The Berean Expositor
Volume 51 - Page 140 of 181
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that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto
them also" (4: 11).
If circumcision had nothing to do with the justification of Abraham before God, then
the law had even less to do with it; for in Galatians Paul had already pointed out that
the law was given 430 years later than God's promise to Abraham and could not either
contradict it or set it aside (Gal. 3: 17). Thus it is that God's dealings with Abraham on
the principle of grace is an illustration of what He can do for anyone, Jew or Gentile, who
exhibits the same trust in God that Abraham showed. It was because of this that God
changed his name from Abram as he was formerly called to Abraham, and said "I have
made thee a father of many nations" (Gen. 17: 4, 5) and this must therefore include the
4: 12 - 5: 5.
pp. 221 - 225
Thus it is that chapter 4: of Romans, dealing with Abraham show that his case is a
practical example of justification by faith on the principle of grace, whichever way it is
looked at, either from the standpoint of circumcision, or any kind of law; whether given
later through Moses or otherwise:
"For the promise, that he (Abraham) should be the heir of the world, was not to
Abraham, or to his seed, through (the) law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if
they which are of (the) law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none
effect: because the law worketh wrath; for where no law is, there is no transgression.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to
all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of
Abraham; who is the father of us all, (as it is written, I have made thee a father of many
nations), before Him Who he believed, even God, Who quickeneth the dead, and calleth
those things which be not as though they were" (4: 13-17).
Sometimes Paul drops the definite article before `the law' and possibly from this he is
referring to law generally.
These verses extend the argument set forth in verses 1-12, namely that God's dealings
with Abraham were not on the basis of law but of promise, and this was given by grace
and received by faith. The title, "the heir of the world", is an interpretation of the
promises which refer to "all families of the earth" (Gen. 12: 3) and "all nations of the
earth" (Gen. 18: 18; 22: 18). The Apostle argues that if these are received by law
keeping, then faith is ruled out, and owing to men's inability to keep the law, these divine
promises can never be fulfilled.
"For if those who rely on the law are heirs, then faith has been emptied of meaning,
and the promise has been brought to nothing" (4: 14, 100: K. Barrett).