Romans 4Hath found; hath obtained. The meaning is, "What advantages are derived by the Jews through the Abrahamic covenant and ritual?"
But not before God; that is, he has no cause to glory before God The meaning appears to be that, however high and honorable the character and memory of Abraham might be in the estimation of men, in the eye of God, he was a sinner,—to be saved, like other men, by grace.
Of grace; of favor.—But of debt; that is, as justly due.
To him that worketh not; to him who has no meritorious works on which he can rely.
Even as David also describeth; that is, David in a similar manner describeth.—Unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works; whom God justifies and saves, though he has not performed his duty. The force of the passage quoted from David in the two following verses, in respect to its application to the apostle's argument, appears to be this,—that it represents spiritual blessedness as consisting in the pardon of sin, and not in the reward of goodness; and this sustains the position that Paul has been aiming to establish, viz., that human salvation is, in all cases, dependent on grace,—that is, on undeserved favor,—and not on merit.
Cometh, &c. Having thus shown that the Jews, or, as he expresses it, the circumcision, are entirely dependent on the mercy of God, he proceeds to prove that the uncircumcision, that is, the Gentiles, are not excluded from this mercy, by showing that Abraham enjoyed the gracious acceptance of God, before the rite of circumcision was performed.
And he received, &c.; that is, circumcision, far from being the cause of his acceptance with God, was the seal and consequence of it. The Jews attached ideas of great spiritual efficacy to their religious rites. We see precisely the same tendency in the human mind at the present day. The peculiar religious observances pertaining to our respective branches of the Christian church, which have descended to us from our fathers, and which we have been accustomed to regard from infancy with feelings of solemnity and awe, come at last to be invested in our minds with a certain spiritual efficacy of their own. They lose the character of a symbol and a seal, and assume that of an intrinsic effectiveness, until, at length, we regard them as forming a pale, beyond which, like the Jew of old, we can scarcely believe that there is any salvation.—That he might be the father; the type or exemplar. The meaning of this clause, and of the next verse, clearly is, that Abraham, through his acceptance with God previous to his circumcision, was constituted the father of all believers of every age or nation, and that, by the ceremonial observances afterwards instituted, he became the spiritual representative and head of the Jewish communion; although only those of that communion can consider him as truly their father; who follow his example in the inward spirit of their minds, as well as in outward ceremonies.
Or to his seed through the law; to those who were his seed or descendants through the law, that is, through the Jewish system. In other words, by the seed of Abraham were intended all who were spiritually like him, not merely those connected with the ceremonial system of which he was the head. That this is the meaning, is evident from v. 16.
The promise made of none effect; made unmeaning, since it was originally based upon faith, and not obedience.
The law worketh wrath; by demanding the punishment of transgression.
It is of faith; meaning that salvation is of faith.—By grace; favor.
Who quickeneth the dead, &c.; who has all power to accomplish his promises.
Who; referring to Abraham.—Against hope; against all apparent evidence.
He considered not; was not influenced by the consideration, so as to distrust God.
Staggered not; was not perplexed and uncertain.
We are not probably to attempt to separate the two clauses of this verse, and to give to each its distinct signification: the form of construction seems to be only rhetorical. The meaning is, as if it were written, "Who died, and rose again, that we might be justified and saved."
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