Romans: ch. iv.

January 1, 2011

Synopsis

Paul proceeds to prove from the example of Abraham that all men are justified, not by works, but by faith in Christ.  He teaches that Abraham’s faith justified him before he received circumcision, and so concludes that likewise we are not justified by circumcision or the law, but by faith.  Next, he teaches (v. 13) that it is by faith that we participate in the blessing given to Abraham and his posterity.  Finally he emphasizes the great faith of Abraham and puts him forth as an example for our imitation.

1. i.e. “What justice was it that Abraham received – faith, or works of the law?”

2. Abraham did not receive his justification from works (circumcision), since he already had glory before God – “He believed God, and it was reputed to him unto justice.”

3. reputed to him unto justice – Abraham was justified by God’s benevolent and free will, by which he decreed that through the act of faith, grace was to be given to Abraham without the merit of works.  To repute means to consider something as such which it is not of itself; therefore God’s will to justify Abraham is called reputing.

4-5. Abraham’s justification was not a reward (as due to works), but given through grace.

6-8. Paul uses the quote from David (Ps. xxxi. 1.) to prove his argument: the sense is: Blessed is he who is cleansed from his sins, justified, and covered and robed in the garment of charity; and also blessed, nay more blessed, is he who, after he is cleansed from sin, begins to live justly and avoid sin, so that he does no evil that God must impute unto him as sin.

9-10. i.e. from the citation of Ps. xxxi, justification is not dependent on circumcision but on the grace and mercy of God.  A second proof: Abraham was justified, not only before the law, but before circumcision.

11-12. Abraham received circumcision as a sign of the justification he had received by faith; therefore he is the father of the believing Gentiles as well as the “father,” i.e. the author and institutor, of circumcision, the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, by which God promised to protect, bless and save Abraham and his posterity.

13-14. Abraham did not receive the promise that he would be heir of the world through the law; if he had, it would follow that his faith in God’s promise and the promise itself would be abolished, which is absurd.  Again, if justification is given by the law, it cannot be given by a promise, because a promise is a free act of grace but the law is concerned with justice and the merit of works.

15. Refers to v. 13: The promise is not given through the law, because the law worketh wrath: i.e. the law without grace leads to the breaking of the law, which leads to the divine wrath.

17. who quickeneth the dead: as God can raise the dead, so is he able to spiritually regenerate the Gentiles living in paganism (Chrysostom).

18. Who against hope believed in hope: There was no hope naturally of a son being born to Abraham and Sarah, yet Abraham believed, hoping and trusting in God.

23-24. Our faith, if we believe, will likewise be reputed to us unto justice.  Abraham is thus given as a model of justification: so we are to seek justification in faith and from Christ.  Christ is said to have risen again for our justification, although it was by his passion that he merited our justification: 1) considering the passion and resurrection as one work of redemption, one act of Christ; 2) considering the final cause of the resurrection, which was for him to send the Apostles and the Holy Ghost to justify us and celebrate the resurrection.

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