Quick recap to catch up to where we are in chapter 4:
Chapter 1 (Linked HERE):
1) Paul states his purpose for writing to the Roman church, namely to show that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation both to Jews and Gentiles (1:16). It follows, then that the discussion throughout the rest of the book applies the Gospel specifically to Jews and Gentiles (and it does; the whole of the book is upon this topic: applying the Gospel to thkse with and without the law of Moses, and the covenant of Abraham).
2) Paul states his thesis for the book (1:17): that salvation through the Gospel is ‘from faith to faith,’ that all those who are saved are saved through faith alone (which is not exactly the Protestant doctrine of ‘sola fida’ (faith alone) (don’t get me wrong, you’d consider me a Protestant, but we want to leave our pre-conceived theologies at the door when we investigate scripture, otherwise we assjme we know what God is saying because it complies with a creed or belief we’ve been taught. Rather, we need scripture to inform our belief entirely, and from my understanding of ‘sola fida’ as it is taught, I don’t believe it is exactly what Paul is saying (though it’s fairly close)). That ‘the just shall live by faith.’ I.e. ALL the righteous live by faith. This thesis becomes the subtext of the entire letter; while Paul is not at all times speaking of salvation through faith as the foretext, yet we see that it is the perpetually present thought throughout, and the direction he’s headed in while covering other specifics.
3) Paul shows whence the corruption of sin comes: that God reveals Himself to each of us by creation, and through our conscience, so that ALL have a knowledge that He is God; that universally we do not glorify Him, nor are we thanful to Him (i.e. we do not put FAITH in Him), and subsequently fall into corruption of sin because of our lack of faith (1:21). Here he does not speak of the ‘original sin’ as the origin of sin in our lives, but of our (each one of us) lack of faith. This doctrine both lays the foundation of Paul’s thesis from the outset, AND shows the origin, and universiality of sin. All are guilty of sin because God reveals Himself to all of us, and we each reject His testimony.
Chapter 2 (Linked HERE):
1) Paul shows that man’s judgment is corrupted (because of this universiality of sin which he showed in the previous chapter), but that God’s justice is perfect. This is fundamental to understanding what he is about to teach regarding those not under the law, and those under the law. Those under the law cannot judge those who are not under the law BY the law, because they themselves break the law (2:1). But God’s judgment under truth means that those without the law will be judged by their conscience, and the testimony which God has revealed to them (which, again, was the basis of his teaching on the universiality of sin) (2:16).
2) Paul shows that Gentiles (those without he law) will be judged by their conscience rather than by the law (they are under sin because they reject the testimony of God to their own hearts, and do things against their conscience); but that the Jews (those under the law) will be judged by the law (they are under sin because they do things contrary to the law).
3) Paul shows there is no respect of persons with God (2:11), thus Gentiles have equal opportunity with the Jews to be saved through faith. Yet this also likewise shows that the law (upon which the Jews relied for salvation) has no merit for salvation, thus the playing field is truly leveled, so to speak and the Jews’ reliance on he law for salvation is now an hindrance to their reception of salvation by faith (2:17-25)
4) Paul actually states (as according to his thesis: ‘the just shall live by faith’) that true jews are not those who are Jews in the flesh (genetic Hebrews, observers of the covenant of circumcision & the Jewish religion), but those who live by faith, be it Jew or Gentile according to the flesh (2:28, 29).
Chapter 3 (linked HERE)
1) Paul adresses the growing question of what good the law is if not for salvation, and what advantage the Jews has. His answer: the full revelation of God to man was given through the Jews (3:2). Salvation comes through the revelation of the Gospel that was given to the Jew FIRST.
2) Then has God broken His promise under the Old Covenant to the Jews? No, the main promise of the Old Covenant was for a new covenant of salvation for all man, the fact that some Jews do not believe the Gospel does not make God liar (3:3 & 4): He promised salvation to and through the Jews to all mankind, and it has come through Jesus Christ.
3) Can we justify ourselves? If we sin and it shows God’s righteousness, then doesn’t it glorify God? Surely He woukd turn a blind-eye to our sin because it reveals more His goodness..? (3:5 & 7) No, because God’s goodness includes judging the world, which definatively means we will be judged for our sin (3:6).
4) Paul affirms his premise with plain statements, and quotes scripture in support of his point (3:10-20): that all are under sin, and the law will not help us in the judgment, but stand against us (v. 20). He also affirms: a) salvation by faith in plain statements and b) that Jews and Gentiles alike can receive – and need – this salvation.
In the final verse he asks: ‘Do we then make void the law through faith?’ That is: is the law of no value? Is it irrelevant niw that we have salvation through faith? He answers: ‘God forbid: yea we establish the law.’ He’s saying, no, actually we give the law validity through this doctrine of faith. Wait… what? How so, Paul?
Now chapter 4; notice he made the statement that we establish the law, now immediately he’s going to begin teaching from Old Testament scripture:
1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now Paul begins to show that the first Jew, or the patriarch of the Hebrews had HIS righteousness not by some works of any law, or any other sort of works, but by faith. Abraham’s righteousness was by faith. Paul is begining to use Abraham as an example of a phenomena which he described in chapter 2, that when a gentike did not have the law, but lived righteously before God, he becomes quote: ‘a law unto themselves.’ (2:14b)
Now, Abraham was an Hebrew genetically, yes (fist in scripture to be called one, in fact), but he had neither the law of Moses, nor the covenant of circumcision. Rather, Abraham believed the testimony which God gave to his soul. This does not mean he was without sin, it means he was had a righteousness by faith apart from the law. Abraham is the perfect example of what Paul has been talking about heretofore, and the perfect object lesson of what he means, and where is going with the letter.
But here’s the thing: in order for Paul to use Abraham as his example without his Jewish audience taking it for a lesson on how being Jewish was their salvation, Paul had to first disillusion the Jews in his audience of salvation through the law, or circumcision. This is part of why he made such statements which would have (and actually which continue to be, even today) shockingly offensive to Jews such as: ‘There is no respect of persons with God,’ and ‘For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly… But he is a Jew which is one inwardly…’ etc.
If Paul had started with Abraham, the Jews woukd likely have missed his point, and believe Paul was showing the Gentiles that they need to be like their great patriarch who gave them the circumcision whereby they believed they were saved. Yet now bPaul has completed the groundwork necessary to show that he is speaking of a different phenomena regarding Abraham than what they had typically been taught. His righteousness, his salvation was BY FAITH. He had come from the same position that he Gentikes of today were coming from: a condition without the law, without the circumcision; with only faith.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
An employee expects a salary. A religious person expects a return on their religious service or duty. Such an agreement would be obligatory: salvation given as payment for righteous works. But… all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), thus there is no obligation for our ‘righteous works’ from God, for in our state of sin we deserve punishment, not reward. And, the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23)… so uh, yeah religion in the sense that our works obligate God to grant us salvation basically falls through the floor.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
If we put our trust in the goodness of God and in His grace instead of our own righteousness or works, our trust in God’s goodness is counted for righteousness.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
So Paul now is using scripture – the law – to show salvation is by faith, using first a biblical example (Abraham), then biblical teaching from the Psalms of David, showing that there is a state of forgiveness in which Gos does not impute sin. Thus there is a state of salvation through faith rather than by the works of the law,
9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
Now he poses the question of the priveledge of the Jews for salvation again; is this state of salvation through faith only for the circumcised – those under the covenant of Abraham?
10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
So, again, Paul is using Abraham as his example of the Gentile approach. Abraham was reckoned righteous by faih BEFORE he received the covenant of circumcision.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
The circumcision was a sign of Abraham’s faith; Abraham was not saved through circimcision, rather, he was saved through faith and God gave him circumcision to show that he was devoted to God by faith. Thus the circumcision without faith is meaningless; circumcision cannot save any more than he law can. Those who are circumcised but do not believe are not the children of Abraham, rather, those who believe are the children of Abraham whether they are circumcised or not.
Again this is completely contrary to the perspective of the Jews who believed they inheritted salvation by being the literal offspring of Abraham. This was a perspective that John the Baptist also addressed: ‘And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father, for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’ (Matt. 3:9) John was teaching this same doctrine: what matters is faith in Christ, not your earthly heritage. Why? Because God is no respector of persons. He is not more impressed with the Jews because they were descended from Abraham; God recieves thkse who come to Him in faith, as Abraham did. wherefore John said: ‘God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’ Prophetically he was speaking of the hard-hearted Gentiles: stones.
Paul is pointing out the same thought which he stated at he end of chapter 2, only now applyng it to the key patriarch upon whom the Jews trusted for their own standing with God, only he is taking the racism out of it. Does God prefer Jews because of their ancestry? Because of their race as Hebrews and offspring of Abraham? No, that is a racist perspective which developed in their theology because they did not realize that faith was the central key to Abraham’s friendship with God.
Being our first record of a man who was, as Paul said: ‘a law unto themselves’ (Rom 2:14) and THEREFORE received the covenant of circumcision; Abraham is the father of those who have faith like he did.
12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
God’s promise to Abraham was was before the covenant of circumcision, the covenant of circumcision was given BECAUSE of faith, the law was added later. So Paul is showing that the covenant, and the law were never what saved anyone; those things were added, a priveledge gained (that is receiving the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2)) because of faith.
14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
Wow, that’s an interesting statement! Actually it’s good to pay attention to Paul and the way he processes the rammifactions of Truth: he follows Truth all the way to the end. What is the end result of any doctrine? Some teaching you can know are untrue because when you follow them to their final conclusion it is contrary to biblical teaching (I’ll reference my post about Nephilim as an example of what I mean about that.
But again, to the text: Paul says if the jews are saved through the law, them the promise given to Abraham to begin with is voided. WHAT?! But Paul specifies:
15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
The law could never be the fulfilment of the promise because the law does not provide salvation, rather it works the wrath of God upon thise who receive it, as Paul has previously shown.
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
So since the signs of the promise, and the law itself do not save us, naturally they cannot be the fulfilment of the promised salvation. He promise and fulfilment of salvation MUST be certain to Abraham’s seed in order for he promise to be fulfilled. If salvation is not certain to the children of Abraham, then he promise is void, and since the law cannot save – but does the opposite, showing us sinners – then the certainty of salvation for those who live by it is not present. Therefore if living by the kaw was the only way to be saved, and it is not certain salvation, then the law itself voids the promise of salvation to the seed of Abraham. Likewise, it means that the approach of faith is void, which is the approach hrough which the promise was received: Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
Abraham’s faith was not in the reception of the law, but of the promise; that promise whose result would be Abraham becoming the father of many nations: the promise of the seed: Messiah.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
Paul’s example brings us full circle to understanding our own faith is imputed to us as righteousness. This for the Jew, and for the Gentile is salvation which is certain to all them that believe even as the promise was certain to Abraham.
The promise had to be received BY FAITH. And that promise was of the coming Messiah: that Abraham would be the father of MANY nations, that he have a seed through whom the everlasting covenant would be established (Messiah)(Gen. 17:4, 6, 7). The promise was FOR a final covenant of salvation through faith! The purpose was not about land, and law, and physical circumcision; those things were physical signs of salvation to come through the main promise: Messiah – salvation through faith to inherit the Messiah’s kingdom (heaven).
Link chapter 5: HERE