Abraham Justified by Faith. 1What then can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh?a 2* Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God. 3b For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”* 4A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.c 5But when one does not work, yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6So also David declares the blessedness of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgivend
and whose sins are covered.
8Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.”
9Does this blessedness* apply only to the circumcised, or to the uncircumcised as well? Now we assert that “faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”e 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was he circumcised or not? He was not circumcised, but uncircumcised. 11And he received the sign of circumcision as a seal on the righteousness received through faith while he was uncircumcised. Thus he was to be the father of all the uncircumcised who believe, so that to them [also] righteousness might be credited,f 12as well as the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised, but also follow the path of faith that our father Abraham walked while still uncircumcised.
Inheritance through Faith. 13It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith.g 14For if those who adhere to the law are the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.h 15For the law produces wrath;i but where there is no law, neither is there violation.* 16For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us,j 17as it is written, “I have made you father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.k 18He believed, hoping against hope,l that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “Thus shall your descendants be.” 19m He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body as [already] dead (for he was almost a hundred years old) and the dead womb of Sarah. 20He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief;* rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God 21and was fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to do.n 22That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”o 23But it was not for him alone that it was written that “it was credited to him”; 24it was also for us, to whom it will be credited, who believe in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,p 25who was handed over for our transgressions and was raised for our justification.q
* [4:1–25] This is an expanded treatment of the significance of Abraham’s faith, which Paul discusses in Gal 3:6–18; see notes there.
* [4:2–5] Rom 4:2 corresponds to Rom 4:4, and Rom 4:3–5. The Greek term here rendered credited means “made an entry.” The context determines whether it is credit or debit. Rom 4:8 speaks of “recording sin” as a debit. Paul’s repeated use of accountants’ terminology in this and other passages can be traced both to the Old Testament texts he quotes and to his business activity as a tentmaker. The commercial term in Gn 15:6, “credited it to him,” reminds Paul in Rom 4:7–8 of Ps 32:2, in which the same term is used and applied to forgiveness of sins. Thus Paul is able to argue that Abraham’s faith involved receipt of forgiveness of sins and that all believers benefit as he did through faith.
* [4:3] Jas 2:24 appears to conflict with Paul’s statement. However, James combats the error of extremists who used the doctrine of justification through faith as a screen for moral self- determination. Paul discusses the subject of holiness in greater detail than does James and beginning with Rom 6 shows how justification through faith introduces one to the gift of a new life in Christ through the power of the holy Spirit.
* [4:9] Blessedness: evidence of divine favor.
* [4:15] Law has the negative function of bringing the deep-seated rebellion against God to the surface in specific sins; see note on Rom 1:18–32.
* [4:20] He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief: any doubts Abraham might have had were resolved in commitment to God’s promise. Heb 11:8–12 emphasizes the faith of Abraham and Sarah.
b. [4:3] Gn 15:6; Gal 3:6; Jas 2:14, 20–24.
f. [4:11] Gn 17:10–11; Gal 3:6–8.
g. [4:13] Gn 12:7; 18:18; 22:17–18; Sir 44:21; Gal 3:16–18, 29.
i. [4:15] 3:20; 5:13; 7:8; Gal 3:19.
j. [4:16] Sir 44:19; Gal 3:7–9.
k. [4:17] Gn 17:5; Heb 11:19 / Is 48:13.
m. [4:19–20] Gn 17:17; Heb 11:11.