Romans 4:10
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
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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.How - In what circumstances, or time.

When he was in circumcision ... - Before or after he was circumcised? This was the very point of the inquiry. For if he was justified by faith after he was circumcised, the Jew might pretend that it was in virtue of his circumcision; that even his faith was acceptable, because he was circumcised. But if it was before he was circumcised, this plea could not be set up; and the argument of the apostle was confirmed by the case of Abraham, the great father and model of the Jewish people, that circumcision and the deeds of the Law did not conduce to justification; and that as Abraham was justified without those works, so might others be, and the pagan, therefore, might be admitted to similar privileges.

Not in circumcision - Not being circumcised, or after he was circumcised, but before. This was the record in the case; Genesis 15:6; Compare Genesis 17:10.

9-12. Cometh this blessedness then, &c.—that is, "Say not, All this is spoken of the circumcised, and is therefore no evidence of God's general way of justifying men; for Abraham's justification took place long before he was circumcised, and so could have no dependence upon that rite: nay, 'the sign of circumcision' was given to Abraham as 'a seal' (or token) of the (justifying) righteousness which he had before he was circumcised; in order that he might stand forth to every age as the parent believer—the model man of justification by faith—after whose type, as the first public example of it, all were to be moulded, whether Jew or Gentile, who should thereafter believe to life everlasting." And if this be the question, the way to resolve it, is, to consider in what circumstances Abraham was when his faith was thus reckoned to him for righteousness; it was a long time before he was circumcised. The promise to which Abraham’s faith had respect, was made to him fourteen years, at least, before his circumcision: compare Genesis 15:2, and Genesis 17:24,25: also see Genesis 16:16. If the blessedness, therefore, of justification was not annexed to circumcision, the Gentiles are no less capable of it than the Jews.

How was it then reckoned?.... The Arabic version adds, "and when"; and the Ethiopic version reads it, "when was Abraham justified?" expressing the sense, not the words of the original text, with which agree the following questions:

when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? that is, was he justified, or his faith reckoned to him for righteousness, when he was a circumcised, or an uncircumcised person?

not in circumcision; or when he was circumcised; for when it was said of him, that "he believed in the Lord", and "he counted it to him for righteousness", Genesis 15:6, he was then uncircumcised, and remained so many years after: for this was before the birth of Ishmael, and Ishmael was "thirteen" years of age when he and his father Abraham were circumcised; so that it must be "fourteen" years, or thereabout, before his circumcision, that this declaration of his being a justified person was made; wherefore the apostle rightly adds,

but in uncircumcision; or whilst an uncircumcised person: hence it clearly appears that circumcision could not be the cause of his justification, since it followed it; and if Abraham when uncircumcised was a justified person, as it is certain he was, why may not uncircumcised Gentiles be justified also? and especially when it is observed, that the covenant made with Abraham when uncircumcised, included the Gentiles; see Genesis 12:3.

{7} How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

(7) He proves that it belongs to the uncircumcised (for there was no doubt of the circumcised) in this way: Abraham was justified in uncircumcision, therefore this justification belongs also to the uncircumcised. Nay, it does not belong to the circumcised, in respect of the circumcision, much less are the uncircumcised shut out from it because of their uncircumcision.

Romans 4:10. πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη; To say that his faith was reckoned as righteousness, without mentioning circumcision, suggests that the latter was at least not indispensable; still it is not decisive, and so the further question must be asked, How—i.e., under what conditions—was his faith thus reckoned to him? Was it when he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised? History enables Paul to answer, Not when he was circumcised, but when he was uncircumcised. Abraham’s justification is narrated in Genesis 15, his circumcision not till Genesis 17, some fourteen years later: hence it was not his circumcision on which he depended for acceptance with God.

10. Not in circumcision] Genesis 15 precedes Genesis 17 by at least fourteen years.

Romans 4:10. Πῶς, how) This word implies more than when.—ὀυκ ἐν περιτομῇ, not in circumcision) For justification is described, Genesis 15; circumcision, Genesis 17.

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