Romans 4:13
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
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(13) Abraham was the father of all who walk in his steps. For this all is not limited by the Law any more than it is limited by circumcision. The promise of that world-wide inheritance was not given through the agency of the Law (which at that time did not exist), but as an effect of the righteousness which proceeds from faith.

Heir of the world.—This promise was explained by the Jews of the universal sovereignty of the Messiah.

Through the righteousness of faith.—As a further consequence of that (imputed) righteousness which proceeds from faith. Three stages are indicated: (1) faith, (2) imputed righteousness, (3) access to the Messianic kingdom with all its privileges.

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.For the promise ... - To show that the faith of Abraham, on which his justification depended, was not by the Law, the apostle proceeds to show that the promise concerning which his faith was so remarkably evinced was before the Law was given. If this was so, then it was an additional important consideration in opposition to the Jew, showing that acceptance with God depended on faith, and not on works.

That he should be heir of the world - An heir is one who succeeds, or is to succeed to an estate. In this passage, the world, or the entire earth, is regarded as the estate to which reference is made, and the promise is that the posterity of Abraham should succeed to that, or should possess it as their inheritance. The precise expression used here, "heir of the world," is not found in the promises made to Abraham Those promises were that God would make of him a great nation Genesis 12:2; that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed Genesis 12:3; that his posterity should be as the stars for multitude Genesis 15:5; and that he should be a father of many nations Genesis 17:5. As this latter promise is one to which the apostle particularly refers (see Romans 4:17), it is probable that he had this in his eye. This promise had, at first, respect to his numerous natural descendants, and to their possessing the land of Canaan. But it is also regarded in the New Testament as extending to the Messiah Galatians 3:16 as his descendant, and to all his followers as the spiritual seed of the father of the faithful. When the apostle calls him "the heir of the world," he sums up in this comprehensive expression all the promises made to Abraham, intimating that his spiritual descendants, that is, those who possess his faith, shall yet be so numerous as to possess all lands.

Or to his seed - To his posterity, or descendants.

Through the law - By the observance of the Law; or made in consequence of observing the Law; or depending on the condition that he should observe the Law. The covenant was made before the law of circumcision was given; and long before the Law of Moses (compare Galatians 3:16-18), and was independent of both.

But through ... - In consequence of or in connection with the strong confidence which he showed in the promises of God, Genesis 15:6.

13-15. For the promise, &c.—This is merely an enlargement of the foregoing reasoning, applying to the law what had just been said of circumcision.

that he should be the heir of the world—or, that "all the families of the earth should be blessed in him."

was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law—in virtue of obedience to the law.

but through the righteousness of faith—in virtue of his simple faith in the divine promises.

Some by the world do understand, the world of the faithful, or believers dispersed over all the world: and so in effect it is the same which he said before, that Abraham should be the father of all that believe, whether of the circumcision or uncircumeision. Others by the world do understand the land of Canaan, under which also heaven was typically promised and comprehended: see Hebrews 4:3 Hebrews 11:9,10,16. This, by a synecdoche, is put for all the world; and so also Tabor and Hermen are put for the east and west of the whole world, Psalm 89:12. This was promised to Abraham and to his seed, Genesis 12:7 15:18.

Was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith; i.e. it was not made to Abraham because he had merited it by keeping the law; but because he had believed God, and obtained the righteousness of faith. In the whole verse is couched an argument for justification by faith without works, which is the apostle’s drift; and it may be thus formed: If the promise of inheritance to Abraham and his seed was to be accomplished not by legal obedience, but by the righteousness of faith; then it follows, that we are justified by faith, and not by works; but the promise of inheritance to Abraham and his seed was to be accomplished, not by the law, but by the righteousness of faith.

For the promise that he should be heir of the world,.... This promise is thought by some to refer to that of his being "the father of many nations", Genesis 17:4; by whom the Gentiles are particularly meant, who are sometimes called "the world", and "the whole world", or the elect of God, the believing part of the world; whether among Jews or Gentiles, who sometimes go by the name of "the world" in Scripture: but to this it may be objected, that the promise here spoken of is made to Abraham's seed, as well as to himself; by which is meant not the Messiah, who is indeed heir of the world, and all things in it, but all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles; as appears from Romans 4:16; and therefore cannot be both heirs and inheritance too. Others think the land of Canaan is designed, and by a synecdoche, a part of the world is put for the whole world; but that land is never so called, and, besides, the promise of it belonged to those of the law, and to them only, contrary to what the apostle argues, Romans 4:14. Others therefore consider Canaan as a type of heaven, which Abraham and his spiritual seed are heirs of by promise. But rather, by "the world" here, is meant, both this world and that which is to come; Abraham and all believers are the "heirs" of this world, and of all things in it; "all things" are theirs, and, among the rest, the world, Christ being theirs, and they being Christ's; he is heir of all things, and they are joint heirs with him; and how little soever they may enjoy of it now, the time is coming, when they, by virtue of their right, "shall inherit the earth"; see Psalm 37:9; and now they have as much of it as is necessary, and with a blessing, and which the Jews call their "world". It is a saying in their Talmud (o), , "thou shall see thy world" in thy lifetime; which the gloss explains, "thou shalt find", or enjoy all thy necessities, or what is needful for thee; and of Abraham they say (p), that

"he was the foundation of the world, and that for his sake the world was created;''

and introduce God saying of him thus (q).

"as I am the only one in my world, so he is the only one, "in his world".''

And as he and all the saints are heirs of this world, so of the world to come, the future salvation, the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, never fading, and reserved in the heavens; for they are heirs of God himself, and shall inherit all things: now this large and comprehensive promise, which takes in the things of time and eternity,

was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law: not through the law of circumcision, or on the score of their obedience to that, for this promise was made before that was enjoined; see Genesis 12:2; nor through the law of Moses, which was not as yet given; nor through the law of nature, nor by any righteousness of the law;

but through the righteousness of faith: by virtue of which they have "all things that pertain to life and godliness", 2 Peter 1:3; and have "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come", 1 Timothy 4:8; enjoy with a blessing what they now have, and have a right and title to the heavenly glory.

(o) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1.((p) Caphtor, fol. 99. 2.((q) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 118. 1.

{11} For the promise, that he should be the {h} heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the {i} law, but through the righteousness of faith.

(11) A reason why the seed of Abraham is to be considered to be by faith, because Abraham himself through faith was made partaker of the promise by which he was made the father of all nations.

(h) That all the nations of the world should be his children: or by the world may be understood the land of Canaan.

(i) For works that he had done, or upon this condition, that he should fulfil the Law.

Romans 4:13. Ground assigned for the foregoing, from εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πατέρα onwards. “The father of all believing Gentiles and Jews;” for it was not the law, but the righteousness of faith, that procured for Abraham or his seed the promise of possessing the world. Had the law been the agent in procuring that promise, then the Jews, as possessors of the law, would be the children of Abraham who should receive what was promised; as it is, however, it must be the believers, no matter whether Jews or Gentiles, since not the law has been at work, but on the contrary the righteousness of faith.

διὰ νόμου] through the agency of the law, is not to be arbitrarily limited (Piscator, Calovius, and others: per justitiam legis; Pareus and others: per opera legis); for, as the Mosaic law[1023] was not yet even in existence, it could in no way procure the promise. Hence it is not to be rendered with Grotius: “sub conditione observandi legem Mosis,” because διὰ δικαιοσ. πίστ. does not admit of a corresponding interpretation.

Ἡ ἘΠΑΓΓΕΛΊΑ] scil. ἘΣΤΙ. The supplying of this (usually: ἘΓΈΝΕΤΟ) is quite sufficient; comp on Romans 4:9. The relation is realised as present.

Ἢ Τῷ ΣΠΈΡΜ. ΑὐΤΟῦ] neither to Abraham nor to his seed, etc. With ἢ τῷ σπέρμ. αὐτ. Paul takes for granted that the history of the promise in question is known; and who are meant by the σπέρμα under the Messianic reference of the promise cannot, according to the context (see especially Romans 4:11), be doubtful, namely the believers, who are the spiritual posterity of Abraham (Romans 9:6 ff.; Galatians 4:22 ff.); not Christ according to Galatians 3:16 (Estius, Cornelius à Lapide, Olshausen); but also not the descendants of Abraham proper (van Hengel).

τὸ κληρ. αὐτ. εἶναι κόσμου] Epexegesis Ἡ ἘΠΑΓΓΕΛΊΑ. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 518, and a[1025] Xen. Anab. ii. 5, 22. The ΑὐΤΌΝ, referring to Abraham, is so put not because Ἢ Τ. ΣΠ. ΑὐΤΟῦ is only incidentally introduced (Rückert), but because Abraham is regarded as at once the father and representative of his ΣΠΈΡΜΑ included with him in the promise.

ΚΌΣΜΟΥ] The inheritance of the land of Canaan, which God promised to Abraham for himself and his posterity (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:14-15; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 22:17; comp Genesis 26:3; Exodus 6:4), was in the Jewish Christology taken to mean the universal dominion of the Messianic theocracy, which was typically pointed at in these passages from Genesis. “Abrahamo patri meo Deus possidendum dedit coelum et terram,” Tanchuma, p. 165, 1, and see Wetstein. The idea of Messianic sovereignty over the world, however, which lies at the bottom of this Jewish particularistic conception, and which the prophets invested with a halo of glory,[1027] is in the N. T. not done away, but divested of its Judaistic conception, and raised into a Christological truth, already presented by Christ Himself (comp Matthew 5:5) though in allegoric form (Matthew 19:28 ff.; Luke 22:30; Matthew 25:21). Its necessity lies in the universal dominion to which Christ Himself is exalted (Matthew 28:18; John 17:5; Php 2:9 ff.; Ephesians 4:10 al[1029]), and in the glorious fellowship of His believers with Him. Now as the idea of this government of the world, which Christ exercises, and in which His believers (the spiritual children of Abraham) are one day to participate, was undeniably also the ideal of Paul (Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 6:2; comp 2 Timothy 2:12), it is arbitrary to take ΚΌΣΜΟΥ here otherwise than generally, and either to limit it to the sphere of earth (Koppe, Köllner, Maier), or to explain it as relating to the dominion of the Jews over the Gentile world (van Hengel), or the reception of all peoples into the Messianic kingdom (Beza, Estius and others) or Messianic bliss generally (Wetstein, Flatt, comp Benecke and Glöckler), or the spiritual dominion of the world (Baumgarten-Crusius), as even Hengstenberg does: “the world is spiritually conquered by Abraham and his seed” (Christol. I. p. 49). The interpretation which takes it to mean the extension of the spiritual fatherhood over all nations (Mehring) would only be possible in the absence of ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, and would likewise be set aside by the firmly established historical notion of the נחלה. The ΚΛΗΡΟΝΌΜΟΝ ΕἾΝΑΙ ΤΟῦ ΚΌΣΜΟΥ of believers is realised in the new glorious world (ἘΝ Τῇ ΠΑΛΙΓΓΕΝΕΣΊᾼ, Matthew 19:28, comp Romans 8:18, 2 Peter 3:13) after the Parousia; hence the Messianic kingdom itself and all its ΔΌΞΑ, as the completed possession of salvation promised to believers, is designated by the theocratic technical term ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ (see on Galatians 3:18).

ΔΙᾺ ΔΙΚ. ΠΊΣΤ.] Since the ΝΌΜΟς was not the procurer of the promise, but Abraham was righteous through faith (Romans 4:3), the ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΎΝΗ ΠΊΣΤΕΩς must necessarily have been that which procured the promise (moved God to grant it). See Romans 4:14. It is true that the promise in question was given to Abraham prior to his justification by faith (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:14 f.); but it was renewed to him subsequently (Genesis 15:18, Genesis 17:8); hence we must assume that here Paul had only these latter passages in view.

[1023] For to this διὰ νόμου must be referred (see ver. 14 ff.) not to circumcision, which is brought under the wider conception of the law (Mehring).

[1025] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1027] Comp. Schultz, alttest. Theol. I. p. 225 ff.

[1029] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

Romans 4:13-15. The argument of Romans 4:9-12 is reiterated and confirmed here in other terms. Abraham is the father of all believers: for it is not through law that the promise is given to him or his seed, that he should be heir of the world—a condition which would limit the inheritance to the Jews, but through the righteousness of faith—a condition which extends it to all who believe. We might have expected a quasi-historical proof of this proposition, similar to the proof given in 10 f. that Abraham’s justification did not depend on circumcision. But the Apostle takes another and more speculative line. Instead of arguing from the O.T. narrative, as he does in Galatians 3:14-17, that the promise was given to a justified man before the (Mosaic) law was heard of, and therefore must be fulfilled to all independently of law, he argues that law and promise are mutually exclusive ideas. For (Romans 4:14) if those who are of law, i.e., Jews only, as partisans of law, are heirs, then faith (the correlative of promise) has been made vain, and the promise of no effect. And this incompatibility of law and promise in idea is supported by the actual effect of the law in human experience. For the law works wrath—the very opposite of promise. But where there is not law, there is not even transgression, still less the wrath which transgression provokes. Here, then, the other series of conceptions finds its sphere: the world is ruled by grace, promise and faith. This is the world in which Abraham lived, and in which all believers live; and as its typical citizen, he is father of them all.

13. For the promise, &c.] Here again the Gr. order is emphatic: For not through the law came the promise, &c.

that he should be the heir] Perhaps better, namely, his being: heir, in apposition with “the promise.” The promise made him heir at once, and foretold actual possession. The Gr. word rendered “heir” sometimes means one with a prospect of possession, more rarely an actual possessor.

the world] Perhaps here in its widest meaning; “heaven and earth,” “the universe.” In Christ, the Son of Abraham, to whom “all power is given in heaven and earth,” the inheritance is seen to be universal. And even a Rabbinic phrase is quoted in which “heaven and earth” are named as promised to Abraham. (See too p. 260.) But looking at Genesis 12:3; Genesis 22:18, and at the frequent use of “the world” for “the world of man” (e. g. ch. Romans 1:8, Romans 3:19; Colossians 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:16;) and at the special doctrine of this passage (that of a righteousness for believers of every nation), it seems best to understand it here as = “every land.” Abraham was to possess, in “his seed,” every land; “all kindreds, peoples, and tongues.” Comparing Galatians 3:16 and its connexion, it seems clear that the reference here is to the dominion of Christ, “the Prince of the kings of the earth,” to whom “the utmost parts of the earth” are given “for His possession,”—a possession real now, and indeed manifested as real in the important respect that the redeeming power of Messiah is felt in every region, and in an ever-growing degree.

Romans 4:13. Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου ἡ ἐπαγγελία, for the promise was not through the law) This is evident in the very terms; and the promise was given before the law. Through the law, that is, through the righteousness of the law, but Paul did not wish in his statement to connect righteousness and the law.—ἢ τῷ σπέρματι, or to his seed) This constitutes the foundation of the consequence derived from Abraham to all believers.—το͂ν κόσμον, of the world) and therefore of all persons and things. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:21. Heir of the world, is the same as father of all the nations, who accept the blessing. The whole world was promised to Abraham and to his seed conjointly throughout the whole world. The land of Canaan fell to the lot of Abraham, and so one part was allotted to one, and another to another. So also corporeal things are a specimen of things spiritual. Christ is heir of the world, and of all things, Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 10:5; Revelation 11:15; and so also are they who believe in Him according to the example of Abraham, Matthew 5:5, notes.

Verses 13-15. - For not through law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith, For if they which are of law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. For the Law worketh wrath: for where no law is, neither is there transgression. The point of the argument is that the principle of law is essentially different from that on which Abraham was justified, and which is hence to be understood in the fulfilment of the promise to him and his seed. How this is so is shortly intimated in ver. 15, the idea being more fully expounded in ch. 7. The idea is (as has been already explained) that law simply declares what is right, and requires conformity to it; it does not give either power to obey, or atonement for not obeying. Hence, in itself, it worketh, not righteousness, but wrath; for man becomes fully liable to wrath when he comes to know, through law, the difference between right and wrong (cf. John 9:41, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin"). Exactly the same view of the impossibility of the Mosaic Law being the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham is found in Galatians 3, where also the real purpose of the Law, intervening thus between the promise and its fulfilment, is further explained. The expression in ver. 13, "that he should be the heir of the world," has reference to the ultimate scope of the Abrahamic promises (see Genesis 12:2, 3; Genesis 13:14-16; Genesis 15:5, 6, 18; Genesis 17:2-9; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17, 18). Now, it is true that in some of these promises the language used seems to denote no more than the temporal possession by Israel of the promised land, with dominion (actually realized under David and Solomon) over the whole country from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, as in Genesis 13:14, 15; Genesis 15:18, etc. But their full scope transcends any such limited fulfilment, as where it is said that the promised seed should be as the stars of heaven, and as the dust of the earth that cannot be numbered, and that in it all the nations of the earth should be blessed. The prophets accordingly recognized a far larger ultimate fulfilment in their frequent pictures of the Messiah's universal dominion; and there was no need for the apostle to prove here what the Jews already understood. The only difference between the view current among them and his would be that they would mostly have in view a universal worldly sovereignty with its local centre on the throne of David at Jerusalem, while he interpreted spirttually, seeing beyond the outward framework of prophetic visions to the ideal they imply. "Heres mundi idem est quod pater omnium gentium, benedictionem accipientium. Totus mundus promissus est Abrahae et semini ejus per totum mundum conjunctim. Abrahamo obtigit terra Canaan, et sic aliis alia pars; atque corporalia sunt specimen spiritualium. Christus beres mundi, et omuium (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 2:5; Revelation 11:15), et qui in eum credunt Abrahae exemplo (Matthew 5:5) (Bengel). It is to be observed that, though Abraham himself in ver. 13 is spoken of as "the heir of the world," yet the preceding expression, "to Abrabam or to his seed," sufficiently intimates that it is in his seed, identified with him, that he is conceived as so inheriting. Romans 4:13Heir of the world (κληρονόμον κόσμου)

See on divided by lot, Acts 13:19; and see on inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4. "Paul here takes the Jewish conception of the universal dominion of the Messianic theocracy prefigured by the inheritance of Canaan, divests it of its Judaistic element, and raises it to a christological truth." Compare Matthew 19:28, Matthew 19:29; Luke 22:30. The idea underlies the phrases kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven.

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