Romans Chapter 3:28-31, 4:1-5, 16-25 Antique Commentary Quotes

John Calvin
Romans 3:28
28.We then conclude, etc. He now draws the main proposition, as one that is incontrovertible, and adds an explanation. Justification by faith is indeed made very clear, while works are expressly excluded. Hence, in nothing do our adversaries labor more in the present day than in attempts to blend faith with the merits of works. They indeed allow that man is justified by faith; but not by faith alone; yea, they place the efficacy of justification in love, though in words they ascribe it to faith. But Paul affirms in this passage that justification is so gratuitous, that he makes it quite evident, that it can by no means be associated with the merit of works. Why he names the works of the law, I have already explained; and I have also proved that it is quite absurd to confine them to ceremonies. Frigid also is the gloss, that works are to be taken for those which are outward, and done without the Spirit of Christ. On the contrary, the word law that is added, means the same as though he called them meritorious; for what is referred to is the reward promised in the law.

What, James says, that man is not justified by faith alone, but also by works, does not at all militate against the preceding view. The reconciling of the two views depends chiefly on the drift of the argument pursued by James. For the question with him is not, how men attain righteousness before God, but how they prove to others that they are justified, for his object was to confute hypocrites, who vainly boasted that they had faith. Gross then is the sophistry, not to admit that the word, to justify, is taken in a different sense by James, from that in which it is used by Paul; for they handle different subjects. The word, faith, is also no doubt capable of various meanings. These two things must be taken to the account, before a correct judgment can be formed on the point. We may learn from the context, that James meant no more than that man is not made or proved to be just by a feigned or dead faith, and that he must prove his righteousness by his works. See on this subject my Institutes.

Charles Hodge
Romans 3:28
Therefore we conclude, etc. The common text has οὖν, therefore, giving this verse the character of a conclusion from the preceding argument. The great majority, however, of the best manuscripts, the Vulgate and Coptic versions, and many of the Fathers, have γάρ, which almost all the modern editors adopt. This verse, then, is a confirmation of what is said before: “Boasting is excluded, λογιζόμθα γάρ, for we think, i.e., are sure,” etc. See Rom_2:3; Rom_8:18; 2Co_11:5, for a similar use of the word λογίζομαι. That a man is justified by faith. If by faith, it is not of works; and if not of works, there can be no room for boasting, for boasting is the assertion of personal merit. From the nature of the case, if justification is by faith, it must be by faith alone. Luther’s version, therefore, allein durch den glauben, is fully justified by the context. The Romanists, indeed, made a great outcry against that version as a gross perversion of Scripture, although Catholic translators before the time of Luther had given the same translation. So in the Nuremberg Bible, 1483, “Nur durch den glauben.” And the Italian Bibles of Geneva, 1476, and of Venice, 1538, per sola fede. The Fathers also often use the expression, “man is justified by faith alone;” so that Erasmus, De Ratione Concionandi, Lib. 3., says, “Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur.” See Koppe and Tholuck on this verse.

Without works of the law. To be justified without works, is to be justified without anything in ourselves to merit justification. The works of the law must be the works of the moral law, because the proposition is general, embracing Gentiles as well as Jews. And as our Savior teaches that the sum of the moral law is that we should love God with all the heart, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, and as no higher form of excellence than supreme love to God is possible or conceivable, in excluding works of the law, the apostle excludes everything subjective. He places the ground of justification out of ourselves. Olshausen, on this verse, reverts to his Romish idea of subjective justification, and explains works of the law to mean works produced by the moral law, which he says spring only from ourselves, and are perishable, whereas “the works of faith are imperishable as the principle whence they spring.” That is, we are not justified by works performed from a principle of natural conscience, but by those which are the fruits of a renewed nature. How utterly subversive this is of the gospel, has already been remarked. The works of the law are not works which the law produces, but works which the law demands, and the law demands all that the Spirit of God effects, even in the just made perfect. And therefore spiritual as well as legal works are excluded. The contrast is not between works produced by the law and works produced by faith, but between works and faith, between what is done by us (whether in a state of nature or a state of grace) and what Christ has done for us.

Expositor’s Greek NT
Ver. 28. λογιζόμεθα γάρ: see critical note. In λογιζόμεθα there is no idea of an uncertain conclusion: it rather suggests the confident self-consciousness of the reasoner. ἄνθρωπον is not “any human being,” as if beings of another sort could be justified otherwise: it is like the German “man” or “one”. Cf. 1Co_4:1, 1Co_7:1, 1Co_11:28, Gal_2:16. The sharp distinction drawn between faith and works of law, as characterising two different religious systems, shows that faith must not itself be interpreted as a work of law. In principle it is a renunciation of all such confidence as legal obedience inspires.

Henry Alford
28.] λογιζόμεθα, not ‘we conclude,’ but we hold, we reckon, see reff.: the former is against N. T. usage; and has probably caused the change of γάρ into οὖν, by some who imagined that this verse was a conclusion from the preceding argument. For we hold (as explanatory of the verse preceding,—on the other supposition the two verses are disjointed, and the conclusion comes in most strangely), that a man is justified by faith [apart from] (without [but more than without—so distinctly without as to be utterly and entirely separate from and independent of]) the works of the law (not works of law); and therefore boasting is excluded.

Albert Barnes
Romans 3:28
Therefore – As the result of the previous train of argument.

That a man – That all who are justified; that is, that there is no other way.

Is justified by faith – Is regarded and treated as righteous, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Without the deeds of the law – Without works as a meritorious ground of justification. The apostle, of course, does not mean that Christianity does not produce good works, or that they who are justified will not obey the Law, and be holy; but that no righteousness of their own will be the ground of their justification. They are sinners; and as such can have no claim to he treated as righteous. God has devised a plan by which, they may be pardoned and saved; and that is by faith alone. This is the grand uniqueness of the Christian religion. This was the special point in the reformation from popery. Luther often called this doctrine of justification by faith the article upon which the church stood or fell – articulus stantis, vel cadentis ecclesiae – and it is so. If this doctrine is held entire, all others will be held with it. If this is abandoned, all others will fall also. It may be remarked here, however, that this doctrine by no means interferes with the doctrine that good works are to be performed by Christians. Paul urges this as much as any other writer in the New Testament. His doctrine is, that they are not to be relied on as a ground of justification; but that he did not mean to teach that they are not to be performed by Christians is apparent from the connection, and from the following places in his epistles: Rom_2:7; 2Co_9:8; Eph_2:10; 1Ti_2:10; 1Ti_5:10, 1Ti_5:25; 1Ti_6:18; 2Ti_3:17; Tit_2:7, Tit_2:14; Tit_3:8; Heb_10:24. That we are not justified by our works is a doctrine which he has urged and repeated with great power and frequency. See Rom_4:2, Rom_4:6; Rom_9:11, Rom_9:32; Rom_11:6; Gal_2:16; Gal_3:2, Gal_3:5,Gal_3:10; Eph_2:9; 2Ti_1:9.

Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture
28. ‘Justified by faith without works of a law’: Christian justification is obtained by faith; no one can earn it by works according to this or that system of law, whatever the name or character of that law may be: be it the law of Israel, or the law of the Gentiles; be it natural, moral or ceremonial law; cf. 3:20-22; Dz 801, 1793; Prat I 180 f.

Already Origen uttered a warning against the false conclusion that according to this verse works after justification are of no account. To draw such a conclusion would be to overlook two important points:

(1) Paul is here concerned not with the Christian life after justification, but with the way of obtaining justification. ‘Initial justification’ = the beginning of justification, is his point.

(2) When Paul does speak of the life after justification has been obtained he leaves no doubt that works are necessary to retain the justification obtained by faith. The evidence is to be found in his many exhortations, e.g.Rom 12-14. Among the more popular references to the same effect are Mat_25:34 ff.; 1Co_3:8; 2Co_11:15; Gal_5:6; Jam_2:14, Jam_2:17, Jam_2:24-26. But St Paul would call these works ‘works of faith’ and not ‘works of law’. Thus there is no contradiction. Faith leads to virtue, but virtue need not lead to faith (St Gregory the Great, Hom. 19 in Ez, cf. Estius). The necessity and meritorious character of good works after justification had to be defended by the Council of Trent, sess VI cap 7, 10; Dz 800, 803, 834, 842.

Another conclusion from 28 that had to be rejected by the Council of Trent is, that before justification only faith is necessary as a preparation and no other works. To prove such a conclusion it would be necessary to show that Paul considered here not only the immediate preparation for justification which is admittedly faith, but also the possibilities of a more remote preparation and deliberately excluded any such steps before the decisive act of faith. Such a proof is impossible and other texts show that we must leave room for such a more remote preparation. The Council of Trent, sess VI cap 6 (Dz 798, 819), mentions: fear of God’s punishment of sin, Ecclus 1:28; Heb_11:6; hope of is forgiveness for Christ’s sake, Mat_9:2; Mar_2:5; love of God = hatred of sin, 1Jo_3:14; repentance, Luk_13:3; Act_3:19; the resolution to receive the Sacrament of baptism and to keep the commandments, Mat_28:19; Act_2:38; cf. Tanquerey III 54-8, esp. nr 54.

Verse 28 has also become famous through Luther’s translation ‘by faith alone’ = sola fide. The adjective ‘alone’ was not in the text from which Luther translated, since no MS or edition has it. He may have added it for the purpose of bringing out the sense of the passage more clearly. In fact, however, the addition has led to the false conclusion that—faith excepted—all other works both before and after justification are of no account according to St Paul’s doctrine of salvation. This so-called sola-fides doctrine was rejected by the Council of Trent, Dz 819, 798, 803 f. 30. ‘by faith . . . through faith’: stylistic variation seems to be the most natural explanation of the difference in the preposition; so Boylan, differently SH.

John Calvin
Romans 3:29
29.Is he the God of the Jews only? The second proposition is, that this righteousness belongs no more to the Jews than to the Gentiles: and it was a great matter that this point should be urged, in order that a free passage might be made for the kingdom of Christ through the whole world. He does not then ask simply or expressly, whether God was the Creator of the Gentiles, which was admitted without any dispute; but whether he designed to manifest himself as a Savior also to them. As he had put all mankind on a level, and brought them to the same condition, if there be any difference between them, it is from God, not from themselves, who have all things alike: but if it be true that God designs to make all the nations of the earth partakers of his mercy, then salvation, and righteousness, which is necessary for salvation, must be extended to all. Hence under the name, God, is conveyed an intimation of a mutual relationship, which is often mentioned in Scripture, — “I shall be to you a God, and you shall be to me a people.” (Jer_30:22.)

For the circumstance, that God, for a time, chose for himself a peculiar people, did not make void the origin of mankind, who were all formed after the image of God, and were to be brought up in the world in the hope of a blessed eternity.

Charles Hodge
Romans 3:29, 30
Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also; seeing it is one God who shall justify, etc. We have here the second result of the gospel method of justification; it presents God as equally the God of the Gentiles and of the Jews. He is such, because ‘it is one God who justifies the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith.’ He deals with both classes on precisely the same principles; he pursues, with regard to both, the same plan, and offers salvation to both on exactly the same terms. There is, therefore, in this doctrine, the foundation laid for a universal religion, which may be preached to every creature under heaven; which need not, as was the case with the Jewish system, be confined to any one sect or nation. This is the only doctrine which suits the character of God, and his relation to all his intelligent creatures upon earth God is a universal, and not a national God; and this is a method of salvation universally applicable. These sublime truths are so familiar to our minds that they have, in a measure, lost their power; but as to the Jew, enthralled all his life in his narrow national and religious prejudices, they must have expanded his whole soul with unwonted emotions of wonder, gratitude, and joy. We Gentiles may now look up to heaven, and confidently say, “Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and though Israel acknowledge us not.”

Paul here, as in Rom_3:20, uses the future δικαιώσει, will justify, not for the present, nor in reference to the final judgment, but as expressing a permanent purpose. There is no distinction as to the meaning to be sought between ἐκ πίστεως (by faith) and διὰ πίστεως (through faith,) as Paul uses both forms indiscriminately; ἐκ, for example, in Rom_1:17; Rom_3:20; Rom_4:16, etc., and διὰ in Rom_3:22, Rom_3:25; Gal_2:16; and sometimes first the one, and then the other, in the same connection. There is no greater difference between the Greek prepositions, as here used, than between the English by and through.

William Sanday
29. ἤ presents, but only to dismiss, an alternative hypothesis on the assumption of which the Jew might still have had something to boast of. In rejecting this, St. Paul once more emphatically asserts his main position. There is but one law (Faith), and there is but one Judge to administer it. Though faith is spoken of in this abstract way it is of course Christian faith, faith in Christ.

Pulpit Commentary
Romans 3:29 Is God the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. This verse is in support of the doctrine, already asserted, and pervading the Epistle, of justification through Christ being for all mankind alike without distinction or partiality; and it comes in here in pursuance of the thought of the preceding verse. In it justification was said to be by faith, and apart from works of law, and therefore in itself available for the Gentiles, who had no revealed law, as well as for the Jews, who had. And why should it not be so? Is not the God of the Jews their God too? Yes.

John Calvin
Romans 3:30
30.Who shall justify, etc. In saying that some are justified by faith, and some through faith, he seems to have indulged himself in varying his language, while he expresses the same thing, and for this end, — that he might, by the way, touch on the folly of the Jews, who imagined a difference between themselves and the Gentiles, though on the subject of justification there was no difference whatever; for since men became partakers of this grace by faith only, and since faith in all is the same, it is absurd to make a distinction in what is so much alike. I am hence led to think that there is something ironical in the words, as though be said, — “If any wishes to have a difference made between the Gentile and the Jew, let him take this, — that the one obtains righteousness by faith, and the other through faith.”

George Haydock
Romans 3:30 God who justifieth circumcision, and also the uncircumcised by faith; that is, by the faith and religion of the new law, or by a faith working by charity, and joined with good words proceeding from faith. See the Council of Trent, Session 6. cap. viii. “When the apostle says, that a man is justified by faith, and gratis, according to the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church, we are said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning and foundation of man’s salvation, and the root of his justification, without which we cannot please God, nor be made his sons; and we are said to be justified gratis, because nothing of those things which go before justification, whether faith or works, are meritorious of the grace of justification.” (Witham)

Adam Clarke

Romans 3:30
Seeing it is one God – επιπερ εις ο θεος. This has been rendered, Seeing God is one. It however makes little difference in the sense: the apostle’s meaning most evidently is, it is one and the same God who made both Jews and Gentiles, who shall justify – pardon, the circumcision – the believing Jews, by faith; and the uncircumcision – the believing Gentiles, by the same faith; as there is but one Savior and one atonement provided for the whole.

It is fanciful to suppose that the apostle has one meaning when he says, εκ πιστεως, By faith, and a different meaning when he says, δια της πιστεως, Through faith. Both the prepositions are to be understood in precisely the same sense; only the addition of the article της, in the last case, extends and more pointedly ascertains the meaning. It is one and the same God who shall justify the believing Jews by faith; and the believing Gentiles δια της πιστεως, by That Same faith.

John Calvin
Romans 3:31
31.Do we then make, etc. When the law is opposed to faith, the flesh immediately suspects that there is some contrariety, as though the one were adverse to the other: and this false notion prevails, especially among those who are imbued with wrong ideas as to the law, and leaving the promises, seek nothing else through it but the righteousness of works. And on this account, not only Paul, but our Lord himself, was evil spoken of by the Jews, as though in all his preaching he aimed at the abrogation of the law. Hence it was that he made this protest, —“I came not to undo, but to fulfill the law.” (Mat_5:17.)

And this suspicion regards the moral as well as the ceremonial law; for as the gospel has put an end to the Mosaic ceremonies, it is supposed to have a tendency to destroy the whole dispensation of Moses. And further, as it sweeps away all the righteousness of works, it is believed to be opposed to all those testimonies of the law, by which the Lord has declared, that he has thereby prescribed the way of righteousness and salvation. I therefore take this defense of Paul, not only as to ceremonies, nor as to the commandments which are called moral, but with regard to the whole law universally.

For the moral law is in reality confirmed and established through faith in Christ, inasmuch as it was given for this end — to lead man to Christ by showing him his iniquity; and without this it cannot be fulfilled, and in vain will it require what ought to be done; nor can it do anything but irritate lust more and more, and thus finally increase man’s condemnation; but where there is a coming to Christ, there is first found in him the perfect righteousness of the law, which becomes ours by imputation, and then there is sanctification, by which our hearts are prepared to keep the law; it is indeed imperfectly done, but there is an aiming at the work. Similar is the case withceremonies, which indeed cease and vanish away when Christ comes, but they are in reality confirmed by him; for when they are viewed in themselves they are vain and shadowy images, and then only do they attain anything real and solid, when their end is regarded. In this then consists their chief confirmation, when they have obtained their accomplishment in Christ. Let us then also bear in mind, so to dispense the gospel that by our mode of teaching the law may be confirmed; but let it be sustained by no other strength than that of faith in Christ.

Charles Hodge
Romans 3:31
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. This verse states the third result of this method of salvation; instead of invalidating, it establishes the law. As Paul uses the word law in so many senses, it is doubtful which one of them is here principally intended. In every sense, however, the declaration is true. If the law means the Old Testament generally, then it is true; for the gospel method of justification contradicts no one of its statements, is inconsistent with no one of its doctrines, and invalidates no one of its promises, but is harmonious with all, and confirmatory of the whole. If it means the Mosaic institutions specially, these were shadows of which Christ is the substance. That law is abolished, not by being pronounced spurious or invalid, but by having met its accomplishment, and answered its design in the gospel. What it taught and promised, the gospel also teaches and promises, only in clearer and fuller measure. If it means the moral law, which no doubt was prominently intended, still it is not invalidated, but established. No moral obligation is weakened, no penal sanction disregarded. The precepts are enforced by new and stronger motives, and the penalty is answered in Him who bore our sins in his own body on the tree. “Ubi vero ad Christum ventum est,” says Calvin, “primum in eo invenitur exacta Legis justitia, quae per imputationem etiam nostra fit. Deinde sanctificatio, qua formantur corda nostra ad Legis observationem, imperfectam quidem illam, sed ad scopum collimat.” Instead of making Rom_3:31 the close of the third chapter, many commentators regard it as more properly the beginning of the fourth. The proposition that the gospel, instead of invalidating, establishes the law, they say is too important to be dismissed with a mere categorical assertion. This, however, is Paul’s method. After showing that the law cannot save, that both justification and sanctification are by the gospel, he is wont to state in a sentence what is the true end of the law, or that the law and the gospel being both from God, but designed for different ends, are not in conflict. See above, Rom_3:20; Gal_3:19, Gal_3:20. If this verse, however, be made the beginning of the exhibition contained in the following chapter, then by law must be understood the Old Testament, and the confirmation of the law by the gospel consists in the fact that the latter teaches the same doctrine as the former. ‘Do we make void the law by teaching that justification is by faith? By no means: we establish the law; for the Old Testament itself teaches that Abraham and David were justified gratuitously by faith, and without works.’ Although the sense is thus good, there does not appear to be any sufficient reason for departing from the common division of the chapters. The next chapter is not connected with this verse by γάρ, which the sense would demand if the connection was what Meyer, De Wette, and others would make it: ‘We establish the law when we teach faith, for Abraham was justified by faith.’ The connecting particle is simply οὖν, then, and gives a very different sense. Besides it is a very subordinate object with the apostle to prove that the law and the gospel agree. His design is to teach the true method of justification. The cases of Abraham and David are referred to, to prove his doctrine on that point, and not merely the agreement between the old dispensation and the new.

Expositors Greek NT
Ver. 31. νόμον οὖν καταργοῦμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως; Do we then annul “law” through the faith we have been discussing? Perhaps if Law were written with a capital letter, it would suggest the true meaning. The Apostle speaks as from the consciousness of a Jewish objector: is all that we have ever called Law—the whole Jewish religion—that divinely established order, and everything of the same nature—made void by faith? God forbid, he answers: on the contrary, Law is set upon a secure footing; for the first time it gets its rights. To prove this was one of the main tasks lying upon the Apostle of the New Covenant. One species of proof is given in chap 4, p 615 where he shows that representative saints under the Old Dispensation, like Abraham, were justified by faith. That is the Divine order still, and it is securer than ever under the Gospel. Another kind of proof is given in chaps. 6-8, where the new life of the Christian is unfolded, and we are shown that “the just demands of the law” are fulfilled in believers, and in believers only. The claim which the Apostle makes here, and establishes in these two passages, is the same as that in our Lord’s words: I came not to destroy (the law or the prophets), but to fulfil.

Albert Barnes
Romans 3:31
Do we then make void the law – Do we render it vain and useless; do we destroy its moral obligation; and do we prevent obedience to it, by the doctrine of justification by faith? This was an objection which would naturally be made; and which has thousands of times been since made, that the doctrine of justification by faith tends to licentiousness. The word “law” here, I understand as referring to the moral law, and not merely to the Old Testament. This is evident from Rom_3:20-21, where the apostle shows that no man could be justified by deeds of law, by conformity with the moral law. See the note.

God forbid – By no means. Note, Rom_3:4. This is an explicit denial of any such tendency.

Yea, we establish the law – That is, by the doctrine of justification by faith; by this scheme of treating people as righteous, the moral law is confirmed, its obligation is enforced, obedience to it is secured. This is done in the following manner:

(1) God showed respect to it, in being unwilling to pardon sinners without an atonement. He showed that it could not be violated with impunity; that he was resolved to fulfil its threatenings.

(2) Jesus Christ came to magnify it, and to make it honorable. He showed respect to it in his life; and he died to show that God was determined to inflict its penalty.

(3) the plan of justification by faith leads to an observance of the Law. The sinner sees the evil of transgression. He sees the respect which God has shown to the Law. He gives his heart to God, and yields himself to obey his Law. All the sentiments that arise from the conviction of sin; that flow from gratitude for mercies; that spring from love to God; all his views of the sacredness of the Law, prompt him to yield obedience to it. The fact that Christ endured such sufferings to show the evil of violating the Law, is one of the strongest motives prompting to obedience. We do not easily and readily repeat what overwhelms our best friends in calamity; and we are brought to hate what inflicted such woes on the Saviour’s soul.

This is an advantage in moral influence which no cold, abstract law always has over the human mind. And one of the chief glories of the plan of salvation is, that while it justifies the sinner, it brings a new set of influences from heaven, more tender and mighty than can be drawn from any other source, to produce obedience to the Law of God.

(This is indeed a beautiful and just view of the moral influence of the gospel, and especially of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It may be questioned, however, whether the apostle in this place refers chiefly, or even at all, to the sanctifying tendency of his doctrine. This he does very fully in the 6th Rom.; and therefore, if another and consistent sense can be found, we need not resort to the supposition that he now anticipates what he intended, in a subsequent part of his epistle, more fully to discuss. In what other way, then, does the apostle’s doctrine establish the Law? How does he vindicate himself from the charge of making it void? In the preceding chapter he had pointed out the true ground of pardon in the “righteousness of God.” He had explained that none could be justified but they who had by faith received it. “Do we then,” he asks in conclusion,” make void the Law by maintaining thus, that no sinner can be accepted who does not receive a righteousness commensurate with all its demands?.” “Yea, we establish the law,” is the obvious answer. Jesus has died to satisfy its claims, and lives to honor its precepts. Thus, he hath brought in “righteousness,” which, being imputed to them that believe, forms such a ground of pardon and acceptance, as the Law cannot challenge.

Calvin, in his commentary on the passage, though he does not exclude the idea of sanctification, yet gives prominence to the view now stated. “When,” says he, “we come to Christ, the exact righteousness of the Law is first found in him, which also becomes ours by imputation; in the next place sanctification is acquired,” etc.)

R.B. Terry
Romans 4:1 :
TEXT: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?”
EVIDENCE: S*,c {Sa} A C* {C3 D G Psi} 81 {lat vg} syr(pal) cop

NOTES: “What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?”
EVIDENCE: B 1739 (“father”)

NOTES: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our father, has found according to the flesh?”
EVIDENCE: K P 33 104 614 630 1241 1881 2495 Byz Lect syr(p,h)
COMMENTS: The evidence for the text that is in braces reads “father” instead of “forefather.” The word for “has found” was perhaps accidently omitted because the word before it begins with the same letter. Although it is possible that its omission from two manuscripts and that fact that it is found in two different places in the others means that it was not original, it is not the sort of word that a copyist was likely to add. The rare word “forefather” (found only here in the New Testament) was changed to the much more common word “father” (used of Abraham in Luk_16:24; Luk_16:30; Joh_8:53; Act_7:2; and Rom_4:12). The second reading in the notes can be translated like the text reading.

John Calvin
Romans 4:1
1.What then, etc. This is a confirmation by example; and it is a very strong one, since all things are alike with regard to the subject and the person; for he was the father of the faithful, to whom we ought all to be conformed; and there is also but one way and not many ways by which righteousness may be obtained by all. In many other things one example would not be sufficient to make a common rule; but as in the person of Abraham there was exhibited a mirror and pattern of righteousness, which belongs in common to the whole Church, rightly does Paul apply what has been written of him alone to the whole body of the Church, and at the same time he gives a check to the Jews, who had nothing more plausible to glory in than that they were the children of Abraham; and they could not have dared to claim to themselves more holiness than what they ascribed to the holy patriarch. Since it is then evident that he was justified freely, his posterity, who claimed a righteousness of their own by the law, ought to have been made silent even through shame.

According to the flesh, etc. Between this clause and the word father there is put in Paul’s text the verb ἑυρηκέναι, in this order — “What shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?” On this account, some interpreters think that the question is — “What has Abraham obtained according to the flesh?” If this exposition be approved, the words according to the flesh mean naturally or from himself. It is, however, probable that they are to be connected with the word father. Besides, as we are wont to be more touched by domestic examples, the dignity of their race, in which the Jews took too much pride, is here again expressly mentioned. But some regard this as spoken in contempt, as they are elsewhere called the carnal children of Abraham, being not so spiritually or in a legitimate sense. But I think that it was expressed as a thing peculiar to the Jews; for it was a greater honor to be the children of Abraham by nature and descent, than by mere adoption, provided there was also faith. He then concedes to the Jews a closer bond of union, but only for this end — that he might more deeply impress them that they ought not to depart from the example of their father.

Charles Hodge
What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? The connection of this verse with the preceding train of reasoning is obvious. Paul had taught that we are justified by faith; as well in confirmation of this doctrine, as to anticipate an objection from the Jew, he refers to the case of Abraham: ‘How was it then with Abraham? How did he obtain justification?’ The point in dispute was, how justification is to be attained. Paul proposes to decide the question by reference to a case about which no one could doubt. All admitted that Abraham was justified. The only question was, How? The particle οὖν, therefore, is not inferential, but simply indicates transition. What then shall we say about Abraham? In the question, however, τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν, κ. τ. λ. the τί belongs to εὑρηκέναι: ‘What shall we say that Abraham hath found?’ i.e. attained. The words κατὰ σάρκα do not belong to πατέρα, ‘our father according to the flesh,’ but to the preceding infinitive, εὐρηκέναι ‘what hath he attained through the flesh?’ Although the question is indefinite, the connection shows that Paul meant to ask whether Abraham secured justification before God, κατὰ σάρκα through the flesh. The word flesh admits in this connection of different explanations. Calvin says it is equivalent to naturaliter, ex seipso, and Grotius much to the same effect, propriis viribus, ‘through his own resources.’ Not much different from this is the explanation of Meyer, Tholuck, and De Wette — nach sein menschlicher Weise — that is, after a purely human way; so that σάρξ stands opposed to the divine Πνεῦμα, (Holy Spirit). If this implies that Abraham was not justified by natural, but was justified by spiritual works, (works done after regeneration,) it contradicts the whole teaching of the apostle. This, however, though naturally suggested as the meaning of the passage as thus explained, is not the doctrine of either of the commentators just named. Paul gives his own interpretation of κατὰ σάρκα in the following verse: ‘Did Abraham,’ he asks, ‘attain justification according to the flesh? No, for if he was justified by works, he hath whereof to boast.’ It is plain that he uses the two expressions, according to the flesh and by works, as equivalent. This meaning of σάρξ is easily explained. Paul uses the word for what is external, as opposed to what is internal and spiritual, and thus for all external rites and ceremonial works, and then for works without limitation. See Gal_3:3; Gal_6:12; Phi_3:3, Phi_3:4. In this last passage Paul includes, under the flesh, not only his Hebrew descent, his circumcision, his being a Pharisee, his blameless adherence to the Jewish law, but everything comprehended under his “own righteousness,” as distinguished from “the righteousness which is of God (ἐπὶ πίστει) on the condition of faith.” This is clearly its sense here. It includes everything meant by “works” and “works” includes all forms of personal righteousness. This same result is reached in another way. Κατὰ σάρκα may mean, as Meyer and others say, after a human method, i.e. after the manner of men; and this may be understood to mean after the manner common among men, i.e. through works, or personal merit, which is the way that men adopt to secure favor with others. This is the explanation given by Köllner.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:1
What shall we say then? – See Rom_3:1. This is rather the objection of a Jew. “How does your doctrine of justification by faith agree with what the Scriptures say of Abraham? Was the Law set aside in his case? Did he derive no advantage in justification from the rite of circumcision, and from the covenant which God made with him?” The object of the apostle now is to answer this inquiry.

That Abraham our father – Our ancestor; the father and founder of the nation; see the note at Mat_3:9 The Jews valued themselves much on the fact that he was their father; and an argument, drawn from his example or conduct, therefore, would be especially forcible.

As pertaining to the flesh – This expression is one that has been much controverted. In the original, it may refer either to Abraham as their father “according to the flesh,” that is, their natural father, or from whom they were descended; or it may be connected with “hath found.” “What shall we say that Abraham our father hath found in respect to the flesh?” κατὰ σάρκα kata sarka. The latter is doubtless the proper connection. Some refer the word “flesh” to external privileges and advantages; others to his own strength or power (Calvin and Grotius); and others make it refer to circumcision. This latter I take to be the correct interpretation. It agrees best with the connection, and equally well with the usual meaning of the word. The idea is, “If people are justified by faith; if works are to have no place; if, therefore, all rites and ceremonies, all legal observances, are useless in justification; what is the advantage of circumcision? What benefit did Abraham derive from it? Why was it appointed? And why is such an importance attached to it in the history of his life.” A similar question was asked in Rom_3:1.

Hath found – Hath obtained. What advantage has he derived from it?

John Calvin
Romans 4:2
2.For if Abraham, etc. This is an incomplete argument, which may be made in this form — “If Abraham was justified by works, he might justly glory: but he had nothing for which he could glory before God; then he was not justified by works.” Thus the clause but not before God, is the minor proposition; and to this must be added the conclusion which I have stated, though it is not expressed by Paul. He calls that glorying when we pretend to have anything of our own to which a reward is supposed to be due at God’s tribunal. Since he takes this away from Abraham, who of us can claim for himself the least particle of merit?

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:2
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. The apostle’s mode of reasoning is so concise as often to leave some of the steps of his argument to be supplied, which, however, are almost always sufficiently obvious from the context. As just remarked, a negative answer is to be supposed to the question in the first verse. Abraham did not attain the favor of God through the flesh. The force of for at the beginning of this verse, is then obvious, as introducing the reason for this answer. The passage itself is very concise, and the latter clause admits of different interpretations. ‘If Abraham was justified by works, he might indeed assert his claim to the confidence and favor of his fellowmen, but he could not have any ground of boasting before God.’ This view, however, introduces an idea entirely foreign from the passage, and makes the conclusion the very opposite of that to which the premises would lead. For if justified by works, he would have ground of boasting before God. The interpretation given by Calvin is altogether the most satisfactory and simple: “Epichirema est, id est imperfecta ratiocinatio, quae in hanc fornam colligi debet. Si Abraham operibus justificatus est, potest suo merito gloriari; sed non habet unde glorietur apud Deum; ergo non ex operibus justificatus est.” ‘If Abraham was justified by works he hath whereof to glory; but he hath not whereof to glory before God, and therefore he was not justified by works;’ the very conclusion which Paul intended to establish, and which he immediately confirms by the testimony of the Scriptures. The argument thus far is founded on the assumption that no man can appear thus confidently before God, and boast of having done all that was required of him. If the doctrine of justification by works involves, as Paul shows it does, this claim to perfect obedience, it must be false. And that Abraham was not thus justified, he proves from the sacred record.

Pulpit Commentary
Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, be hath whereof to glory; but not before God. Many commentators take this verse to imply that, even if he was justified by works, he still had no ground of glorying before God, though he might have before men. But the drift of the whole argument being to show that he was not justified by works at all, this interpretation can hardly stand. “Not before God” must therefore have reference to the whole of the preceding sentence, in the sense, “It was not so in the sight of God.” Before God (as appears from the text to be quoted) he had not whereof to glory on the ground of being justified by works, and therefore it follows that it was not by works that he was justified.

A.T. Robertson
Romans 4:2
The Scripture (hē graphē). Gen_15:6.

Was justified by works (ex ergōn edikaiōthē). Condition of first class, assumed as true for the sake of argument, though untrue in fact. The rabbis had a doctrine of the merits of Abraham who had a superfluity of credits to pass on to the Jews (Luk_3:8).

But not towards God (all’ ou pros theon). Abraham deserved all the respect from men that came to him, but his relation to God was a different matter. He had there no ground of boasting at all.

John Calvin
Romans 4:3
3.For what saith the Scripture? This is a proof of the minor proposition, or of what he assumed, when he denied that Abraham had any ground for glorying: for if Abraham was justified, because he embraced, by faith, the bountiful mercy of God, it follows, that he had nothing to glory in; for he brought nothing of his own, except a confession of his misery, which is a solicitation for mercy. He, indeed, takes it as granted, that the righteousness of faith is the refuge, and, as it were, the asylum of the sinner, who is destitute of works. For if there be any righteousness by the law or by works, it must be in men themselves; but by faith they derive from another what is wanting in themselves; and hence the righteousness of faith is rightly called imputative.

The passage, which is quoted, is taken from Gen_15:6; in which the word believe is not to be confined to any particular expression, but it refers to the whole covenant of salvation, and the grace of adoption, which Abraham apprehended by faith. There is, indeed, mentioned there the promise of a future seed; but it was grounded on gratuitous adoption: and it ought to be observed, that salvation without the grace of God is not promised, nor God’s grace without salvation; and again, that we are not called to the grace of God nor to the hope of salvation, without having righteousness offered to us.

Taking this view, we cannot but see that those understand not the principles of theology, who think that this testimony recorded by Moses, is drawn aside from its obvious meaning by Paul: for as there is a particular promise there stated, they understand that he acted rightly and faithfully in believing it, and was so far approved by God. But they are in this mistaken; first, because they have not considered that believing extends to the whole context, and ought not to be confined to one clause. But the principal mistake is, that they begin not with the testimony of God’s favor. But God gave this, to make Abraham more assured of his adoption and paternal favor; and included in this was eternal salvation by Christ. Hence Abraham, by believing, embraced nothing but the favor offered to him, being persuaded that it would not be void. Since this was imputed to him for righteousness, it follows, that he was not otherwise just, than as one trusting in God’s goodness, and venturing to hope for all things from him. Moses does not, indeed, tell us what men thought of him, but how he was accounted before the tribunal of God. Abraham then laid hold on the benignity of God offered to him in the promise, through which he understood that righteousness was communicated to him. It is necessary, in order to form an opinion of righteousness, to understand this relation between the promise and faith; for there is in this respect the same connection between God and us, as there is, according to the lawyers, between the giver and the person to whom any thing is given, (datorem et donatarium — the donor and the donee:) for we can no otherwise attain righteousness, than as it is brought to us, as it were, by the promise of the gospel; and we realize its possession by faith.

How to reconcile what James says, which seems somewhat contrary to this view I have already explained, and intend to explain more fully, when I come, if the Lord will permit, to expound that Epistle.

Only let us remember this, — that those to whom righteousness is imputed, are justified; since these two things are mentioned by Paul as being the same. We hence conclude that the question is not, what men are in themselves, but how God regards them; not that purity of conscience and integrity of life are to be separated from the gratuitous favor of God; but that when the reason is asked, why God loves us and owns us as just, it is necessary that Christ should come forth as one who clothes us with his own righteousness.

Charles Hodge

Romans 4:3
For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. The connection of this verse with the preceding is this: Paul had just said that Abraham had no ground of boasting with God; for, what saith the scripture? Does it refer the ground of Abraham’s justification to his works? By no means. It declares he was justified by faith; which Paul immediately shows is equivalent to saying that he was justified gratuitously. The passage quoted by the apostle is Gen_15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him (i.e., imputed to him) for righteousness.” This is an important passage, as the phrase “to impute faith for righteousness,” occurs repeatedly in Paul’s writings.

1. The primary meaning of the word λογίζομαι, here rendered to count to, or impute, is to reason, then to reckon, or number. 2Ch_5:6, “Which could not be numbered for multitude;” Mar_15:28, “He was numbered with the transgressors;” see Isa_53:12 etc.
2. It means to esteem, or regard as something, that is, to number as belonging to a certain class of things; Gen_31:15, “Are we not counted of him strangers?” Isa_40:17 etc.; compare Job_19:11, Job_33:10, in the Hebrew.

3. It is used in the more general sense of purposing, devising, considering, thinking, etc.
4.In strict connection with its primary meaning, it signifies to impute, to set to one’s account; that is, to number among the things belonging to a man, or chargeable upon him.

It generally implies the accessory idea of ‘treating one according to the nature of the thing imputed.’ Thus, in the frequent phrase, to impute sin, as 2Sa_19:19, “Let not my Lord impute iniquity unto me,” i.e., ‘Let him not lay it to my charge, and treat me accordingly;’ compare 1Sa_22:15, in the Hebrew and Septuagint; Psa_32:2 (Septuagint, 31.) “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,” etc. And in the New Testament, 2Co_5:19, “Not imputing unto men their trespasses;” 2Ti_4:16, “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge,” etc. These and numerous similar passages render the Scriptural idea of imputation perfectly clear. It is laying anything to one’s charge, and treating him accordingly. It produces no change in the individual to whom the imputation is made; it simply alters his relation to the law. All those objections, therefore, to the doctrine expressed by this term, which are founded on the assumption that imputation alters the moral character of men; that it implies an infusion of either sin or holiness, rest on a misconception of its nature. It is, so far as the mere force of the term is concerned, a matter of perfect indifference whether the thing imputed belonged antecedently to the person to whom the imputation is made or not. It is just as common and correct to speak of laying to a man’s charge what does not belong to him, as what does. That a thing can seldom be justly imputed to a person to whom it does not personally belong, is a matter of course. But that the word itself implies that the thing imputed must belong to the person concerned, is a singular misconception. These remarks have, of course, reference only to the meaning of the word. Whether the Bible actually teaches that there is an imputation of either sin or righteousness, to any to whom it does not personally belong, is another question. That the Bible does speak both of imputing to a man what does not actually belong to him, and of not imputing what does, is evident from the following, among other passages, Lev_17:3, Lev_17:4 : “What man soever killeth than ox, and bringeth it not to the door of the tabernacle,” etc., “blood shall be imputed to that man;” that is, blood-guiltiness or murder, a crime of which he was not actually guilty, should be laid to his charge, and he should be put to death. “Sanguils hic est caedes,” says Rosenmüller; “perinde Deo displicebit, ac si ille hominem occidisset, et mortis reus judicabitur.” “Als Blutschuld soll es angerechnet werden diesem Manne.” Gesenius. On the other hand, Lev_7:18, if any part of a sacrifice is eaten on the third day, the offering “shall not be imputed to him that made it.” Paul, speaking to Philemon of the debt of Onesimus, says, “put that on my account,” i.e., impute it to me. The word used in this case is the same as that which occurs in Rom_5:13, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law;” and is in its root and usage precisely synonymous with the word employed in the passage before us, when the latter is used in reference to imputation. No less than twice also, in this very chapter, Rom_4:6 and Rom_4:11, Paul speaks of ‘imputing righteousness,’ not to those to whom it personally belongs, certainly, but to the ungodly, Rom_4:5; to those who have no works, Rom_4:6.

Professor Storr, of Tübingen, De vario sensu vocis δίκαιος, etc., in Nov. Test., in his Opuscula, Vol. 1., p. 224, says, “Since innocence or probity (expressed by the word righteousness) does not belong to man himself, it must be ascribed or imputed to him. In this way the formula, ‘righteousness which is of God,’ Phi_3:9, and especially the plainer expressions, ‘to impute faith for righteousness,’ Rom_4:5, and ‘to impute righteousness,’ are to be understood.” We readily admit, he says, that things which actually belong to a man may also be said to be imputed to him, as was the case with Phineas, etc., and then adds, “Nevertheless, as he is said not to impute an action really performed, Leviticus 7; 2 Samuel 19, etc., who does not so regard it as to decree the fruit and punishment of it; so, on the other hand, those things can be imputed, Lev_17:4, which are not, in fact, found in the man, but which are so far attributed to him, that he may be hence treated as though he had performed them. Thus righteousness may be said to be imputed, Rom_4:6, Rom_4:11, when not his own innocence and probity, which God determines to reward, is ascribed to the believer, but when God so ascribes and imputes righteousness, of which we are destitute, that we are treated as innocent and just.” On page 233, he says, “Verbum λογίζεσθαι monstrat gratiam, Rom_4:4, nam δικαιοσύνηn nostram negat.”

This idea of imputation is one of the most familiar in all the Bible, and is expressed in a multitude of cases where the term is not used. When Stephen prayed, Act_7:60, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” he expressed exactly the same idea that Paul did, when he said, 2Ti_4:16, “I pray God it may not be laid to their charge,” although the latter uses the word impute (λογισθείη,) and the former does not. So the expressions, “his sin shall be upon him,” “he shall bear his iniquity,” which occur so often, are perfectly synonymous with the formula, “his sin shall be imputed to him;” and, of course, “to bear the sins of another,” is equivalent to saying, “those sins are imputed.” The objection, therefore, that the word impute does not occur in reference to the imputation of the sin or righteousness of one man to another, even if well founded, which is not the tact, is of no more force than the objections against the doctrines of the Trinity, vicarious atonement, perseverance of the saints, etc., founded on the fact that these words do not occur in the Bible. The material point surely is, Do the ideas occur? The doctrine of the “imputation of righteousness” is not the doctrine of this or that school in theology. It is the possession of the Church. It was specially the glory and power of the Reformation. Those who differed most elsewhere, were perfectly agreed here. Lutherans and Reformed, alienated from each other by the sacramentarian controversy, were of one mind on this great doctrine. The testimony of the learned Rationalist, Bretschneider, if any testimony on so notorious a fact is necessary, may be here cited. Speaking with special reference to the Lutheran Church, he says, “The symbolical books, in the first place, contradict the scholastic representation of justification, followed by the Romish Church, that is, that it is an act of God, by which he communicates to men an inherent righteousness (justitia habitualis, infusa), i.e. renders them virtuous. They described it as a forensic or judicial act of God, that is, an act by which merely the moral relation of the man to God, not the man himself (at least not immediately,) is changed.” “Hence, justification consists of three parts:

1. The imputation of the merit of Christ.

2. The remission of punishment.

3. The restoration of the favor and the blessedness forfeited by sin.”

“By the imputatio justitiae (or meriti) Christi, the symbolical books understand that judgment of God, according to which he treats us as though we had not sinned, but had fulfilled the law, or as though the merit of Christ was ours; see Apol., Art. 9, p. 226, Merita propitiatoris — aliis donantur imputatione divina, ut per ea, tanquam propriis meritis justi reputemur, ut si quis amicus pro amico solvit aes alienum, debitor alieno merito tanquam proprio liberatur” — Bretschneider’s Entwickelung aller in der Dog. vorkommenden Begriffe, pp. 631, 632, etc.

But to return to the phrase, ‘Faith is imputed for righteousness.’ It is very common to understand faith here, to include its object, i.e., the righteousness of Christ; so that it is not faith considered as an act, which is imputed, but faith considered as including the merit which it apprehends and appropriates. Thus hope is often used for the thing hoped for, as Rom_8:24, “Hope that is seen is not hope,” etc.; and faith for the things believed, Gal_1:23, “He preacheth the faith,” etc. In illustration of this idea, Gerhard, the leading authority in the Lutheran Church, during the seventeenth century, says, “Quemadmodum annulus, cui inclusa est gemma, dicitur valere aliquot coronatis, pretiosissima ita fides, quae apprehendit Christi justitiam, dicitur nohis imputari ad justitiam, quippe cujus est organum apprehendens,” Loci Tom. 7. 238. Although there are difficulties attending this interpretation, it cannot, with any consistency, be exclaimed against by those who make faith to include the whole work of the Spirit on the heart, and its fruits in the life; as is done by the majority of those who reject this view of the passage. Besides this interpretation, there are three other explanations which deserve consideration. The first is that adopted by the Remonstrants, or Arminians. According to their view, δικαιοσύνη is to be taken in its ordinary sense of righteousness, that which constitutes a man righteous in the eye of the law. They understand the apostle, when he says, “Faith was imputed for righteousness,” as teaching that faith was regarded or counted as complete obedience to the law. As men are unable to render that perfect obedience which the law given to Adam required, God, under the gospel, according to this view, is pleased to accept of faith (a fides obsequiosa, as it is called, i.e., faith including evangelical obedience), instead of the righteousness which the law demands. Faith is thus made, not the instrument, but the ground of justification. It is imputed for righteousness in the sense of being regarded and treated as though it were complete obedience to the law. It must be admitted, that so far as this single form of statement is concerned, this interpretation is natural, and consistent with usage. Thus uncircumcision is said to be imputed for circumcision, that is, the former is regarded as though it were the latter. This, however, is not the only sense the words will naturally bear, and it is utterly inconsistent with what the Scriptures elsewhere teach.

1. It contradicts all those passages in which Paul and the other sacred writers deny that the ground of justification is anything in us, or done by us. These passages are too numerous to be cited; see Rom_3:20, where it is shown that the works which are excluded from the ground of justification are not ceremonial works merely, nor works performed with a legal spirit, but all works, without exception; works of righteousness, Tit_3:5, i.e., all right or good works. But faith considered as an act, is as much a work as prayer, repentance, almsgiving, or anything of the kind. And it is as much an act of obedience to the law, as the performance of any other duty; for the law requires us to do whatever is in itself right.

2. It contradicts all those passages in which the merit of Christ, in any form, is declared to be the ground of our acceptance. Thus in Rom_3:25, it is Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice; Rom_5:18, Rom_5:19, it is his obedience or righteousness; in many other places it is said to be his death, his cross, his blood. Faith must either be the ground of our acceptance, or the means or instrument of our becoming interested in the true meritorious ground, viz., the righteousness of Christ. It cannot stand in both relations to our justification.

3. It is inconsistent with the of office ascribed to faith. We are said to be saved by, or through faith, but never on account of our faith, or on the ground of it. (It is always διὰ πίστεως, or ἐκ πίστεως, but never διὰ πίστιν.) The expressions, “through faith in his blood,” Rom_3:25, “by faith in Jesus Christ,” etc., admit of no other interpretation than ‘by means of faith in the blood of Christ, or in Christ himself, as the ground of confidence.’ The interpretation, therefore, under consideration is at variance with the very nature of faith, which necessarily includes the receiving and resting on Christ as the ground of acceptance with God; and, of course, implies that faith itself is not that ground.

4. We accordingly never find Paul, nor any other of the sacred writers, referring his readers to their faith, or anything in themselves, as the ground of their confidence. Even in reference to those most advanced in holiness, he directs them to what Christ has done for them, not to anything wrought in them, as the ground of their acceptance. See a beautiful passage to this effect in Neander’s Gelegenheitschriften, p. 23. After stating that the believer can never rest his justification on his own spiritual life, or works, he adds, “It would, indeed, fare badly with the Christian, if on such weak ground as this he had to build his justification, if he did not know that ‘if he confesses his sins, and walks in the light, as he is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses from all sin.’ Paul, therefore, refers even the redeemed, disturbed by the reproaches of conscience, amidst the conflicts and trials of life, not to the work of Christ in themselves, but to what the love of God in Christ has done for them, and which, even notwithstanding their own continued sinfulness, remains ever sure.”

5. Paul, by interchanging the ambiguous phrase, ‘faith is imputed for righteousness,’ with the more definite expressions, ‘justified through or by means of faith,’ ‘justified through faith in his blood,’ fixes the sense in which the clause in question is to be understood. It must express the idea, that it was by means of faith that Abraham came to be treated as righteous, and not that faith was taken in lieu of perfect obedience. See this subject more fully discussed in Owen on Justification, chap. 18.

According to the second view, the word righteousness is taken in a much more limited sense, and the phrase ‘to impute faith for righteousness,’ is understood to mean ‘faith was regarded as right, it was approved.’ This interpretation also is perfectly consistent with usage. Thus, Psa_106:31, it is said of the zeal of Phineas, “It was counted unto him for righteousness.” This of course does not mean that it was regarded as complete obedience to the law, and taken in its stead as the ground of justification. It means simply that his zeal was approved of. It was regarded, says Dr. Owen, “as a just and rewardable action.” “Divinitus approbatum erat,” says Tuckney, Praelectiones, p. 212, “tanquam juste factum.” In like manner, Deu_24:13, it is said of returning a pledge, “It shall be righteousness unto thee before the Lord thy God.” Agreeably to the analogy of these passages, the meaning of this clause may be, ‘his faith was regarded as right;’ ‘it secured the approbation of God.’ How it did this, must be learned from other passages. The third interpretation agrees with the first, in taking δικαιοσύνη in its proper sense (righteousness), but gives a different force to the preposition εἰς: ‘Faith was imputed to him unto righteousness,’ that is, in order to his being regarded and treated as righteous. In support of this view, reference is made to such frequently recurring expressions as εἰς σωτηρίαν (unto salvation), ‘that they might be saved,’ Deu_10:1; εἰς μετάνοιαν (unto repentance), ‘that they might repent,’ Mat_3:11. In Mat_10:10, of this epistle, the apostle says, ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness’ (εἰς δικαιοσύνηn), i.e., in order to becoming righteous, or so as to become righteous. Faith secures their being righteous. According to this view of the passage, all it teaches is, that faith and not works secured Abraham’s justification before God. And this is the object which the apostle has in view. The precise relation in which faith stands to justification, whether it is the instrument or the ground, however clearly taught elsewhere, this particular expression leaves undetermined. It simply asserts that Abraham was justified as a believer, and not as a worker (ἐργαζόμενος), as Paul expresses it in the next verse.

The Rationalistic theologians of modern times agree with the Sicilians in teaching that justification by faith, as distinguished from justification by works, is nothing more than the doctrine that moral character is determined more by the inward principle than by the outward act. By faith, in the case of Abraham, they understand confidence in God; a pious frame of mind, which is influenced by considerations drawn from ‘the unseen and spiritual world, the region of truth and eternal principles, rather than by either mercenary feelings or outward objects. When, therefore, the Scriptures say, ‘God imputed Abraham’s faith for righteousness’ the meaning is, God accepted him for his inward piety, for the elevated principle by which his whole life was governed. If this is what Paul means, when he speaks of Abraham being justified by faith, it is what he means when he teaches that men are now justified by faith. Then the whole gospel sinks to the level of natural religion, and Christ is in no other sense a Savior, than as by his doctrines and example he leads men to cultivate piety. It is perfectly obvious that Paul means to teach that sinners are, now justified in the same way that Abraham was. He proves that we are justified by faith, because Abraham was justified by faith. If faith means inward piety in the one case, it must have the same meaning in the other. But as it is expressly said, over and over, in so many words, that men are now justified by faith in Christ, it follows of necessity that faith in Christ was the faith by which Abraham was justified. He believed the promise of redemption, which is the promise that we embrace when we receive and rest on Christ for salvation. Hence it is one principal object of the apostle’s argument in the latter part of this chapter, and in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians, to show that we are heirs of the promise made to Abraham, because we have the same faith that he had; the same, that is, both in its nature and object.

It is further to be remarked, that λογίζεσθαι εἰς δικαιοσύνηn (to impute for righteousness), and dikaiou~sqai (to be justified), mean the same thing. Thus Calvin says, “Tantum notemus, eos quibus justitia imputatur, justificari; quando haec duo a Paulo tanquam synonyma ponuntur.” Yet, strange to say, Olshausen asserts that they are very different. To be justified (dikaiou~sqai) and to have righteousness imputed, he says, differ as the Romish and the Protestant doctrines of justification differ. The former means to be made subjectively righteous, the latter simply to be regarded as righteous. “Was Jemandem angerechnet wird, das hat er nicht, er wird aber angesehen und behandelt, als hätte er es.” What is imputed to a man, that he is not, but he is regarded and treated as though he had it. Abraham therefore was not justified, because before the coming of Christ, any true righteousness (δικαιοσύνη Qeou~, as Olshausen says), was impossible; he was only regarded as righteous.‹11› But as what is said of Abraham is said also of believers under the gospel, since to them as well as to him righteousness is said to be imputed, it follows that believers are not really justified in this life. This is the conclusion to which he is led by two principles. The first is, that the word δικαιόω means to make righteous inwardly (es bedeutet die göttliche Thätigkeit des Hervorrufens der δικαιοσύνη), and no man is perfectly holy in this life; the second is, that God cannot regard any one as being what he is not, and therefore he cannot regard the unrighteous as righteous. The former of these assumptions is utterly unfounded, as δικαιόω always means to declare just, and never to make just. The second principle, Olshausen, in his comment on this verse, modifies so far as to say that God can only regard as just those whom he purposes to render just; and as with God there are no distinctions of time, he regards as already possessed of righteousness those whom he has purposed to render so. (This would seem to imply external justification, or at least an imputation of righteousness from eternity to all whom God has purposed to save.) Without this modification, he says, the objection of Romanists to the Protestant doctrine would be unanswerable. There is a sense, however, in which the principle in question is perfectly sound. God must see things as they are, and pronounce them to be what they are. The Protestant doctrine does not suppose that God regards any person or thing as being other than he or it really is. When he pronounces the unjust to be just, the word is taken in different senses. He does not pronounce the unholy to be holy; he simply declares that the demands of justice have been satisfied in behalf of those who have no righteousness of their own. In sin there are the two elements of guilt and pollution — the one expressing its relation to the justice, the other its relation to the holiness of God; or, what amounts to the same thing, the one expressing its relation to the penalty, and the other its relation to the precept of the law. These two elements are separable. The moral character or inward state of a man who has suffered the penalty of a crime, and thus expiated his offense, may remain unchanged. His guilt, in the eye of human law, is removed, but his pollution remains. It would be unjust to inflict any further punishment to him for that offense. Justice is satisfied, but the man is unchanged. There may therefore be guilt where there is no moral pollution, as in the case of our blessed Lord, who bore our sins; and there may be freedom from guilt, where moral pollution remains, as in the case of every justified similar. When, therefore, God justifies the ungodly, he does not regard him as being other than he really is. He only declares that justice is satisfied, and in that sense the man is just; he has a δικαιοσύνη which satisfies the demands of the law. His moral character is not the ground of that declaration, and is not affected by it. As to the distinction made by Olshausen between imputing righteousness and justifying, there is not the slightest ground for it. He himself makes them synonymous (p. 157). The two forms of expression are used synonymously in this very context. In Rom_4:3, it is said, ‘faith is imputed for righteousness;’ in Rom_4:5, ‘God justifies the ungodly;’ and in Rom_4:6, ‘he imputes righteousness’ — all in the same sense. Olshausen, although a representative man, exhibits his theology, in his commentary, in a very unsettled state. He not only retracts at times, in one volume, what he had said in another, but he modifies his doctrine from page to page. In his remarks on Rom_3:21, he himself asserts the principle (as quoted above), that “by God nothing can ever be regarded or declared righteous, which is not righteous” (p. 145); but in his comment on this verse, he pronounces the principle, “das Gott nach seiner Wahrhaftigkeit nicht Jemanden für etwas ansehen kann, was er nicht ist — falsch und über den Heilsweg durchaus irreleitend” (p. 174). That is, he says that the principle “that God, in virtue of his veracity, cannot regard one as being what he is not — is false, and perverts the whole plan of salvation.” On page 157 he says, “The passing over of the nature (Wesen) of Christ upon the sinner, is expressed by saying righteousness is imputed to him;” whereas, on pages 173-5, he labors to show that imputing righteousness is something very different from imparting righteousness. He prevailingly teaches the doctrine of subjective justification, to which his definition and system inevitably lead; but under the stress of some direct assertion of the apostle to the contrary, he for the time brings out the opposite doctrine. He exhibits similar fluctuations on many other points.

Henry Alford
Rom 2-3.] For if Abraham was [not ‘were’ as E. V.] justified (assuming, as a fact known to all, that he was justified by some means) by works, he hath matter of boasting (not expressed here whether in the sight of men, or of God, but taken generally: the proposition being assumed, ‘He that has earned justification by works, has whereof to boast’). Then, in disproof of this,—that Abraham has matter of boasting,—whatever men might think of him, or attribute to him (e.g. the perfect keeping of the law, as the Jews did), one thing at least is clear, that he has none before God. (πρός, probably as in the second ref., with, in the sense of chez: apud Deum.) This we can prove, (ver. 3) for what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God (God’s promise) and it (τὸ πιστεῦσαι) was reckoned (so LXX. Heb., ‘He reckoned it’) to him as (ch. 2:26) righteousness.

The whole question so much mooted between Protestants on the one hand, and Romanists, Arminians, and Socinians on the other, as to whether this righteousness was reckoned (1) ‘per fidem,’ being God’s righteousness imputed to the sinner; or (2) ‘propter fidem,’ so that God made Abraham righteous on account of the merit of his faith, lies in fact in a small compass, if what has gone before be properly taken into account. The Apostle has proved Jews and Gentiles to be all under sin: utterly unable by works of their own to attain to righteousness. Now faith, in the second sense mentioned above, is strictly and entirely a work, and as such would be the efficient cause of man’s justification,—which, by what has preceded, it cannot be. It will therefore follow, that it was not the act of believing which was reckoned to him as a righteous act, or on account of which perfect righteousness was laid to his charge, but that the fact of his trusting God to perform His promise introduced him into the blessing promised. God declared his purpose (Gen_12:3) of blessing all the families of the earth in Abraham, and again (Gen_15:5) that his seed should be as the stars of heaven, when as yet he had no son. Abraham believed this promise, and became partaker of this blessing. But this blessing was, justification by faith in Christ. Now Abraham could not, in the strict sense of the words, be justified by faith in Christ,—nor is it necessary to suppose that he directed his faith forward to the promised Redeemer in Person; but in so far as God’s gracious purpose was revealed to him, he grasped it by faith, and that righteousness which was implied, so far, in it, was imputed to him. Some have said (Tholuck, e.g.) that the parallel is incomplete—Abraham’s faith having been reckoned to him for righteousness, whereas, in our case, the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to us as our righteousness, by faith. But the incompleteness lies in the nature of the respective cases. In his case, the righteousness itself was not yet manifested. He believed implicitly, taking the promise, with all it involved and implied, as true. This then was his way of entering into the promise, and by means of his faith was bestowed upon him that full justification which that faith never apprehended. Thus his faith itself, the mere fact of implicit trust in God, was counted to him for righteousness. But though the same righteousness is imputed to us who believe, and by means of faith also, it is no longer the mere fact of believing implicitly in God’s truth, but the reception of Christ Jesus the Lord by faith, which justifies us (see vv. 23-25 and note). As it was then the realization of God’s words by faith, so now: but we have the Person of the Lord Jesus for the object of faith, explicitly revealed: he had not. In both cases justification is gratuitous, and is by faith; and so far, which is as far as the argument here requires, the parallel is strict and complete.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:3
For what saith the Scripture? – The inspired account of Abraham’s justification. This account was final, and was to settle the question. This account is found in Gen_15:6.

Abraham believed God – In the Hebrew, “Abraham believed Yahweh.” The sense is substantially the same, as the argument turns on the act of believing. The faith which Abraham exercised was, that his posterity should be like the stars of heaven in number. This promise was made to him when he had no child, and of course when he had no prospect of such a posterity. See the strength and nature of this faith further illustrated in Rom_4:16-21. The reason why it was counted to him for righteousness was, that it was such a strong, direct, and unwavering act of confidence in the promise of God.

And it – The word “it” here evidently refers to the act of believing It does not refer to the righteousness of another – of God, or of the Messiah; but the discussion is solely of the strong act of Abraham’s faith. which in some sense was counted to him for righteousness. In what sense this was, is explained directly after. All that is material to remark here is, that the act of Abraham, the strong confidence of his mind in the promises of God, his unwavering assurance that what God had promised he would perform, was reckoned for righteousness. The same thing is more fully expressed in Rom_4:18-22. When therefore it is said that the righteousness of Christ is accounted or imputed to us; when it is said that his merits are transferred and reckoned as ours; whatever may be the truth of the doctrine, it cannot be defended by “this” passage of Scripture.

Faith is uniformly an act of the mind. It is not a created essence which is placed within the mind. It is not a substance created independently of the soul, and placed within it by almighty power. It is not a principle, for the expression a principle of faith, is as unmeaningful as a principle of joy, or a principle of sorrow, or a principle of remorse. God promises; the man believes; and this is the whole of it.

(A principle is the “element or original cause,” out of which certain consequences arise, and to which they may be traced. And if faith be the root of all acceptable obedience, then certainly, in this sense, it is a principle. But whatever faith be, it is not here asserted that it is imputed for, or instead of, righteousness. See the note above.)

While the word “faith” is sometimes used to denote religious doctrine, or the system that is to be believed (Act_6:7; Act_15:9; Rom_1:5; Rom_10:8; Rom_16:26; Eph_3:17; Eph_4:5; 1Ti_2:7, etc.); yet, when it is used to denote that which is required of people, it always denotes an acting of the mind exercised in relation to some object, or some promise, or threatening, or declaration of some other being; see the note at Mar_16:16.

Was counted – ἐλογίσθη elogigisthē. The same word in Rom_4:22, is is rendered “it was imputed.” The word occurs frequently in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the verb חשׁב chaashab, which which is translated by the word λογίζομαι logizomai, means literally, “to think, to intend,” or “purpose; to imagine, invent,” or “devise; to reckon,” or “account; to esteem; to impute,” that is, to impute to a man what belongs to himself, or what “ought” to be imputed to him. It occurs only in the following places: Psa_32:2; Psa_35:4; Isa_10:7; Job_19:11; Job_33:10; Gen_16:6; Gen_38:15; 1Sa_1:13; Psa_52:4; Jer_18:18; Zec_7:10; Job_6:26; Job_19:16; Isa_13:17; 1Ki_10:21; Num_18:27, Num_18:30; Psa_88:4; Isa_40:17; Lam_4:2; Isa_40:15; Gen_31:16. I have examined all the passages, and as the result of my examination have come to the conclusion, that there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right. The word is never used to denote imputing in the sense of transferring, or of charging that on one which does not properly belong to him. The same is the case in the New Testament. The word occurs about forty times (see “Schmidius’ Concord),” and, in a similar signification. No doctrine of transferring, or of setting over to a man what does not properly belong to him, be it sin or holiness, can be derived, therefore, from this word. Whatever is meant by it here, it evidently is declared that the act of believing is what is intended, both by Moses and by Paul.

For righteousness – In order to justification; or to regard and treat him in connection with this as a righteous man; as one who was admitted to the favor and friendship of God. In reference to this we may remark,

(1) That it is evidently not intended that the act of believing, on the part of Abraham, was the meritorious ground of acceptance; for then it would have been a work. Faith was as much his own act, as any act of obedience to the Law.

(2) the design of the apostle was to show that by the Law, or by works, man could not be justified; Rom_3:28; Rom_4:2.

(3) faith was not what the Law required. It demanded complete and perfect obedience; and if a man was justified by faith, it was in some other way than by the Law.

(4) as the Law did not demand this; and as faith was something different from the demand of the Law; so if a man were justified by that, it was on a principle altogether different from justification by works. It was not by personal merit. It was not by complying with the Law. It was in a mode entirely different.

(5) in being justified by faith, it is meant, therefore, that we are treated as righteous; that we are forgiven; that we are admitted to the favor of God, and treated as his friends.

(6) in this act, faith, is a mere instrument, an antecedent, a “sine qua non,” what God has been pleased to appoint as a condition on which men may be treated as righteous. It expresses a state of mind which is demonstrative of love to God; of affection for his cause and character; of reconciliation and friendship; and is therefore that state to which he has been graciously pleased to promise pardon and acceptance.

(7) since this is not a matter of law; since the Law could not be said to demand it; as it is on a different principle; and as the acceptance of faith, or of a believer, cannot be a matter of merit or claim, so justification is of grace, or mere favor. It is in no sense a matter of merit on our part, and thus stands distinguished entirely from justification by works, or by conformity to the Law. From beginning to end, it is, so far as we are concerned, a matter of grace. The merit by which all this is obtained, is the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom this plan is proposed, and by whose atonement alone God can consistently pardon and treat as righteous those who are in themselves ungodly; see Rom_4:5. In this place we have also evidence that faith is always substantially of the same character. In the case of Abraham it was confidence in God and his promises. All faith has the same nature, whether it be confidence in the Messiah, or in any of the divine promises or truths. As this confidence evinces the same state of mind, so it was as consistent to justify Abraham by it, as it is to justify him who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ under the gospel; see Heb. 11.

John Calvin
Romans 4:4
4.To him indeed who works, etc. It is not he, whom he calls a worker, who is given to good works, to which all the children of God ought to attend, but the person who seeks to merit something by his works: and in a similar way he calls him no worker who depends not on the merit of what he does. He would not, indeed, have the faithful to be idle; but he only forbids them to be mercenaries, so as to demand any thing from God, as though it were justly their due.

We have before reminded you, that the question is not here how we are to regulate our life, but how we are to be saved: and he argues from what is contrary, — that God confers not righteousness on us because it is due, but bestows it as a gift. And indeed I agree with Bucer, who proves that the argument is not made to depend on one expression, but on the whole passage, and formed in this manner, “If one merits any thing by his work, what is merited is not freely imputed to him, but rendered to him as his due. Faith is counted for righteousness, not that it procures any merit for us, but because it lays hold on the goodness of God: hence righteousness is not due to us, but freely bestowed.” For as Christ of his own good-will justifies us through faith, Paul always regards this as an evidence of our emptiness; for what do we believe, except that Christ is an expiation to reconcile us to God? The same truth is found in other words in Gal_3:11, where it is said, “That no man is justified by the law, it is evident, for the just shall by faith live: but the law is not by faith; but he who doeth these things shall live in them.” Inasmuch, then, as the law promises reward to works, he hence concludes, that the righteousness of faith, which is free, accords not with that which is operative: this could not be were faith to justify by means of works. — We ought carefully to observe these comparisons, by which every merit is entirely done away.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:4
Now to him that worketh … – This passage is not to be understood as affirming that any actually have worked out their salvation by conformity to the Law so as to be saved by their own merits; but it expresses a general truth in regard to works. On that plan, if a man were justified by his works, it would be a matter due to him. It is a general principle in regard to contracts and obligations, that where a man fulfils them he is entitled to the reward as what is due to him, and which he can claim. This is well understood in all the transactions among people. Where a man has fulfilled the terms of a contract, to pay him is not a matter of favor; he has earned it; and we are bound to pay him. So says the apostle, it would be, if a man were justified by his works. He would have a claim on God. It would be wrong not to justify him. And this is an additional reason why the doctrine cannot be true; compare Rom_11:6.

The reward – The pay, or wages. The word is commonly applied to the pay of soldiers, day-laborers, etc.; Mat_20:8; Luk_10:7; 1Ti_5:18; Jam_5:4. It has a similar meaning here.

Reckoned – Greek, Imputed. The same word which, in Rom_4:3, is rendered “counted,” and in Rom_4:22, imputed. It is used here in its strict and proper sense, to reckon that as belonging to a man which is his own, or which is due to him; see the note at Rom_4:3.

Of grace – Of favor; as a gift.

Of debt – As due; as a claim; as a fair compensation according to the contract.

John Calvin
Romans 4:5
5. But believes on him, etc. This is a very important sentence, in which he expresses the substance and nature both of faith and of righteousness. He indeed clearly shews that faith brings us righteousness, not because it is a meritorious act, but because it obtains for us the favor of God. Nor does he declare only that God is the giver of righteousness, but he also arraigns us of unrighteousness, in order that the bounty of God may come to aid our necessity: in short, no one will seek the righteousness of faith except he who feels that he is ungodly; for this sentence is to be applied to what is said in this passage, — that faith adorns us with the righteousness of another, which it seeks as a gift from God. And here again, God is said to justify us when he freely forgives sinners, and favors those, with whom he might justly be angry, with his love, that is, when his mercy obliterates our unrighteousness.

Charles Hodge
Rom_4:4, Rom_4:5
Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, etc. These verses are designed, in the first place, to vindicate the pertinency of the quotation from Scripture, made in Rom_4:3, by showing that the declaration ‘faith was imputed for righteousness,’ is a denial that works were the ground of Abraham’s acceptance; and, secondly, that to justify by faith, is to justify gratuitously, and therefore all passages which speak of gratuitous acceptance are in favor of the doctrine of justification by faith.

Now to him that worketh, that is, either emphatically ‘to him who does all that is required of him;’ or ‘to him who seeks to be accepted on account of his works.’ The former explanation is the better. The words then state a general proposition, ‘To him that is obedient, or who performs a stipulated work, the recompense is not regarded as a gratuity, but as a debt.’ The reward, ὁ μισθός the appropriate and merited compensation. Is not imputed, κατὰ χάριν, ἀλλὰ ὁφείλημα, not grace, but debt, which implies that a claim founded in justice is the ground and measure of remuneration. Paul’s argument is founded on the principle, which is so often denied, as by Olshausen, (p. 172,) that man may have merit before God; or that God may stand in the relation of debtor to man. The apostle says expressly, that τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ, to him that works, the reward is a matter of debt. If Adam had remained faithful and rendered perfect obedience, the promised reward would have been due to him as a matter of justice; the withholding it would have been an act of injustice. When, therefore, the apostle speaks of Abraham as having a ground of boasting, if his works made him righteous, it is not to be understood simply of boasting before men. He would have had a ground of boasting in that case before God. The reward would have been to him a matter of debt.

But to him that worketh not, τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ. That is, to him who has no works to plead as the ground of reward; πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ κ. τ. λ., but believeth upon, i.e. putting his trust upon. The faith which justifies is not mere assent, it is an act of trust. The believer confides upon God for justification. He believes that God will justify him, although ungodly; for the object of the faith or confidence here expressed is ὁ δικαιῶν τὸν ἀσεβῆ, he who justifies the ungodly. Faith therefore is appropriating; it is an act of confidence in reference to our own acceptance with God. To him who thus believes, faith is counted for righteousness, i.e. it is imputed in order to his becoming righteous. It lies in the nature of the faith of which Paul speaks, that he who exercises it should feel and acknowledge that he is ungodly, and consequently undeserving of the favor of God. He, of course, in relying on the mercy of God, must acknowledge that his acceptance is a matter of grace, and not of debt. The meaning of the apostle is plainly this: ‘To him that worketh, the reward is a matter of debt, but to him who worketh not, but believeth simply, the reward is a matter of grace.’ Instead, however, of saying ‘it is a matter of grace,’ he uses, as an equivalent expression, “to him faith is counted for righteousness.” That is, he is justified by faith. To be justified by faith, therefore, is to be justified gratuitously, and not by works. It is thus he proves that the passage cited in Rom_4:3, respecting Abraham, is pertinent to his purpose as an argument against justification by works. It at the same time shows that all passages which speak of gratuitous acceptance, may be cited in proof of his doctrine of justification by faith. The way is thus opened for his second argument, which is derived from the testimony of David.

It is to be remarked, that Paul speaks of God as justifying the ungodly. The word is in the singular, τὸν ἀσεβῆ, the ungodly man, not with any special reference to Abraham, as though he was the ungodly person whom God justified, but because the singular, ἐργαζομένῳ, (to him that worketh,) pisteu&onti, (to him that believeth,) is used in the context, and because every man must believe for himself. God does not justify communities. If every man and all men are ungodly, it follows that they are regarded and treated as righteous, not on the ground of their personal character; and it is further apparent that justification does not consist in making one inherently just or holy; for it is as ungodly that those who believe are freely justified for Christ’s sake. It never was, as shown above, the doctrine of the Reformation, or of the Lutheran and Reformed divines, that the imputation of righteousness affects the moral character of those concerned. It is true, whom God justifies he also sanctifies; but justification is not sanctification, and the imputation of righteousness is not the infusion of righteousness. These are the first principles of the doctrine of the Reformers. “The fourth grand error of the Papists in the article of justification,” says an old divine, “is concerning that which we call the form thereof. For they, denying and deriding the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, (without which, notwithstanding, no man can be saved,) do hold that men are justified by infusion, and not by imputation of righteousness; we, on the contrary, do hold, according to the Scriptures, that we are justified before God, only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and not by infusion. And our meaning, when we say that God imputeth Christ’s righteousness unto us, is nothing else but this: that he graciously accepteth for us, and in our behalf, the righteousness of Christ, that is, both as to his obedience, which, in the days of his flesh, he performed for us; and passive, that is, his sufferings, which he sustained for us, as if we had in our own persons both performed and suffered the same ourselves. Howbeit, we confess that the Lord doth infuse righteousness into the faithful; yet not as he justifieth, but as he sanctifieth them,” etc. Bishop Downame on Justification, p. 261. Tuckney, one of the leading members of the Westminster Assembly, and principal author of the Shorter Catechism, in his Praelectiones, p. 213, says, “Although God justifies the ungodly, Rom_4:5, i.e., him who was antecedently ungodly, and who in a measure remains, as to his inherent character, unjust after justification, yet it has its proper ground in the satisfaction of Christ,” etc. On page 220, he says, “The Papists understand by justification, the infusion of inherent righteousness, and thus confound justification with sanctification; which, if it was the true nature and definition of justification, they might well deny that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the cause or formal reason of this justification, i.e., of sanctification. For we are not so foolish or blasphemous as to say, or even think, that the righteousness of Christ imputed to us renders us formally or inherently righteous, so that we should be formally or inherently righteous with the righteousness of Christ. Since the righteousness of Christ is proper to himself, and is as inseparable from him, and as incommunicable to others, as any other attribute of a thing, or its essence itself.”

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:5
But to him that worketh not – Who does not rely on his conformity to the Law for his justification; who does not depend on his works; who seeks to be justified in some other way. The reference here is to the Christian plan of justification.

But believeth – Note, Rom_3:26.

On him – On God. Thus, the connection requires; for the discussion has immediate reference to Abraham, whose faith was in the promise of God.

That justifieth the ungodly – This is a very important expression. It implies,

(1) That people are sinners, or are ungodly.

(2) that God regards them as such when they are justified. He does not justify them because he sees them to be, or regards them to be righteous; but knowing that they are in fact polluted. He does not first esteem them, contrary to fact, to be pure; but knowing that they are polluted, and that they deserve no favor, he resolves to forgive them, and to treat them as his friends.

(3) in themselves they are equally undeserving, whether they are justified or not. Their souls have been defiled by sin; and that is known when they are pardoned. God judges things as they are; and sinners who are justified, he judges not as if they were pure, or as if they had a claim; but he regards them as united by faith to the Lord Jesus; and in this relation he judges that they should be treated as his friends, though they have been, are, and always will be, personally undeserving. It is not meant that the righteousness of Christ is transferred to them, so as to become personally theirs – for moral character cannot be transferred; nor that it is infused into them, making them personally meritorious – for then they could not be spoken of as ungodly; but that Christ died in their stead, to atone for their sins, and is regarded and esteemed by God to have died; and that the results or benefits of his death are so reckoned or imputed to believers as to make it proper for God to regard and treat them as if they had themselves obeyed the Law; that is, as righteous in his sight; see the note at Rom_4:3.

John Calvin
Romans 4:16
16.It is therefore of faith, etc. This is the winding up of the argument; and you may summarily include the whole of it in this statement, — “If the heirship of salvation comes to us by works, then faith in it vanishes, the promise of it is abolished; but it is necessary that both these should be sure and certain; hence it comes to us by faith, so that its stability being based on the goodness of God alone, may be secured.” See how the Apostle, regarding faith as a thing firm and certain, considers hesitancy and doubt as unbelief, by which faith is abolished, and the promise abrogated. And yet this doubting is what the schoolmen call a moral conjecture, and which, alas! they substitute for faith.

That it might be by grace, etc. Here, in the first place, the Apostle shows, that nothing is set before faith but mere grace; and this, as they commonly say, is its object: for were it to look on merits, absurdly would Paul infer, that whatever it obtains for us is gratuitous. I will repeat this again in other words, — “If grace be everything that we obtain by faith, then every regard for works is laid in the dust.” But what next follows more fully removes all ambiguity, — that the promise then only stands firm, when it recumbs on grace: for by this expression Paul confirms this truth, that as long as men depend on works, they are harassed with doubts; for they deprive themselves of what the promises contain. Hence, also, we may easily learn, that grace is not to be taken, as some imagine, for the gift of regeneration, but for a gratuitous favor: for as regeneration is never perfect, it can never suffice to pacify souls, nor of itself can it make the promise certain.

Not to that only which is of the law, etc. Though these words mean in another place those who, being absurd zealots of the law, bind themselves to its yoke, and boast of their confidence in it, yet here they mean simply the Jewish nation, to whom the law of the Lord had been delivered. For Paul teaches us in another passage, that all who remain bound to the dominion of the law, are subject to a curse; it is then certain that they are excluded from the participation of grace. He does not then call them the servants of the law, who, adhering to the righteousness of works, renounce Christ; but they were those Jews who had been brought up in the law, and yet professed the name of Christ. But that the sentence may be made clearer, let it be worded thus, — “Not to those only who are of the law, but to all who imitate the faith of Abraham, though they had not the law before.”

Who is the father of us all, etc. The relative has the meaning of a causative particle; for he meant to prove, that the Gentiles were become partakers of this grace, inasmuch as by the same oracle, by which the heirship was conferred on Abraham and his seed, were the Gentiles also constituted his seed: for he is said to have been made the father, not of one nation, but of many nations; by which was presignified the future extension of grace, then confined to Israel alone. For except the promised blessing had been extended to them, they could not have been counted as the offspring of Abraham. The past tense of the verb, according to the common usage of Scripture, denotes the certainty of the Divine counsel; for though nothing then was less apparent, yet as God had thus decreed, he is rightly said to have been made the father of many nations. Let the testimony of Moses be included in a parenthesis, that this clause, “Who is the father of us all,” may be connected with the other, “before God,” etc.: for it was necessary to explain also what that relationship was, that the Jews might not glory too much in their carnal descent. Hence he says, “He is our father before God; ” which means the same as though he had said, “He is our spiritual father;” for he had this privilege, not from his own flesh, but from the promise of God

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:16
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed, etc. This and the following verse contain the conclusion from the previous reasoning, and especially from the two preceding arguments: ‘The inheritance promised to Abraham and his seed must be either of the law, or of faith. It cannot be of the law, for the law works wrath, therefore it is of faith.’ The expression in the original is simply διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, therefore of faith. It matters little, so far as the sense is concerned, whether we supply the words οἱ κληρονόμοι εἰσί (therefore the heirs are of faith,) from Rom_4:13, or the word ἐπαγγελία (the promise,) from Rom_4:13, or with Luther, δικαιοσύνη, out of the general context — darum muss die Gerechtigkeit aus dem Glauben kommen. These are only different ways of saying the same thing. The connection, as stated above, is in favor of the first explanation. The inheritance is of faith, (ἵνα κατὰ χάριν,) in order that it might be a matter of grace. And it is of grace, (εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν,) in order that the promise might be sure. If salvation be in any form or to any degree dependent on the merit, the goodness, or the stability of man, it never can be sure, nay, it must be utterly unattainable. Unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. To reject, therefore, a gratuitous salvation, is to reject the only method of salvation available for sinners. Salvation being of grace, suspended on the simple condition of faith, without regard to parentage, to national or ecclesiastical connection, it is available for all classes of men. And therefore the apostle says, ‘The promise is sure (παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι) to all the seed; i.e. to all the spiritual children of Abraham. He had already shown in Rom_4:11, Rom_4:12, that Abraham was the father of believing Gentiles as well as of believing Jews. The word σπέρμα (seed) must therefore, in this connection, be understood of believers who, in a higher sense than mere natural descendants, are the children of Abraham. Both classes of his seed are included in the promise which is sure, (οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον,) not to that of the law only, i.e. not only to that portion of the seed who are of the law, that is, believing Jews, but also (τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ) to that which is of the faith of Abraham. These formulas are indefinite, and susceptible, taken by themselves, of different interpretations; but the context renders all plain. Paul is speaking of the spiritual children of Abraham; of those who are heirs of the inheritance promised to them. Of these there are two classes; believing Jews and believing Gentiles. The former are distinguished as (ἐκ νόμου) of the law, the latter as of the faith of Abraham, because their connection with him is purely spiritual, whereas the Jewish believers were connected with him by a twofold tie — the one natural, the other spiritual. Who is the father of us all, i.e. of all believes. The highest privilege of New Testament saints is to be partakers of the inheritance promised to Abraham. They are not exalted above him, but united with him in the blessings which flow from union with Christ.

John Calvin
Romans 4:17
17.Whom he believed, who quickens the dead, etc. In this circuitous form is expressed the very substance of Abraham’s faith, that by his example an opening might be made for the Gentiles. He had indeed to attain, in a wonderful way, the promise which he had heard from the Lord’s mouth, since there was then no token of it. A seed was promised to him as though he was in vigor and strength; but he was as it were dead. It was hence necessary for him to raise up his thoughts to the power of God, by which the dead are quickened. It was therefore not strange that the Gentiles, who were barren and dead, should be introduced into the same society. He then who denies them to be capable of grace, does wrong to Abraham, whose faith was sustained by this thought, — that it matters not whether he was dead or not who is called by the Lord; to whom it is an easy thing, even by a word, to raise the dead through his own power.

We have here also a type and a pattern of the call of us all, by which our beginning is set before our eyes, not as to our first birth, but as to the hope of future life, — that when we are called by the Lord we emerge from nothing; for whatever we may seem to be we have not, no, not a spark of anything good, which can render us fit for the kingdom of God. That we may indeed on the other hand be in a suitable state to hear the call of God, we must be altogether dead in ourselves. The character of the divine calling is, that they who are dead are raised by the Lord, that they who are nothing begin to be something through his power. The wordcall ought not to be confined to preaching, but it is to be taken, according to the usage of Scripture, for raising up; and it is intended to set forth more fully the power of God, who raises up, as it were by a nod only, whom he wills.

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:17
As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, Gen_17:5. This declaration, the apostle informs us, contains a great deal more than the assurance that the natural descendants of Abraham should be very numerous. Taken in connection with the promise, that “in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed,” it refers to his spiritual as well as his natural seed, and finds its full accomplishment in the extension of the blessing promised to him, to those of all nations who are his children by faith. This clause is very properly marked as a parenthesis, as the preceding one, “who is the father of us all,” must be connected immediately with the following words, before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, etc. The words κατέναντι ου ἐπίστευσεν Θεου~, admit of different explanations. They are commonly regarded as an example of the substantive being attracted to the case of the relative, instead of the relative to that of the substantive, Qeou~ being in the genitive, because οὗ is. The clause may therefore be resolved thus: κατέναντι Θεοῦ ᾧ ἐπίστευσεν, before God whom he believed. To this, however, it is objected, that this form of attraction with the dative is very unusual, and therefore Winer, §24, 2, b, and others, adopt the simple explanation κατέναντι Θεοῦ κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσε, (before God, before whom he believed). The sense in either case is the same. Abraham is the father of us all, (κατέναντι), before, in the sight of that God in whom he believed. God looked upon him as such. He stood before his omniscient eye, surrounded by many nations of children.

It is not unusual for the apostle to attach to the name of God a descriptive periphrases, bringing into view some divine attribute or characteristic suited to the subject in hand. So here, when speaking of God’s promising to Abraham, a childless old man, a posterity as numerous as the stars of heaven, it was most appropriate to refer to the omnipotence of God, to whom nothing is impossible. Abraham believed, what to all human appearance never could happen, because God, who made the, promise, is he who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not, as though they were. To originate life is the prerogative of God. It requires almighty power, and is therefore in Scripture specified as one of God’s peculiar works; see Deu_32:39; 1Sa_2:6; 2Ki_5:7; Psa_68:20. The being who can call the dead to life, must be able to fulfill to one, although as good as dead, the promise of a numerous posterity. The other clause in this passage, (καὶ καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα) and calling things that be not, as being, is more doubtful. There are three interpretations of these words, founded on three different senses of the word (καλεῖν) to call.

1. To call, means to command, to control, to muster or dispose of. Thus the psalmist says, “The mighty God, even the Lord hath spoken, and called the earth, from the rising of the sun unto the going down there of” Psa_50:1. Isaiah, speaking of the stars, says, “Who … bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by name, by the greatness of his might,” Isa_40:26; also Psa_147:4; Isa_45:3; Isa_48:13. This gives a sense perfectly suited to the context. God is described as controlling with equal ease things which are not, and those which are. The actual and the possible are equally subject to his command. All things are present to his view, and all are under his control. This interpretation also is suited to the peculiar form of expression, who calls (τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα,) things not being, as being. It gives ὡς its appropriate force.

2. To call, however, is often used to express the creating energy of God. See Isa_41:4; Isa_48:13. Compare Psa_29:3-9. Philo de Creat., τὰ μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν εἰς τὸ εἶναι. This also gives a good sense, as the omnipotence of God cannot be more forcibly expressed than by saying, ‘He calls things not existing into existence.’ But the difficulty is, that ὡς ὄντα is not equivalent with εἰς τὸ εἶναι, nor with ἐσόμενα, nor with εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὡς ὄντα, as Köllner and De Wette explain it. This indeed is not an impossible meaning, inasmuch as ὄντα, as Fritzsche says, may be the accusative of the effect, as in Phi_3:21, “He shall change our vile body (σύμμορφον) like unto his glorious body,” i.e., so as to be like; see also 1Th_3:13. As, however, the former interpretation gives so good a sense, there is no need of resorting to these constrained explanations.

3. To call, is often used to express the effectual calling of men by the Holy Spirit. Hence some understand the apostle as here saying, ‘God calls to be his children those who were not children.’

But this is entirely foreign to the context. Paul is presenting the ground of Abraham’s faith in God. He believed, because God was able to accomplish all things. Everything is obedient to his voice.

John Calvin
Romans 4:18
18.Who against hope, etc. If we thus read, the sense is, that when there was no probable reason, yea, when all things were against him, he yet continued to believe. And, doubtless, there is nothing more injurious to faith than to fasten our minds to our eyes, that we may from what we see, seek a reason for our hope. We may also read, “above hope,” and perhaps more suitably; as though he had said that by his faith he far surpassed all that he could conceive; for except faith flies upward on celestial wings so as to look down on all the perceptions of the flesh as on things far below, it will stick fast in the mud of the world. But Paul uses the word hope twice in this verse: in the first instance, he means a probable evidence for hoping, such as can be derived from nature and carnal reason; in the second he refers to faith given by God; for when he had no ground for hoping he yet in hope relied on the promise of God; and he thought it a sufficient reason for hoping, that the Lord had promised, however incredible the thing was in itself.

According to what had been said, etc. So have I preferred to render it, that it may be applied to the time of Abraham; for Paul meant to say, that Abraham, when many temptations were drawing him to despair, that he might not fail, turned his thoughts to what had been promised to him, “Thy seed shall equal the stars of heaven and the sands of the sea;” but he resignedly adduced this quotation incomplete, in order to stimulate us to read the Scriptures. The Apostles, indeed, at all times, in quoting the Scriptures, took a scrupulous care to rouse us to a more diligent reading of them.

Charles Hodge
Who against hope believed in hope. Here ἐπ ̓ ἐλπίδι may be taken adverbially, confidently: ‘Against all human hope or reasonable expectation, he confidently believed.’ Or it may indicate the subjective ground of his faith: he believed, because he had a hope founded on the promise of God. He believed, that he might become the father of many nations. The Greek is, εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα, κ. τ. λ., that is, according to one explanation, the object of his faith was, that he should be the father of many nations. The idea thus expressed is correct. Abraham did believe that God would make him the father of many nations. But to this it is objected that πιστεύειν εἰς, with an infinitive used as a substantive, although grammatically correct, is a construction which never occurs. Had the apostle, therefore, intended to express the object of Abraham’s faith, he would probably have used ὃτι, he believed that he should be, etc. Others make εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι express the result of his faith: ‘He believed … and hence he became,’ etc. The consequence of his faith was, that the promise was fulfilled. Most recent commentators assume that εἰς with the infinitive here, as it commonly does, expresses design, or intention; not however the design of Abraham, but of God: ‘He believed in order that, agreeably to the purpose of God, he might become the father of many nations.’ This best agrees with what is said in Rom_4:11, and with the context. According to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. This is a reference to the promise which was the object of Abraham’s faith. It is a quotation from Gen_15:5. The word so refers to the stars of heaven, mentioned in the passage as it stands in the Old Testament. The promise, therefore, particularly intended by the apostle is, that Abraham should be the father of many nations, or that his seed should be as numerous as the stars. It has already been seen, however, that the apostle understood this promise as including far more than that the natural descendants of Abraham should be very numerous; see Rom_4:13, Rom_4:17. The expression in the test is a concise allusion to the various promises made to the ancient patriarch, which had reference to all nations being blessed through him. The promise of a numerous posterity, therefore, included the promise of Christ and his redemption. This is evident,

1. Because Paul had been speaking of a promise (Rom_4:16), in which believing Jews and Gentiles were alike interested; see Gal_3:14.

2. Because Paul asserts and argues that the seed promised to Abraham, and to which the promise related, was Jesus Christ, Gal_3:16.

3. So Abraham himself understood it, according to the declaration of our Savior; Joh_8:56, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.”

He looked forward under the greatest discouragements to the Redeemer as yet to come. We have the easier task to look back to the same Deliverer, who has died for our sins, and risen again for our justification, Rom_4:25.

Romans 4:19 :
TEXT: “And although he did not weaken in faith, he considered his [own] body”
EVIDENCE: S A B C 81 1739 one lat earlier vg syr(p) syr(pal) (“And he . . . but he”) cop

NOTES: “And since he did not weaken in faith, he did not consider his [own] body”
EVIDENCE: D G K P Psi 33 104 630 1241 1881 2495 Byz Lect most lat later vg syr(h)

COMMENTS: The difference in the readings are the omission and the inclusion of the word “not.” Both readings make good sense. The text reading means that he was so strong in his faith that he could think about his bodily weaknesses and the reading in the notes means that he was so strong in his faith that he didn’t have to think about his bodily weaknesses. The reading in the notes seems to be of later Western origins.

R.B. Terry
Romans 4:19 :
TEXT: “his [own] body, which was already as good as dead”
EVIDENCE: S A C D K P Psi 33 81 104 1241 2495 Byz Lect one lat syr(h+) cop(north)

NOTES: “his [own] body, which was as good as dead”
EVIDENCE: B G 630 1739 1881 most lat vg most syr cop(south)
COMMENTS: The Greek word for “already” is in brackets in the UBS text. Although it is possible that it might have been added by copyists to heighten the account, the manuscript evidence would seem to indicate that it was original.

John Calvin
Romans 4:19
19.In faith, etc. If you prefer to omit one of the negatives you may render it thus, “Being weak in faith, he considered not his own body,” etc.; but this makes no sense. He indeed shows now more fully what might have hindered, yea, and wholly turned Abraham aside from receiving the promise. A seed from Sarah was promised to him at a time when he was not by nature fit for generating, nor Sarah for conceiving. Whatever he could see as to himself was opposed to the accomplishment of the promise. Hence, that he might yield to the truth of God, he withdrew his mind from those things which presented themselves to his own view, and as it were forgot himself.

You are not however to think, that he had no regard whatever to his own body, now dead, since Scripture testifies to the contrary; for he reasoned thus with himself, “Shall a child be born to a man an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, who is ninety, bear a son?” But as he laid aside the consideration of all this, and resigned his own judgment to the Lord, the Apostle says, that he considered not, etc.; and truly it was a greater effort to withdraw his thoughts from what of itself met his eyes, than if such a thing came into his mind.

And that the body of Abraham was become through age incapable of generating, at the time he received the Lord’s blessing, is quite evident from this passage, and also from Gen_17:17, so that the opinion of [Augustine ] is by no means to be admitted, who says somewhere, that the impediment was in Sarah alone. Nor ought the absurdity of the objection to influence us, by which he was induced to have recourse to this solution; for he thought it inconsistent to suppose that Abraham in his hundredth year was incapable of generating, as he had afterwards many children. But by this very thing God rendered his power more visible, inasmuch as he, who was before like a dry and barren tree, was so invigorated by the celestial blessing, that he not only begot Isaac, but, as though he was restored to the vigor of age, he had afterwards strength to beget others. But some one may object and say, that it is not beyond the course of nature that a man should beget children at that age. Though I allow that such a thing is not a prodigy, it is yet very little short of a miracle. And then, think with how many toils, sorrows, wanderings, distresses, had that holy man been exercised all his life; and it must be confessed, that he was no more debilitated by age, than worn out and exhausted by toils. And lastly, his body is not called barren simply but comparatively; for it was not probable that he, who was unfit for begetting in the flower and vigor of age, should begin only now when nature had decayed.

The expression, being not weak in faith, take in this sense — that he vacillated not, nor fluctuated, as we usually do under difficult circumstances. There is indeed a twofold weakness of faith — one is that which, by succumbing to trying adversities, occasions a falling away from the supporting power of God — the other arises from imperfection, but does not extinguish faith itself: for the mind is never so illuminated, but that many relics of ignorance remain; the heart is never so strengthened, but that much doubting cleaves to it. Hence with these vices of the flesh, ignorance and doubt, the faithful have a continual conflict, and in this conflict their faith is often dreadfully shaken and distressed, but at length it comes forth victorious; so that they may be said to be strong even in weakness.

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:19
And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body, now dead, etc. The 18th verse had stated it was contrary to all appearances that Abraham believed; this verse states the circumstances which rendered the accomplishment of the promise an apparent impossibility, viz. his own advanced age, and the age and barrenness of his wife. These circumstances he did not consider, that is, he did not allow them to have weight, he did not fix his mind on the difficulties of the case. Had he been weak in faith, and allowed himself to dwell on the obstacles to the fulfillment of the divine promise, he would have staggered. This does not imply that there was no inward conflict with doubt in Abraham’s mind. It only says, that his faith triumphed over all difficulties. “The mind,” says Calvin, “is never so enlightened that there are no remains of ignorance, nor the heart so established that there are no misgivings. With these evils of our nature,” he adds, “faith maintains a perpetual conflict, in which conflict it is often sorely shaken and put to great stress; but still it conquers, so that believers may be said to be in ipsa infirmitate firmissimi.” Paul says Abraham was not weak, τῇ πίστει, as to faith.

John Calvin
Romans 4:20
20.Nor did he through unbelief make an inquiry, etc. Though I do not follow the old version, nor [Erasmus ], yet my rendering is not given without reason. The Apostle seems to have had this in view, — That Abraham did not try to find out, by weighing the matter in the balance of unbelief, whether the Lord was able to perform what he had promised. What is properly to inquire or to search into anything, is to examine it through diffidence or mistrust, and to be unwilling to admit what appears not credible, without thoroughly sifting it. He indeed asked, how it could come to pass, but that was the asking of one astonished; as the case was with the virgin Mary, when she inquired of the angel how could that be which he had announced; and there are other similar instances. The saints then, when a message is brought them respecting the works of God, the greatness of which exceeds their comprehension, do indeed burst forth into expressions of wonder; but from this wonder they soon pass on to lay hold on the power of God: on the contrary, the wicked, when they examine a message, scoff at and reject it as a fable. Such, as you will find, was the case with the Jews, when they asked Christ how he could give his flesh to be eaten. For this reason it was, that Abraham was not reproved when he laughed and asked, how could a child be born to a man an hundred years old, and to a woman of ninety; for in his astonishment he fully admitted the power of God’s word. On the other hand, a similar laughter and inquiry on the part of Sarah were not without reproof, because she regarded not the promise as valid.

If these things be applied to our present subject, it will be evident, that the justification of Abraham had no other beginning than that of the Gentiles. Hence the Jews reproach their own father, if they exclaim against the call of the Gentiles as a thing unreasonable. Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.

But he was strengthened, etc. This is of the same import with a former clause, when it is said, that he was not weak in faith. It is the same as though he had said, that he overcame unbelief by the constancy and firmness of faith. No one indeed comes forth a conqueror from this contest, but he who borrows weapons and strength from the word of God. From what he adds, giving glory to God, it must be observed, that no greater honor can be given to God, than by faith to seal his truth; as, on the other hand, no greater dishonor can be done to him, than to refuse his offered favor, or to discredit his word. It is hence the chief thing in honoring God, obediently to embrace his promises: and true religion begins with faith.

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:20, 21
He staggered not at the promise of God; οὐ διεκρίθη. The aorist passive is here used in a middle sense, he was not in strife with himself, i.e. he did not doubt; εἰς τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν in reference to the promise of God; τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ, the dative has a causal force, through unbelief. Want of faith in God did not cause him to doubt the divine promise, ἀλλὰ, but, i.e. on the contrary; ἐνεδυναμώθη, not middle, made himself strong, but passive, he was made strong; τῇ πίστει, either by, or as to faith. Giving glory to God; that is, the strength was manifested in his giving glory to God. To give glory to God, is to take him to be what he really is, almighty and faithful. It is to show by our conduct that we give him credit, (so to speak,) that he will and can do what he says. Therefore the apostle adds, καὶ πληροφορηθείς, and being fully persuaded; that is, he gave glory to God by being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform. “Quod addit,” says Calvin, “dedisse gloriam Deo, in eo notandum est, non posse Deo plus honoris deferri quam dum fide obsignamus ejus veritatem; sicuti rursus nulla ei gravior contumelia inuri potest quam dum respuitur oblata ab ipso gratia, vel ejus verbo derogatur auctoritas. Quare hoc in ejus cultu praecipuum est caput, promissiones ejus obedienter amplecti: vera religio a fide ineipit.” It is therefore a very great error for men to suppose that to doubt is an evidence of humility. On the contrary, to doubt God’s promise, or his love, is to dishonor him, because it is to question his word. Multitudes refuse to accept his grace, because they do not regard themselves as worthy, as though their worthiness were the ground on which that grace is offered. The thing to be believed is, that God accepts the unworthy; that for Christ’s sake, he justifies the unjust. Many find it far harder to believe that God can love them, notwithstanding their sinfulness, than the hundred-years-old patriarch did to believe that he should be the father of many nations. Confidence in God’s word, a full persuasion that he can do what seems to us impossible, is as necessary in the one case as in the other. The sinner honors God, in trusting his grace as much as Abraham did in trusting his power.

John Calvin
Romans 4:21
21.That what he had promised, etc. As all men acknowledge God’s power, Paul seems to say nothing very extraordinary of the faith of Abraham; but experience proves, that nothing is more uncommon, or more difficult, than to ascribe to God’s power the honor which it deserves. There is in deed no obstacle, however small and insignificant, by which the flesh imagines the hand of God is restrained from working. Hence it is, that in the slightest trials, the promises of God slide away from us. When there is no contest, it is true, no one, as I have said, denies that God can do all things; but as soon as anything comes in the way to impede the course of God’s promise, we cast down God’s power from its eminence. Hence, that it may obtain from us its right and its honor, when a contest comes, we ought to determine thus, — That it is no less sufficient to overcome the obstacles of the world, than the strong rays of the sun are to dissipate the mists. We are indeed wont ever to excuse ourselves, that we derogate nothing from God’s power, whenever we hesitate respecting his promises, and we commonly say, “The thought, that God promises more in his word than he can perform, (which would be a falsehood and blasphemy against him,) is by no means the cause of our hesitation; but that it is the defect which we feel in ourselves.” But we do not sufficiently exalt the power of God, unless we think it to be greater than our weakness. Faith then ought not to regard our weakness, misery, and defects, but to fix wholly its attention on the power of God alone; for if it depends on our righteousness or worthiness, it can never ascend to the consideration of God’s power. And it is a proof of the unbelief, of which he had before spoken, when we mete the Lord’s power with our own measure. For faith does not think that God can do all things, while it leaves him sitting still, but when, on the contrary, it regards his power in continual exercise, and applies it, especially, to the accomplishment of his word: for the hand of God is ever ready to execute whatever he has declared by his mouth.

It seems strange to me, that [Erasmus ] approved of the relative in the masculine gender; for though the sense is not changed, we may yet come nearer to the Greek words of Paul. The verb, I know, is passive; but the abruptness may be lessened by a little change.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:21
And being fully persuaded – Thoroughly or entirely convinced; Luk_1:1; Rom_14:5; 2Ti_4:5, 2Ti_4:17.

He was able – Compare Gen_18:14. This was not the only time in which Abraham evinced this confidence. His faith was equally implicit and strong when he was commanded to sacrifice his promised son; Heb_11:19.

John Calvin
Romans 4:22
22.And it was therefore imputed, etc. It becomes now more clear, how and in what manner faith brought righteousness to Abraham; and that was, because he, leaning on God’s word, rejected not the promised favor. And this connection of faith with the word ought to be well understood and carefully remembered; for faith can bring us nothing more than what it receives from the word. Hence he does not become immediately just, who is imbued only with a general and confused idea that God is true, except he reposes on the promise of his favor.

Expositors Greek NT
Rom 4:22
Ver. 22. διὸ: because of this signal faith, evinced so triumphantly in spite of all there was to quell it. ἐλογίσθη: i.e., his faith was reckoned to him as p 621 righteousness. That which needs to be reckoned as righteousness is not in itself righteousness—on this the Apostle’s argument rests in vers. 1-8; yet it is not arbitrarily that faith is so reckoned. The spiritual attitude of a man, who is conscious that in himself he has no strength, and no hope of a future, and who nevertheless casts himself, upon, and lives by, the word of God which assures him of a future, is the necessarily and eternally right attitude of all souls to God. He whose attitude it is, is at bottom right with God. Now this was the attitude of Abraham to God, and it is the attitude of all sinners who believe in God through Christ; and to him and them alike it is reckoned by God for righteousness. The Gospel does not subvert the religious order under which Abraham lived; it illustrates, extends, and confirms it.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:22
And therefore – His faith was so implicit, and so unwavering, that it was a demonstration that he was the firm friend of God. He was tried, and he had such confidence in God that he showed that he was supremely attached to him, and would obey and serve him. This was reckoned as a full proof of friendship; and he was recognised and treated as righteous; that is, as the friend of God. (The true sense of faith being imputed for righteousness is given in a note at the beginning of the chapter.) See the note at Rom_4:3, 5.

John Calvin
Romans 4:23
23.Now it was not written, etc. A proof from example is not always valid, of which I have before reminded you; lest this should be questioned, Paul expressly affirms, that in the person of Abraham was exhibited an example of a common righteousness, which belongs equally to all.

We are, by this passage, reminded of the duty of seeking profit from the examples recorded in Scripture. That history is the teacher of what life ought to be, is what heathens have with truth said; but as it is handed down by them, no one can derive from it sound instruction. Scripture alone justly claims to itself an office of this kind. For in the first place it prescribes general rules, by which we may test every other history, so as to render it serviceable to us: and in the second place, it clearly points out what things are to be followed, and what things are to be avoided. But as to doctrine, which it especially teaches, it possesses this peculiarity, — that it clearly reveals the providence of God, his justice and goodness towards his own people, and his judgments on the wicked.

What then is recorded of Abraham is by Paul denied to have been written only for his sake; for the subject is not what belongs to the special call of one or of any particular person; but that way of obtaining righteousness is described, which is ever the same with regard to all; and it is what belonged to the common father of the faithful, on whom the eyes of all ought to be fixed.

If then we would make a right and proper use of sacred histories, we must remember so to use them as to draw from them sound doctrine. They instruct us, in some parts, how to frame our life; in others, how to strengthen faith; and then, how we are to be stirred up to serve the Lord. In forming our life, the example of the saints may be useful; and we may learn from them sobriety, chastity, love, patience, moderation, contempt of the world, and other virtues. What will serve to confirm faith is the help which God ever gave them, the protection which brought comfort in adversities, and the paternal care which he ever exercised over them. The judgments of God, and the punishments inflicted on the wicked, will also aid us, provided they fill us with that fear which imbues the heart with reverence and devotion.

But by saying, not on his account only, he seems to intimate, that it was written partly for his sake. Hence some think, that what Abraham obtained by faith was commemorated to his praise, because the Lord will have his servants to be forever remembered, according to what Solomon says, that their name will be blessed. (Pro_10:7.) But what if you take the words, not on his account only, in a simpler form, as though it were some singular privilege, not fit to be made an example of, but yet suitable to teach us, who must be justified in the same manner? This certainly would be a more appropriate sense.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:23
Now it was not written – The record of this extraordinary faith was not made on his account only; but it was made to show the way in which men may be regarded and treated as righteous by God. If Abraham was so regarded and treated, then, on the same principle, all others may be. God has but one mode of justifying people.

Imputed – Reckoned; accounted. He was regarded and treated as the friend of God.

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:23- 24
Now, it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him. The record concerning the faith and consequent justification of Abraham, was not made with the simple intention of giving a correct history of that patriarch. It had a much higher purpose. Abraham was a representative person. What was true of him, was true of all others who stood in the same relation to God. The method in which he was justified, is the method in which other sinners must be justified. That he was justified by faith, is recorded in the Scriptures to be a perpetual testimony as to the true method of justification before God. The apostle therefore adds, that it was δι ̓ ἡμᾶς, on our account. That is, on account of those to whom it shall be imputed; οἷς μέλλει λογίζεσθαι to whom it is appointed to be imputed; in case they should believe. As all men are sinners, the method in which one was certainly justified is the method by which others may secure the same blessing. If Abraham was justified by faith, we may be justified by faith. If the object of Abraham’s faith was the promise of redemption, the same must be the object of our faith. He believed in God as quickening the dead, that is, as able to raise up from one as good as dead, the promised Redeemer. Therefore those to whom faith shall now be imputed for righteousness are described as those who believe that God hath raised up Jesus from the dead. By thus raising him from the dead, he declared him to be his Son, and the seed of Abraham, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. The object of the Christian’s faith, therefore, is the same as the object of the faith of Abraham. Both believe the promise of redemption through the promised seed, which is Christ. When we are said to believe in God, who raised up Christ, it of course implies that we believe that Christ was thus raised up. As the resurrection of Christ was the great decisive evidence of the divinity of his mission, and the validity of all his claims, to believe that he rose from the dead, is to believe he was the Son of God, the propitiation for our sins, the Redeemer and the Lord of men; that he was all he claimed to be, and had accomplished all he purposed to effect. Compare Rom_10:9; Act_1:22; Act_4:33; 1 Corinthians 15, and other passages, in which the resurrection of Christ is spoken of as the corner-stone of the gospel, as the great fact to be proved, and which, being proved, involves all the rest.

Adam Clarke
Romans 4:24
But for us also – The mention of this circumstance has a much more extensive design than merely to honor Abraham. It is recorded as the model, according to which God will save both Jews and Gentiles: indeed there can be no other way of salvation; as all have sinned, all must either be saved by faith through Christ Jesus, or finally perish. If God, therefore, will our salvation, it must be by faith; and faith contemplates his promise, and his promise comprehends the Son of his love.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:24
But for us also – For our use; (compare Rom_15:4; 1Co_10:11), that we might have an example of the way in which people may be accepted of God. It is recorded for our encouragement and imitation, to show that we may in a similar manner be accepted and saved.

If we believe on him … – Abraham showed his faith in God by believing just what God revealed to him. This was his faith, and it might be as strong and implicit as could be exercised under the fullest revelation. Faith, now, is belief in God just so far as he has revealed his will to us. It is therefore the same in principle, though it may have reference to different objects. It is confidence in the same God, according to what we know of his will. Abraham showed his faith mainly in confiding in the promises of God respecting a numerous posterity. This was the leading truth made known to him, and this he believed.

(The promise made to Abraham was, “in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed,” on which we have the following inspired commentary: “And the scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the pagan through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed,” Gal_3:8. It would seem, then, that this promise, like that made immediately after the fall, contained the very germ and principles of the gospel. So that after all there is not so great difference between the object of Abraham’s faith, and that of ours. Indeed the object in both cases is manifestly the same.)

The main or leading truths that God has made known to us are, that he has given his Son to die; that he has raised him up; and that through him he is ready to pardon. To put confidence in these truths is to believe now. Doing this, we believe in the same God that Abraham did; we evince the same spirit; and thus show that we are the friends of the same God, and may be treated in the same manner. This is faith under the gospel (compare the notes at Mar_16:16), and shows that the faith of Abraham and of all true believers is substantially the same, and is varied only by the difference of the truths made known.

John Calvin
Romans 4:25
25.Who was delivered for our offences, etc. He expands and illustrates more at large the doctrine to which I have just referred. It indeed greatly concerns us, not only to have our minds directed to Christ, but also to have it distinctly made known how he attained salvation for us. And though Scripture, when it treats of our salvation, dwells especially on the death of Christ, yet the Apostle now proceeds farther: for as his purpose was more explicitly to set forth the cause of our salvation, he mentions its two parts; and says, first, that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, — and secondly, that by his resurrection was obtained our righteousness. But the meaning is, that when we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness. By separating his death from his resurrection, he no doubt accommodates what he says to our ignorance; for it is also true that righteousness has been obtained for us by that obedience of Christ, which he exhibited in his death, as the Apostle himself teaches us in the following chapter. But as Christ, by rising from the dead, made known how much he had effected by his death, this distinction is calculated to teach us that our salvation was begun by the sacrifice, by which our sins were expiated, and was at length completed by his resurrection: for the beginning of righteousness is to be reconciled to God, and its completion is to attain life by having death abolished. Paul then means, that satisfaction for our sins was given on the cross: for it was necessary, in order that Christ might restore us to the Father’s favor, that our sins should be abolished by him; which could not have been done had he not on their account suffered the punishment, which we were not equal to endure. Hence Isaiah says, that the chastisement of our peace was upon him. (Isa_53:5.) But he says that he was delivered, and not, that he died; for expiation depended on the eternal goodwill of God, who purposed to be in this way pacified.

And was raised again for our justification. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the completeness of his favor appears more clear by his coming to life again.

But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life. He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.

Adam Clarke
Romans 4:25
Who was delivered for our offenses – Who was delivered up to death as a sacrifice for our sins; for in what other way, or for what other purpose could He, who is innocence itself, be delivered for our offenses?
And was raised again for our justification – He was raised that we might have the fullest assurance that the death of Christ had accomplished the end for which it took place; viz. our reconciliation to God, and giving us a title to that eternal life, into which he has entered, and taken with him our human nature, as the first-fruits of the resurrection of mankind.

1. From a careful examination of the Divine oracles it appears that the death of Christ was an atonement or expiation for the sin of the world: For him hath God set forth to be a Propitiation through Faith in His Blood, Rom_3:25. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ Died For the Ungodly, Rom_5:6. And when we were Enemies, we were Reconciled to God by the Death of his Son, Rom_5:10. In whom we have Redemption Through His Blood, the Forgiveness of Sins, Eph_1:7. Christ hath loved us, and Given Himself for Us, an Offering and a Sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, Eph_5:2. In whom we have Redemption Through His Blood, the Forgiveness of Sins, Col_1:14. And having made Peace Through the Blood of his Cross, in the Body of His Flesh, through Death, Col_1:20, Col_1:22. Who Gave Himself a Ransom for all, 1Ti_2:6. Who Gave Himself for Us, that he might Redeem us from all iniquity, Tit_2:14. By which will we are sanctified, through the Offering of the Body of Jesus Christ, Heb_10:10. So Christ was once Offered to Bear the Sins of many, Heb_9:28. See also Eph_2:13, Eph_2:16; 1Pe_1:18, 1Pe_1:19; Rev_5:9. But it would be transcribing a very considerable part of the New Testament to set down all the texts that refer to this most important and glorious truth.

2. And as his death was an atonement for our sins, so his resurrection was the proof and pledge of our eternal life. See 1Co_15:17; 1Pe_1:3; Eph_1:13, Eph_1:14, etc.,etc.

3. The doctrine of justification by faith, which is so nobly proved in the preceding chapter, is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this? Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Savior for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made an atonement to God for thy transgressions; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition, that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it as such, by confident faith, to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; i.e. it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

4. The doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ, as held by many, will not be readily found in this chapter, where it has been supposed to exist in all its proofs. It is repeatedly said that Faith is imputed for righteousness; but in no place here, that Christ’s obedience to the moral law is imputed to any man. The truth is, the moral law was broken, and did not now require obedience; it required this before it was broken; but, after it was broken, it required death.

Either the sinner must die, or some one in his stead: but there was none whose death could have been an equivalent for the transgressions of the world but Jesus Christ. Jesus therefore died for man; and it is through his blood, the merit of his passion and death, that we have redemption; and not by his obedience to the moral law in our stead. Our salvation was obtained at a much higher price. Jesus could not but be righteous and obedient; this is consequent on the immaculate purity of his nature: but his death was not a necessary consequent. As the law of God can claim only the death of a transgressor – for such only forfeit their right to life – it is the greatest miracle of all that Christ could die, whose life was never forfeited. Here we see the indescribable demerit of sin, that it required such a death; and here we see the stupendous mercy of God, in providing the sacrifice required. It is therefore by Jesus Christ’s death, or obedience unto death, that we are saved, and not by his fulfilling any moral law. That he fulfilled the moral law we know; without which he could not have been qualified to be our mediator; but we must take heed lest we attribute that to obedience (which was the necessary consequence of his immaculate nature) which belongs to his passion and death. These were free-will offerings of eternal goodness, and not even a necessary consequence of his incarnation.

5. This doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ is capable of great abuse. To say that Christ’s personal righteousness is imputed to every true believer, is not Scriptural: to say that he has fulfilled all righteousness for us, or in our stead, if by this is meant his fulfillment of all moral duties, is neither Scriptural nor true: that he has died in our stead, is a great, glorious, and Scriptural truth: that there is no redemption but through his blood is asserted beyond all contradiction; in the oracles of God. But there are a multitude of duties which the moral law requires which Christ never fulfilled in our stead, and never could. We have various duties of a domestic kind which belong solely to ourselves, in the relation of parents, husbands, wives, servants, etc., in which relations Christ never stood. He has fulfilled none of these duties for us, but he furnishes grace to every true believer to fulfill them to God’s glory, the edification of his neighbor, and his own eternal profit. The salvation which we receive from God’s free mercy, through Christ, binds us to live in a strict conformity to the moral law; that law which prescribes our manners, and the spirit by which they should be regulated, and in which they should be performed. He who lives not in the due performance of every Christian duty, whatever faith he may profess, is either a vile hypocrite, or a scandalous Antinomian.

Charles Hodge
Romans 4:25
Who was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. This verse is a comprehensive statement of the gospel. Christ was delivered unto death for our offenses, i.e., on account of them, and for their expiation; see Isa_53:5, Isa_53:6; Heb_9:28; 1Pe_2:21. This delivering of Christ is ascribed to God, Rom_8:32; Gal_1:4 and elsewhere; and to himself, Tit_2:14; Gal_2:20. It was by the divine purpose and counsel he suffered for the expiation of sin; and he gave himself willingly to death. “He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” Christ is said to have been delivered unto death, διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν, and to have been raised, διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν; that is, he was delivered in order that our sins might be expiated, and he was raised in order that we might be justified. His death and his resurrection were alike necessary; his death, as a satisfaction to divine justice. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. That is, he bore the punishment of our sins. “Significant ergo Paulus,” says Calvin, “satisfactionem pro peccatis nostris in cruce fuisse peractam. Nam ut Christus nos in gratiam Patris restitueret reatum nostrum ab ipso aboleri oportuit; quod fieri non poterat, nisi poenam, cui solvendae pares non eramus, nostro nomine lueret.” His resurrection was no less necessary, first, as a proof that his death had been accepted as an expiation for our sins. Had he not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what he claimed to be. We should be yet in our sins, 1Co_15:17, and therefore still under condemnation. Our ransom, in that case, instead of being publicly accepted, had been rejected. And secondly, in order to secure the continued application of the merits of his sacrifice, he rose from the dead, and ascended on high, there to appear before God for us. He stands at the right hand of God, ever to make intercession for his people, thereby securing for them the benefits of his redemption. With a dead Savior, a Savior over whom death had triumphed and held captive, our justification had been for ever impossible. As it was necessary that the high priest, under the old economy, should not only slay the victim at the altar, but carry the blood into the most holy place, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat; so it was necessary not only that our great High Priest should suffer in the outer court, but that he should pass into heaven, to present his righteousness before God for our justification. Both, therefore, as the evidence of the acceptance of his satisfaction on our behalf, and as a necessary step to secure the application of the merits of his sacrifice, the resurrection of Christ was absolutely essential, even for our justification. Its relation to inward spiritual life and eternal blessedness is not here brought into view; for Paul is not here speaking of our sanctification. That δικαίωσις means justification, and not the act of makind holy, need hardly be remarked. That follows of necessity, not only from the signification of the word, but from the whole scope of this part of the epistle. It is only by those who make justification identical with regeneration, that this is called into question.

Albert Barnes
Romans 4:25
Who was delivered – To death; compare the notes at Act_2:23.

For our offences – On account of our crimes. He was delivered up to death in order to make expiation for our sins.

And was raised again – From the dead.

For our justification – On account of our justification. In order that we may be justified. The word “justification” here seems to be used in a large sense, to denote acceptance with God; including not merely the formal act by which God pardons sins, and by which we become reconciled to him, but also the completion of the work – the treatment of us as righteous, and raising us up to a state of glory. By the death of Christ an atonement is made for sin. If it be asked how his resurrection contributes to our acceptance with God, we may answer,

(1) It rendered his work complete. His death would have been unavailing, his work would have been imperfect, if he had not been raised up from the dead. He submitted to death as a sacrifice, and it was needful that he should rise, and thus conquer death and subdue our enemies, that the work which he had undertaken might be complete.

(2) his resurrection was a proof that his work was accepted by the Father. What he had done, in order that sinners might be saved, was approved. Our justification, therefore, became sure, as it was for this that he had given himself up to death.

(3) his resurrection is the main-spring of all our hopes, and of all our efforts to be saved. Life and immortality are thus brought to light, 2Ti_1:10. God “hath begotten us again to a lively hope (a living, active, real hope), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1Pe_1:3. Thus, the fact that he was raised becomes the ground of hope that we shall be raised and accepted of God. The fact that he was raised, and that all who love him shall be raised also, becomes one of the most efficient motives to us to seek to be justified and saved.

There is no higher motive that can be presented to induce man to seek salvation than the fact that he maybe raised up from death and the grave, and made immortal. There is no satisfactory proof that man can be thus raised up, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that resurrection we have a pledge that all his people will rise. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him,” 1Th_4:14. “Because I live,” said the Redeemer, “ye shall live also,” Joh_14:19; compare 1Pe_1:21.


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