Romans 4

* The doctrine of justification by faith is shown by the case of

Abraham. (1-12) He received the promise through the

righteousness of faith. (13-22) And we are justified in the same

way of believing. (23-25)

1-12 To meet the views of the Jews, the apostle first refers to

the example of Abraham, in whom the Jews gloried as their most

renowned forefather. However exalted in various respects, he had

nothing to boast in the presence of God, being saved by grace,

through faith, even as others. Without noticing the years which

passed before his call, and the failures at times in his

obedience, and even in his faith, it was expressly stated in

Scripture that "he believed God, and it was counted to him for

righteousness," #Ge 15:6|. From this example it is observed,

that if any man could work the full measure required by the law,

the reward must be reckoned as a debt, which evidently was not

the case even of Abraham, seeing faith was reckoned to him for

righteousness. When believers are justified by faith, "their

faith being counted for righteousness," their faith does not

justify them as a part, small or great, of their righteousness;

but as the appointed means of uniting them to Him who has chosen

as the name whereby he shall be called, "the Lord our

Righteousness." Pardoned people are the only blessed people. It

clearly appears from the Scripture, that Abraham was justified

several years before his circumcision. It is, therefore, plain

that this rite was not necessary in order to justification. It

was a sign of the original corruption of human nature. And it

was such a sign as was also an outward seal, appointed not only

to confirm God's promises to him and to his seed, and their

obligation to be the Lord's, but likewise to assure him of his

being already a real partaker of the righteousness of faith.

Thus Abraham was the spiritual forefather of all believers, who

walked after the example of his obedient faith. The seal of the

Holy Spirit in our sanctification, making us new creatures, is

the inward evidence of the righteousness of faith.
13-22 The promise was made to Abraham long before the law. It

points at Christ, and it refers to the promise, #Ge 12:3|. In

Thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. The law worketh

wrath, by showing that every transgressor is exposed to the

Divine displeasure. As God intended to give men a title to the

promised blessings, so he appointed it to be by faith, that it

might be wholly of grace, to make it sure to all who were of the

like precious faith with Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles, in

all ages. The justification and salvation of sinners, the taking

to himself the Gentiles who had not been a people, were a

gracious calling of things which are not, as though they were;

and this giving a being to things that were not, proves the

almighty power of God. The nature and power of Abraham's faith

are shown. He believed God's testimony, and looked for the

performance of his promise, firmly hoping when the case seemed

hopeless. It is weakness of faith, that makes a man lie poring

on the difficulties in the way of a promise. Abraham took it not

for a point that would admit of argument or debate. Unbelief is

at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises. The

strength of faith appeared in its victory over fears. God

honours faith; and great faith honours God. It was imputed to

him for righteousness. Faith is a grace that of all others gives

glory to God. Faith clearly is the instrument by which we

receive the righteousness of God, the redemption which is by

Christ; and that which is the instrument whereby we take or

receive it, cannot be the thing itself, nor can it be the gift

thereby taken and received. Abraham's faith did not justify him

by its own merit or value, but as giving him a part in Christ.
23-25 The history of Abraham, and of his justification, was

recorded to teach men of after-ages; those especially to whom

the gospel was then made known. It is plain, that we are not

justified by the merit of our own works, but by faith in Jesus

Christ and his righteousness; which is the truth urged in this

and the foregoing chapter, as the great spring and foundation of

all comfort. Christ did meritoriously work our justification and

salvation by his death and passion, but the power and perfection

thereof, with respect to us, depend on his resurrection. By his

death he paid our debt, in his resurrection he received our

acquittance, #Isa 53:8|. When he was discharged, we, in Him and

together with Him, received the discharge from the guilt and

punishment of all our sins. This last verse is an abridgement or

summary of the whole gospel.
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