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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Romans 4:17

(as it is written, "A father of many nations have I made you ") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Abraham;   Catholicity;   Faith;   Justification;   Life;   Quickening;   Quotations and Allusions;   Resurrection;   Salvation;   Works;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Adoption;   Creation;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Abraham;   Circumcision;   Isaac;   Nation;   Sarah;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Abraham;   Biblical Theology;   Call, Calling;   Descent into Hell (Hades);   Life;   Old Testament in the New Testament, the;   Worship;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Atonement;   Father;   Genealogy of Jesus Christ;   Mary, the Virgin;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Church;   Gentiles;   Justification;   Life;   Old Testament Quotations in the New Testament;   Romans, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Hebrews, Epistle to;   Justification, Justify;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abraham ;   Fruit;   Promise;   Resurrection of the Dead;   Righteousness;   Romans Epistle to the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Fasting;   Impute;   Quicken;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Hebrews, Epistle to the;   Inspiration;   Omnipotence;   Resurrection;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Saul of Tarsus;  
Unselected Authors

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Romans 4:17. As it is written, I have made thee a father — That Abraham's being a father of many nations has relation to the covenant of God made with him, may be seen, Genesis 17:4, Genesis 17:5 : Behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations: neither shall thy name any more be called Abram; but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee, i.e. he was constituted the head of many nations, the Gentile world, by virtue of the covenant, which God made then with him.

God, who quickeneth the dead, c.] God is the most proper object of trust and dependence for being almighty, eternal, and unchangeable, he can even raise the dead to life, and call those things which be not as though they were. He is the Creator, he gave being when there was none; he can as infallibly assure the existence of those things which are not, as if they were already actually in being. And, on this account, he can never fail of accomplishing whatsoever he has promised.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Some examples (4:1-25)

To illustrate what he has just been teaching, Paul refers to the example of Abraham. Abraham was justified because of his faith, not because of any good deeds that he did (4:1-3). (To understand the illustrations concerning Abraham that follow, read Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15:1-6; Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 17:15-22; Genesis 18:1-15; Genesis 21:1-21.)

Righteousness is a gift received by faith, not payment for work that a person does (4-5). David, as well as Abraham, knew that righteousness comes only through God’s grace, not through one’s good works (6-8). It has nothing to do with circumcision either, because Abraham was justified before he was circumcised. He received circumcision later, as an outward sign of the inward faith that he already had. He might be called the spiritual father of all who are justified by faith, whether Jews or Gentiles (9-12).
Neither has this righteousness anything to do with the law, because Abraham simply accepted God’s promise by faith. He did not have to work for it by trying to keep rules. The law does not make people righteous. It only shows up their disobedience and so brings God’s wrath upon them (13-15).
The principle underlying God’s dealings with humankind, Jews and Gentiles alike, is that he gives his promises by grace, and people receive them by faith (16). God promised childless Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude of people. Although Abraham and Sarah were well past the age when they might normally expect to have children, Abraham still trusted God’s promise and believed God could do the impossible (17-21). God accepted Abraham as righteous because Abraham trusted him to do what he had promised. In like manner God will accept as righteous those who trust for their salvation in what Christ has done for them through his death and resurrection (22-25).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

(As it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee) before him whom he believed, even God, who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were.

Upon the occasion of God's making the land covenant, sealed by circumcision, with Abraham, God made mention of another covenant previously made with Abraham, and used the past tense to show that the previous covenant had nothing to do with the covenant of land and circumcision about to be made. Paul's introduction of the quotation from Genesis 17:5, included in parenthesis in this verse, and especially God's use of the past tense, "have I made thee," proves that the previous covenant was distinct from the land covenant about to be made in the immediate future, and also indicated that the previous covenant (the great promise) was fulfilled by,Christ the Saviour of the world.

The law of Moses, which the Judaizing teachers were so zealously seeking to fasten upon Gentile Christians, has nothing to do with the promise, or covenant, to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations.[14]

The last two clauses of this verse refer to Isaac's being born to Abraham and Sarah, contrary to nature, when both the parents were of advanced age, and "as good as dead" (Hebrews 11:12).

A father of many nations have I made thee ... At the time God said these words to Abraham, the birth of Isaac was still far in the future, and those "many nations" existed only as a promise of God; but God had promised them and, therefore, did not hesitate to speak of them as already born. This is prophetic tense, in which God speaks of the future as though it were past, and in which, also, God's prophets, speaking in his name, foretell future events.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

As it is written - Genesis 17:5.

I have made thee - The word used here in the Hebrew Genesis 17:5 means literally, to give, to grant; and also, to set, or constitute. This is also the meaning of the Greek word used both by the Septuagint and the apostle. The quotation is taken literally from the Septuagint. The argument of the apostle is founded in part on the fact that the past tense is used - I have made thee - and that God spoke of a thing as already done, which he had promised or purposed to do. The sense is, he had, in his mind or purpose, constituted him the father of many nations; and so certain was the fulfillment of the divine purposes, that he spoke of it as already accomplished.

Of many nations - The apostle evidently understands this promise as referring, not to his natural descendants only, but to the great multitude who should believe as he did.

Before him - In his view, or sight; that is, God regarded him as such a father.

Whom he believed - Whose promise he believed; or in whom he trusted.

Who quickeneth the dead - Who gives life to the dead, Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5. This expresses the power of God to give life. But why it is used here has been a subject of debate. I regard it as having reference to the strong natural improbability of the fulfillment of the prophecy when it was given, arising from the age of Abraham and Sarah, Romans 4:19. Abraham exercised power in the God who gives life, and who gives it as he pleases. It is one of his prerogatives to give life to the dead (νεκρους nekrous), to raise up those who are in their graves; and a power similar to that, or strongly reminding of that, was manifested in fulfilling the promise to Abraham. The giving of this promise, and its fulfillment, were such as strongly to remind us that God has power to give life to the dead.

And calleth ... - That is, those things which he foretels and promises are so certain, that he may speak of them as already in existence. Thus, in relation to Abraham, God, instead of simply promising that he would make him the father of many nations, speaks of it as already done, “I have made thee,” etc. In his own mind, or purpose, he had so constituted him, and it was so certain that it would take place, that he might speak of it as already done.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians

4:17: (as it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee) before him whom he believed, (even) God, who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were.

Paul returned to the Old Testament for a quotation. He has already offered several citations (1:17; 2:24; 3:4; 3:10) and here he took one from Genesis 17:5 (take a moment to read this verse). God promised that Abraham would be a father to “many nations.” Even Abraham’s name reflects this promise. The beginning of this name (Ab) conveys the meaning of father. The remainder of it (raham) expresses the idea of many nations. After God made the promise in Genesis 17:1-27, Abraham believed. Paul said, “before him whom he believed.” Abraham was sure that God would fulfill this promise even though he and Sarah were past their childbearing years (this thought will be developed in verses 19-22).

Before examining this material a comment must be made about God’s giving “life to the dead.” This statement may easily be lifted out of context and applied to many things including the resurrection. Divorcing this statement from its context is mishandling the text. The meaning of the words is carefully explained in verse 19. If we wish to properly apply the thought, we may say that only God is capable of certain actions. When Sarah and Abraham could not bring a child into the world on their own, God set aside natural law and allowed Sarah to become pregnant. Sarah had never given birth, and when this promise was made, her body was too old for the natural process to work. Abraham’s body was as good as dead. Several obstacles had to be overcome for Sarah to become pregnant. A similar point is found in the spiritual realm. Man has never been able to justify himself. Man cannot save himself. If he is to be saved, there must be divine intervention.

In commenting on Sarah and Abraham Paul also said God knows the future. He “calls the things that are not as though they were.” That is, God is so confident in His knowledge of the future He calls (says) what will happen before the events occur (compare Isaiah 46:10 and Acts 2:23). Today, announcers can watch and describe events as they happen. God can give this same type of “blow by blow” description of any event, person, or circumstance, but He does so before it happens. In this context, Paul reminded readers that God predicted the birth of Sarah and Abraham’s son.

A single term (zoopoieo) in the original text is the basis for “gives life.” Normally, this term is translated “quickened” in the KJV. For a list of other places in the New Testament that use this term, see John 5:21; John 6:63; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Corinthians 15:36; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:6; Galatians 3:21; 1 Timothy 6:13; 1 Peter 3:18. Many of these verses use this term in a spiritual sense (salvation). A study of this term shows that the power to make alive belongs exclusively to God.

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Price, Brad "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Living By Faith: Commentary on Romans & 1st Corinthians".

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

17. Whom he believed, who quickens the dead, etc. In this circuitous form is expressed the very substance of Abraham’s faith, that by his example an opening might be made for the Gentiles. He had indeed to attain, in a wonderful way, the promise which he had heard from the Lord’s mouth, since there was then no token of it. A seed was promised to him as though he was in vigor and strength; but he was as it were dead. It was hence necessary for him to raise up his thoughts to the power of God, by which the dead are quickened. It was therefore not strange that the Gentiles, who were barren and dead, should be introduced into the same society. He then who denies them to be capable of grace, does wrong to Abraham, whose faith was sustained by this thought, — that it matters not whether he was dead or not who is called by the Lord; to whom it is an easy thing, even by a word, to raise the dead through his own power.

We have here also a type and a pattern of the call of us all, by which our beginning is set before our eyes, not as to our first birth, but as to the hope of future life, — that when we are called by the Lord we emerge from nothing; for whatever we may seem to be we have not, no, not a spark of anything good, which can render us fit for the kingdom of God. That we may indeed on the other hand be in a suitable state to hear the call of God, we must be altogether dead in ourselves. The character of the divine calling is, that they who are dead are raised by the Lord, that they who are nothing begin to be something through his power. The word call ought not to be confined to preaching, but it is to be taken, according to the usage of Scripture, for raising up; and it is intended to set forth more fully the power of God, who raises up, as it were by a nod only, whom he wills. (143)

(143) The idea of commanding to existence, or of effecting, is given by many Commentators to the word καλοῦντος; but this seems not necessary. The simple notion of calling, naming, regarding, or representing, is more consistent with the passage, and with the construction of the sentence: and the various modes of rendering it, which critics have proposed, have arisen from not taking the word in its most obvious meaning. “The literal version is, and who calls things not existing as existing,” — και καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα. The reference is evidently to the declaration, “I have made thee the father of many nations.” This had then no real existence; but God represents it as having an existence already. Far-fetched meanings are sometimes adopted, when the plainest and the most obvious is passed by. — Ed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 4

Now what shall we say concerning Abraham the father, as pertaining to the flesh, what did he find? For if Abraham were justified by his works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God ( Romans 4:1-2 ).

If it was Abraham's works that brought him justification, then Abraham could boast in his works. He could say, "I left my home, I left my family on the other side of the Euphrates River, and I journeyed not even knowing where I was going, just waiting for God to show me. And I was willing to offer my son." He could have boasted if he was justified by his works, but he could not have boasted in God; he would have had to have boasted in himself.

But what does the scripture say about Abraham? [It says,] Abraham believed God and it was [imputed or] counted unto him for righteousness ( Romans 4:3 ).

Why? He just believed in God, that is what God accounted for righteousness.

Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt ( Romans 4:4 ).

But God will never be a debtor to you; God will never owe you a thing. I am always a debtor to God, but God will never be a debtor to me. Now, if righteousness could come by works, then once I did those works God would owe me salvation. If it were of works, then it would be a debt. God owing me the rewards for my special effort and my work and my sacrifice and my commitment and all.

But it is by faith. It is through grace, God's grace that He gives to me.

But to him that worketh not, but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness ( Romans 4:5 ).

I love it because, you see, it opens the door for me. It keeps the door open for me. I can come to God at any time and expect God to bless me, though I may be a total failure as far as my spiritual walk is concerned. Because God blessed on the basis of His grace, not on the basis of my faithfulness to my devotions. "Chuck, you have been good this week, you have been faithful. You didn't yell at anyone on the freeway, special reward this week." No, not so. Do you know that some . . . I hesitate to say this, but some of the times of God's greatest blessings upon my life have been right after my greatest failures. Because I knew that I just had to cast myself on the grace of God. I knew I couldn't come in my own merit. I knew that I was just bankrupt and I experienced many times the greatest blessings of God upon my life after my greatest failures. We need to rid ourselves of the Santa Claus concept of God. Who brings good little boys all kinds of nice toys out of his big bag, but if you are a bad little boy you will get sticks. He is making out a list and he is checking it twice. He is going to find out who is naughty and nice. The nice ones are going to be rewarded the naughty ones nothing. And I carried that concept of God, and I think God is going to reward me for my good efforts for my faithfulness for my diligence, for whatever my, my, my . . . No, God's blessings are given to me on the basis of His grace, that way it's always available.

The door is never shut. I can always come to God through faith on the basis of God's grace towards me. To him that works not, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. God looks at me tonight as righteous, because I am believing and do believe completely in the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for me in taking my sin and dying in my place. I believe that completely. God accounts that belief for righteousness. God looks at me and says, "Righteous, a righteous man." I accept that, I know me, I know my weaknesses, I know my failings, and that is why I have to cling to Jesus Christ. That is why I dare not stand in myself.

David described this blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputes righteousness without works ( Romans 4:6 ),

In Psalm 32 , David said,

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered ( Romans 4:7 ).

The word blessed is literally, "Oh how happy are they" whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Now if you go back to that you find it very interesting. David talked about that period of time when he sought to hide his own sin. Now, the hand of God was so heavy on him and he became so dried up inside that it was like a drought in summer. His bones were weary, for day and night the hand of God was heavy upon his life, until he finally said, "I am going to confess my sins to the Lord." And God immediately forgave him all of his iniquity. "Oh how happy is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered."

Then he went on even more daring to say,

Oh how happy is the man to whom God does not impute iniquity ( Romans 4:8 ).

That is, the man to whom God has no list. God doesn't impute iniquity unto that man who is believing and trusting in Jesus Christ. What a beautiful position that is where God is not imputing iniquity to me, because of my faith. Now, I would not dare to say this unless it was said in the scriptures. I mean, this seems to be so presumptuous I wouldn't dare to utter it, but the scripture declares it, so I am only declaring what the scripture declares. Oh how happy I am that God accounts me righteous and does not account my iniquities against me because of my faith in Jesus Christ.

God accounts me righteous. Now comes this happiness,

this blessedness then upon only those who are circumcised, or upon those who are uncircumcised also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. But when was this reckoned? when he was circumcised, or when he was uncircumcised? ( Romans 4:9-10 )

When you go back into the record you find that God said of Abraham, "His faith is accounted for righteousness," before he was circumcised. Therefore, this blessedness of having your sins forgiven, of not having God impute iniquity against you because of your faith in God and trust in God comes not from a physical rite of circumcision, but it came to Abraham before he was ever circumcised.

He received the sign of circumcision, which was the seal of that righteousness of the faith which he had even before he was circumcised: that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they be not circumcised; that there righteousness might be imputed unto them also ( Romans 4:11 ):

God's righteousness imputed to all men who believe and the father of circumcision. He is the father of those who are not circumcised who believed and also,

The father of those who are circumcised who believed who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not made to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith ( Romans 4:12-13 ).

God promised this to Abraham 400 years before He ever gave the law. It doesn't come by the law; it doesn't come by the rite of circumcision, which the Jew was trusting in these two things. But God gave it to Abraham before He ever gave the law, before He ever told Abraham to circumcise his sons, in order that it might be applicable to all men, regardless of race.

For they which are of the law be heirs ( Romans 4:14 ),

If they only which are of the law are the heirs, then,

faith is made void, and the promise is nullified. Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression ( Romans 4:14-15 ).

Now you can only transgress the law if there is a law, if there is no law then how can you transgress it? So,

It is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure ( Romans 4:16 )

Or be certain. It can never be certain if it was predicated upon me, or upon my works, or my efforts, or my faithfulness, or whatever. If it were predicated upon that, you would never be certain from day to day. I would never really know if I was saved. I may be saved today, but tomorrow I may blow it bad. If it was predicated upon my works in order that it might be certain, in order that it might be sure, God has established it then through grace and faith.

not to that only which is of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham; who was the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) ( Romans 4:16-17 )

Not just one the Jews.

before him whom he believed, even God, who makes alive the dead, and calls those things which be not as though they were ( Romans 4:17 ).

Now, this is an interesting aspect of God, and I like this. God said to Abraham before Isaac was ever conceived, "Through Sarah shall thy seed be called," and He spoke of Isaac existing before he was ever born. He spoke of him as already existing before he was ever born. Now, God can do that because God lives in the eternal and in the eternal everything is now. God living in the eternal can speak of things as already existing that don't yet exist in the timeframe that we live in, because God living in the eternal sees them as though they already exist, because He knows they are going to exist, though we have not yet caught up to that timeframe. And so God can speak of things that are not as though they are because of living in the eternal.

Now, this is one of the difficulties that we, living in the timeframe, have in understanding God. There is tremendous difficulty in understanding the resurrection of the dead. When does it happen and so forth? The minute my soul and spirit leaves this body, I also then enter into the eternal timeless zone where everything is now. To help confuse the issue, Son 3:15 said, "And that which has been is now, and that which shall be has already been." We are talking about the eternal, no time zone. So that which has been is now, that which shall be has already been; today is tomorrow, and yesterday is today.

All right, let's go up to Pasadena. It's New Years Day. And standing at the corner there on Colorado Boulevard and the Long Beach float is coming down the street now in sight, and we see the band coming in front of it marching. And we see the float go by and we are oohing. Isn't that beautiful? And the float moves down the street, and here comes the Sierra Madre float. And we are now entranced by the beauty of the Sierra Madre float, which a few minutes ago the people on up the street were entranced by its beauty. But now it is past them and it has come to us. But it also passes by and now four blocks down they're oohing over the Sierra Madre float, and we are watching another float come into view. And I, standing at this point, watch the parade go by. Where I am standing, the Sierra Madre float went by four minutes ago. It has now moved on down in the procession down Colorado Boulevard. I am now watching a new float come by. Where this float now is, in four minutes will be where the Sierra Madre float now is. Let's make it the Long Beach. It's easier. Where this float will be the Long Beach float now is. Where the Long Beach float was, this float now is.

Because I am standing at one timeframe of reference and watching it all go by in a procession, it is constantly moving in a procession as does time constantly move in a procession, and I stand and look at it as it passes by. If I could get into the Goodyear Blimp and fly above Pasadena and look down from that observation cabin, I could see the entire parade from the beginning to end all at one time. Thus, I could see the Long Beach float, and I could see Sierra Madre float, and I could see the Mexico float, and all at the same time, because now I am looking down and I see the entire procession at once. I am no longer limited to this one corner and watching it in time frames passing by.

God, looking down on the procession of history, can see the entire scene at once in one view. He can see Adam sitting in the garden, and where Adam was 6000 years ago, I am tonight. I am tonight as I am moving in the procession, but God can still see the whole procession at once. He can see the glorious coming again of Jesus Christ, and He can see the Millennium reign, and He can see the whole thing because He is outside of time looking down and is not limited to the time frames.

Thus, God says, "Oh, that Long Beach float, what a beauty." I haven't seen it yet; it hasn't come by here yet. "Oh, it is a beauty." I have to wait for it to pass by. But God has already seen it and He speaks of it as existing, though in my time reference it hasn't existed yet. It hasn't come by me yet. Time hasn't come this far to me yet, but God living in the eternal, outside of time, sees the entire picture with one view. Thus, God speaks of things as existing, though in my timeframe they have not yet existed. For God sees them; He knows they are going to exist, because He is outside of the timeframe, and thus He speaks, and that is where prophecy comes in. God just speaking of what He is looking at what He can see. He is not bound by time.

Now our puny little finite minds cannot grasp this. I cannot think apart from time. I am bound in my thinking processes in time, and I cannot think apart from time. God can. God sees the whole; I see only the part. We see in part. We know in part. We prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect or complete has come, then these things which are in part will be done away. For we will know them even as we are known.

This interesting aspect about God is given to us here by Paul: God, who makes alive the dead. When God said to Abraham, "Take now your son your only son Isaac, and offer him as a sacrifice," Abraham by faith took his son and journeyed to the mountain. Abraham didn't know how God was going to do it, but Abraham knew that he was going to return to his servants with his son. "I and the lad will go and worship and will come again. We are going to go up and worship God and we are going to come again." Wait a minute, Abraham. You are going to offer him as a sacrifice. I know that, but God said, "Through Isaac shall thy seed by called." Isaac doesn't have any children yet so God has got a problem. Isaac has got to come back with me, because through Isaac the seed is going to be called. Isaac has no children. God is going to have to raise him from the dead if necessary, because God has got to keep His word. Now that is God's problem, how He is going to keep His word. He told me to offer him as a sacrifice and I am going to do that. But, He has got to keep His word to me so He has got to raise Isaac from the dead if necessary. So you see, he was believing in the resurrection.

For three days Isaac was dead in the mind of Abraham as they were journeying, yet he believed there would be a resurrection. I am going to offer him as a sacrifice and God is going to raise him from the dead. Through faith, Hebrews 11 , Abraham offered Isaac, believing that God would, if necessary, raise him from the dead, because God said, "Through Isaac shall thy seed by called." That was where Abraham took this step of faith. A lot of people don't understand this. They say, "Oh, how could a man?" They get all shook over the story of Abraham because they don't know the entire scriptures. They don't realize the faith of Abraham. He knew that Isaac had to be alive to bear children. So, God, You've got a problem. It seems like it is an unsolvable problem, but that is not my problem, Lord, it is Your problem.

Isaac has got to come back with me. He has got to have children, because You told me, "Through Isaac shall the seed be called." God spoke of Isaac's seed before he ever had any children, because he knew he would have children. Abraham knew the word of God had to come to pass, and so he was willing to go ahead and sacrifice his son, because God has got to keep His word and Isaac has got to come back to life.

Belief in the resurrection.

So against hope he believed in hope ( Romans 4:18 ),

Or against any understanding of how God could do it, yet he believed in God.

that he might become the father of many nations, according as it was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Not being weak in the faith, he didn't consider his own body now dead, when he was about a hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb ( Romans 4:18-19 ):

The first key to Abraham's faith is not considering the human difficulties. And that is our first stumbling stone to faith is we are always considering the human difficulties. It is so interesting how that we are measuring our problems into categories of simple, difficult, impossible. But Abraham did not consider the human difficulty here that he was going to have a son when he was one hundred years old. The deadness of his own body or his own he didn't consider his own body now dead. He was probably impotent by this time. Nor yet the deadness of Sarah's womb. She had probably gone through the menopause. No problem, God said she is going to have a son. God's problem, not mine. He didn't consider these human aspects or difficulties. Secondly, he staggered not at the promise of God. "Well, I don't see how God can do that. Now I know God said He would, but I don't know if He means me."

He staggered not at the promises of God; but being strong in the faith, he gave glory to God ( Romans 4:20 );

"Thank you, Lord, for that son. Oh, Lord, I appreciate so much You doing this for Sarah. She's wanted a kid all her life, Lord. Oh, You're going to give her a boy. That's just really neat, Father. Lord, I thank You and I praise You." For you see,

he was fully persuaded, that what God had promised, he was able also to perform ( Romans 4:21 ).

And I can't perform. I can't do it. I've tried for many years; I failed. But God is able to do it. God has promised that through Sarah I am going to have a son, so I know that God is able to perform His promise to me.

Four keys to faith: considering not the human difficulty, staggering not at the promise, but just taking the promise and praising the Lord and thanking God for the promise, knowing and being fully persuaded that God is able to do whatever He has promised.

Therefore his faith was imputed unto him for righteousness ( Romans 4:22 ).

God said, "That is a righteous man. He believes my word. He trusts my word."

But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification ( Romans 4:24-25 ).

So even if Abraham's faith was accounted for righteousness, so our faith in God who raised Jesus from the dead, who was crucified for our offenses but was raised again for our justification, our faith in Jesus, God accounts to us for righteous, and God looks upon that faith and declares that we are righteous.

Does that mean I can go out and do whatever I want? Live after my flesh, indulge in just any kind of thing I desire, because, after all, it's my faith that God counts for righteousness. In chapter five Paul gets into some of these foolish speculations that people often make and the tragic mistake that they make when they take grace and try to run with it. Into lasciviousness and use it as a cloak for their evil deeds. As we move into chapter 5, Paul will deal with the subject, "Shall we sin freely that grace might abound? Shall we just go ahead and can we just go ahead and live however we want after our flesh because of God's grace? Does that mean that it doesn't matter how I live?" If you quit the study tonight you can be in left field and left out. You better come back next Sunday and get the other side of the coin or you could be in deep, deep trouble. Don't take this and run with it yet. You have got to realize that he is talking to a special category of people who have been crucified with Christ. Who are reckoning the old man to be dead and are living now after the Spirit, the new life in the Spirit in the resurrected Christ.

So you've got to get the rest of the story to get the balance, so see you next Sunday night as we balance things off.

I am amazed at God's love for me. I am amazed that Jesus Christ loves me so much that He was willing to take the penalty of my sin, He was willing to die in my place, He was willing to suffer the consequences for my guilt. I love Him, and I appreciate His love for me. Because of my love for Him, I want to live for Him, I want to serve Him. Because of my love for Him, I want to do only those things that are pleasing to Him. I don't want to do those things that will displease Him. I want to walk as He walked. I want to forgive as He forgave. I want to love as He loves. You see, the love of Christ constrains me, and thus, I live by a higher standard than any law could dictate, for I am bound by the law of love. Love for God and love for Jesus Christ that causes me to only desire to do those things that will bring glory to Him.

May you walk this week in such a way as to bring glory unto the Father that He may look upon you and be pleased as you express to Him your love through the life that you live. God bless you and give you a beautiful week walking with Jesus, filled with His Spirit. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

4. The priority of faith to the promise concerning headship of many nations 4:13-17

The Jews believed that they had a claim on Abraham that Gentiles did not have. Obviously he was the father of their nation, and this did place him in a unique relationship to his physical descendants. However, they incorrectly concluded that all the blessings that God had promised Abraham would come to them alone. Paul reminded his readers that part of God’s promised blessing to Abraham was that he would be the father of many nations (Romans 4:17). God had given him this promise after his justification (Genesis 17:4-6), and God repeated it to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 22:17-18). These nations included the Edomites, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and many others including Gentile nations. Therefore the Israelites were not the only people God had promised to bless. They did not have a corner on God’s blessings.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Paul described God as he did here in harmony with the promise he cited. God gave the ability to father many nations to Abraham when his reproductive powers were dead. God summoned yet uncreated nations as He had summoned the yet uncreated cosmos, namely, with a word, in this case a promise (cf. Hebrews 11:3; 2 Peter 3:5). [Note: Cranfield, 1:246.] Another view is that God named or addressed these uncreated nations even though they did not yet exist. The interpretation hinges on the meaning of "calls," which is not clear.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

As it is written I have made thee a father of many nations,.... The passage referred to, is in Genesis 17:4; which proves him to be a father not of the Jews only, since they cannot be called "many nations", but of the Gentiles also; and which must be understood in a spiritual sense, for Abraham was the father of them,

before him whom he believed, [even] God; that is, he was so, either in the sight of God, who sees not as man sees; in his account, he was the father of many nations, long before he really in fact was; or "over against" or "like unto him", as the word may signify: as God was the Father of many nations, so was Abraham, though not in such a sense as he is; and as God is the Father of us all that believe, so was Abraham; there is some little likeness and resemblance in this between them, though not sameness. The object of his faith is described as he,

who quickeneth the dead: meaning either the dead body of Abraham and Sarah's womb; or Isaac, who was given up for dead; or the Gentiles, who were dead in trespasses and sins; or rather the dead bodies of men at the last day, a work which none but the almighty God can effect; the consideration of which is sufficient to engage faith in the promises of God, and a dependence on him for the fulfilment or them: and who stands further described as he, who

calleth those things which be not, as though they were; so he called Abraham the father of many nations, when he was not in fact, as if he really was; and the Gentiles his seed and offspring, before they were; and when he comes effectually to call them by his grace, they are represented as "things which are not", whom he called, "to bring to nought things that are", 1 Corinthians 1:28; they were not his people, nor his children, and he called them so, and by his grace made them so, and made them appear to be so; for as in creation so in regeneration, God calls and brings that into being which before was not: and the phrase seems to be an allusion to the creation of all things out of nothing; and it is a Rabbinical one, for so the Jews speaking of the creation say s

"Nya la arwq, "he calls to that which is not", and it is excluded; (i.e. all things are excluded out of it, as a chicken out of an egg;) and to that which is, and it is established, and to the world, and it is stretched out.''

s R. Solomon ben Gabirol in Cether Malcuth apud L. Capell. in loc.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Romans 4:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Case of Abraham. A. D. 58.

      9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.   10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.   11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:   12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.   13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.   14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:   15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.   16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,   17a (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,)

      St. Paul observes in this paragraph when and why Abraham was thus justified; for he has several things to remark upon that. It was before he was circumcised, and before the giving of the law; and there was a reason for both.

      I. It was before he was circumcised, Romans 4:10; Romans 4:10. His faith was counted to him for righteousness while he was in uncircumcision. It was imputed, Genesis 15:6, and he was not circumcised till Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 17:1-27. Abraham is expressly said to be justified by faith fourteen years, some say twenty-five years, before he was circumcised. Now this the apostle takes notice of in answer to the question (Romans 4:9; Romans 4:9), Cometh this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? Abraham was pardoned and accepted in uncircumcision, a circumstance which, as it might silence the fears of the poor uncircumcised Gentiles, so it might lower the pride and conceitedness of the Jews, who gloried in their circumcision, as if they had the monopoly of all happiness. Here are two reasons why Abraham was justified by faith in uncircumcision:--

      1. That circumcision might be a seal of the righteousness of faith,Romans 4:11; Romans 4:11. The tenour of the covenants must first be settled before the seal can be annexed. Sealing supposes a previous bargain, which is confirmed and ratified by that ceremony. After Abraham's justification by faith had continued several years only a grant by parole, for the confirmation of Abraham's faith God was pleased to appoint a sealing ordinance, and Abraham received it; though it was a bloody ordinance, yet he submitted to it, and even received it as a special favour, the sign of circumcision, c. Now we may hence observe, (1.) The nature of sacraments in general: they are signs and seals--signs to represent and instruct, seals to ratify and confirm. They are signs of absolute grace and favour they are seals of the conditional promises; nay, they are mutual seals: God does in the sacraments seal to us to be to us a God, and we do therein seal to him to be to him a people. (2.) The nature of circumcision in particular: it was the initiating sacrament of the Old Testament; and it is here said to be, [1.] A sign--a sign of that original corruption which we are all born with, and which is cut off by spiritual circumcision,--a commemorating sign of God's covenant with Abraham,--a distinguishing sign between Jews and Gentiles,--a sign of admission into the visible church,--a sign prefiguring baptism, which comes in the room of circumcision, now under the gospel, when (the blood of Christ being shed) all bloody ordinances are abolished; it was an outward and sensible sign of an inward and spiritual grace signified thereby. [2.] A seal of the righteousness of the faith. In general, it was a seal of the covenant of grace, particularly of justification by faith--the covenant of grace, called the righteousness which is of faith (Romans 10:6; Romans 10:6), and it refers to an Old-Testament promise, Deuteronomy 30:12. Now if infants were then capable of receiving a seal of the covenant of grace, which proves that they then were within the verge of that covenant, how they come to be now cast out of the covenant and incapable of the seal, and by what severe sentence they were thus rejected and incapacitated, those are concerned to make out that not only reject, but nullify and reproach, the baptism of the seed of believers.

      2. That he might be the father of all those that believe. Not but that there were those that were justified by faith before Abraham; but of Abraham first it is particularly observed, and in him commenced a much clearer and fuller dispensation of the covenant of grace than any that had been before extant; and there he is called the father of all that believe, because he was so eminent a believer, and so eminently justified by faith, as Jabal was the father of shepherds and Jubal of musicians, Genesis 4:20; Genesis 4:21. The father of all those that believe; that is, a standing pattern of faith, as parents are examples to their children; and a standing precedent of justification by faith, as the liberties, privileges, honours, and estates, of the fathers descend to their children. Abraham was the father of believers, because to him particularly the magna charta was renewed. (1.) The father of believing Gentiles, though they be not circumcised. Zaccheus, a publican, if he believe, is reckoned a son of Abraham, Luke 19:9. Abraham being himself uncircumcised when he was justified by faith, uncircumcision can never be a bar. Thus were the doubts and fears of the poor Gentiles anticipated and no room left to question but that righteousness might be imputed to them also, Colossians 3:11; Galatians 5:6. (2.) The father of believing Jews, not merely as circumcised, and of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, but because believers, because they are not of the circumcision only (that is, are not only circumcised), but walk in the steps of that faith--have not only the sign, but the thing signified--not only are of Abraham's family, but follow the example of Abraham's faith. See here who are the genuine children and lawful successors of those that were the church's fathers: not those that sit in their chairs, and bear their names, but those that tread in their steps; this is the line of succession, which holds, notwithstanding interruptions. It seems, then, those were most loud and forward to call Abraham father that had least title to the honours and privileges of his children. Thus those have most reason to call Christ Father, not that bear his name in being Christians in profession, but that tread in his steps.

      II. It was before the giving of the law, Romans 4:13-16; Romans 4:13-16. The former observation is levelled against those that confined justification to the circumcision, this against those that expected it by the law; now the promise was made to Abraham long before the law. Compare Galatians 3:17; Galatians 3:18. Now observe,

      1. What that promise was--that he should be the heir of the world, that is, of the land of Canaan, the choicest spot of ground in the world,--or the father of many nations of the world, who sprang from him, besides the Israelites,--or the heir of the comforts of the life which now is. The meek are said to inherit the earth, and the world is theirs. Though Abraham had so little of the world in possession, yet he was heir of it all. Or, rather, it points at Christ, the seed here mentioned; compare Galatians 3:16, To thy seed, which is Christ. Now Christ is the heir of the world, the ends of the earth are his possession, and it is in him that Abraham was so. And it refers to that promise (Genesis 12:3), In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

      2. How it was made to him: Not through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Not through the law, for that was not yet given: but it was upon that believing which was counted to him for righteousness; it was upon his trusting God, in his leaving his own country when God commanded him, Hebrews 11:8. Now, being by faith, it could not be by the law, which he proves by the opposition there is between them (Romans 4:14; Romans 4:15): If those who are of the law be heirs; that is, those, and those only, and they by virtue of the law (the Jews did, and still do, boast that they are the rightful heirs of the world, because to them the law was given), then faith is made void; for, if it were requisite to an interest in the promise that there should be a perfect performance of the whole law, then the promise can never take its effect, nor is it to any purpose for us to depend upon it, since the way to life by perfect obedience to the law, and spotless sinless innocency, is wholly blocked up, and the law in itself opens no other way. This he proves, Romans 4:15; Romans 4:15. The law worketh wrath--wrath in us to God; it irritates and provokes that carnal mind which is enmity to God, as the damming up of a stream makes it swell--wrath in God against us. It works this, that is, it discovers it, or our breach of the law works it. Now it is certain that we can never expect the inheritance by a law that worketh wrath. How the law works wrath he shows very concisely in the latter part of the verse: Where no law is there is no transgression, an acknowledged maxim, which implies, Where there is a law there is transgression and that transgression is provoking, and so the law worketh wrath.

      3. Why the promise was made to him by faith; for three reasons, Romans 4:16; Romans 4:16. (1.) That it might be by grace, that grace might have the honour of it; by grace, and not by the law; by grace, and not of debt, nor of merit; that Grace, grace, might be cried to every stone, especially to the top-stone, in this building. Faith hath particular reference to grace granting, as grace hath reference to faith receiving. By grace, and therefore through faith,Ephesians 2:8. For God will have every crown thrown at the feet of grace, free grace, and every song in heaven sung to that tune, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise. (2.) That the promise might be sure. The first covenant, being a covenant of works, was not sure: but, through man's failure, the benefits designed by it were cut off; and therefore, the more effectually to ascertain and ensure the conveyance of the new covenant, there is another way found out, not by works (were it so, the promise would not be sure, because of the continual frailty and infirmity of the flesh), but by faith, which receives all from Christ, and acts in a continual dependence upon him, as the great trustee of our salvation, and in whose keeping it is safe. The covenant is therefore sure, because it is so well ordered in all things, 2 Samuel 23:5. (3.) That it might be sure to all the seed. If it had been by the law, it had been limited to the Jews, to whom pertained the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law (Romans 9:4; Romans 9:4); but therefore it was by faith that Gentiles as well as Jews might become interested in it, the spiritual as well as the natural seed of faithful Abraham. God would contrive the promise in such a way as might make it most extensive, to comprehend all true believers, that circumcision and uncircumcision might break no squares; and for this (Romans 4:17; Romans 4:17) he refers us to Genesis 17:5, where the reason of the change of his name from Abram--a high father, to Abraham--the high father of a multitude, is thus rendered: For a father of many nations have I made thee; that is, all believers, both before and since the coming of Christ in the flesh, should take Abraham for their pattern, and call him father. The Jews say Abraham was the father of all proselytes to the Jewish religion. Behold, he is the father of all the world, which are gathered under the wings of the Divine Majesty.--Maimonides.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Romans 4:17". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.