The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans

By G. Campbell Morgan

Chapter 8


1. Abraham. Personal. Rom 4:1-12

a. The Inquiry. Rom 4:1-2

b. The Answer of Scripture. Rom 4:3-8

Righteousness reckoned to Faith. Rom 4:3-5

The Testimony of David. Rom 4:6-8

c. The Place of Circumcision. Rom 4:9-12

The Inquiry. Rom 4:9-l0

The Answer. Rom 4:10-12

Faith before Circumcision.

Circumcision the Seal of Righteousness.

2. Abraham. Relative. Rom 4:13-17

a. The Promise. Before Law. Rom 4:13-15

To Righteousness.

Of Faith.

b. The Promise. Sure. Rom 4:16-17

To the Seed of the Law.

To the Seed of Faith.

3. Abraham. Fulfillment. Rom 4:18-22

a. Faith against Hope. Rom 4:18

b. Faith against Circumstances. Rom 4:19-21

c. Faith the Principle of Righteousness. Rom 4:22

4. Application of Illustration. Rom 4:23-25

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It is evident that the apostle had still in mind the difficulties of the Jew, and therefore he turned aside to show that this method of imputing righteousness in response to faith had always been that which God had used in His dealings with Israel. In illustration of this the apostle took the case of Abraham, the father and founder of the nation, and showed how he was accepted and rewarded through faith, and not through works; both as to his personal acceptance with God, and as to his position as the recipient of the promise of a coming deliverance. In this section of illustration there are four movements: the first dealing with the personal acceptance of Abraham; the second with his relative relationship; the third with the operation of his faith in the hour of crisis; and the last with an application, showing the identity of principle between the history of Abraham, and the experience of believers.

1. Abraham. Personal

In view of all Paul had written, the Jew would naturally come to the conclusion that Abraham had no advantage over others; and the apostle stated the difficulty as it would occur to the mind of the Jew in the preliminary inquiry, "What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh, hath found?"

In replying to this the apostle boldly declared that if Abraham had received justification on the basis of works, he had something to glory in, but not toward God. In that case his glorying would be in his own accomplishment. In refutation of this he made his appeal to Scripture - citing its declaration concerning Abraham, and quoting from one of the psalms of David.

The first declaration affirmed that Abraham's belief of God was reckoned unto him for righteousness, that is to say that he was justified by faith. If his justification had been a response to his work, then it would have been of the nature of the payment of a debt due to him, and not a gift of grace. This, however, was not the case. In further enforcement of this truth, the apostle quoted the opening words of the great psalm of David which deals with the experience of a man in the matter of his sin, and his relation to Jehovah. In that quotation the emphasis to which the apostle desired to draw attention was undoubtedly that of the fact that the blessedness in each case results from the action of God, in complete independence of the works of man. Of course this is not to deny what has been affirmed in the earlier part of the letter, and will be affirmed again in its course, that the demonstration of faith is works. It is merely to insist upon it that not by what man does can he free himself from sin, and find entrance to blessedness. Faith is not mentioned in this quotation from the psalms, but the fact is clearly revealed that blessedness results from God's action apart from man's works.

What then is the place and value of circumcision? The apostle imagines the Jew asking with reference to his psalm quotation, as to whether the blessing, to which the psalmist referred, was pronounced upon the circumcision, or upon the un-circumcision also. The point of the inquiry is that the Jew would be likely to argue that the psalm was the psalm of the Jew, and that it had no application to men outside that covenant of which circumcision was the sign.

He replied to this view by showing that Abraham was justified before the rite of circumcision was established, and that such a rite was merely the outward sign of an established fact. It was perfectly evident therefore that, in this matter of circumcision, works were the outcome of righteousness resulting from faith, rather than faith the outcome of righteousness issuing from works. The apostle finally stated this in such a superlative fashion as must have been astonishing indeed to the ears of a Jew, when he declared that Abraham was the father not merely of circumcised men according to the flesh, but of all who believe, even though they be in un-circumcision.

2. Abraham. Relative

Passing beyond the question of Abraham's personal relation to Jehovah, the apostle proceeded to consider the larger meaning of the call of Abraham, and through him of the new nation, that namely of the great promise made to him, that he should be the heir of the world.

The reference is of course to the Messianic hope which was the inspiration of Abraham

The promise was the reward of that faith which, at the call of God, abandoned everything to follow and obey. Thus the promise is sure to all the seed of Abraham, not only to that which is of law, but to that also which is of faith. All this is most forcefully seen in the fact that the nation after the flesh, of which Abraham was the father, was in its very existence the result of the act of God, by which in answer to faith He quickened the dead, and called the things that were not as though they were.

3. Abraham. Fulfillment

When, humanly speaking, the possibility of such a nation had ceased to exist, Abraham believed against hope. He believed, moreover against circumstances, being sure that God was able to perform what He had promised in spite of all contradictory appearances, by granting him a son, and through that son creating a nation. In the hour when hope in the ordinary sense of the word was at an end, and when, by every natural law, the result desired seemed impossible, this man by faith, and by faith only, glorified God in his unwavering confidence that what He had promised He was able also to perform. His son was given by the act of God in answer to that faith.

4. Application of Illustration

In a brief but lucid statement, the apostle made application of his illustration to the argument of his letter. The history of Abraham bears testimony which must strengthen the faith and confidence of those who look to and believe in Jesus. Righteousness is in like manner reckoned not to those who work, but to those who believe.