Romans 4:11
And he 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 unto them also:
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(11) The sign of circumcisioni.e., circumcision as a sign. The expression is an instance of what is known in Greek as the “genitive of apposition,” but it is common in English. Thus we speak of the City of London, the County of Kent.

Abraham is the father (1) of faithful uncircumcised—he himself being so—and (2) of circumcised, but only of faithful circumcised.

A seal of the righteousness . . .—The Apostle here puts forth his view of the real import of circumcision. It was not (as so many of his contemporaries supposed) the cause or condition of Israel’s privileges so much as the sign or ratification of them. It ratified a state of things already existing when it was instituted. Hence, to those who inherited that state of things (justification by faith) the want of circumcision was no bar.

Romans 4:11-12. And — After he was justified; he received the sign of circumcision — Circumcision which was intended to be a sign, or token, of his being in covenant with God, and an emblem of that circumcision of the heart, which, even under that dispensation of divine grace, was, and still is, necessary to salvation. A seal of the righteousness of faith — An assurance on God’s part that he accounted him righteous, upon his believing, before he was circumcised. Circumcision seems to be called a seal, in allusion to the custom of affixing seals to written covenants, to render them firm. That he might be the father of all them that believe

With a true and lively faith; the father of all the faithful; though they be not circumcised — Though they have not that sign of their being in covenant with God, nor that seal of the truth of their faith, and of their being accounted righteous. “Hence, Galatians 3:14. faith counted for righteousness is called the blessing of Abraham, and is said to come on the Gentiles through Christ. For the same purpose God ordered all Abraham’s male descendants to be circumcised, on the eighth day after their birth. The Israelitish children being thus early initiated into God’s covenant, their parents were thereby assured, that if, when grown up, they followed Abraham in his faith and obedience, they were, like him, to have their faith counted to them for righteousness, and be entitled to all the blessings of the covenant: or, if they died in infancy, that God would raise them from the dead, to enjoy the heavenly country, of which the earthly was the type. But the covenant with Abraham being in reality the gospel covenant, set forth in types and figures, according to the manner of ancient times, may we not from the use and efficacy of circumcision believe, that baptism, the rite of initiation into the Christian Church, is, like it, a seal of the gospel covenant, and a declaration on the part of God, that he will count the faith of the baptized person for righteousness? And that, like circumcision, it may be administered to infants, to assure the parents that their future faith shall be counted and rewarded as righteousness; or, if they die in infancy, that they shall be raised to eternal life? In this view the baptism of infants is a reasonable rite, and must afford the greatest consolation to all pious parents.” And the father of circumcision — Abraham received this rite by divine appointment, that he might also be the father of those who are circumcised, and believe as he did: for, in the covenant which God made with him, he constituted him the father of all believers; and whatever promises were made to him and his seed, were in reality made to believers of all nations; to all who walk in the steps of that faith which he had being uncircumcised — That is, who, like Abraham, exercise a continued faith, and who from faith live a life of obedience to God to the end of their days. To those who do not thus believe and obey, Abraham is not a father, neither are they his seed.

Romans 4:13-15 For — As if he had said, And it further appears that Abraham was righteous, or justified by faith only, and not by the works of the law, because the promise that he should be the heir of the world — Should have a numerous natural offspring, (and among them Christ, by whom blessedness was to be obtained,) who should inherit that rich and pleasant part of the world, Canaan, a type of heaven; and also that he should have a spiritual seed among all nations, all over the world; was not to Abraham or to his seed — To true believers; through the law — Of Moses, or any law except that of faith; was not made to him upon consideration of works done by him, and meriting that blessing; but through the righteousness of faith — Upon account of his faith, which rendered him a righteous person in a gospel sense, and was manifested especially by his offering Isaac, which was a distinguished act of faith, Hebrews 11:17; and on occasion of which God made those promises to him, Genesis 22:17-18. Christ is the heir of the world, and of all things, and so are all that believe in him with the faith of Abraham. All things were promised to him and them conjointly. For if they only who are of the law — Either of the law of Moses. or of the law of nature, who are righteous by their obedience to it; be heirs — The only persons that have a title to the promised inheritance and blessedness: see Ephesians 3:6 : faith is made void — There is no use of believing in Christ, and depending upon him alone for blessedness; and the promise, mentioned Romans 4:13, is made of none effect — Can do us no good, is to no purpose. The argument stands thus: “If Abraham and his seed were made heirs of the world, through a righteousness arising from a perfect, unsinning obedience to the law, their faith is rendered useless in this transaction; and the promise by which they became heirs through favour, had no influence in procuring that blessing, they having merited the inheritance by their works.” Because the law — Of works, considered apart from that grace which, though it was in fact mingled with it, yet is, properly speaking, no part of it, is so difficult, and we so weak and sinful, that, instead of bringing us a blessing, it only worketh wrath — It becomes to us an occasion of wrath, and exposes us to punishment as transgressors. In other words, it reveals God’s wrath against transgressors, and binds them over to punishment for the transgression of it, and so begets fear of wrath, instead of conferring happiness. For where there is no law — Either revealed or intimated, or no law in force; there is no transgression — Of it; but the multiplication of precepts increases the danger of offending; and the clearer declaration of those precepts aggravates the guilt attending the violation of them.

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.And he received the sign ... - A sign is that by which any thing is shown, or represented. And circumcision thus showed that there was a covenant between Abraham and God; Genesis 17:1-10. It became the public mark or token of the relation which he sustained to God.

A seal - See the note at John 3:33. A seal is that mark of wax or other substance, which is attached to an instrument of writing, as a deed, etc., to confirm, ratify it, or to make it binding. Sometimes instruments were sealed, or made authentic by stamping on them some word, letter, or device, which had been engraved on silver, or on precious stones. The seal or stamp was often worn as an ornament on the finger; Esther 8:8; Genesis 41:42; Genesis 38:18; Exodus 28:11, Exodus 28:36; Exodus 29:6 To affix the seal, whether of wax, or otherwise, was to confirm contract or an engagement. In allusion to this, circumcision is called a seal of the covenant which God had made with Abraham. That is, he appointed this as a public attestation to the fact that he had previously approved of Abraham, and had made important promises to him.

Which he had, yet being circumcised - He believed Genesis 15:5; was accepted, or justified; was admitted to the favor of God, and favored with clear and remarkable promises Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:1-9, before he was circumcised. Circumcision, therefore, could have contributed neither to his justification, nor to the premises made to him by God.

That he might be the father ... - All this was done that Abraham might be held up as an example, or a model, of the very doctrine which the apostle was defending. The word "father" here is used evidently in a spiritual sense, as denoting that he was the ancestor of all true believers; that he was their model, and example. They are regarded as his children because they are possessed of his spirit; are justified in the same way, and are imitators of his example; see the note at Matthew 1:1. In this sense the expression occurs in Luke 19:9; John 8:33; Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29.

Though they be not circumcised - This was stated in opposition to the opinion of the Jews that all ought to be circumcised. As the apostle had shown that Abraham enjoyed the favor of God previous to his being circumcised, that is, without circumcision; so it followed that others might on the same principle also. This instance settles the point; and there is nothing which a Jew can reply to this.

That righteousness ... - That is, in the same way, by faith without works: that they might be accepted, and treated as righteous.

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." The sign of circumcision; or, circumcision, which is a sign. Two things are here affirmed of circumcision:

1. That it was a sign. Of what? Of the circumcision of the heart, of original sin and its cure.

2. That it was a seal. Of what?

Of the righteousness of faith: of the meaning of which, See Poole on "Romans 1:17".

This is a periphrasis of the covenant of grace, wherein righteousness is promised, and made over to us in a way of believing: and this is not the only place where

the righteousness of faith is put for the new covenant; see Romans 10:6, and the notes there. Circumcision is called a

seal, because it was a confirmation of the covenant of grace, and the righteousness therein promised. The common use of a seal amongst men is to confirm and ratify a matter, and make it more firm and sure: it is joined often with an earnest, which is for the same end and purpose. The Corinthians’ conversion is said to be the seal of Paul’s apostleship; i.e. it was a confirmation of it, and made it more evident that he was sent of God. What the apostle says of an oath, that we may say of a seal; it is for confirmation, and for putting things out of controversy. When God made a promise to Abraham, he confirmed it with an oath; and when he made a covenant with him, and with his seed, he confirmed it by a seal, and that was circumcision, which he calls in Genesis the convenant of God, and here, the seal thereof. And what is said of circumcision is not spoken of it barely as circumcision, but as a sacrament; and it shows the nature and use of all sacraments, both of the Old Testament and New, that they are seals of the new covenant. That which the apostle mentions here of circumcision, hath nothing proper and peculiar in it to circumcision as such; but it may, with equal reason, be applied to any other sacrament: it belongs as well to the passover, yea, to baptism, and the Lord’s supper: e.g. The apostle first calls circumcision a sign; so was the passover, so is baptism, and the Lord’s supper. Again, he calls it a seal of the righteousness of faith, or of the new covenant, as before; and so is each of the other sacriments: take, for instance, the Lord’s supper; our Saviour calls the cup therein the new testament, or covenant, that is, it is a seal and confirmation thereof. And what is here affirmed of Abraham, may be affirmed as well of the eunuch, or the jailer, or any baptized person; he received the sign of baptism, a seal of the righteousness of faith, and of remission of sins, &c.

That he might be the father of all them that believe; i.e. that he might be known or declared to be the father of such: see the like phrase, Matthew 5:45. Though many of the fathers did believe before Abraham, yet none of them are said to be the fathers of the faithful, as Abraham was, because God made to none of them the like promise, concerning their posterity, as he did to Abraham. See the next verse.

And he received the sign of circumcision,.... Or "the sign circumcision", as the Syriac version reads it, and so the Alexandrian copy, and two of Stephens's; that is, Abraham received at the hands of God, the commandment of circumcision, which was a "sign" or token of the covenant; not of grace, but of that peculiar covenant God made with Abraham and his natural seed, concerning their enjoyment of the land of Canaan; and which was a distinctive sign or badge, which distinguished the posterity of Abraham from other people, and was also a typical one; not of baptism, for circumcision was peculiar to Abraham's natural seed, whereas baptism is not, but was administered to Gentiles as well as Jews; circumcision was confined to males only, not so baptism; circumcision bears no likeness to, nor any resemblance with baptism, whereas there is always some likeness and agreement between the type and the antitype; besides, if this had been the case, circumcision would have ceased when baptism took place, whereas it is certain it did not, but continued in full force with the rest of the ceremonies until the death of Christ; and it is as certain, that "baptism" was administered and continued to be administered three or four years before that time; which fully demonstrates the falsehood of that assertion, that baptism succeeds or comes in the room of circumcision; whereas baptism was in full force before circumcision was out of date: but circumcision was a typical sign of Christ, as all the ceremonies of the law were, and of the shedding of his blood, to cleanse from all sin, original and actual, and also of the circumcision of the heart. And was, moreover,

a seal of the righteousness of faith; or which "sign" was "a seal"; and so it signifies the same as before; "signs, so they call seals", says Harpocratian (f), and "to be signed", he says, is used, "instead of being sealed": or it may be expressive of something else, as that circumcision was a seal, not for secrecy, but for certainty; it being a confirmation, not merely of the sincerity of Abraham's faith, but of his justifying righteousness, which was not his faith, but that which his faith looked to; and

which he had, both faith and righteousness,

yet being uncircumcised: whence it follows, that he was not justified by his circumcision, but by a righteousness which he had before he was circumcised, or otherwise his circumcision could not have been a seal of it: though this clause, "which he had, yet being uncircumcised", may be rendered, "which should be in the uncircumcision", that is, in the uncircumcised Gentiles; and the sense be, that circumcision was a seal to Abraham, and gave assurance to him that he should be the father of many nations in a spiritual sense; and that the righteousness of faith which he had, should also come upon, and be imputed to the uncircumcised Gentiles; and accordingly it may be observed, that this seal was continued in full force on his natural seed, until this promise began to take place, and then it was abolished: this seal was broken off when the middle wall of partition was broken down, and the word of righteousness and faith, or the Gospel preaching justification by the righteousness of Christ, was ordered to be published to the Gentile world. It may be inquired whether circumcision being called a seal, will prove that baptism is a seal of the covenant? I answer, that circumcision was only a seal to Abraham of a peculiar covenant made with him, and of a particular promise made to him, and was it to be admitted a seal of the covenant of grace, it will not prove baptism to be such; since, as has been observed, baptism does not succeed it in place, in time, and use; and could this be allowed that it succeeds it, and is a seal of the righteousness of faith, as that was, it can only be a seal to them that have both faith and righteousness, and not to them that have neither; it would only at most be a seal to believers. But, alas! not ordinances, but other things more valuable than they, are the seals of the covenant, and of believers; the blood of Christ is the seal, and the only seal of the covenant of grace, by which its promises and blessings are ratified and confirmed; and the Holy Spirit is the only earnest, pledge, seal, and sealer of the saints, until the day of redemption. The apostle uses the word "seal" concerning circumcision, it being a word his countrymen made use of when they spoke of it, thus paraphrasing on Sol 3:8; they say (g),

"everyone of them was sealed, , "with the seal of circumcision" upon their flesh, as Abraham was sealed in his flesh:''

that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that is, his circumcision was a seal unto him that he should be so, which explains and confirms the sense of the former clause; not a father of the uncircumcised Gentiles by natural generation, for so he was only the father of the Jews, but of them as they were believers; and not so called because he was the author of their faith, but because they have the same sort of faith he had:

that righteousness might be imputed to them also; not Abraham's faith and righteousness, nor their own, but the righteousness of Christ received by faith, which is unto all, and upon all them that believe, without any difference of Jew or Gentile. Now when the apostle styles Abraham the father of "all" believers, even of uncircumcised ones, he says no other than what the Jews frequently own. Says one (h) of them, speaking of the Ishmaelites;

"they are the seed of Abraham, who was , "the head of them that believe?"''

and says (i) another,

"Hagar might bring the firstfruits, and read, as it is said to Abraham, "a father of, many nations have I made thee", Genesis 17:5; for he is , "the father of the whole world", who enter under the wings of the Shekinah;''

and says the same writer elsewhere (k), having mentioned the above passage,

"they said in times past, thou wast the father of the Syrians, but now thou art "the father of the whole world"; wherefore every stranger may say this, "as thou hast sworn to our fathers", Micah 7:20; for Abraham was "the father of the whole world"; seeing, , "he has taught the true faith".''

The apostle reasons on what they themselves allow, to prove that the blessedness of justification comes not only upon the Jews, but upon the Gentiles also.

(f) Lexicon in Decem Rhetores, p. 266. Ed. Manssac. (g) Targum in Cant. 3. 8. (h) In Caphtor, fol. 121. 1.((i) Maimon. Hilchot Biccurim, c. 4. sect. 3.((k) Comment in Misn. Biccurim, c. 1. sect. 4. Vid. T. Hieros Biccurim, fol. 64. 1. & T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 13. 1. & Zohar in Gen. fol. 69. 3.

{8} And he received the {f} sign of circumcision, a {g} seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: {9} that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

(8) A preventing of an objection: why then was Abraham circumcised, if he was already justified? That the gift of righteousness (he says) might be confirmed in him.

(f) Circumcision, which is a sign: as we say the ordinance of baptism, for baptism, which is a ordinance.

(g) Circumcision was previously called a sign, with respect to the outward ceremony. Now Paul shows the force and substance of that sign. That is, to what end it is used, that is, not only to signify, but also to seal up the righteousness of faith. By this we come to possess Christ himself: for the Holy Spirit works that inwardly indeed, which the ordinances being joined with the word, represent.

(9) An applying of the example of Abraham to the uncircumcised believers, whose father he also makes Abraham.

Romans 4:11. An amplification of the οὐκ ἐν περιτ., ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀκροβ. viewed as to its historical bearings, showing namely the relation of Abraham’s circumcision to his δικαιοσύνη, and therefore only to be separated by a comma from Romans 4:10. “And he received a sign of circumcision as seal (external confirmation, 1 Corinthians 9:2, and see on John 3:33) of the righteousness of faith (obtained through faith, Romans 4:3; Romans 4:5), which he had in uncircumcision.” That τῆς ἐν τ. ἀκροβ. is not to be connected with δικαιοσ. (Rückert, Reiche) is plain from the following context (πιστευόντων διʼ ἀκροβυστίας Romans 4:11, and τῆς ἐν τῆ ἀκροβ. πίστεως Romans 4:12). The genitive περιτομῆς is usually taken as that of apposition: the sign consisting in circumcision. But in that case the article could not be omitted before σημεῖον (the absence of it drove van Hengel to the reading περιτομήν, which Hofmann also prefers)[999], since the concrete, historically definite sign would here be meant (compare 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 2:14 et al[1000]). It is therefore to be rendered: And a sign, which took place through circumcision, a signature which was given to him in the fact that he was circumcised, he received as seal, etc. The genitive is thus to be taken simply as completing the notion of σημεῖον, i.e. as defining it more precisely as respects its modal expression. Observe at the same time the dislocation in the order of the words, which brings into emphatic relief the idea of the σημεῖον. According to Genesis 11:17 circumcision was the sign of the covenant[1001] which God made with Abraham. But with correct dogmatic consistency Paul represents it as the significant mark which had been the seal of the righteousness by faith, since in that covenant what God promised was the Messianic ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ (Genesis 15:5; Genesis 15:18), and Abraham on his part rendered the faith (Genesis 15:6) which God imputed to him for righteousness.

ΕἸς ΤῸ ΕἾΝΑΙ ΑὐΤῸΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[1002]] in order that he might be, etc., contains the divinely appointed aim of the σημεῖον ἔλαβε περιτ. κ.τ.λ[1003] This telic rendering is grammatically necessary (see on Romans 1:20), as more in keeping with the biblical view (ὁ γὰρ τῶν ὅλων θεὸς προειδὼς ὡς θεὸς, ὡς ἕνα λαὸν ἐξ ἐθνῶν καὶ ʼΙουδαίων ἀθροίσει καὶ διὰ πίστεως αὐτοῖς τὴν σωτηρίαν παρέξει, ἐν τῷ πατριάρχῃ Ἀβρ. ἀμφότερα προδιέγραψε, Theodoret), and with the importance of the matter, than the ecbatic explanation καὶ οὕτως ἐγένετο πατήρ, which has been justly abandoned of late.

ΠΑΤΈΡΑ ΠΆΝΤΩΝ ΤῶΝ ΠΊΣΤ. ΔΙʼ ἈΚΡΟΒ.] The essence of this spiritual fatherhood is the identity of the relation forming the basis of the sacred-historical connection of all believers with the patriarch without intervention of circumcision—a relation which began with Abraham justified through faith whilst still uncircumcised. Thus the Jewish conception of the national-theocratic childship of Abraham is elevated and enlarged by Paul (comp Matthew 3:9; John 8:37; John 8:39), into the idea of the purely spiritual-theocratic childship, which embraces, not Jews and proselytes as such, but the believers as such—all uncircumcised who believe, and (Romans 4:12) the believing circumcised. For Abraham’s righteousness through faith was attained, when as yet there was no distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised; and to this mode of becoming just before God, independent of external conditions, Christianity by its ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ ἘΚ ΠΊΣΤΕΩς leads back again, and continues it.

ΔΙʼ ἈΚΡΟΒ.] with foreskin, although they are uncircumcised. Comp on Romans 2:27, Barnab. Ep. 13: τέθεικα σε πατέρα ἐθνῶν τῶν πιστευόντων διʼ ἀκροβυστίας τῷ κυρίῳ.

εἰς τὸ λογισθῆναι Κ.Τ.[1006]] is taken by many, including Tholuck and Philippi, as a parenthetical illustration of εἰς τὸ εἷναι αὐτὸν πατέρα κ.τ.λ[1007] But as we can attach ΕἸς ΤῸ ΛΟΓΙΣΘῆΝΑΙ Κ.Τ.Λ[1008] without violence or obscurity to πιστευόντων, there is no necessity for the assumption of a parenthesis (which is rejected by Lachmann, Tischendorf, van Hengel, Ewald, Mehring, and Hofmann). Nevertheless εἰς τὸ λογισθ. is not: who believe on the fact, that to them also will be imputed (Hofmann), for the object of faith is never expressed by εἰς with a substantival infinitive;[1009] but, quite in accordance with the telic sense of this form of expression (as in the εἰς τὸ εἶναι previously): who believe (on Christ) in order that (according to the divine final purpose ruling therein) to them also, etc.

καὶ αὐτοῖς] to them also, as to Abraham himself; τὴν δικαιοσύνην expresses the righteousness which is under discussion, that of faith.

[999] Hofmann explains: and as a sign he received circumcision, as seal (apposition to σημ.). In that case περιτομήν must have had the article (John 7:22; otherwise in ver. 23). For to take λαμβάνειν περιτομήν as equivalent to περιτέμνεσθαι is forbidden by σημεῖον, with which the περιτομή can be correlative only as a substantive conception.

[1000] t al. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

[1001] In the Talmud also it is presented as the sign and seal of the covenant. See Schoettgen and Wetstein. To the formulary of circumcision belonged the words: “Benedictus sit, qui sanctificat dilectum ab utero, et signum (אות) posuit in arne, et filios suos sigillavit (חתם) signo foederis sancti.” Berachoth f. 13, 1.

[1002] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1003] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1006] .τ.λ καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1007] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1008] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1009] Not even in ver. 18. And Acts 15:11, to which Hofmann appeals as an analogous passage, tells directly against him, because there the construction of the infinitive obtains in the usual way, that the subject of the governing verb is understood, as a matter of course, with the infinitive. Comp. Hofmann himself above on ver. 1; Krüger, § 55, 4, 1. Besides the result, according to Hofmann’s interpretation, would be an awkward thought, not in keeping with the faith of Abraham.

Romans 4:11 f. On the contrary, he received a sign in circumcision a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised. Both sign (אוֹת) and seal (חוֹתָם) are frequently used by Rabbinical writers to describe circumcision as a symbol or pledge that one is in covenant with God. So even of heathens: “Og was circumcised, and Moses feared מפני אות ברית שׁלו, propter signum foederis ejus”. But usually of Jews: “Jonah shewed Leviathan sigillum (חותמו) Abrahami patris nostri”. See Schoettgen, Wetstein, or Delitzsch, ad loc περιτομῆς (for which W. and H. have in margin περιτομήν) must be a genitive of apposition. With εἰς τὸ εἶναι the Divine purpose in this relation of circumcision to justification in the case of Abraham is explained. Things were ordered as has been described that he might be father of all that believe while uncircumcised (as he himself did)—that the righteousness in question might be imputed to them; and father of circumcision (i.e., of persons circumcised) in the case of those who are not only circumcised, but also walk in the steps of the faith which he had while not circumcised. It was God’s intention that Abraham should be the representative and typical believer, in whom all believers without distinction should recognise their spiritual father; the Divine method of justification was to be inaugurated and illustrated in him, as it should hold good for all who were to be justified: accordingly the whole process took place antecedent to his circumcision, and in no circumstances has circumcision any essential relation to this great blessing. For its true meaning and advantage see on Romans 2:25. On οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον, see Simcox, Language of the N.T., 184. The grammar in Romans 4:12 is faulty, and Westcott and Hort suspect a primitive error. Either τοῖς before στοιχοῦσιν must be omitted, or it must be changed, as Hort suggests, into αὐτοῖς, if we are to express the meaning correctly. The sense required by the context is not open to doubt. For διʼ ἀκροβυστίας cf. Romans 2:27. For the dative τοῖς ἴχνεσιν see Philipp. Romans 3:16, Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:25. But cf. also Winer, p. 274.

11. the sign of circumcision] i.e. circumcision as a physical mark to denote the accomplished fact of justification.

a seal of the righteousness] A formal, legal attestation that He who prescribed the rite held to His grant already made.

the righteousness of the faith, &c.] Lit. the righteousness of that faith which was in his uncircumcision: i.e. “the righteousness (Romans 1:17) connected with the faith which he exercised in the days of his uncircumcision.” For a passage illustrative of the words “the righteousness of the faith” see Php 3:9; “the righteousness which is through faith of (in) Christ, the righteousness granted from God on condition of faith.”

that he might be, &c.] This refers to the whole previous immediate context. Q. d., “It was divinely ordained that Abraham’s justification should precede his circumcision, and so that his circumcision should not convey but attest his justification,—in order that his relationship to all the believing, Gentiles and Jews, might stand clear of the circumcision-covenant.”

the father] The progenitor; in a sense figurative but quite natural. It implies here not only priority in time and example, but that Abraham received a blessing which was the title-deed of inheritance to all who should “walk in the steps of his faith.” On the doctrine of this great spiritual Fatherhood cp. Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; and see Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Galatians 6:16.

them that believe, though, &c.] Lit. them that believe through uncircumcision. The Gr. idiom indicates merely the state in and under which the belief is exercised.

righteousness] Lit. the righteousness; i.e. perhaps “the righteousness in question, that which is by faith.”

Romans 4:11. Σημε͂ιον, a sign) Circumcision itself was a sign, a mark, namely, imprinted on the body, and the expression, the sign of circumcision, is used just as taking of rest in sleep [κοίμησις τ. ὕπνου], John 11:13; and the virtue of piety, that is, piety a virtue.—ἔλαβε, received) obediently.—τῆς ἐν τῇ) τῆς is to be construed with πίστεως; with which compare the next verse.—τοῦ χαρίσματος) διά, with; as in ch. Romans 2:27 [not as Eng. vers. “by the letter, and circumcision;” but ‘with,’ or ‘in.’ Eng. vers. here, Romans 4:11, renders διὰ ἀκροβ, though they be not circumcised]. 11, 12. Πατέρα) the construction is, that he might be the father of all who believe with [i.e. being in] uncircumcision—and the father of the circumcision. Father and seed are correlatives.

Verses 11, 12. - And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had in uncircumcision (this was all that circumcision was - a visible sign and seal to his own descendants of the righteousness that is of faith; but not confining it to them, or in itself conferring it) that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might be reckoned unto them also. And the father of circumcision to them who are not of circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham which he had in uncircumcision. The intention of ver. 12 is to express that, though the faithful who are not of Israel are Abraham's children, yet his circumcised descendants have not lost their privilege. They are already his children according to the flesh, and his spiritual children too, if they walk in the steps of his faith (cf. John 8:37, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed," compared with ver. 39, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham"). What now follows is to show (as above explained) that the Law could not be the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham, or appropriate its blessing to the Jews. Romans 4:11The sign - a seal (σημεῖον - σφραγῖδα)

Sign refers to the material token; seal to its religious import. Compare 1 Corinthians 9:2; Genesis 17:11. See on to seal, Revelation 22:10.

That he might be (εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν)

Not so that he became, but expressing the divinely appointed aim of his receiving the sign.

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