1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found?
Paul now turns the argument to Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, to use him as an illustration of how faith worked in the Old Testament. We must note that Abraham existed before the Law of Moses. The question is how was Abraham saved and what role did the Law play in it, if any?
2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
Keeping the Law requires works and causes man to boast. If Abraham was justified by works, then he too, would have something to boast about. But as Scripture shows, his boasts would be foolishness before God because God doesn’t justify based upon works of the Law.
3For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
According to the Scripture, Abraham was justified because he believed God. This faith in the revealed Word of God as He was given (which is far less than what we have, with far less evidence, and what he had was farfetched implying that he would have a son in his old age) was sufficient for God to grant him salvation. Abraham believed God against all reason, trusting and obeying the Word of God as he knew it.
4Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.
Paul now gives a practical logical example of how things work. If a person is told that he will be paid a certain wage for doing some labor, it is not a gift or favor for paying him what is his due. In fact, it would be criminal not to pay what that for which the person was contracted to be paid. What he is paid is what he is due. He has earned his wage through his work.
5But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,
However, salvation is not what is justly due us for our labor. Our wage would be death because of our sin. That would be our just due. If we are going to boast, we would have to boast in the fact that we are going to hell and will have to face the wrath of God for eternity. Thus, it makes no sense to boast based upon works because of the wage due for the works. Rather, salvation is given not because of works but to those who believe in the God who justifies the ungodly. Such faith is credited as righteousness. It is the person who realizes and admits that their works cannot save them because of their sin who can then by faith respond to the free gift of God in Christ.
6just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Even David, another huge Jewish figure, understood and believed that faith is credited because of righteousness and not because of works.
7"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,
AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
8"BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT."
David said that those whose lawless deeds are forgiven and whose sins are covered are blessed. He admits that man has sinned, but he understands that the only path to redemption and justification is through God not holding that sin to their account. Something other than works must accomplish this. It is obviously the grace of God through faith.
9Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Was the blessing that David was referring to for both Jews and Gentiles, or just for the Jews? We know that faith was credited to Abraham apart from the Law. But, since Abraham was the father of the Jews, did his justification require circumcision?
10How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised;
According to Genesis, God pronounced Abraham justified before he had been circumcised. God hadn’t even ordained that particular sign at the point that Abraham believed by faith. Thus, circumcision as well as the Law are not required for salvation. It is not based upon works, as illustrated by the life of Abraham, a figure the Jews had to take note of.
11and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them,
He received the sign of circumcision which was just that, a sign. It was a symbol and seal of the righteousness of the faith he had while he was yet uncircumcised. Like Christian baptism, circumcision was intended to be a testimony outwardly of an inward change by faith in Christ. Abraham is thus the father of all nations, Jew and Gentile, in that everyone who believes in Christ by faith is considered his son or daughter. It is through Abraham that all nations, Jew and Gentile, are blessed because of Christ. Righteousness may be credited to all people since circumcision and the Law are not the defining issues of faith and of salvation.
12and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
Abraham is called the father of the circumcision. This is because of the fact that all of those who receive the grace of Christ through faith are considered the people of God, sealed with a circumcision of the heart and by the Holy Spirit. The circumcision that is through Abraham is ultimately one of the inner man rather than merely an outward sign. This is why he can be a father of circumcision to those who are literally and physically circumcised and to those who are not. The issue is whether or not a person follows in the steps of the faith of Abraham. Paul emphasizes again that Abraham’s faith which justified him came before the outward sign of circumcision was established.
13For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
The promise to Abraham and his descendents that he would be heir of the world (Genesis 12:1-3), meaning that he would be a father of many nations and that the world would be blessed through him, was a promise God gave to him not because of or through the keeping of the Law, since it was not yet given. Just like circumcision, the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) also preceded the Law, and thus it, too, was on the basis of faith.
14For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
If somebody could be saved through the Law, then the promise to Abraham would be nullified because he would no longer be the father of all who would believe. He can only be the father of all who believe if they follow in the steps of his faith. If salvation was by the Law, the Abrahamic covenant cannot come to be and the promise that God made would have to be discounted.
15for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
The outworking of the Law is wrath, since no person can keep it. The Law shows those under the Law their sinfulness. It never saves, and thus could not be a means of making Abraham the father of many nations. Where there is no law (small “l”), there is no violation. As in Abraham’s time, there was no law of any kind other than what was by faith written on his heart.
16For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
Since the Law only brings about judgment, wrath, and condemnation, salvation must be by faith in accordance with the grace of God in Christ. The promise to Abraham can only be fulfilled and guaranteed to all of the descendents if the descendants are those who respond to the grace of God in faith. The descendants include not just the Jews who had the Law but those who are of the faith of Abraham. Abraham then is the father of all who have saving faith.
17(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
Abraham’s faith and ours is in the presence of God whose Word we must believe in order to be saved. It is God who gives life to the dead (eternal life) and calls into being that which does not exist (a new self and creation in Christ). Specifically for Abraham, this could be referring to allowing Sarah to conceive even though she was approaching her death. Yet God allowed her to conceive, calling into being that which didn’t exist.
18In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE."
Abraham sets a remarkable example of faith, and thus he serves as a proper example of saving faith. He believed in hope against hope that he would become a father of many nations according to the Word of God. He didn’t have the faithfulness of God in a written Bible to look back on. He had to trust the revelation as it was given even though it was far-fetched. And to his credit, he did.
19Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb;
Abraham’s faith was not apart from reason, it simply transcended it. He did think through how wonderful and perhaps crazy the promise of God to him was. He thought about his own body and his age and Sarah’s body, age, and ability to conceive. He knew he was about as good as dead, given that he was about a hundred years old. Yet despite these facts and the biological impossibility, he trusted God that his wife would conceive and bear a son in her old age. This is great faith that challenges our faith to the core.
20yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
He did not become weak in faith despite knowing all of the practical realities, nor did he waver in unbelief. He didn’t vacillate or become double-minded and unstable. He remained totally committed in faith believing that God would do what He said He would do. His faith even grew stronger with time as he gave glory to God through his confidence in His Word. God is praised and glorified when we take Him at His Word and do not waver. If we waver, we cannot expect that we will receive anything from the Lord (James 1:7-8). We must believe His promises.
21and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.
The essence of saving faith and how God wants our faith to be is that we are fully assured. Faith is the evidence of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). Evidence and conviction speak of confidence and full assurance. We don’t see in the sense that we are not in heaven yet, but we have full assurance that we are Christ’s and will be with Him forever in paradise. What God had promised, Abraham believed He would also bring to pass. We believe that God has promised to glorify us and finish and perfect our faith. He will do it.
22Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Abraham’s faith was not a passing belief that was there and then gone. It was a steadfast, firm conviction that he staked his life upon. He was absolutely sure that God would keep His Word to him, thus God credited to him righteousness. Abraham was saved through faith in the grace of God since he believed the Word of God with conviction.
23Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him,
Abraham stands as an example of how God justifies. The account in Genesis was written for a purpose. All of Scripture is for our teaching; none is irrelevant or peripheral. This particular account showed us who would come after him how God chooses to save men so that we would not be confused and try to earn God’s favor by works.
24but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,
This example of Abraham’s justification serves as an example for us who are credited the righteousness of Christ if we believe in God who raised Jesus from the dead.
25He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
We must believe also that Christ was delivered because of our sin. We must admit our wrongdoing before God and repent unto salvation. We need to understand this substitutionary death of Christ. He paid the penalty that we should have born by taking upon Himself the wrath of God. When we put our faith in the righteousness of Christ to save us through His sacrifice on the cross, we can be saved. We must believe that Christ was raised from the dead in order to make our justification possible. The gospel doesn’t end with the cross or the grave. It ends with the resurrection which proved that sin and death were conquered by Christ and therefore we can have faith and full assurance that we can escape the wages of sin and the lake of fire because of Christ. We know that we can have eternal life in Christ (1 John 5:13).