Both Muslims and Jews reverence Abraham as their father. Unfortunately, all Muslims and I dare say the majority of Jews reverence him only after the flesh, which does not make them righteous before God. They fail to recognize him as the father of Faith to both uncircumcised (the Gentiles) as well as circumcised (the Jews), Romans 4:11 – 12. Our last study examined the 9 occasions of the word “faith” in the 3rd chapter of Romans, which teaches that no one can be justified by the works of the law, Romans 3:20, and the only way anyone from Adam, up through the time of the rapture, can be righteous before God is by: “… the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe,” Romans 3:22. With that in mind, we note the following words the Holy Spirit highlighted or emphasized when He inspired Paul to write the 4th chapter of Romans:
- Law (G3451) occurs 75 times in Romans, by far the most frequent in the New Testament (NT); generally referring to the Law of Moses; 19 in Romans chapter 2, 11 in chapter 3 and 5 in chapter 4;*
- Faith (G4002) 40 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 10 in chapter 4;**
- Abraham (G11) 9 in Romans, 7 in chapter 4;***
- Believe (G4000) 39 in Romans, 6 in chapter 4;
- Circumcision (G3961) 15 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 6 in Chapter 4;****
- Uncircumcision (G203) 11 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 5 in Chapter 4;
- Work (G2041) 18 in Romans, the second most frequent in the NT, 2 in Chapter 4:
- Worketh (G2038) 4 in Romans, 2 in Chapter 4;
- Righteousness (G1343) 36 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 8 in Chapter 4;
- Impute (G3049) 19 in Romans, by far the most frequent in the NT (also translated think, reckon, count, account, conclude and esteem), 11 of which are in Chapter 4 where the Greek is translated impute, reckon and count;
- Justified (G1344) 15 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 2 in Chapter 4 (definition: to render or pronounce righteous);****
- Grace (G5385) 25 in Romans, the most frequent in the NT, 2 in Chapter 4;
In the 4th chapter, Paul points out that it is only by faith in God’s Word that anyone can be righteous before God; and he identifies Abraham as the father of all who believe. The chapter begins with the fact Abraham could do nothing in his flesh, i.e., by works, to obtain the righteousness required by God, Romans 4:1 – 2. But God counted (imputed or reckoned) him righteous because he believed God, Romans 4:3, quoting Genesis 15:6. These truths apply universally because all works of the flesh are reckoned (counted or imputed) as “debt” and not of “grace” Romans 4:4. The Greek word translated debt (G3683) in verse 4 is only found one other place in the NT, that being in what is commonly known as the Lord’s prayer, Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” It means “something owed, a due, morally a fault.” Thus, all works we do of the flesh are reckoned or counted as debt and not counted of “grace,” that is, to our benefit or favor.
Before God changed his name to Abraham, he was Abram, at which time he was an example of how the works of the flesh only bring debt. God had promised to make from him, that is from his seed, a great nation by which all the nations of the earth will be blessed, Genesis 12:2 – 3 & Genesis 15:4 – 5. Abram believed God’s promise but as time passed and when his wife Sarai (later Sarah) didn’t become pregnant he took it upon himself by the works of his flesh, to do what God promised. Upon Sarai’s encouragement, he impregnated her handmaiden Hagar who bore Ishmael, a son of his flesh, when he was 86 years old, Genesis 16:3 – 4; Genesis 16:16. This work of his flesh has been catastrophic ever since as many of Ishmael’s seed still plague the world as terrorists, Genesis 16:12. Never-the-less, God always honors His promises. So, in spite of Abram’s fleshly error God changed his name to Abraham and sealed His promise with a covenant marked by the rite of physical circumcision, Genesis 17:10 – 12; consummated when Abraham was 99 years old, Genesis 17:24. After the old works of the flesh were cut off, signified by physical circumcision, 100-year-old Abraham, by God’s grace and power, impregnated Sarah and she bare Isaac, the son of promise, Genesis 21:1 – 5. Believers today should learn from Abraham that we can’t do God’s work with our old sinful flesh but that we are circumcised “… with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:” Colossians 2:11, “… we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
Later in Romans, Paul explains this further: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:1 – 11.
Back to the 4th chapter: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted (imputed or reckoned) for righteousness” Romans 4:5. This verse recaps or summarizes the next 2 verses, which quote King David: “Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,” Romans 4:7 – 8, from Psalms 32:1 – 2. When David wrote these words, he was describing himself as being blessed by God Who imputed or counted righteousness on his account without works. He had sinned terribly by adultery and murder, but he wrote Psalms 32:1 – 2 by faith, that is, he believed God’s Word to him that his sins were forgiven and covered, even though he didn’t know how God would accomplish it. That was not known until Paul revealed how David’s sins (and those of the other Old Testament Saints) were forgiven and they were counted righteous. It was “…by faith of Jesus Christ unto and upon all who believe…” Who “God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Romans 3:21 – 25. God forbear their sins until Christ came and paid for them on the cross.
After quoting David: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,” Romans 4:8, Paul asks: “Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision (Jews) only, or upon the uncircumcision (Gentiles) also? for we say that faith was reckoned (imputed or counted) to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned (imputed or counted)? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision?” Romans 4:9 – 10. And Paul answers: “Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed (reckoned or counted) unto them also:” Romans 4:10 – 11. Before Paul was saved Peter had preached to the Jews: “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, and in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” Acts 3:25, quoting Genesis 22:18. Peter and those Jews with him who believed Jesus was their Messiah knew that Abraham’s seed would bless all kindreds of the earth but they were unaware it was actually by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection that righteousness was available to everyone, Jew and Gentile. This was not revealed until Paul did so, Romans 3:22 – 25. Abraham received the promise and believed God prior to being circumcised, Romans 4:10 – 12, but the revelation the Lord Jesus Christ gave to Paul made clear: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28 – 29.
To be continued.
*The word Law occurs 32 times in Galatians, the second most often in any NT book.
**The word Faith occurs 14 times in Galatians 3; 24 in Hebrews 11; and 13 in James 2.
***Abraham’s name is used 8 times in Galatians 3.
****Circumcision & justified occur the second most frequently in Galatians.