Romans 4:1
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
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(1-25) The subject of the chapter is an application of the foregoing to the special (and crucial) case of Abraham, with particular reference to two ideas that are continually recurring throughout the last chapter: (1) the supposed superiority of Jew to Gentile (and, à fortiori, of the great progenitor of the Jews); (2) the idea of boasting or glorying based upon this superiority. Following out this the Apostle shows how even Abraham’s case tells, not against, but for the doctrine of justification by faith. Indeed, Abraham himself came under it. And not only so, but those who act upon this doctrine are spiritually descendants of Abraham. It is entirely a mistake to suppose that they of the circumcision only are Abraham’s seed. The true seed of Abraham are those who follow his example of faith. He put faith in the promise, they must put their faith in the fulfilment of the promise.

(1) To come back to the question of Romans 3:1, repeated in Romans 3:9, in what did the superiority of Abraham, the great representative of the Jewish race, really consist?

As pertaining to the flesh.—The construction of these words appears to be determined by their position in the sentence. According to the best MSS. they are distinctly separated from “hath found” and joined with “our father.” They would therefore mean simply “our father according to the flesh,” i.e., by natural descent, as in Romans 1:3.

Hath found.Hath got, or gained, by way of advantage.

Romans 4:1-2. What shall we say then — The apostle, in the preceding chapter, having shown the impossibility of man’s being justified by the merit of his obedience to any law, moral or ceremonial, or any otherwise than by grace through faith, judged it necessary, for the sake of the Jews, to consider the case of Abraham, on being whose progeny, and on whose merits, the Jews placed great dependance; as they did also on the ceremony of circumcision, received from him. It was therefore of great importance to know how he was justified; for, in whatever way he, the most renowned progenitor of their nation, obtained that privilege, it was natural to conclude that his descendants must obtain it, if at all, in the same way. Was he justified by works, moral or ceremonial? That is, by the merit of his own obedience to any law or command given him by God? And in particular, was he justified by the ceremony of circumcision, so solemnly enjoined to be observed by him and his posterity? That Abraham was justified by one or other of these means, or by both of them united, the Jews had no doubt. To correct their errors, therefore, the apostle appeals to Moses’s account of Abraham’s justification, and shows therefrom, 1st, That he was not justified by works, but simply by faith in the gracious promise of God, independent of all works; and, 2d, That his circumcision, not performed till he was ninety-nine years of age, had not the least influence on his justification, he having obtained that blessing by means of his faith, long before that time. To this example the apostle appeals with great propriety, both because circumcision was the most difficult of all the rites enjoined in the law, and because Abraham being the father of believers, his justification is the pattern of theirs. Therefore, if circumcision contributed nothing toward Abraham’s justification, the Jews could not hope to be justified thereby, nor by the other rites of the law; and were much to blame in pressing these rites on the Gentiles, as necessary to their salvation, and in consigning all to damnation who were out of the pale of their church. He begins his reasonings on this subject thus: What shall we say that Abraham, our father — Our great and revered progenitor, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found — That is, obtained? Hath he obtained justification? The verse is differently understood by expositors. Chrysostom and Theophylact join the words κατα σαρκα, according to the flesh, with Abraham our father, thus: What do we say Abraham, our father according to the flesh, obtained, namely, by works? See Romans 4:3. But as in no other passage Abraham is called the father of the Jews according to the flesh, it seems the ordinary translation is to be preferred; and that flesh in this passage being opposed to spirit, signifies services pertaining to the flesh or body, on account of which the law of Moses itself is called flesh, Galatians 3:3. According to this sense of the expression, the verse may be paraphrased thus: “Ye Jews think ritual services meritorious, because they are performed purely from piety. But what do we say Abraham our father obtained by works pertaining to the flesh? That he obtained justification meritoriously? No. For if Abraham had been justified meritoriously by works of any kind, he would have had whereof to glory — He might have boasted that his justification was no favour, but a debt due to him; but such a ground of boasting he had not before God.” Or more concisely thus: If Abraham had been justified by works, he would have had room to glory: but he had not room to glory: therefore he was not justified by works. By flesh here Bishop Bull understood those works which Abraham performed in his natural state, and by his own strength, before he obtained justification; but the above-mentioned interpretation seems more agreeable to the apostle’s design here. Nevertheless, in some other passages, where he speaks of justification by works, he hath in view, not ceremonial works only, but moral works also, as is plain from Romans 3:20; where he tells us, that by the deeds of the law, or by works of law, shall no flesh be justified in his sight.

4:1-12 To meet the views of the Jews, the apostle first refers to the example of Abraham, in whom the Jews gloried as their most renowned forefather. However exalted in various respects, he had nothing to boast in the presence of God, being saved by grace, through faith, even as others. Without noticing the years which passed before his call, and the failures at times in his obedience, and even in his faith, it was expressly stated in Scripture that he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness, Ge 15:6. From this example it is observed, that if any man could work the full measure required by the law, the reward must be reckoned as a debt, which evidently was not the case even of Abraham, seeing faith was reckoned to him for righteousness. When believers are justified by faith, their faith being counted for righteousness, their faith does not justify them as a part, small or great, of their righteousness; but as the appointed means of uniting them to Him who has chosen as the name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our Righteousness. Pardoned people are the only blessed people. It clearly appears from the Scripture, that Abraham was justified several years before his circumcision. It is, therefore, plain that this rite was not necessary in order to justification. It was a sign of the original corruption of human nature. And it was such a sign as was also an outward seal, appointed not only to confirm God's promises to him and to his seed, and their obligation to be the Lord's, but likewise to assure him of his being already a real partaker of the righteousness of faith. Thus Abraham was the spiritual forefather of all believers, who walked after the example of his obedient faith. The seal of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, making us new creatures, is the inward evidence of the righteousness of faith.What shall we say then? - See Romans 3:1. This is rather the objection of a Jew. "How does your doctrine of justification by faith agree with what the Scriptures say of Abraham? Was the Law set aside in his case? Did he derive no advantage in justification from the rite of circumcision, and from the covenant which God made with him?" The object of the apostle now is to answer this inquiry.

That Abraham our father - Our ancestor; the father and founder of the nation; see the note at Matthew 3:9 The Jews valued themselves much on the fact that he was their father; and an argument, drawn from his example or conduct, therefore, would be especially forcible.

As pertaining to the flesh - This expression is one that has been much controverted. In the original, it may refer either to Abraham as their father "according to the flesh," that is, their natural father, or from whom they were descended; or it may be connected with "hath found." "What shall we say that Abraham our father hath found in respect to the flesh?" κατὰ σάρκα kata sarka. The latter is doubtless the proper connection. Some refer the word "flesh" to external privileges and advantages; others to his own strength or power (Calvin and Grotius); and others make it refer to circumcision. This latter I take to be the correct interpretation. It agrees best with the connection, and equally well with the usual meaning of the word. The idea is, "If people are justified by faith; if works are to have no place; if, therefore, all rites and ceremonies, all legal observances, are useless in justification; what is the advantage of circumcision? What benefit did Abraham derive from it? Why was it appointed? And why is such an importance attached to it in the history of his life." A similar question was asked in Romans 3:1.

Hath found - Hath obtained. What advantage has he derived from it?


Ro 4:1-25. The Foregoing Doctrine of Justification by Faith Illustrated from the Old Testament.

First: Abraham was justified by faith.

1-3. What shall we say then that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?—that is, (as the order in the original shows), "hath found, as pertaining to ('according to,' or 'through') the flesh"; meaning, "by all his natural efforts or legal obedience."Romans 4:1-8 Abraham himself was justified by faith,

Romans 4:9-12 which was imputed to him for righteousness before

circumcision, that he might be the common father of

believers, whether circumcised or not.

Romans 4:13-17 The promise was not given him through the law, else

had it been void from the very nature of the law; but

being of faith by grace is sure to all the destined

seed, and not to those of the law only.

Romans 4:18-22 The acceptableness of Abraham’s faith,

Romans 4:23-25 which stands recorded not for his sake only, but for

the sake of all who shall profess a like faith in God

through Christ.

The apostle proceeds to prove his main conclusion, Romans 3:28, which is, that a sinner is justified by faith without works, from the example of Abraham. He was a man that had faith and works both, yet he was justified by faith, and not by works; and who doubts but the children are justified after the same manner that their father was: there is but one way of justification; this is the connexion.

As pertaining to the flesh: these words may either be referred to father; and then they import no more but that Abraham was their father according to the flesh, Romans 9:5. Or else they may be referred to the following word found; and then the question is, What hath Abraham found, i.e. got or attained, according to the flesh? The sense is, What hath he got by his righteousness, which stands in works, and are done in the flesh? Abraham obtained not righteousness by any works, ceremonial or moral. So the word flesh is taken, {see Philippians 3:3,4} when under the word flesh came circumcision, our own righteousness, which is by the law, or whatsoever is or may be opposed to that righteousness which is by the faith of Christ.

What shall we say then,.... The apostle having proved that there is no justification by the works of the law; to make this appear more clear and evident to the Jews, he instances in the greatest person of their nation, and for whom they had the greatest value and esteem,

Abraham, our father; who was not a righteous and good man, but the head of the Jewish nation; and, as the Syriac version here styles him, , "the head", or "chief of the fathers"; and so the Alexandrian copy, "our forefather": and was the first of the circumcision, and is described here by his relation to the Jews, "our father"; that is,

as pertaining to the flesh; or according to carnal descent, or natural generation and relation; for in a spiritual sense, or with respect to faith and grace, he was the father of others, even of all that believe, whether Jews or Gentiles: now the question put concerning him is, "what he, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?" for the phrase, "as pertaining to the flesh", may be connected with the word

found; and to find anything is by seeking to obtain, and enjoy it: and the sense of the whole is, did he find out the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by the mere hint of carnal reason? and did he obtain these things by his own strength? or were these acquired by his circumcision in the flesh, or by any other fleshly privilege he enjoyed? or was he justified before God by any services and performances of his, of whatsoever kind? There is indeed no express answer returned; but it is evident from what follows, that the meaning of the apostle is, that it should be understood in the negative.

What {1} shall we then say that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the {a} flesh, hath found?

(1) A new argument of great weight, taken from the example of Abraham the father of all believers: and this is the proposition: if Abraham is considered in himself by his works, he has deserved nothing with which to rejoice with God.

(a) By works, as is evident from the next verse.

Romans 4:1. Οὖν] Accordingly, in consequence of the fact that we do not abrogate the law through faith, but on the contrary establish it.[954] This οὖν brings in the proof to be adduced from the history of Abraham (“confirmatio ab exemplo,” Calvin), for the νόμον ἱστῶμεν just asserted (Romans 3:31), in the form of an inference. For if we should have to say that Abraham our father has attained anything (namely, righteousness) κατὰ σάρκα, that would presuppose that the law, which attests Abraham’s justification, in nowise receives establishment διὰ τῆς πίστεως (Romans 3:31). Hence we have not here an objection, but a question proposed in the way of inference by Paul himself, the answer to which is meant to bring to light, by the example of Abraham, the correctness of his νόμον ἱστ. His object is not to let the matter rest with the short and concise dismissal of the question in Romans 3:31, but to enter into the subject more closely; and this he does now by attaching what he has further to say to the authoritatively asserted, and in his own view established, νόμον ἱστάνομεν in the form of an inference. Moreover, the whole is to be taken as one question, not to be divided into two by a note of interrogation after ἐροῦμεν; in which case there is harshly and arbitrarily supplied to εὑρηκέναι (by Grotius, Hammond, Clericus, Wetstein, and Michaelis) δικαιοσύνην, or at least (van Hengel) the pronoun it representing that word, which however ought to have been immediately suggested by the context, as in Php 3:12 (comp Nägelsbach on Il. 1, 76, 302, ed. 3). In the affirmation itself Ἀβρ. is the subject (quid dicemus Abrahamum nactum esse?). Th. Schott, by an unhappy distortion of the passage, makes him the object (“why should we then say that we have gained Abraham in a fleshly, natural sense for our ancestor?”) This misconception should have been precluded by attending to the simple fact, that in no passage in our Epistle (and in other Epistles the form of expression does not occur) does the τί in τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν mean why. Hofmann, who had formerly (Schriftb. II. 2, p. 76 ff.) apprehended it in substance much more correctly, now agrees with Schott in so far that he takes τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν as a question by itself, but then explains Ἀβραάμ likewise as the object, so that the question would be, whether the Christians think that they have found Abraham as their forefather after the flesh? “The origin of the church of God, to which Christians belong, goes back to Abraham. In fleshly fashion he is their ancestor, if the event through which he became such (namely, the begetting of Isaac) lie within the sphere of the natural human life; in spiritual fashion, on the other hand, if that event belong to the sphere of the history of salvation and its miraculous character, which according to the Scripture (comp Galatians 4:23) is the case.” This exposition cannot be disputed on linguistic grounds, especially if, with Hofmann, we follow Lachmann’s reading. But it is, viewed in reference to the context, erroneous. For the context, as Romans 4:2-3 clearly show, treats not of the contrast between the fleshly and the spiritual fatherhood of Abraham in the case of Christians, but of the justification of the ancestor, as to whether it took place κατὰ σάρκα or by faith. Moreover, if Ἀβρ. was intended to be the object, Paul would have expressed himself as unintelligibly as possible, since in Romans 4:2-3 he in the most definite manner represents him as the subject, whose action is spoken of. If we take Hofmann’s view, in which case we do not at all see why the Apostle should have expressed himself by εὑρηκέναι, he would have written more intelligibly by substituting for this the simple εἶναι, so that Ἀβρ. would have been the subject in the question, as well as in what follows. Finally the proposition that Abraham, as the forefather of believers as such, was so not κατὰ σάρκα, was so perfectly self-evident, both with reference to the Jewish and the Gentile portion of the Ἰσραὴλ Θεοῦ, that Paul would hardly have subjected it to discussion as the theme of so earnest a question, while yet no reader would have known that in κατὰ σάρκα he was to think of the miraculous begetting of Isaac. For even without the latter Abraham would be the προπάτωρ of believers κατὰ πνεῦμα, namely, through his justification by faith, Romans 4:9 ff.

τ. πατέρα ἡμ.] “fundamentum consequentiae ab Abrahamo ad nos,” Bengel. Comp Romans 4:11 f. ἡμῶν however (comp Jam 2:21) is said from the Jewish standpoint, not designating Abraham as the spiritual father of the Christians (Reiche, Hofmann, Th. Schott), a point that is still for the present (see Romans 4:11) quite out of view.

κατὰ σάρκα] is, following the Peschito, with most expositors to be necessarily joined to εὑρηκ.; not, with Origen, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Photius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Castalio, Toletus, Calvin, whom Hofmann, Th. Schott, Reithmayr, Volckmar in Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschr. 1862, p. 221 ff., follow, to τ. πατέρα ἡμ. (not even although Lachmann’s reading were the original one); for the former, and not the latter, needed the definition. Abraham has really attained righteousness, only not κατὰ σάρκα, and ἐξ ἔργων in Romans 4:2 corresponds to the κατὰ σάρκα. Besides with our reading the latter connection is impossible.

The σάρξ on its ethical side[959] is the material-psychic human nature as the life-sphere of moral weakness and of sinful power in man, partly as contrasted with the higher intellectual and moral nature of the man himself, which is his πνεῦμα along with the ΝΟῦς (Romans 1:9, Romans 7:18; Romans 7:25, and see on Ephesians 4:23), and partly as opposed to the superhuman divine life-sphere and its operation, as here; see the sequel. Hence κατὰ σάρκα is: conformably to the bodily nature of man in accordance with its natural power, in contrast to the working of divine grace, by virtue of which the εὑρηκέναι would not be ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ, but ΚΑΤᾺ ΠΝΕῦΜΑ, because taking place through the Spirit of God. Comp on John 3:6. Since the ἜΡΓΑ are products of the human phenomenal nature and conditioned by its ethical determination, not originating from the divine life-element, they belong indeed to the category of the κατὰ σάρκα, and ἘΞ ἜΡΓΩΝ is the correlative of ΚΑΤᾺ ΣΆΡΚΑ (wherefore also Paul continues, Romans 4:2, ΕἸ ΓΆΡ ἈΒΡ. ἘΞ ἜΡΓΩΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[961]), but they do not exhaust the whole idea of it, as has often been assumed, following Theodoret (κατὰ σάρκα τὴν ἐν ἔργιος, λέγει, ἐπείδηπερ διὰ τοῦ σώματος ἐκπληροῦμεν τὰ ἔργα), and is still assumed by Reiche. Köllner, limiting it by anticipation from Romans 4:4, holds that it refers to the human mode of earning wages by labour. Entirely opposed to the context, and also to the historical reference of Romans 4:3, is the explanation of circumcision (Pelagius, Ambrosiaster, Vatablus, Estius, and others; including Koppe, Flatt, Baur, and Mehring), which Rückert also mixes up, at the same time that he explains it of the ἔργοις. Philippi also refers it to both.

On εὑρηκ., adeptum esse, comp εὑρεῖν κέρδος, Soph. El. 1297, ἀρχήν, Dem. 69, 1. The middle is still more expressive, and more usual; see Krüger, § 52, 10, 1, Xen. ii. 1, 8, and Kühner in loc[963] The perfect infinitive is used, because Abraham is realised as present; see Romans 4:2.

[954] Observe, in reference to ch. 4 (with Romans 3:31), of what fundamental and profound importance, and how largely subject to controversy, the relation of Christianity to Judaism was in the Apostolic age, particularly in the case of mixed churches. The minute discussion of this relation, therefore, in a doctrinal Epistle so detailed, cannot warrant the assumption that the church was composed mainly of Jews, or at least (Beyschlag) of proselytes.

[959] The most recent literature on this subject: Ernesti, Urspr. d. Sünde, I. p. 71 ff.; Tholuck in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, 3; Hahn, Thol. d. N. Test. I. p. 426 ff.; Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 374 ff.; Holsten, Bedeutung des Wortes σάρξ im N. Test. 1855, and in Ev. d. Paul. u. Petr. p. 365 ff.; Baur in the Theol. Jahrb. 1857, p. 96 ff.; and Neut. Theol. p. 142 f.; Wieseler on Gal. p. 443 ff.; Beck, Lehrwiss. § 22; Kling in Herzog’s Encykl. IV. p. 419 ff.; Hofmann, Schriftbew. I. p. 557 ff.; Weber, vom Zorne Gottes, p. 80 ff.; also Ritschl, altkath. Kirche, p. 66 ff.; Luthardt, vom freien Willen, p. 394 ff.; Rich. Schmidt, Paulin. Christol. 1870, p. 8 ff.; Weiss, bibl. Theol. § 93; Philippi, Glaubensl. III. p. 207 ff., and the excursus thereon, p. 231 ff., ed. 2. For the earlier literature see Ernesti, p. 50.

[961] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[963] n loc. refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

Romans 4:1-8. The justification of Abraham, considered in relation to the doctrine just expounded in Romans 3:21-31. The point to be made out is that the justification of Abraham does not traverse but illustrates the Pauline doctrine.

Ch. Romans 4:1-25. Abraham, an apparent exception to the rule of gratuitous acceptance, really the great example of it

1. What shall we say then? &c.] Here a new and independent objection is anticipated. Abraham, the great Head of the Old Covenant, would be appealed to by the Jew, as on the assumption that he at least was justified by its terms; and on him now the argument turns.—See Appendix B.

The reading of the Gr. varies in MSS.; but the most probable reading will be rendered thus, What therefore shall we say that Abraham our father hath found, according to the flesh?—“Therefore:”—this, in our view, refers to the general previous argument from Romans 3:21, not specially to Romans 3:31.—“Our father:”—i.e. of the Jews.—“Hath found:”—i.e., in the way of acceptance and privilege. The perfect tense suggests the permanence of Abraham’s position in men’s thoughts.—“According to the flesh:”—these words do not, as in E. V., belong to “our father,” but to “hath found.” To interpret them here we must remember (what will come out in the course of the Epistle) St Paul’s doctrine of “the flesh.” It is, briefly, that “the flesh” is human nature, in the Fall, as unrenewed and unassisted by Divine special grace. “According to the flesh” will thus mean here “in respect of his own independent works and merits.” Did Abraham win acceptance as meritoriously keeping the covenant of works, which demands obedience and provides no grace? In brief, was he justified by works?

Romans 4:1. Τί ʼοὖν, what then) He proves from the example of Abraham; 1, That justification is of grace [gratuitous]; 2, That it has been provided for the Gentiles also, Romans 4:9.—τὸν πατέρα ἠμῶν, our father) [This, viz., his being our father, constitutes] the foundation of the consequence derived from Abraham to us.—εὑρηκέναι, hath found) It is applied to something new Hebrews 9:12 [Engl. Vers., having obtained; but εὑράμενος, having found]; and Paul intimates, that the way of faith is older than Abraham; and that Abraham, in whom the separation from the Gentiles by circumcision took place, was the first from whom, if from any one, an example seemed capable of being adduced in favour of works; and yet he, at the same time shows, that this very example [instance] is much more decisive in favour of faith; and so he finally confirms by examples, what he had already established by arguments.—κατὰ σάρκα, according [as pertaining, Engl. Vers.] to the flesh. Abraham is nowhere called our father according to the flesh. Therefore, it [the clause, according to the flesh] is not construed with father; for the expression according to the flesh, is added in mentioning the fathers, only when the apostle is speaking of Christ, ch. Romans 9:5; and Abraham by and by, at Romans 4:11, is shown to be the father of believers, even of those of whom he is not the father according to the flesh. The construction then is, hath found according to [as pertaining to] the flesh. In the question itself, Paul inserts something which has the effect of an answer, in order that he may not leave even the smallest countenance for [or, a moment of time to] the maintaining of Jewish righteousness, and for their boasting before God.

Verses 1-25. - (5) Abraham himself shown to have been justified by faith, and not by works, believers being his true heirs. The main points of the argument may be summarized thus: When Abraham obtained a blessing to himself and to his seed for ever, it was by faith, and not by works, that he is declared to have been justified so as to obtain it. Thus the promise to his seed, as well as to himself, rested on the principle of justification by faith only. The Law, of which the principle was essentially different, could not, and did not, in itself fulfil that promise; and that its fulfilment was not dependent on circumcision, or confined to the circumcised, is further shown by the fact that it was before his own circumcision that he received the blessing and the promise, Hence the seed intended in the promise was his spiritual seed, who are of faith such as his was; and in Christ, offering justification through faith to all, the promise is now fulfilled. Verse 1. - What then shall we say that Abraham our father according to the flesh hath found? The connection, denoted by οῦν, with the preceding argument is rather with vers. 27, 28 of ch. 3, than with its concluding words, νόμον ἱστάνομεν. This appears, not only from the drift of ch. 4, but also from the word καύχημα in ver. 2, connecting the thought with ποῦ οῦν ἡ καύχησις; in Romans 3:27. The line of thought is, in the first place, this: We have said that all human glorying is shut out, and that no man can be justified except by faith: how, then (it is important to inquire), was it with Abraham our great progenitor? Did not he at least earn the blessing to his seed by the merit of his works? Had not he, on that ground, whereof to glory? No, not even he. Scripture, in what it says of him, distinctly asserts the contrary. There is uncertainty in this verse as to whether "according to the flesh" (κατὰ σάρκα) is to be connected with "our father" or with "hath found." Readings vary in their arrangement of the words. The Textus Receptus has Τί οῦν ἐροῦμεν Αβραὰμ τὸν πατέρα ἡμῶν εὐρηκέναι κατὰ σάρκα. But the great preponderance of authority is in favour of εὐρηκέναι Ἀβραὰμ τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν κατὰ σάρκα. The first of these readings requires the connection of κατὰ σάρκα with εὐρηκέναι; the second allows it, but suggests the other connection. Theodoret, among the ancients, connecting with εὐρηκέναι, explains κατὰ σάρκα thus: "What righteousness, of Abraham's, wrought before he believed God, did we ever hear of?" Calvin suggests, as the meaning of the phrase (though himself inclining to the connection with προπάτορα)," naturaliter vel ex seipso." Bull, similarly ('Harmonic Apostolica,' 'Disputatio Posterior,' c. 12:14-17), "by his natural powers, without the grace of God." Alford, following Meyer, says that κατὰ σάρκα is in contrast to κατὰ πνεύμα, and that it "refers to that department of our being from which spring works, in contrast with that in which is the exercise of faith." Difficulty is avoided if (as is the most natural inference from the best authenticated reading) we take κατὰ σάρκα in connection with πάτερα or προπάτορα, in the sense of our forefather in the way of natural descent, the question being put from the Jewish standpoint; and this in distinction from the other conception of descent from Abraham, according to which all the faithful are called his children (cl. Romans 1:3; Romans 9:3, 5, 8:1 Corinthians 10:18). Among the ancients Chrysostom and Theophylact take this view. For the import of εὐρηκέναι, cf. Luke 1:30 (εϋρες χάριν παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ) and Hebrews 9:12 (αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος᾿. Romans 4:1What shall we say? (τι ἐροῦμεν)

See Romans 4:1; Romans 6:1; Romans 7:7; Romans 8:31; Romans 9:14, Romans 9:30. The phrase anticipates an objection or proposes an inference. It is used by Paul only, and by him only in this Epistle and in its argumentative portions. It is not found in the last five chapters, which are hortatory.

Our Father

The best texts read προπάτορα forefather.

Hath found

Westcott and Hort omit. Then the reading would be "what shall we say of Abraham," etc. Found signifies, attained by his own efforts apart from grace.

As pertaining to the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα)

Construe with found. The question is, Was Abraham justified by anything which pertained to the flesh? Some construe with Abraham: our father humanly speaking.

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