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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Romans 4

 

 

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Verse 1

Romans 4:1 The force of οὖν seems to be that the case of Abraham, as commonly understood, has at least the appearance of inconsistency with the Pauline doctrine. “What, then, i.e., on the supposition that Romans 4:21-25 in chap. 3 are a true exposition of God’s method, shall we say of Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? Does not his case present a difficulty? For if he was justified by works (as one may assume), he has ground for boasting (whereas boasting, according to the previous argument, Romans 3:27, is excluded).” This seems to me by far the simplest interpretation of the passage. The speaker is a Jewish Christian, or the Apostle putting himself in the place of one. κατὰ σάρκα goes with τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν, because the contrast with another kind of fatherhood belonging to Abraham is already in the Apostle’s thoughts: see Romans 4:11. If the reading εὐρηκέναι be adopted (see critical note), no change is necessary in the interpretation. To take κατὰ σάρκα with εὑρηκέναι, as though the question were: What shall we say that our forefather Abraham found in the way of natural human effort, as opposed to the way of grace and faith? is to put a sense on κατὰ σάρκα which is both forced and irrelevant. The whole question is, What do you make of Abraham, with such a theory as that just described?


Verses 1-8

Romans 4:1-8. The justification of Abraham, considered in relation to the doctrine just expounded in Romans 3:21-31. The point to be made out is that the justification of Abraham does not traverse but illustrates the Pauline doctrine.


Verse 2

Romans 4:2 f. With ἀλλʼ οὐ πρὸς τὸν θεόν the Apostle summarily repels the objection. “You say he has ground of boasting? On the contrary, he has no ground of boasting in relation to God, For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to Him for righteousness.” The quotation is from Genesis 15:6, and is exactly as in the LXX, except that Paul writes ἐπίστευσεν δὲ τῷ θεῷ instead of καὶ ἐπίστευσεν τῷ θεῷ, which serves partly to bring out the contrast between the real mode of Abraham’s justification, and the mode suggested in Romans 4:2, partly to give prominence to faith, as that on which his argument turned. The reading ἐπίστευσεν δὲ is also found in James 1:23, Philo i. 605 (Mangey), as well as Clem. Rom., I., x., 6, and Just. Martyr, Dial., 92: so that it was probably current, and not introduced by Paul. It is assumed that something not in itself righteousness was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness; only on this assumption is boasting in his case excluded.


Verse 4

Romans 4:4 f. The faith of Abraham, in whatever way it may be more precisely determined by relation to its object, agrees with Christian faith in the essential characteristic, that it is not a work. To him who works—der mit Werken umgehet: Luther—the reward is reckoned, not by way of grace (as in Abraham’s case), but by way of debt. But to him who does not work, i.e., who does not make works his ground of hope toward God—but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness. Romans 4:5 describes the category under which Abraham falls, but is not a generalisation from his case. The ἀσεβὴς (Genesis 18:23, Proverbs 11:31, chap. Romans 5:6) is a person who has no claim to justification: if he is justified, it must be not on the ground of works, but freely, by God’s grace, on which he relies through faith. Of course to believe in this grace of God is to do something; in that sense it is a work; but it is to do something which involves a complete renunciation of hope in anything we can do without God. It excludes merit, boasting, justification ἐξ ἔργων. Cf. Philo, i., 486 (quoted in Mayor on James 1:21): δίκαιον γὰρ οὕτως οὐδὲν ὡς ἀκράτῳ καὶ ἀμιγεῖ τῇ πρὸς θεὸν μόνον πίστει κεχρῆσθαιτὸ ἐπὶ μόνῳ τῷ ὄντι βεβαίως καὶ ἀκλινῶς ὁρμεῖνδικαιοσύνης μόνον ἔργον. The whole Pauline gospel could be summed up in this one word—God who justifies the ungodly. Under that device, what room is there for any pretensions or claims of man? It is sometimes argued (on the ground that all God’s actions must be “ethical”) that God can only pronounce just, or treat as just, those who actually are just; but if this were so, what Gospel would there be for sinful men? This “ethical” gospel is identical with the Pharisaism in which Paul lived before he knew what Christ and faith were, and it led him to despair. It leads all men either to despair or to a temper which is that of the Pharisee rather than the publican of Luke 18. What it can never beget is the temper of the Gospel. The paradoxical phrase, Him that justifieth the ungodly, does not suggest that justification is a fiction, whether legal or of any other sort, but that it is a miracle. It is a thing that only God can achieve, and that calls into act and manifestation all the resources of the Divine nature. It is achieved through an unparalleled revelation of the judgment and the mercy of God. The miracle of the Gospel is that God comes to the ungodly, with a mercy which is righteous altogether, and enables them through faith, in spite of what they are, to enter into a new relation to Himself, in which goodness becomes possible for them. There can be no spiritual life at all for a sinful man unless he can get an initial assurance of an unchanging love of God deeper than sin, and he gets this at the Cross. He gets it by believing in Jesus, and it is justification by faith. The whole secret of New Testament Christianity, and of every revival of religion and reformation of the Church is in that laetum et ingens paradoxon, θεὸς δικαιῶν τὸν ἀσεβῆ.


Verse 6

Romans 4:6 ff. καθάπερ καὶ δαβὶδ: David is not a new illustration of this doctrine, but a new witness to it. The argument just based on Genesis 15:6 is in agreement with what he says in the 32nd Psalm. The quotation exactly reproduces the LXX. λέγει τὸν μακαρισμὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου: “pronounceth blessing upon the man,” etc. (R.V.): or, speaks the felicitation of the man. He does so in the exclamation with which the Psalm opens. Obviously to impute righteousness without works, and freely to forgive sins, are to Paul one and the same thing. Yet the former is not a merely negative idea: there is in it an actual bestowment of grace, an actual acceptance with God, as unlike as possible to the establishment of an unprejudiced neutrality between God and man, to which the forgiveness of sins is sometimes reduced.


Verse 9

Romans 4:9. μακαρισμὸς οὖν οὗτος: This felicitation, then, what is its extent? Does it apply to the circumcision only, or to the uncircumcision also? Just as Romans 4:1-8 correspond to Romans 3:27 f., so do Romans 4:9-12 correspond to Romans 3:29-31. God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also, and the Apostle’s purpose here is to show that the felicitation of the justified in Psalms 32 is not limited by circumcision. λέγομεν γὰρ κ. τ. λ.: for our proposition is, that his faith was reckoned, etc.


Verses 9-12

Romans 4:9-12. In these verses the justification of Abraham appears in a new light. In virtue of its ground in his faith, he is not only a forefather κατὰ σάρκα (i.e., the natural ancestor of the Jews), but he is the spiritual ancestor of all believers. The faith which was imputed to him for righteousness constitutes him such; it is the same in essence as Christian faith; and so it is a vital bond between him and all who believe, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. God’s method has been the same through all history.


Verse 10

Romans 4:10. πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη; To say that his faith was reckoned as righteousness, without mentioning circumcision, suggests that the latter was at least not indispensable; still it is not decisive, and so the further question must be asked, How—i.e., under what conditions—was his faith thus reckoned to him? Was it when he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised? History enables Paul to answer, Not when he was circumcised, but when he was uncircumcised. Abraham’s justification is narrated in Genesis 15, his circumcision not till Genesis 17, some fourteen years later: hence it was not his circumcision on which he depended for acceptance with God.


Verse 11

Romans 4:11 f. On the contrary, he received a sign in circumcision a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised. Both sign ( אוֹת) and seal ( חוֹתָם) are frequently used by Rabbinical writers to describe circumcision as a symbol or pledge that one is in covenant with God. So even of heathens: “Og was circumcised, and Moses feared מפני אות ברית שׁלו, propter signum foederis ejus”. But usually of Jews: “Jonah shewed Leviathan sigillum ( חותמו) Abrahami patris nostri”. See Schoettgen, Wetstein, or Delitzsch, ad loc περιτομῆς (for which W. and H. have in margin περιτομήν) must be a genitive of apposition. With εἰς τὸ εἶναι the Divine purpose in this relation of circumcision to justification in the case of Abraham is explained. Things were ordered as has been described that he might be father of all that believe while uncircumcised (as he himself did)—that the righteousness in question might be imputed to them; and father of circumcision (i.e., of persons circumcised) in the case of those who are not only circumcised, but also walk in the steps of the faith which he had while not circumcised. It was God’s intention that Abraham should be the representative and typical believer, in whom all believers without distinction should recognise their spiritual father; the Divine method of justification was to be inaugurated and illustrated in him, as it should hold good for all who were to be justified: accordingly the whole process took place antecedent to his circumcision, and in no circumstances has circumcision any essential relation to this great blessing. For its true meaning and advantage see on Romans 2:25. On οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον, see Simcox, Language of the N.T., 184. The grammar in Romans 4:12 is faulty, and Westcott and Hort suspect a primitive error. Either τοῖς before στοιχοῦσιν must be omitted, or it must be changed, as Hort suggests, into αὐτοῖς, if we are to express the meaning correctly. The sense required by the context is not open to doubt. For διʼ ἀκροβυστίας cf. Romans 2:27. For the dative τοῖς ἴχνεσιν see Philipp. Romans 3:16, Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25. But cf. also Winer, p. 274.


Verse 13

Romans 4:13. ἐπαγγελία is the Divine promise, which is identical with salvation in the widest sense. The word implies that the promise is held out by God of his own motion. The peculiar content here assigned to the promise, that Abraham should be heir of the world, is not found in so many words in the O.T. Schoettgen, on Romans 4:3, quotes Mechilta, fol. 25, 2. “Sic quoque de Abrahamo legimus, quod mundum hunc et mundum futurum non nisi ea de causa consecutus sit, quia in Deum credidit, q.d., Genesis 15:6. And Wetstein, Tanchuma, 165, 1: Abrahamo patri meo Deus possidendum dedit cælum et terram. These passages prove that the idea was not unfamiliar, and it may be regarded as an extension of the promises contained in Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 22:17. But what precisely did it mean? Possibly participation in the sovereignty of the Messiah. Abraham and his seed would then be heirs of the world in the sense of 1 Corinthians 6:2, 2 Timothy 2:12. So Meyer and many others. In the connection in which the words stand, however, this seems strained; and the “rationalising” interpretation, which makes the world Abraham’s inheritance through the spread of Abraham’s faith, and the multiplication of his spiritual children, is probably to be preferred. The religion which is conquering the world is descended from him, its power lies in that faith which he also had, and in proportion as it spreads he inherits the world. τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ: not Christ, as in Galatians 3:16, but Abraham’s descendants in the widest sense. διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως: it was not as one under law, but as one justified by faith, that Abraham had the promise given to him. In the narrative, indeed, the promise (Genesis 12:7) antedates the justification (Genesis 15:6), but it is repeated at later periods (see above): and as Romans 4:14 argues, promise, faith and justification are parts of one spiritual whole.


Verses 13-15

Romans 4:13-15. The argument of Romans 4:9-12 is reiterated and confirmed here in other terms. Abraham is the father of all believers: for it is not through law that the promise is given to him or his seed, that he should be heir of the world—a condition which would limit the inheritance to the Jews, but through the righteousness of faith—a condition which extends it to all who believe. We might have expected a quasi-historical proof of this proposition, similar to the proof given in 10 f. that Abraham’s justification did not depend on circumcision. But the Apostle takes another and more speculative line. Instead of arguing from the O.T. narrative, as he does in Galatians 3:14-17, that the promise was given to a justified man before the (Mosaic) law was heard of, and therefore must be fulfilled to all independently of law, he argues that law and promise are mutually exclusive ideas. For (Romans 4:14) if those who are of law, i.e., Jews only, as partisans of law, are heirs, then faith (the correlative of promise) has been made vain, and the promise of no effect. And this incompatibility of law and promise in idea is supported by the actual effect of the law in human experience. For the law works wrath—the very opposite of promise. But where there is not law, there is not even transgression, still less the wrath which transgression provokes. Here, then, the other series of conceptions finds its sphere: the world is ruled by grace, promise and faith. This is the world in which Abraham lived, and in which all believers live; and as its typical citizen, he is father of them all.


Verse 14

Romans 4:14. κεκένωται cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 9:15, 2 Corinthians 9:3. κατήργηται: a favourite word of Paul, who uses it twenty-five times.


Verse 15

Romans 4:15. ὀργήν: wrath, i.e., the wrath of God. See on Romans 1:18. Under a legal dispensation sin is stimulated, and brought into clear consciousness: men come under the wrath of God, and know that they do. This is the whole and sole result of “the law,” and hence law cannot be the means through which God administers His grace, and makes man the heir of all things. On the contrary, to attain this inheritance man must live under a regime of faith, οὗ δὲ: δὲ is the true reading (see critical note), not γάρ: but where law is not, neither is there παράβασις. It would not have been true to say οὐδὲ ἁμαρτία, for Paul in chap. 2 recognises the existence and guilt of sin even where men live ἀνόμως; but in comparison with the deliberate and conscious transgression of those who live ἐν νόμῳ, such sin is comparatively insignificant and venial, and is here left out of account. The alternative systems are reduced to two, Law and Grace (or Promise).


Verse 16

Romans 4:16 f. διὰ τοῦτο: because of the nature of law, and its inability to work anything but wrath. εκ πίστεως: the subject is the promise, considered in reference to the mode of its fulfilment. ἵνα κατὰ χάριν: χάρις on God’s part is the correlative of πίστις on man’s εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν κ. τ. λ. This is the Divine purpose in instituting the spiritual order of grace and faith: it is the only one consistent with universalism in religion οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ ἐκ πίστεως ἀβραάμ: there seems to be some inexactness in expression here. The seed which is “of the Law” ought to mean the Jews, as partisans of law in distinction from faith: then the seed which is “of the faith of Abraham” would mean the Gentiles. But the promise did not belong at all to the seed which was “of the law,” i.e., to the Jews, as Abraham’s natural descendants; even in them, faith was required. And the seed which is “of the faith” of Abraham is not quite appropriate to describe Gentile believers exclusively; the very point of the argument in the passage is that the faith of Abraham is reproduced in all the justified, whether Gentile or Jew. Still there seems no doubt that the persons meant to be contrasted in the two clauses are Jewish and Gentile believers (Meyer), not Jews and Christians (Fritzsche, who supplies σπέρματι before ἀβραάμ): the difficulty is that the words do not exactly suit either meaning.

ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν. The πάντων is emphatic, and ἡμῶν expresses the consciousness of one who has seen in Abraham the spiritual ancestor of the new Christian community, living (as it does), and inheriting the promise, by faith. Opponuntur haec verba Judaeis, qui Abrahamum non nominant nisi cum adjecto אבינר pater noster (Schoettgen). When Paul speaks out of his Jewish consciousness, he shares this pride (“whose are the fathers,” Romans 9:5); when he speaks as a Christian, to whom the Church is “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16), and who can even say “we are the circumcision,” he claims all the Jews boasted of as in reality the property of believers: it is Christians, and not Jews by birth, who can truly say “We have Abraham to our father”. The earliest indication (an indirect one) of the Jewish pride in Abraham is perhaps seen in Isaiah 63:16. That Abraham is the father of us all agrees with Scripture: Genesis 17:5 LXX. The ὅτι belongs to the quotation. If there is any parenthesis, it should only be from καθὼς to σέ. As Abraham has this character in Scripture, so he has it before God: the two things are one and the same; it is his true, historical, Divine standing, that he is father of all believers. The attraction in κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν θεοῦ is most simply resolved into κ. θεοῦ ἐπίστευσε: but see Winer, p. 204, 206. In characterising the God whom Abraham believed, the Apostle brings out further the correspondence between the patriarch’s faith and that of Christians. He is “God who makes the dead alive and calls things that are not as though they were”. Such a reference to Isaac as we find in Hebrews 11:19 ( λογισάμενος ὅτι καὶ ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγείρειν δυνατὸς θεός) is not suggested here (yet see Romans 4:24), and hence it is better to take ζωοπ. τοὺς νεκροὺς of restoring vitality to Abraham, whose body was as good as dead. In the application, the things that are not are the unborn multitudes of Abraham’s spiritual children. God speaks of them (hardly, issues his summons to them) as if they had a being. Faith in a God who is thus conceived comes nearer than anything else in Paul to the definition given in Hebrews 11:1. On τὰ μὴ ὄντα, see Winer, p. 608.


Verses 16-22

Romans 4:16-22. The Apostle can now develop, without further interruption or digression, his idea of the representative (and therefore universal) character of Abraham’s justification. The New Testament cannot be said to subvert the Old if the method of justification is the same under both. Nay, it establishes the Old (Romans 3:31). This is the point which is enforced in the closing verses of chap. 4.


Verse 18

Romans 4:18 ff. Abraham’s faith described. It was both contrary to hope (as far as nature could give hope), and rested on hope (that God could do what nature could not). εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα κ. τ. λ. (cf. Romans 4:11) is most properly taken to express the Divine purpose—that he might become father, etc. (see Moulton’s note in Winer, p. 414); not result—so that he became. κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον, οὕτως κ. τ. λ., Genesis 15:5 : the passage is familiar, and the οὕτως is supposed to suggest its own interpretation—the stars of the heaven.

μὴ ἀσθενήσαςκατενόησεν, without becoming weak in faith, he considered his own body. “The participle ἀσθενήσας, though preceding the verb, is most naturally interpreted as referring to a (conceived) result of the action denoted by κατενόησεν.” Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 145. This remark holds good only with the reading κατενόησεν: if we read οὐ κατ. the meaning is, He considered not his body quippe qui non esset imbecillis (Winer, p. 610). ἑκατονταετής που (circiter) ὑπάρχων: his great age was the primary and fundamental fact in the situation: this seems to be the suggestion of ὑπάρχων as distinct from ὤν. In Romans 4:20 ( εἰς δὲ τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) the δὲ contrasts with becoming weak, as he considered his body, the actual conduct of Abraham. “He did not waver in relation to the promise, in unbelief; on the contrary, he was strengthened in faith.” On διεκρίθη, cf. Matthew 21:21, James 1:6, Romans 14:23. τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ: instrum, dative; because of unbelief. It is simplest to take τῇ πίστει as dative of respect, though Hebrews 11:11 can be adduced by those who would render: “he became strong, recovered his bodily vigour, by faith”. The participles in Romans 4:21 are loosely attached to the principal verbs, and are really equivalent to co-ordinate clauses with καί. In his whole conduct on this occasion Abraham glorified God, and demonstrated his own assurance of His power. See Burton, § 145. δοὺς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ: for this Hebraism see Joshua 7:19, Jeremiah 13:16, John 9:24, Acts 12:23. For πληροφορηθείς Romans 14:5, Colossians 4:12.


Verse 22

Romans 4:22. 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 righteousness. That which needs to be reckoned as righteousness is not in itself righteousness—on this the Apostle’s argument rests in Romans 4:1-8; 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.


Verses 23-25

Romans 4:23-25. Conclusion of the argument. οὐκ ἐγράφη δὲ διʼ αὐτὸν μόνον: cf. Romans 14:4, 1 Corinthians 9:10; 1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11, Galatians 3:8. The formula for quoting Scripture is not ἐγράφη but γέγραπται: i.e., Scripture conveys not a historical truth, relating to one person (as here, to Abraham), but a present eternal truth, with some universal application. διʼ ἡμᾶς: to show the mode of our justification. οἷς μέλλει λογίζεσθαι: to whom it (the act of believing) is to be imputed as righteousness. μέλλει conveys the idea of a Divine order under which things proceed so. τοῖς πιστεύουσιν is in apposition to οἷς: “believing as we do”. (Weiss.) The object of the Christian’s faith is the same as that of Abraham’s, God that giveth life to the dead. Only in this case it is Specifically God as He who raised Jesus our Lord. Cf. 1 Peter 1:21, where Christians are described as those who through Christ believe in God who raised Him from the dead. In Abraham’s case, “God that quickeneth the dead” is merely a synonym for God Omnipotent, who can do what man cannot. In Paul, on the other hand, while omnipotence is included in the description of God—for in Ephesians 1:19, in order to give an idea of the greatest conceivable power, the Apostle can do no more than say that it is according to that working of the strength of God’s might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead—omnipotence is not sole object of the Christian’s faith. His spiritual attitude toward God is the same as Abraham’s, but God is revealed to him, and offered to his faith, in a character in which Abraham did not yet know Him. This is conveyed in the description of the Person in relation to whom the Omnipotence of God has been displayed to Christians. That Person is “Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our offences, and raised for our justification”. The Resurrection of Jesus our Lord entitles us to conceive of God’s Omnipotence not as mere unqualified power, but as power no less than infinite engaged in the work of man’s salvation from sin. In the Resurrection of Jesus, omnipotence is exhibited as redeeming power: and in this omnipotence we, like Abraham, believe. παρεδόθη is used in LXX, Isaiah 53:12, and its N.T. use, whether God or Christ be the subject of the παραδιδόναι (Romans 8:32 : Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:2), may be derived thence. There is considerable difficulty with the parallel clauses διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν, and διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν. It is safe to assert that Paul did not make an abstract separation between Christ’s Death and His Resurrection, as if the Death and the Resurrection either had different motives, or served ends separable from each other. There is a sort of mannerism in the expression here, as there is in Romans 14:9, which puts us on our guard against over-precision. This granted, it seems simplest and best to adopt such an interpretation as maintains the same meaning for διὰ in both clauses. This has been done in two ways. (1) The διὰ has been taken retrospectively. “He was delivered up because we had sinned, and raised because we were justified”—sc. by His death. But though Paul writes in Romans 5:9, δικαιωθέντες νῦν ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ, it is impossible to believe that he would have written—as this interpretation requires him to do—that we were justified by Christ’s death, and that Christ was therefore raised from the dead by God. Justification is not only an act of God, but a spiritual experience; it is dependent upon faith (Romans 3:25); and it is realised in men as one by one, in the time determined by Providence, they receive the Gospel. Hence διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν at least must be prospective. (2) The διὰ has been taken in both clauses prospectively. “He was delivered up on account of our offences—to make atonement for them; and he was raised on account of our justification—that it might become an accomplished fact.” That this interpretation is legitimate, so far as the language goes, cannot be questioned; and if we avoid unreal separations between things that really form one whole, it is thoroughly Pauline. Paul does ascribe expiatory value to the death or the blood of Christ; in that sense it is true the work of Christ was finished on the Cross. But Paul never A thought of that by itself; he knew Christ, only as the Risen One who had died, and, who had the virtue of His atoning death ever in Him; this Christ was One, in all that He did and suffered—the Christ who had evoked in him the faith by which he was justified, the only Christ through faith in whom sinful men ever could be justified; and it is natural, therefore, that he should conceive Him as raised with a view to our justification. But it would have been equally legitimate to say that He died for our justification. It is only another way of expressing what every Christian understands—that we believe in a living Saviour, and that it is faith in Him which justifies. But then it is faith in Him as One who not only lives, but was delivered up to death to atone for our offences. He both died and was raised for our justification; the work is one and its end is one. And it is a mistake to argue, as Beyschlag does (Neutest. Theologie, ii., 164), that this reference of faith to the Risen Christ who died is inconsistent with the vicarious nature of His expiatory sufferings. That His sufferings had this character is established on independent grounds; and to believe in the Risen Christ is to believe in One in whom the power of that propitiatory vicarious suffering abides for ever. It is indeed solely because the virtue of that suffering is in Him that faith in the Risen Lord does justify. For an exposition of the passage, in which the retrospective force is given to διὰ, see Candlish in Expositor, Dec., 1893. See also Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, p. 160 ff. The identity in principle of Abrahamic and Christian faith is seen in this, that both are faith in God. But Abraham’s is faith in a Divine promise, which only omnipotence could make good; the Christian’s is faith in the character of God as revealed in the work of redemption wrought by Christ. That, too, however, involves omnipotence. It was the greatest display of power ever made to man when God raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places; and the Christ so raised was one who had been delivered to death for our offences. That is only another way of saying that the ultimate power in the world—the omnipotence of God—is in the service of a love which provides at infinite cost for the expiation of sin. The only right attitude for any human being in presence of this power is utter self-renunciation, utter abandonment of self to God. This is faith, and it is this which is imputed to men in all ages and under all dispensations for righteousness.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Romans 4:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/romans-4.html. 1897-1910.

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