Abraham Justified While Still a Gentile.
SUMMARY.--Abraham not Justified by Works, but by Faith.
His Faith Reckoned for Righteousness.
David Describes the same Blessedness.
This Blessedness of Forgiveness for Gentiles as well as Jews.
Abraham Counted Righteous Before He Was Circumcised.
The Promise of a Redeemer and of a Land Made to Abraham Before He Was Circumcised.
The Greatness of Abraham's Faith.
To All, Whether Jew or Gentile, Righteousness will be Imputed, Who have Abraham's Faith.
The word justify, which Paul uses so frequently, should be
clearly apprehended. To be justified is to be counted righteous, or
guiltless, before God. He who has one sin recorded against him is not
justified. He whose sins are all blotted out is justified. The sinner
who believes upon Jesus Christ, clings to the mercy seat by an
obedient, trusting faith, and finds mercy through Christ's redeeming
blood, is justified. As no man could keep the law perfectly, no man
could be justified by the works of the law. As we obtain God's mercy,
the righteousness God bestows in Christ, by faith in Christ Jesus, so
we are justified by a faith that leads us to Christ.
1-5. What shall we say then? Paul, having show that faith is the
essential principle of justification, now inquires concerning Abraham's
faith and justification.
Abraham, our father. "Our forefather according to the flesh," in
the Revision. The ancestor of the Jewish race.
Hath found. The thought is, Hath he found justification by
works, or by faith?
2. Hath whereof to glory. If Abraham was justified by his own
righteous works, he would have ground for glorying in himself.
3. What saith the Scripture? The passage quoted is found in
and is quoted three times in the New Testament--here, and in
God promised an heir to Abraham,
and, although it seemed contrary to nature, he believed the promise.
His faith in the promise was
reckoned as righteousness. It was the ground of his acceptance
with God. His faith was a trusting faith, which contained in it the
element of obedience. No other faith justifies (see
4. To him that worketh. Who earns wages as a servant. To that
one a reward is not
of grace, a free gift, but a
debt. If one has rendered himself righteous by his works, this
is true of him.
5. But to him that worketh not. Does not trust his works for
acceptance with God.
But believeth, etc. Trusts in the mercy of him who justifies
sinners who come to him penitent and believing.
His faith, etc. It is made the ground of his acceptance with
God. By faith he clings to Christ, the Savior.
6-8. David also. Paul has shown that Abraham's justification was
through faith, rather than through works. He next cites David as
describing a justification which is not due to our own righteousness,
but to God's mercy. Such names as that of Abraham, the father of their
race, and David, the great king, would be authoritative with the
Jews. The quotation is from
Psalm 32:1, 2.
David himself had been a great sinner, and had been forgiven.
7. Blessed are they. The class described as blessed are those
whose sins are
forgiven, counted righteous because their sins are blotted
8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. This
is another form of the thought of
One whose sins have been forgiven will not find them imputed to him at
judgment. We obtain this blessedness by a faith in Christ which leads
us to accept the gospel.
9-12. Cometh this blessedness upon the circumcision only. The
next question is, Who shall enjoy this blessing of forgiveness? Shall
it be Jews only, or shall the
uncircumcision, the Gentiles, enjoy it? Abraham's faith was
counted for righteousness; will this be true of all, both Jews and
10. How was it then reckoned? To settle the question, whether
this blessedness applies to Gentiles as well as Jews, the inquiry is
made whether Abraham was a Jew or Gentile when it was said of him, "His
faith was counted for righteousness."
He was not circumcised for at least fourteen years after this statement
was made of him. Compare
Gen. 15:6 with Gen. 17:25.
He was then justified, without circumcision, while yet a Gentile.
11. He received the sign of circumcision. The outward mark in
A seal. A seal is often appended to a legal document as a proof.
The covenant is made before the seal is annexed. Circumcision was not
the covenant, but an outward mark of a covenant that before existed.
The righteousness, of which it was a seal, had been acknowledged many
That he might be the father of all them that believe. Both
Jews and Gentiles, circumcised and uncircumcised. The righteous,
uncircumcised Abraham belonged to the latter class.
12. The father of circumcision. Of the circumcision described in
Abraham is the "great father," the father,
not of the circumcision only, but of all who have such faith as
he had before he was circumcised. When Abraham was "counted righteous
through faith," there was no difference between Jew and Gentile.
Christianity, by its revelation of "righteousness through faith," leads
back to the same condition.
13-15. For the promise. The reference is to the substance of
various promises to Abraham for himself and his seed. See
Gen. 12:7; 13:14; 15:18.
Was not . . . through the law. Was not through law, the article
being wanting in the Greek. No body of law had been given. The Mosaic
law was given many years afterward. The law of circumcision had not
been enacted. It was
through the righteousness of faith, not of law, or works of law,
that Abraham secured the promise.
14. For if they which are of the law (of law, the article
are heirs. If keeping law makes men heirs, then
faith is void. It sets aside God's plan of "counting faith as
righteousness," and destroys the promise which depends on faith.
15. Because the law worketh wrath. The law threatens punishment
to all who break its enactments, and since none keep it perfectly, it
works punishment for all. Whereas, if no law had been given, there
no transgression of its demands.
16-22. Therefore it is of faith. The inheritance promised to
Abraham and his seed. It comes through faith, and hence is a free gift
That it might be sure. It could not be sure if it had to be
secured by the righteousness that is of law, since none can keep the
law perfectly. But all can secure it through faith.
To all the seed. To all children of Abraham, whether those
of the law, the Jews, or those
of the faith of Abraham, who become his children by exercising
his faith, whether Jew or Gentile. See
17. As it is written.
A father of many nations. The name of the patriarch was changed
from Abram (a father) to Abraham (father of a multitude).
Before him whom he believed. This is to be joined with
"who is the father of us all . . . before . . . God."
Who quickeneth the dead. Abraham had to believe that the Divine
power, which can give life to the dead, would give new life to his aged
body and that of Sarah.
18. Who against hope. Though an old man, and his wife an aged
woman, far beyond the time of child-bearing, he yet believed the
promise that he would have numerous offspring.
19. Being not weak in faith. Strong in faith, though weak in
His own body now dead. Its vital powers exhausted. But God could
quicken the dead, and he had the promise of God.
staggered not. He accepted the promise with unfaltering
21. Being fully persuaded. He was certain that God not only
could, but would do what he promised.
22. Therefore it was imputed, etc. The faith that secures God's
righteousness is a faith that does not falter, but accepts and acts
upon God's promises.
23-25. Now it was not written for his sake alone. But in order
that we might have an example of God's plan of justification.
24. For us also. If we believe our faith shall save us.
On him that raised Jesus. The same God who quickened Abraham's
body, as good as dead, raised up our Lord.
25. Who was delivered for our offences. "He died for us;"
"was made sin for us."
He was to be "cut off, but not for himself."
Raised again for our justification. The resurrection of Christ
was his own justification against the condemnation of the world. In his
justification, all for whom he died, who have laid hold on him by faith
and are found in him, are justified with him, in that their sins are
forgiven. Without the resurrection, the sepulcher of Christ would be
the grave of all our hopes. This is beautifully symbolized in baptism.
"We are buried by baptism into death,"
his death, "planted in the likeness of his death,"
figuratively die with him. We are also "planted in the likeness of his
We rise with him, "new creatures,"
justified by his resurrection.