|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
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.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
Romans 4:18 Parallel Commentaries
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