Romans 4:18
Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall your seed be.
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(18-22) Extended description of the faith of Abraham.

(18) Who.—It must be noticed that the relative here refers to Abraham, whereas in the previous verse it referred to God.

Believed in hope.—The force of the preposition gives rather to the sentence the meaning of “grounded his faith upon hope”—that internal subjective hope that was strong within him, though there were no objective grounds for hoping.

That he might become.—So as by exercise of faith to carry out God’s purpose.

Romans 4:18-22. Who, &c. — In this paragraph the apostle first takes notice of the difficulties which stood in the way of Abraham’s faith, and then of the power and excellence of it, manifested in its triumphing over them. Against hope — Against all probability; believed in hope — With an assured confidence, grounded on the divine promise; according to all that which was spoken — When God called him forth abroad to view the stars of heaven. So shall thy seed be — So numerous and glorious. And being not weak in faith — That is, being strong in faith; for the Hebrews, when they meant to assert a thing strongly, did it by the denial of its contrary. He considered not his own body now dead — With regard to the probability of begetting children. He did not regard it so as to be discouraged thereby, or induced to disbelieve the promise. The children which Abraham had by Keturah, after Sarah’s death, do not invalidate the apostle’s assertion here; for Abraham’s body, having been renewed by a miracle in order to the begetting of Isaac, might preserve its vigour for a considerable time afterward. Nor did he consider or regard the old age of Sarah. He staggered not — Greek, εις την επαγγελιαν του θεου ου διεκριθη τη απιστια, against the promise of God he did not reason; through unbelief — Did not call in question the truth of God’s promise, or the certainty of its fulfilment; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God — Entertaining high and honourable thoughts of God’s power and faithfulness, and manifesting the same by his actions. “We are told, indeed, that when God declared that Sarah was to be the mother of nations, Genesis 17:17, Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? &c. But these questions did not proceed from unbelief, but from admiration and gratitude, as may be gathered from the posture into which he put himself. And with respect to his laughing, it did not imply any doubt of God’s promise, otherwise he would have been rebuked, as Sarah was for her laughing: but it means simply, that he rejoiced at God’s promise; for in the Hebrew language, to laugh signifies to rejoice, Genesis 21:6, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me; consequently the passage may be translated, Abraham rejoiced and said, &c.” And being fully persuaded — Through the knowledge which he had of the divine perfections; that what he had promised — Greek, ο επηγγελται, that what was promised; he was able, and willing also, to perform — He believed God to be most faithful, and sure never to fail in the performance of his promises; collecting nothing else from the difficulty and improbability of the matter, but that it was the fitter for an Almighty power to effect; and therefore it — His faith; was imputed to him for righteousness — He was justified by it.4:13-22 The promise was made to Abraham long before the law. It points at Christ, and it refers to the promise, Ge 12:3. In Thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. The law worketh wrath, by showing that every transgressor is exposed to the Divine displeasure. As God intended to give men a title to the promised blessings, so he appointed it to be by faith, that it might be wholly of grace, to make it sure to all who were of the like precious faith with Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles, in all ages. The justification and salvation of sinners, the taking to himself the Gentiles who had not been a people, were a gracious calling of things which are not, as though they were; and this giving a being to things that were not, proves the almighty power of God. The nature and power of Abraham's faith are shown. He believed God's testimony, and looked for the performance of his promise, firmly hoping when the case seemed hopeless. It is weakness of faith, that makes a man lie poring on the difficulties in the way of a promise. Abraham took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises. The strength of faith appeared in its victory over fears. God honours faith; and great faith honours God. It was imputed to him for righteousness. Faith is a grace that of all others gives glory to God. Faith clearly is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness of God, the redemption which is by Christ; and that which is the instrument whereby we take or receive it, cannot be the thing itself, nor can it be the gift thereby taken and received. Abraham's faith did not justify him by its own merit or value, but as giving him a part in Christ.Who against hope - Who against all apparent or usual ground of hope. He refers here to the prospect of a posterity; see Romans 4:19-21.

Believed in hope - Believed in what was promised to excite his hope. Hope here is put for the object of his hope - what was promised.

According to what was spoken - Genesis 15:5.

So shall thy seed be - That is, as the stars in heaven for multitude. Thy posterity shall be very numerous.

18-22. Who against hope—when no ground for hope appeared.

believed in hope—that is, cherished the believing expectation.

that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be—that is, Such "as the stars of heaven," Ge 15:5.

Here the apostle digresseth a little from his principal argument, and falls into a commendation of Abraham’s faith.

Who against hope believed in hope: Abraham, when he had no natural or rational grounds of hope, either in respect of himself or Sarah his wife, did yet believe and hope he should have a son; and so be a root or stock, from whence many nations should spring: and this faith and hope of his was grounded upon the power and faithfulness of God.

So shall thy seed be; so as the stars of heaven for multitude, which must be supplied out of the promise, in Genesis 15:5. Who against hope believed in hope,.... Abraham believed the promise of God,

that he might become the father of many nations, being assisted by a supernatural aid: "in hope"; of the fulfilment of it by the grace and power of God: "against hope": against all visible, rational grounds of hope; Sarah's womb and his own body being dead, but inasmuch as God had said it, he believed:

according to that which is spoken, so shall thy seed be; his faith rested upon the word of God, which showed the nature of it, and that it was of the right kind.

{17} Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.

(17) A description of true faith wholly resting in the power of God, and his good will, set forth in the example of Abraham.

Romans 4:18. Ὃς] Parallel to the ὅς ἐστι κ.τ.λ[1073] Romans 4:16; therefore only a comma or a colon need be put after Ὡς ὌΝΤΑ.

] on hope, is the basis of the ἐπίστ. Comp 1 Corinthians 9:10; frequent in Greek authors. See also Titus 1:2. Abraham’s faith was opposed to hope (παρʼ ἐλπίδα, frequent in classical writers) in its objective reference, and yet not ἀνέλπιστος, but rather based on hope in its subjective reference,—a significant oxymoron.

εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι Κ.Τ.Λ[1075]] Rightly Luther: in order that he might be. Comp Rückert, Tholuck, Philippi. It contains the end, ordained by God, of the ἐπίστ., thus exhibiting Abraham’s faith in its teleological connection with the divine decree, and that in reference to the word of God, Romans 4:17; hence, it is less in harmony with the context to take εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι κ.τ.λ[1077] as the purpose of Abraham. Romans 4:11, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν Κ.Τ.Λ[1078] is quite analogous. Following Beza, many writers (including even Reiche, Köllner, Baumgarten-Crusius, Krehl, Mehring, Hofmann) take εἰς τὸ γεν. as the object of ἐπίστ.; quite contrary to the usage of the N. T.; see on Romans 4:11. Here, as in every case previously, the object of faith (the divine promise) is quite self-evident. The view which explains it of the consequence (Böhme, Flatt, Fritzsche, following older writers) for καὶ οὕτως ἐγένετο, is linguistically erroneous (see on Romans 1:20), and quite at variance with the tenor of the discourse; for in Romans 4:19-21 the delineation of the faith itself is still continued, so that at this stage the result (it is introduced in Romans 4:22) would be quite out of place.

κατὰ τὸ εἰρημ.] belonging to γενέσθαι κ.τ.λ[1079], not to ἘΠΊΣΤΕΥΣΕ (Hofmann, in accordance with his incorrect view of ΕἸς ΤῸ Κ.Τ.Λ[1080]).

οὕτως] What is meant by this, Paul assumes to be familiar to his readers; and therefore the corresponding part is by no means wanting. F G and several Fathers (also Vulg. ms.) have after σου the addition: ὡς οἱ ἀστέρες τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἡ ἄμμος τῆς θαλάσσης. The first half only is a proper gloss; the καὶ ἡ ἄμ. τ. θαλ. does not lie in the οὕτως, Genesis 15:5, but is imported from Genesis 12:16.

[1073] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1075] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1077] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1078] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1079] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1080] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

Romans 4:18-21. More particular setting forth of this faith of Abraham, according to its lofty power and strength. Εἶδες πῶς τίθησι καὶ τὰ κωλύματα καὶ τὴν ὑψηλὴν τοῦ δικαίου γνώμην πάντα ὑπερβαίνουσαν, Chrysostom.Romans 4:18 ff. Abraham’s faith described. It was both contrary to hope (as far as nature could give hope), and rested on hope (that God could do what nature could not). εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα κ.τ.λ. (cf. Romans 4:11) is most properly taken to express the Divine purpose—that he might become father, etc. (see Moulton’s note in Winer, p. 414); not result—so that he became. κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον, Οὕτως κ.τ.λ., Genesis 15:5 : the passage is familiar, and the οὕτως is supposed to suggest its own interpretation—the stars of the heaven.

μὴ ἀσθενήσαςκατενόησεν, without becoming weak in faith, he considered his own body. “The participle ἀσθενήσας, though preceding the verb, is most naturally interpreted as referring to a (conceived) result of the action denoted by κατενόησεν.” Burton, Moods and Tenses, § 145. This remark holds good only with the reading κατενόησεν: if we read οὐ κατ. the meaning is, He considered not his body quippe qui non esset imbecillis (Winer, p. 610). ἑκατονταετής που (circiter) ὑπάρχων: his great age was the primary and fundamental fact in the situation: this seems to be the suggestion of ὑπάρχων as distinct from ὤν. In Romans 4:20 (εἰς δὲ τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) the δὲ contrasts with becoming weak, as he considered his body, the actual conduct of Abraham. “He did not waver in relation to the promise, in unbelief; on the contrary, he was strengthened in faith.” On διεκρίθη, cf. Matthew 21:21, Jam 1:6, Romans 14:23. τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ: instrum, dative; because of unbelief. It is simplest to take τῇ πίστει as dative of respect, though Hebrews 11:11 can be adduced by those who would render: “he became strong, recovered his bodily vigour, by faith”. The participles in Romans 4:21 are loosely attached to the principal verbs, and are really equivalent to co-ordinate clauses with καί. In his whole conduct on this occasion Abraham glorified God, and demonstrated his own assurance of His power. See Burton, § 145. δοὺς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ: for this Hebraism see Joshua 7:19, Jeremiah 13:16, John 9:24, Acts 12:23. For πληροφορηθείς Romans 14:5, Colossians 4:12.18. against hope … in hope] Lit. beyond hope … upon hope. Here perhaps the first is subjective hope, the second objective. Abraham was asked to believe in a way which went beyond all mere impressions of probability; but he rested upon the “hope set before him” by the Divine promise, and believed.

that he might become] with a view to becoming. Not that this was the radical motive of his trust; knowledge of God was that motive. But this great “joy set before him” was strongly present in his believing soul.

So shall thy seed be] Genesis 15:5. This is interesting, as an example of allusive quotation. St Paul takes it for granted that the reader knows the context, and thus understands the force of the “so.” Cp. Hebrews 6:13-14, where the very point of the quotation lies in the unquoted context. But that passage, addressed to Jewish disciples, is less remarkable than this, addressed to a mixed, and chiefly Gentile, Church. We have here a significant note of the Apostle’s encouragement of minute study of the O. T. among his Gentile converts.—No doubt allusive quotation was much used by the Rabbis; but St Paul would not have used it with Gentiles had he not felt it to be in place.—Notice that the words here quoted immediately precede (in Genesis 15) the words “Abraham believed God, &c.”Romans 4:18. Παρʼ ἐλπίδα ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν, past [against] hope believed in hope) We lay hold of one and the same object both by faith and by hope; by faith, as a thing, which is truthfully enunciated [proclaimed]; by hope, as an object of joy, which for certain both can and will realized. He believed in the hope of the promise, past [beyond, ‘præter’] the hope of reason, [which reason would have suggested]. παρὰ and ἐπὶ, past [against] and in, the particles opposed to each other, produce a striking oxymoron.[48]—οὓτως, so) as the stars, Genesis 15:5. LXX. also, οὓτως.—σου. Comp. Galatians 3:8, notes.

[48] See Appendix.Verses 18-21. - Who against hope in hope believed (παρ ἐλπίδα ἐπ ἐλπίδι - an oxymoron. For a similar use of ἐπ ἐλπίδι, see 1 Corinthians 9:10; also below, Romans 5:2. Its position in the Authorized Version might suggest its dependence on "believed," which is grammatically possible (cf. Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11), but unallowable here, since hope cannot well be regarded as the object of belief) to the end he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be (Genesis 15:5, viz. "as the stars"). And being not weak in faith, he considered not (i.e. paid no regard to as a hindrance to faith. The codices relied on by our recent Revisers omit οὐ before κατενόησεν, and they accordingly translate, "he considered his own body," thus making the idea to be that he was fully aware of the apparent impossibility of his having a son, but believed notwithstanding. But the reading of the Textus Receptus has good support, and especially that of the Greek Fathers, and gives the best sense) his own body now dead (already deadened - νενεκρώμενον ( ι.ε. with respect to virility. So, with the same reference, Hebrews 11:12), when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb; but he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong (rather, was strengthened) in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform. With regard to the construction of ver. 20, we may observe that, though in the Authorized Version, which is followed above, the prepositions put before "unbelief" and "faith" are varied, both words are datives without a preposition in the Greek, and apparently with the same force of the dative in both cases, the sense being, "With regard to the promise, etc., unbelief did not cause him to waver (οὑ διεκρίθη τῇ ἀπιστία), but faith made him strong ἐνεδυναμώθη τῇ πίστει)." The purport of the whole passage is to show, with reference to Genesis 17:15-22; Genesis 18:9-16, how Abraham's faith in the promise of a seed through Sarah, which seemed impossible in the natural course of things, corresponded in essence to our faith in "him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead" (ver. 24). It was faith in a Divine power above nature, able to quicken into supernatural life that which humanly is dead. And as Abraham's faith in this promised birth of Isaac involved a further faith in the fulfilment through him of all the promises, so our faith in the resurrection of Christ involves faith in all that is signified and assured to us thereby - in "the power of a Divine life" in him, to bring life out of death, to regenerate and quicken the spiritually dead, and finally in "eternal redemption" and the "restitution of all things" (cf. John 3:6; John 5:25; Romans 6:3-12; 1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Ephesians 1:18-23; Ephesians 2:4-8; Revelation 1:18; to which many other similarly significant passages might be added). It may be observed that, not only in the instance here adduced, but in his whole life as recorded in Genesis, Abraham stands forth as an exemplification of habitual faith in a Divine order beyond sight, and trust in Divine promises. In this consists the religious meaning of that record for us all. Notably so (as is especially set forth in Hebrews 11:17, etc.) in his willingness to sacrifice the son through whom the promise was to be fulfilled, retaining still his faith in the fulfilment.
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