Romans 4:14
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
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(14-17) This Messianic kingdom cannot have anything to do with law; for if it had, faith and the promise would cease to have any office. Faith and law cannot co-exist. They are the opposites of each other. The proper effect of law is punishment; for law only exposes sin. Faith, on the other hand, is the real key to the inheritance. It sets in motion grace; and grace, unlike law, excludes no one. It is open alike to the legal and to the spiritual descendants of Abraham; in other words (as the Scripture itself testifies), to all mankind, as the representative of whom Abraham stands before God.

(14) Is made void.—Literally, emptied of its meaning, becomes an empty name, and the promise is rendered nugatory. There is nothing left for either to do, if the votaries of law, simply as such, are to be the inheritors of the Messianic kingdom.

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 if they which are of the law - Who seek for justification and acceptance by the Law.

Faith is made void - Faith would have no place in the scheme; and consequently the strong commendations bestowed on the faith of Abraham, would be bestowed without any just cause. If people are justified by the Law, they cannot be by faith, and faith would be useless in this work.

And the promise ... - A promise looks to the future. Its design and tendency is to excite trust and confidence in him who makes it. All the promises of God have this design and tendency; and consequently, as God has given many promises, the object is to call forth the lively and constant faith of people, all going to show that in the divine estimation, faith is of inestimable value. But if people are justified by the Law; if they are rendered "acceptable" by conformity to the institutions of Moses; then they cannot depend for acceptance on any promise made to Abraham, or his seed. They cut themselves off from that promise, and stand independent of it. That promise, like all other promises, was made to excite faith. If, therefore, the Jews depended on the Law for justification, they were cut off from all the promises made to Abraham; and if they could be justified by the Law, the promise was useless. This is as true now as it was then. If people seek to be justified by their morality or their forms of religion, they cannot depend on any promise of God; for he has made no promise to any such attempt. They stand independently of any promise, covenant, or compact, and are depending on a scheme of their own; a scheme which would render his plan vain and useless; which would render his promises, and the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Spirit of no value. It is clear, therefore, that such an attempt at salvation cannot be successful.

14. For if they which are of the law be heirs—If the blessing is to be earned by obedience to the law.

faith is made void—the whole divine method is subverted.

i.e. If they that trust to the fulfilling of the law, be heirs of the promise of God, and so the inheritance come by works; then faith is to no purpose, neither is there any use of it; and so also the promises which are made to believers are vain and useless. This is the sun, of this verse; a more particular explication follows.

If they which are of the law: compare this with Galatians 3:9,10. There the apostle sorts them that seek righteousness and salvation into two kinds. First, some are of faith, and they are such as seek salvation in that way. Again, others are of the works of the law, and they are such as seek salvation by means thereof. These phrases, of the law, and of the works of the law, are all one.

Be heirs; that is, of the promises of God; of the heavenly rest, of which, as before, Canaan was a type.

Faith is made void; i.e. if they which seek the inheritance of the law can by the law obtain it, then there is no use of faith: to what end should we by faith go out of ourselves to seek righteousness and salvation in Christ, if we could obtain it by the legal obedience? See the like, Galatians 5:4.

And the promise made of none effect; i.e. the promise itself, which was made to Abraham and his seed, that also is ineffectual, and brought to nought; no man shall be saved by it; forasmuch as the law can bring no man to the obtaining of what is promised.

For if they which are of the law be heirs,.... That is, if the Jews who are under the law, and are seeking for righteousness and life by the works of it, should, on the account of their obedience to it, be heirs of the grace of life and of glory,

faith is made void; for if the right to the inheritance is by the works of the law, there is no room for faith; that can be of no use or service;

and the promise made of none effect: if salvation is by works, it is to no purpose for God to promise, or men to believe; for the thing promised depends not upon God's promise, but upon man's obedience to the law; and if that is not perfectly observed, as it cannot possibly be, then the promise of God stands for nothing, and is in course made void. The apostle here argues from the absurdities which follow upon the doctrine of justification by works, as he does from the different effects of the law, in the following verse.

{12} For if they which are of the {k} law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

(12) A double confirmation of that reason: the one is that the promise cannot be apprehended by the law, and that if it could it would be made of no effect: the other, that the condition of faith would be joined in vain to the promise if it could be apprehended by works.

(k) If they are heirs who have fulfilled the law.

Romans 4:14. Here also νόμος is not (as Flatt and others take it) the moral law (to which however the saying may certainly be applied), but the law of Moses, viewed in excluding antithesis to the πίστις. By οἱ ἐκ νόμου, “those of the law” (Luther), are meant those who belong to the law, are as such subjected to it; consequently the Jews at all events, but just so far as they are not believers, not belonging to the Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ Θεοῦ (Galatians 6:16). The opposite: οἱ ἐκ πίστεως, Romans 3:26, Galatians 3:7. That they wish to attain to the κληρονομία by the way of the law, is true in itself, but is not expressed in the mere οἱ ἐκ νόμου (in opposition to Hofmann).

κεκένωται ἡ πίστις κ.τ.λ[1034]] then faith is made void and the promise done away, i.e. faith is thereby rendered inoperative and the promise of no effect. If it be true that to be subject to the law is the condition of obtaining the possession of the world, nothing further can be said either of a saving power of faith (comp 1 Corinthians 1:17), or of the validity of the promise (comp Romans 3:31, Galatians 3:17). And why not? Because (Romans 4:15) the law, to which in accordance with that protasis the ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ would be appended, has an operation so entirely opposed to the essence of faith (which trusts in the divine ΧΆΡΙς) and of the promise (which is an emanation from this ΧΆΡΙς), (comp Romans 4:16), that it brings about the divine wrath, since its result is transgression. On this ground (διὰ τοῦτο, Romans 4:16) because the law worketh wrath, its relation to the κληρονομία, laid down in Romans 4:14, cannot exist; but on the contrary the latter must proceed from faith that it may be according to grace, etc., Romans 4:16.

The πίστις is the Christian saving faith, of which Abraham’s faith was the beginning and type, and the ἘΠΑΓΓΕΛΊΑ is the Divine promise of the ΚΛΗΡΟΝΟΜΊΑ, given to Abraham and his seed, Romans 4:13.

[1034] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

Romans 4:14-17. Proof of the antithesis οὐ διὰ νόμου.… ἀλλὰ κ.τ.λ[1033] in Romans 4:13, conducted not historically (as in Galatians 3:13 ff.), but dogmatically, a priori, from the nature of the law, from which results the opposite of the latter, the πίστις, as cause of the κληρονομία.

[1033] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

Romans 4:14. κεκένωται cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 9:15, 2 Corinthians 9:3. κατήργηται: a favourite word of Paul, who uses it twenty-five times.

14. of the law] Lit. out of the law. On the Gr. construction see on Romans 3:26 (ad finem).—“Law” here is without article, and possibly its reference is general; q. d. “If those who in any sense claim on grounds of a law, &c.” But it is far better to read (in English) “the law.” The lack of the article is quite natural where the thing is conspicuous and well known.

heirs] i.e. of the world, as promised to Abraham.

faith] Gr. the faith; i.e., probably, “the faith in question;” justifying faith, and Abraham’s in particular.

made void … of none effect] Both verbs in Gr. are in the perfect; and the probable point is q. d., “If the Law becomes the condition of heirship, ipso facto the faith and the promise are void;” they have been cancelled by the mere fact of a legal condition.

the promise] i.e. “that he” (Abraham, in his seed) “should be heir of the world.” In other words, that Messiah, the Son of Abraham, (and thereby His “Israel”), should enjoy a sacred victory and dominion.

Romans 4:14. Εἰ, if) The promise and faith complete the whole: and we ought not to add the law, as if it were something homogeneous.—οἱ ἐκ νόμου, those who are of the law) This phrase recurs in a milder sense in Romans 4:16.—κεκένωταικατήργηταιmade void—and of no effect), words synonymous but not interchangeable. Comp. Galatians 3:17; Galatians 3:15; the word antithetic to these is sure [βεβάιαν], Romans 4:16. Faith receives [Romans 4:11] blessings in all their fulness, it is therefore said, on the opposite side, to be made void, to be of no effect.—πίστιςἐπαγγελία, faith—the promise) words correlative: and they are appropriately put in retrograde order [comp. Romans 4:13] in an argument like the present, wherein is shown the absurdity which would flow from from the opposite theory [by the reductio, or argumentum ad absurdum].

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