Romans 4 illustrates the concept of faith through the life of Abraham. To correctly interpret this chapter we must read Genesis 15:1-6 and Genesis 17:1-14, 22-24. Then we must factor in when and to whom was the Law given. When we have all these reference points clear, then we see how Paul makes his argument that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not by the Law or Circumcision.
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.6 And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
Abram (Abraham) believed God’s promise.
Genesis 17:1-14, 22-24
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
When was Abram declared righteous, before or after the command to be circumcised?
Who was the Law given? Israel. At the time of Abraham was the nation of Israel established? No. If the Law was given to the nation of Israel how could Abraham been justified through the Law? He could not.
Abram’s faith in the promise of God made him righteous.
Understanding these principles we can now study Romans 4.
Tomorrow we will look at the first 12 verses.
Tom Stearns, WASI Chaplain, 907 715-4001