

9–12.] This declaration of blessedness applies to circumcised and uncircumcised alike. For Abraham himself was thus Justified when in UNCIRCUMCISION, and was then pronounced the father of the faithful, uncircumcised as well as circumcised.

μακαρισμός of course includes the fact, on account of which the congratulation is pronounced,—the justification itself.


Verse 10

10.] πῶς, under what circumstances? The interval between the recognition of his faith (Genesis 15:6) and his circumcision, was perhaps as much as twenty-five, certainly not less (Genesis 17:25) than fourteen years.


Verse 11

11.] And he received (from God) the sign (token, or symbol) of circumcision (gen. of apposition, see reff. The reading περιτομήν appears to have been an alteration on account of σφραγῖδα following), a seal (the Targum on Song of Solomon 3:8, cited by Tholuck, has the expression, ‘the seal of circumcision,’ and in Sohar, Leviticus 6:21, it is called ‘a holy sign.’ So also Baptism is called in the Acta Thomæ, § 26, ἡ σφραγὶς τοῦ λουτροῦ, and elsewhere in the Fathers simply ἡ σφραγίς. Grabe, Spicil. Patr. i. 333) of the righteousness (to stamp, and certify the righteousness) of the faith (gen. of apposition (but not in appos. with δικ. by construction),—‘of the righteousness which consisted in his faith,’—not, ‘of his justification by faith:’ the present argument treats of faith accounted as righteousness) which was (or, ‘which he had:’ τῆς may refer either to δικ. or to πίστ.,—but better to the former, because the object is to shew that the righteousness was imputed in uncircumcision) during his uncircumcision. In literal historical matter of fact, Abraham received circumcision as a seal of the covenant between God and him (Genesis 17:1-14). But this covenant was only a renewal of that very one, on the promise of which Abraham’s faith was exercised, Genesis 15:5-6,—and each successive renewal of which was a fresh approval of that faith. The Apostle’s point is,—that the righteousness was reckoned, and the promise made, to Abraham, not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι.…] In order that he might be (not ‘so that he is;’ see Galatians 3:7) the father of all in uncircumcision ( διὰ, see reff.,—‘conditionis’) that believe.

Abraham is the father of the faithful. But the triumph and recognition of that faith whereby he was constituted so, was not during his circumcision, but during his uncircumcision:—therefore the faithful, his descendants, must not be confined to the circumcised, but must take in the uncircumcised also.

On πατέρα in this sense, Tholuck compares the expression Genesis 4:20; 1 Maccabees 2:54 ( φινεὲς ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ ζηλῶσαι ζῆλον), and Maimonides, ‘Moses is the father of all the prophets who succeeded him.’ See also our Lord’s saying, John 8:37; John 8:39. The Rabbinical book Michlal Jophi on Malachi 2. (Thol.) has a sentiment remarkably coincident with that in our text: “Abraham is the father of all those who follow his faith.”

εἰς τὸ λογ. κ. τ. λ.] (is in fact parenthetical, whether brackets are used or not; for otherwise the construction from the former to the latter πατέρα would not proceed) in order that the righteousness (which Abraham’s faith was reckoned as being,—the righteousness of God, then hidden though imputed, but now revealed in Jesus Christ) might be imputed to them also.


Verse 12

12. καὶ ( εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν) πατέρα περιτομῆς.…] And (that he might be) father of the circumcision (the circumcised) to those (dat. commodi ‘for those,’ ‘in the case of those’) who are not only (physically) of the circumcision, but also who walk (the inversion of the article appears to be in order to bring out more markedly τοῖς ἐκ περιτ. and τοῖς στοιχ.,—who are not only οἱ ἐκ περιτ., but also οἱ στοιχοῦντες.…) in the footsteps (reff.) of the faith of our father (speaking here as a Jew) Abraham (which he had) while he was in uncircumcision. (The art. would make it ‘during his uncircumcision,’—but the sense is better without it, the word being generalized.)


Verse 13

13.] γάρ, strictly for. The argumentation is an expansion of πατέρα πάντ. τῶν πιστευόντων above. If these believers are Abraham’s seed, then his promised inheritance is theirs.

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. None of these it was, as matter of historical fact.

For not through the law was the promise (made) to Abraham, or ( in negative sentences answers to καί in affirm., see Matthew 5:17) to his seed, viz. that he should be heir of the world, but by the righteousness of faith. This specification of the promise has perplexed most of the Commentators. The actual promise, Gen. (Genesis 12:2-3) Genesis 13:14-14; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8, was the possession of the land of Canaan. But the Rabbis already had seen, and Paul, who had been brought up in their learning, held fast the truth,—that much more was intended in the words which accompany this promise, ‘In thee (or in thy seed) shall all families of the earth be blessed,’ than the mere possession of Canaan. They distinctly trace the gift of the world to Abraham to this promise, not to the foregoing. So Bemidbar Rabb. xiv. 202. 3 (Wetst.),—‘Hortus est mundus, quem Deus tradidit Abrahamo, cui dictum est, “et eris benedictio” ’ (see other citations in Wetst.). The inheritance of the world then is not the possession of Canaan merely (so that κόσμου should = γῆς) either literally, or as a type of a better possession,—but that ultimate lordship over the whole world which Abraham, as the father of the faithful in all peoples, and Christ, as the Seed of Promise, shall possess: the former figuratively indeed and only implicitly,—the latter personally and actually. See ch. Romans 8:17; Matthew 5:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Corinthians 15:24.

Another difficulty, that this promise was made chronologically before the reckoning of his faith for righteousness, is easily removed by remembering that the (indefinite) making of the promise is here treated of as the whole process of its assertion, during which Abraham’s faith was shewn, and the promise continually confirmed. αὐτόν includes his seed.


Verses 13-17

13–17.] Not through the LAW, but through THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH, was THE INHERITANCE OF THE WORLD promised to Abraham: so that not only they who are of the law, but they who follow Abraham’s faith are HEIRS OF THIS PROMISE.


Verse 14

14.] The supposition is now made which Romans 4:13 denied,—and its consequences shewn. For if they who are of the law (who belong to the law, see reff.: not, ‘who keep the law,’ nor is δίκαιοι to be supplied) are inheritors (i.e. inherit ‘ejus rei causâ,’ by virtue of the law: they may be inheritors by the righteousness of faith, but not quoad their legal standing), faith is (thereby) made empty (robbed of its virtue and rendered useless), and the promise is annulled (has no longer place). How and why so? The Apostle himself immediately gives the reason.


Verse 15

15.] For the law works (brings about, gives occasion to) wrath (which from its very nature, excludes promise, which is an act of grace,—and faith, which is an attribute of confidence);—but where (or, for where; but I should regard γάρ as introduced to suit the idea of the second clause rendering a reason for the first) there is no law (lit. ‘where the law is not’), neither (is there) transgression. ‘We should rather expect (says De W.) the affirmative clause, “And where the law is, there is transgression:” but the negative refers to the time before the Mosaic law, when there was no transgression and therefore also no wrath.’ Yes; but not because there was no transgression then; the purpose of the Apostle here is not to deny the existence of the law of God written in the heart (which itself brings in the knowledge of sin) before Moses, but to shew that no promise of inheritance can be by the law, because the property of the law is, the more it is promulgated, to reveal transgression more,—not to unfold grace. So that comparatively (see notes on ch. 7) there was no transgression before the law of Moses; and if we conceive a state in which the law whether written or unwritten should be altogether absent (as in the brute creation), there would be no transgression whatever.

But observe (see ch. Romans 5:12-14) that this reasoning does not touch the doctrine of the original taint of our nature in Adam,—only referring to the discrimination of acts, words, and thoughts by the conscience in the light of the law: for παράβασις is not natural corruption, but an act of transgression: nor does the Apostle here deny the former, even in the imaginable total absence of the law of God.


Verse 16

16.] For this (viz. the following) reason it (the inheritance,—not the promise; the promise was not strictly speaking ἐκ πίστεως:—nor must we supply they, meaning the heirs, who although they might fairly be said to be ἐκ πίστεως (compare οἱ ἐκ νόμου above, and reff.) could hardly be without harshness described as being κατὰ χάριν) was by faith that it might be (strictly the purpose;—not, ‘so that it was’) according to grace (free unmerited favour. As the law bringing the knowledge of guilt, works wrath,—so the promise, awakening faith, manifests God’s free grace,—the end for which it was given); in order that the promise might be sure (not, ‘so that the promise was sure:’ this was the result, but the Apostle states this as the aim and end of the inheritance being by faith,—quoad the seed of Abraham,—that they all might be inheritors,—as the manifestation of God’s grace was the higher aim and end) to all the seed, not only to that (part of it) which is of the law (see Romans 4:14), but to that which is of the faith (walks in the steps of the faith, Romans 4:12) of Abraham (it is altogether wrong to make ἀβραάμ depend on σπέρματι expressed or understood, as Œcum., Koppe, and Fritzsche). The part of the seed which is of the law here is of course confined to believing Jews; the seed being believers only. This has been sometimes lost sight of, and the whole argument of Romans 4:13-16 treated as if it applied to the doctrine of justification by faith without the works of the law, a point already proved, and now presupposed,—the present argument being an historical and metaphysical one, proceeding on the facts of Abraham’s history, and the natures respectively of the law and grace, to prove him to be the father of all believers, uncircumcised as well as circumcised.

ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν] By the last declaration, the paternity of Abraham, which is co-extensive with the inheritance, has been extended to all who are of his faith; here therefore it is reasserted: ἡμῶν meaning τῶν πιστευόντων.


Verse 17

17. καθὼς γέγρ.] The words (ref.) are spoken of the numerous progeny of Abraham according to the flesh: but not without a reference to that covenant, according to the terms of which all nations were to be blessed in him. The Apostle may here cite it as comparing his natural paternity of many nations with his spiritual one of all believers: but it seems more probable that he regards the prophecy as directly announcing a paternity far more extensive than mere physical fact substantiated.

These words are parenthetical, being merely a confirmation by Scripture testimony of ὅς ἐστιν πατ. πάντ. ἡμ., with which (see below) the following words are immediately connected.

κατέναντι οὖ ἐπίστευσεν θεοῦ] The meaning appears to be, ‘Abraham was the father of us all,—though not physically, nor in actuality, seeing that we were not as yet,—yet in the sight and estimation of God,—in his relation with God, with whom no obstacles of nature or time have force.’

The resolution of the attraction must be κατέναντι θεοῦ, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν, as in ref. Luke, before God, in whose sight he believed. (Chrysostom’s interpretation (and similarly Theodoret, al.),— ὥσπερ ὁ θεὸς οὐκ ἔστι μερικὸς θεός, ἀλλὰ πάντων πατήρ, οὕτω καὶ αὐτὸς.… τὸ γὰρκατέναντιὁμοίως ἐστί,—does not fall in with the context, and is certainly a mistake.)

τοῦ ζωοπ. τ. νεκρ] Who quickens the dead,—a general description of God’s almighty creative power (see 1 Timothy 6:13), applied particularly to the matter in hand—the deadness of generative physical power in Abraham himself, which was quickened by God (but νεκρούς is a wider term than νενεκρωμένον, the genus, of which that is a species). The peculiar excellence of Abraham’s faith, that it overleaped the obstacles of physical incapacity, and nonentity, and believed implicitly God’s promise. Compare 2 Corinthians 1:9.

καὶ καλ. τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα] Much difficulty has been found here: and principally owing to an idea that this clause must minutely correspond with the former, and furnish another instance of God’s creative Almightiness. Hence Commentators have given to καλεῖν the sense which it has in reff., ‘to summon into being,’ and have understood ὡς ὄντα as if it were εἰς τὸ εἶναι. Thus, more or less, and with various attempts to escape from the violence done to the construction, Chrys., Grot., Elsn., Wolf, Fritzsche, Tholuck, Stuart, De Wette, al. I see however in this latter clause not a repetition or expansion of the former, but a new attribute of God’s omnipotence and eternity, on which Abraham’s faith was fixed, Who calleth (nameth, speaketh of) the things that are not, as being (as if they were). This He did in the present case with regard to the seed of Abraham, which did not as yet exist:—the two key-texts to this word and clause being, ἐν ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα ch. Romans 9:7 (see note there),—and Acts 7:5, ἐπηγγείλατο δοῦναι αὐτῷ εἰς κατάσχεσιν αὐτὴν καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ μετʼ αὐτόν, οὐκ ὄντος αὐτῷ τέκνου. These τέκνα, which were at present in the category of τὰ μὴ ὄντα, and the nations which should spring, physically or spiritually, from him, God ἐκάλει ὡς ὄντα, spoke of as having an existence, which word Abraham believed. And here, as in the other clause, the καλεῖν τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα is not confined to the case in point, but is a general attribute of all God’s words concerning things of time, past, present, and future, being to His Omnipotence and Omniscience, all one. His purposes, when formed, are accomplished, save in so far as that evolution of secondary causes and effects intervenes, which is also His purpose. This also Abraham apprehended by his faith, which rested on God’s absolute power to do what He had promised (see below).


Verse 18

18.] Who against hope (where there was nothing to hope) believed in ( ἐπί, with dat., in its literal import signifying close adherence, is accordingly used to connect an act with that to which it is immediately attached as its ground or accompaniment. Thus here, the hope existed as the necessary concomitant and in some sense the condition of the faith) hope, in order to his becoming the father of many nations (i.e. as a step in the process of his becoming, and one necessary to that process going forward. He would never have become, &c., had be not believed. To render εἰς τὸ γεν. ‘that he should become,’ and connect it with ἐπίστευσεν (Theophyl., Beza, all., De Wette) is against Paul’s usage, who never connects πιστεύω with a neut. inf.,—and not justified by Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:10.

The mere consecutive sense, ‘so that he became,’ here, as every where, is a weakening of the sense (see however note on ch. Romans 1:20),—and besides, would introduce an objective clause in a passage which all refers subjectively to Abraham).

οὕτως] viz. as the stars of heaven: see l. c.,—and compare Psalms 147:4.


Verses 18-22

18–22.] A more detailed description of this (Abraham’s) faith, as reposed on God’s Omnipotence.


Verse 19

19.] The reading (with or without οὐ?) must first be considered. Reading οὐ, the sense will be, And not being weak in faith, he paid no attention to, &c. Omitting οὐ, ‘And not being weak in (his) faith, he was well aware of, &c.—but did not,’ &c. Of these, the second agrees the better with εἰς δὲ τὴν ἐπ. Romans 4:20,—but the first very much better suits the context; the object being, to extol Abraham’s faith, not to introduce the new and somewhat vapid notice of his being well aware of those facts of which it may be assumed as a matter of course that he could not be ignorant. The Apostle does not want to prove that Abraham was in his sound senses when he believed the promise, but that he was so strong in faith as to be able to overleap all difficulties in its way. The erasure of οὐ seems to have been occasioned by the use of καί instead of οὐδέ before τὴν νέκρωσιν. And the following δέ, without being strongly adversative, falls well into its place—He took no account of, &c. but.…

The rendering, ‘And he did not, being weak in faith, take account of, &c.’ (omitting οὐ, and making μή the ruling neg. particle of the clause), is ungrammatical: οὐ would be required.

Abraham did indeed feel and express the difficulty (Genesis 17:17), but his faith overcame it, and he ceased to regard it. But most probably Paul here refers only to Genesis 15:5-6, where his belief was implicit and unquestioning.

ἑκατοντ.] Abraham’s own expression in l. c., where he also describes Sarah as being 90. His exact age was 99. Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:24.


Verse 20

20.] On δέ, see above. But with regard to (ref.) the promise of God he doubted not through unbelief—(De Wette thinks from the analogy of πιστεύειν εἴς τι,—that εἰς τ. ἐπ. is perhaps the immediate object of διακρίνεσθαι: q. d. ‘did not disbelieve in the promise of God’), but was strong (lit. ‘was strengthened,’ ‘shewed himself strong’) in faith (dat. of reference, ‘with regard to faith.’ τῇ ἀπ. and τῇ πίστ., because both are here strictly abstract, being set against one another as opposites).

δοὺς δόξ. τῷ θ.] viz. by recognizing His Almighty power (see reff., especially Luke).


Verse 21

21.] πληρ., see ch. Romans 14:5, being fully persuaded.

ἐπήγγελται is not passive (nor nom.), but middle, and ‘God’ the subject; that, what He has promised, He is able also to perform.


Verse 22

22.] διό, on account of the nature of this faith, which the Apostle has now since Romans 4:18 been setting forth;—because it was a simple unconditional credence of God and His promise. If we read καί, it imports besides being thus great and admirable, it was reckoned to him for righteousness:— ἐλογίσθη, viz. τὸ πιστεῦσαι τῷ θεῷ.


Verse 23

23.] ἐγράφη, was written, not the more usual γέγραπται, ‘is written:’ similarly in the parallel, 1 Corinthians 10:11; and in our ch. Romans 15:4. The aorist asserts the design of God’s Spirit at the time of penning the words: the perfect may imply that, but more directly asserts the intent of our Scriptures as we now find them. Now it was not written for his sake alone (merely to bear testimony to him and his faith) that it was reckoned unto him,—but for our sake also (for our benefit, to bear testimony to us of the efficacy of faith like his. Observe that διὰ in the two clauses has not exactly the same sense,—‘for his sake’ being = (1) to celebrate his faith,—and (2) for our sake = for our profit; see on Romans 4:25), to whom it (i.e. τὸ πιστεύειν τῷ θεῷ, as Romans 4:22) shall be reckoned (for righteousness:— μέλλει λογ. is a future, as ch. Romans 3:30; Romans 5:19 (Thol.),—not, as Olsh. al., spoken as from the time and standing of Abraham), who believe on (this specifies the ἡμᾶς: and the belief is not a mere historical but a fiducial belief) Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (the central fact in our redemption, as the procreation of the seed of promise was in the performance of the promise to Abraham, see ch. Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:14 ff.; and resembling it in the ζωοποιῆσαι τοὺς νεκρούς).


Verses 23-25

23–25.] Application of that which is said of Abraham, to all believers on Christ.


Verse 24

24.] ἐκ νεκρῶν is almost (see Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10) always anarthrous, as indeed νεκροί sometimes is (for ‘the dead’) in classic writers, e.g. Thucyd. iv. 14; Romans 4:10, end: and see Winer, edn. 6, § 19. 1. The omission may in this phrase be accounted for by the preposition (Middleton, ch. vi. 1): but I suspect Winer is right in looking for the cause of the absence of the article after prepositions rather in the usage of the particular substantive than in any idiom of general application.


Verse 25

25.] Here we have another example of the alliterative use of the same preposition where the meanings are clearly different (see above, Romans 4:23-24). Our Lord was delivered up (to death) for or on account of our sins (i.e. because we had sinned):—He was also raised up (from the dead) for or on account of our justification (i.e. not because we had been, but that we might be justified). This separate statement of the great object of the death and resurrection of Christ must be rightly understood, and each member of it not unduly pressed to the exclusion of the other. The great complex event by which our justification (death unto sin and new birth unto righteousness) has been made possible, may be stated in one word as the GLORIFICATION of Christ. But this glorification consisted of two main parts,—His Death, and His Resurrection. In the former of these, He was made a sacrifice for sin; in the latter, He elevated our humanity into the participation of that Resurrection-life, which is also, by union with Him, the life of every justified believer. So that, when taking the two apart, the Death of Christ is more properly placed in close reference to forgiveness of sins,—His Resurrection, to justification unto life everlasting. And thus the Apostle treats these two great events, here and in the succeeding chapters. But he does not view them respectively as the causes, exclusively of one another, of forgiveness and justification: e.g. (1) ch. Romans 5:9, we are said to be justified by His blood, and 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him: and (2) 1 Corinthians 15:17, if Christ is not raised, we are yet in our sins. So that, though these great events have their separate propriety of reference to the negative and positive sides of our justification, the one of them cannot be treated separately and exclusively of the other, any more than can the negative side of our justification, the non-imputation of our sin, without the positive, the imputation of God’s righteousness.

It will be seen from what I have said above that I cannot agree with Bp. Horsley’s view, that as our transgressions were the cause of Jesus being delivered up, so our justification must be the cause of His being raised again. Such a pressing of the same sense on διὰ is not necessary, when Paul’s manifold usages of the same preposition are considered: and the regarding our justification (in the sense here) as a fact past, is inconsistent with the very next words, δικαιωθέντες ἐκ πίστεως, which shew that not the objective fact, but its subjective realization, is here meant.—In these words (of Romans 4:25) the Apostle introduces the great subject of chaps. 5–8,—DEATH, as connected with SIN,—and LIFE, as connected with RIGHTEOUSNESS. The various ramifications of this subject see in the headings below.

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 4:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/romans-4.html. 1863-1878.


Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 19th, 2018
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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