Romans 4:16
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
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(16) Therefore it is of faith.—The words “it is” have to be supplied. “It” stands for the Messianic inheritance, or, in common phrase, salvation. Faith on man’s part is correlative with grace on the part of God, and salvation being thus dependent upon grace is as wide and universal as grace itself. It knows no restriction of law.

Not to that only which is of the law.—Not only to that part of the human race which belongs to the dispensation of the Law, but also to that which is in a spiritual sense descended from Abraham by imitating his faith.

Romans 4:16. Therefore it — The blessing; is of faith, that it might be by grace — That it might appear to flow from the free love of God; that God might magnify the riches of his grace, in proposing justification and eternal life to us, in a way that might, in multitudes of instances, be effectual. A righteousness by the merit of works, or by perfect obedience to the law of nature, or of Moses, “being unattainable by men, the inheritance is by a righteousness of faith, that, being a free gift, it might be bestowed in the manner, and on the persons, God saw fit; namely, on believers of all nations, whether the objects of their faith were more or less extensive, and whether their good works were more or fewer; for in the faith and works of believers there must be great differences, according to the mental endowments and outward advantages bestowed on each. In this passage, by the most just reasoning, the apostle hath overthrown the narrow notion of bigots, who confine the mercy of God within the pale of this or that church; and by a noble liberality of sentiment, he hath declared that all who imitate that faith and piety which Abraham exercised uncircumcised, shall, like him, obtain the inheritance, through the free favour of God by Jesus Christ.” That the promise might be sure — Might be firm and secure; to all the believing seed of Abraham; not to that only which is of the law, &c. — “Here the apostle teaches, that Abraham had two kinds of seed; one by natural descent, called his seed by the law, and another by faith: see Galatians 3:26. To the natural seed the promise of the earthly Canaan was made; but to the seed by faith, the spiritual seed, the promise of a heavenly country, typified by the earthly one, was given. And to each the promise that was made to them was sure.” As it is written, Genesis 12:5, I have made thee a father of many nations — That is, as I have received thee into favour upon thy believing, so many of several nations, both Jews and Gentiles, shall receive favour from me by believing, and so be justified in the way thou art: before him whom he believed, even God — Though before men nothing of this appeared, those nations being yet unborn. To illustrate the greatness of Abraham’s faith, and to show with what propriety he was made the father of all believers, the apostle in these words observes, that the principles on which he believed the Lord, were proper views of his almighty power, and other perfections. Who quickeneth the dead — The dead are not dead to him. And even the things that have no existence, exist before him. And calleth those things which be not as though they were — Summoning them to rise into being, and appear before him. The seed of Abraham did not then exist, yet God said, So shall thy seed be. A man can easily say to his servant, actually existing, Do this, and he doth it; but God saith to light, while it does not exist, Go forth, and it goeth.

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.Therefore - In view of the course of reasoning which has been pursued. We have come to this conclusion.

It is of faith - Justification is by faith; or the plan which God has devised of saving people is by faith, Romans 3:26.

That it might be by grace - As a matter of mere undeserved mercy. If people were justified by law, it would be by their own merits; now it is of mere unmerited favor.

To the end - For the purpose, or design.

The promise ... - Romans 4:13.

Might be sure - Might be firm, or established. On any other ground, it could not be established. If it had depended on entire conformity to the Law, the promise would never have been established, for none would have yielded such obedience. But now it may be secured to all the posterity of Abraham.

To all the seed - Romans 4:13.

Not to that only - Not to that part of his descendants alone who were Jews, or who had the Law.

But to that ... - To all who should possess the same faith as Abraham. The father of us all. Of all who believe, whether they be Jews or Gentiles.

16, 17. Therefore, &c.—A general summary: "Thus justification is by faith, in order that its purely gracious character may be seen, and that all who follow in the steps of Abraham's faith—whether of his natural seed or no—may be assured of the like justification with the parent believer." Here are two new arguments to prove that the inheritance is not of the law, but of faith.

It is of faith, that it might be by grace; for to he justified by faith and by grace are all one with the apostle. Again, that the promise might be sure to all the seed; whereas if it were of the law, it would be uusure and uncertain, because of man’s weakness, who is not able to perform it. Abraham’s seed is of two sorts. One sort is of the law, to wit, the Jews. Another sort is of such as walk in the steps of Abraham’s faith, whether Jews or Gentiles. To all these the promise must be sure; which cannot be, if the law be made the condition or the means of the inheritance.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be by grace,.... Meaning either the promise of being heir of the world, or the inheritance itself, or adoption which gives heirship, or remission of Sin, or the blessing of justification, either and all of these are of faith; not as the cause or condition of them, but as the means of God's fixing and appointing to be the recipient of all and each of them: which is done, "that it might be by grace"; appear to be of the free grace and favour of God, as each of these blessings are: forasmuch as every blessing is received by faith, it is manifest it must be by grace; since faith itself is a gift of God's grace, and lies purely in receiving favours at the hand of God, to whom it gives all the glory of them: and this is done with a further view,

to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed. The promise of the above blessings, particularly of the inheritance which is made in the covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure, and which could not be disannulled by the law that came after it; this being by faith and of grace, and not of works, nor at all depending upon them, becomes sure to all believers, to all Abraham's spiritual seed:

not to that only which is of the law; to the Jews, who are said to be of the law, in distinction to the Gentiles who were without it; and designs such of them as were believers in Christ, and to whom the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation; to these the promise was, and was sure, and not to them only:

but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; to the Gentiles, who though they are not by natural descent from Abraham, yet are of the same faith with him, and so are his seed in a spiritual sense:

who is the father of us all; whether Jews or Gentiles, who are Christ's, and so Abraham's spiritual seed, and heirs of eternal life, according to the free promise of grace.

{14} Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the {l} seed; {15} not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

(14) The conclusion of this argument: the salvation and justification of the posterity of Abraham (that is, of the Church which is composed of all believers) proceeds from faith which lays hold on the promise made to Abraham, and which promise Abraham himself first of all laid hold on.

(l) To all the believers.

(15) That is to say, not only of those who believe and are also circumcised according to the law, but of those also who without circumcision and with respect of faith only, are counted among the children of Abraham.

Romans 4:16 f. Διὰ τοῦτο] Inference from Romans 4:15, consequently from the wrath-operating nature of the law, on account of which it is so utterly incapable of being the condition of the κληρονομία, that the latter must on the contrary result from the opposite of the law—from faith, etc. Comp on Romans 4:14 f. This conclusion is so evident and pertinent that it required only the incomplete, but thus all the more striking expression: “therefore of faith, in order that according to grace,” to the end that, etc.

ἐκ πίστεως] scil, οἱ κληρονόμοι εἰσί, according to Romans 4:14. The supplying, by Fritzsche and others, of ἡ ἐπαγγελία γίνεται or ἐγένετο from Romans 4:13 is forbidden by the contrast in which ἐκ πίστ. stands to ἐκ νόμου, Romans 4:14.

ἵνα κατὰ χάριν] The purpose of God in ἐκ πίστεως: “in order that they might be so by way of grace,” not by way of merit. Comp Romans 4:4 and δωρεάν Romans 3:24.

εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν κ.τ.λ[1044]] contains now in turn the divine purpose,[1045] which prevails in the κατὰ χάριν. They shall be heirs by way of grace; and why by way of grace? In order that the promise may be sure, i.e. may subsist in active validity as one to be realised (the opposite of κατήργηται, Romans 4:14) for the collective posterity (i.e. for all believers, see Romans 5:11; Romans 5:13), not for those alone, who are such out of the law (not solely for believers who have become so out of the legal bond of Judaism), but also for those who are such out of the faith of Abraham,[1046] i.e. whose Abrahamic kinship is based on Abraham’s faith, the uncircumcised believers. Theophylact: παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι, τουτέστι πᾶσι τοῖς πιστεύουσιν· οὐ μόνον τοῖς ἐκ νόμου, τουτέστι τοῖς ἐμπεριτόμοις, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς ἀκροβύστοις, οἵτινες εἰσι σπέρμα Ἀβραὰμ ἐκ πίστεως αὐτῷ γενηθέντες. If anything else than χάρις (such as ὀφείλημα) were the reason determining God to confer the κληρονομία, then both halves of the σπέρμα, in their legal imperfection, would be unsecured with respect to the promise. As it is, however, believing Jews as also believing Gentiles have in the divine χάρις the same guarantee that the κληρονομία shall be imparted to them ἐκ πίστεως.

ὅς ἐστι πατ. πάντ. ἡμῶν] reiterated (comp Romans 4:11-12) solemn setting forth of the fatherhood of Abraham for all (πάντων) believers (ἡμῶν), which was indeed the pith and fundamental idea of the entire argument (since Romans 4:9); there is therefore no new point raised here (Hofmann), but this fatherhood of the patriarch in the history of salvation, already clearly laid down, is summarily expressed afresh, in order (Romans 4:17), after the insertion of a testimony from Scripture, to present it, by means of κατέναντι οὗ κ.τ.λ[1048], in its holy, divine guarantee and dignity.

ὍΤΙ ΠΑΤΈΡΑ ΠΟΛΛῶΝ Κ.Τ.Λ[1049]] Genesis 17:5, closely after the LXX.; therefore ὅτι, for, which in the original text specifies the reason of the name Abraham, is repeated by Paul without any special bearing on his connection, simply as forming part of the words of Scripture.

πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθν.] Aptly explained, in the sense of the Apostle, by Chrysostom and Theophylact: οὐ κατὰ φυσικὴν συγγένειαν, ἀλλὰ κατʼ οἰκείωσιν πίστεως. In this spiritual sense—which the passage of Scripture expresses typically—he is constituted by God as father of many nations (in so far, namely, as all believers from among the Jews and all Gentile peoples are to be, in the history of salvation, his spiritual σπέρμα), i.e. appointed, and thus made so (compare Hebrews 1:2; 1Ma 10:65; 1Ma 14:34; Hom. Od. xv. 253, Il. vi. 300; Plat. Theaet. p. 169 E; Pind. Ol. xiii. 21). Even the original text cannot have meant by גוים merely the twelve tribes of Israel (Hofmann). It means the posterity of Abraham, in so far as Gentile peoples also shall be subjected to it. The Israelite tribes would be עמים.

κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστ. Θεοῦ] is connected, after the parenthesis (καθὼς.… σε), with ὅς ἐστι πατὴρ πάντ. ἡμῶν. To get rid of the parenthesis by supposing a suppressed intervening thought (Philippi), or an asyndeton, as if it were καὶ κατέναντι κ.τ.λ[1050] (van Hengel), is a harsh and arbitrary course; while it is impossible to regard ΚΑΤΈΝΑΝΤΙ Κ.Τ.Λ[1051] as explanation of the καθὼς γέγραπται (Hofmann), because καθὼς γέγρ. can only be taken as the quite common (occurring thirteen times in our Epistle) simple formula for quoting a Scripture proof, and not as: “in harmony with the Scripture passage.”

κατέναντι, equivalent to the classical κατεναντίον, means overagainst (Mark 11:2; Mark 12:41; Luke 19:30), i.e. here: in presence of (κατενώπιον), coram, as after the Heb. frequently in the LXX. and Apocrypha. See Biel and Schleusner. The attraction is to be resolved into: κατέναντι τοῦ Θεοῦ, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσε: coram Deo, coram quo credidit.[1052] Quite analogous are such passages as Luke 1:4, περὶ ὧν κατήχηθης λόγων, instead of περὶ τῶν λόγων περὶ ὧν κατηχ., Matthew 7:2 al[1053] See Bornemann, Schol. in Luc. p. 177; Schmid in the Tüb. Zeitschr. f. Theol. 1831, 2, p. 137 ff.; Winer, p. 155 f. [E. T. 204]; comp on Acts 21:16. So also rightly Philippi and Hofmann;[1055] comp Märcker. The mode of resolving it adopted by most commentators (Thomas Aquinas, Castalio, Calvin, Beza, Er. Schmid, Grotius, Estius, and others; also Tholuck, Rückert, Reiche, Köllner, Fritzsche, Ewald, van Hengel, Buttmann): κατέναντι Θεοῦ ᾧ ἐπίστευσε, is at least at variance with the usual mode of attraction, since the attraction of the relative, which, not attracted, would stand in the dative, has no precedent in the N. T., and even in Greek authors very seldom occurs (Kühner, a[1057] Xen. Mem. ii. 2, 5, Gramm. II. 2, p. 914). Finally, the explanation which takes κατέναντι οὗ as equivalent to κατέναντι τούτου, ὅτι, and the latter as equivalent to ἀνθʼ οὗ, propterea quod, and in accordance with which Θεοῦ κ.τ.λ[1058] is then taken as genitive absolute (“whilst God, who quickeneth the dead, calleth also to that which is not, as though it were present,” Mehring), is wrong just because κατέναντι has not the sense supposed.

ΤΟῦ ΖΩΟΠ. Τ. ΝΕΚΡΟῪς, ΚΑῚ Κ.Τ.Λ[1059]] Distinguishing quality of God as the Almighty, selected with practical reference to the circumstances of Abraham (Romans 4:18-21): “Who quickeneth the dead and calleth the non-existent as though it were,” and certainly, therefore, can quicken the decayed powers of procreation, and dispose of generations not yet in existence. A reference to the offering of Isaac, whom God could make alive again (Erasmus, Grotius, Baumgarten-Crusius and Mangold), is so foreign to the connection that it would have required definite indication. The ζωοποιεῖν τοὺς νεκρούς is a formal attribute of the almighty God. 1 Samuel 2:6; Wis 16:13; Tob 13:2; comp Deuteronomy 32:9. See also John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Timothy 6:13. Origen, Ambrosiaster, Anselm, erroneously hold that the νεκροί are spiritually dead, a view which the context must have rendered necessary; comp Olshausen, who holds that ζωοπ. and καλ. indicate typically the spiritual awakening and the new birth; also Ewald, who will have the application made to the revivifying of the dead Gentiles into true Christians.

καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα] i.e.who utters His disposing decree over that which does not exist, equally as over the existing.” What a lofty expression of all-commanding power! And how thoroughly in harmony with the then position of Abraham! For as he stood before God and believed (Genesis 15:6), God had just showed to him the stars of heaven, with the promise οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου! So that God hereby issued his potent summons (so shall it be!) to something that was not (the σπέρμα of Abraham) as though it had been. This explanation (followed also by Rückert and Philippi) is perfectly faithful to the sense of the words, and as much in harmony with the vividly realised situation of Abraham as it is appropriate to the parallelism; for the latter is climactic, leading from the νεκροῖς to the τὰ μὴ ὄντα. καλεῖν, like קרא, does not here mean to name (Hofmann, comp Loesner and Benecke), which would refer to the name of father pronounced by God and have in view the divine knowledge, but on the contrary, correlative with the mighty ζωοποιεῖν τ. νεκρ. (comp ΔΥΝΑΤΌς Romans 4:21), it denotes the call of the Ruler, which He issues to that which is subject to His power. Comp Psalm 50:1; Isaiah 41:26;[1065] ὡς is the simple as of comparison. Parallels in point are found in Philo, de Jos. p. 544 C, where it is said of the force of imagination, that it pictures τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα; and Artemidor. i. 53, p. 46, ed. Rigalt. where it is said of the painter, that he represents τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα. Paul could also have, like Clement, Cor. II. 1, used τὰ οὐκ ὄντα (the non-existent, Xen. Mem. ii. 2, 3), as the contradictory antithesis of τὰ ὄντα (comp also Plat. Rep. p. 476 E); but the negation is conceived subjectively, from the standpoint of the subject who calls: he calls the things, which he knows as non-existent, as if they were. Comp Xen. Anab. iv. 4, 15, and Kühner in loc[1068]; Baeumlein, Partik. p. 278. Still what Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 37 f., deduces from τὰ μὴ ὄντα—that that which enters into historical existence was not previously an absolute nothing, but an object of divine knowledge—is based on the common conception of καλεῖν in the sense of creative activity, which is erroneous. No doubt καλεῖν, as is well known, often denotes the creating call of God (Isaiah 22:12; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 48:13; 2 Kings 8:1; Wis 11:25; Philo, de creat. princ. p. 728 B, where τὰ μὴ ὄντα ἐκάλεσεν is further defined by εἰς τὸ εἶναι; comp de Opif. p. 13 E). In this case we should have to think by no means of the historical Acts of creation out of nothing (Piscator, Estius and others), but rather, on account of the present participle, either of the continuous creative activity (Köllner), or (better still on account of the parallel of ζωοπ.) of an abiding characteristic of God generally, from which no time is excluded. But this whole interpretation of καλεῖν is set aside here by ὡς ὄντα. For ὡς cannot be taken for εἰς (Luther, Wolf, and others), because an use so utterly isolated in the N. T. is in itself very improbable, and because, where ὡς stands in classic authors in the sense of εἰς, it is only so used in reference to persons (Hermann, a[1070] Viger. p. 853; Poppo, a[1071] Thuc. III. 1, p. 318 ff.), or, at the most, where what is personal is represented by neuter objects; see Döderlein, philolog. Beitr. p. 303 ff. Some desire ὡς ὄντα to be taken for ὡς ἐσόμενα (de Wette), or as a summary expression for εἰς τὸ εἶναι ὡς ὄντα (Reiche, Köllner, Tholuck, de Wette, Bisping), but these expedients are arbitrary in themselves, and, in the case of the latter especially—seeing that ὄντα would have to be taken in the sense of the result, as only adjectives are elsewhere used (see on Matthew 12:43Romans 4:16-22. The Apostle can now develop, without further interruption or digression, his idea of the representative (and therefore universal) character of Abraham’s justification. The New Testament cannot be said to subvert the Old if the method of justification is the same under both. Nay, it establishes the Old (Romans 3:31). This is the point which is enforced in the closing verses of chap. 4.

16. Therefore, &c.] Lit. Therefore out of faith, that according to grace; a singularly terse sentence even in Gr. “Therefore:”—q. d., “such being the case under Law, the Divine mercy acted accordingly on our behalf.” The clause may be expanded: “Therefore God took faith as the one condition of justification, so that justification might stand clear of the conditions laid down necessarily in His Law; i.e. those of perfect obedience, outward and inward. That is to say, the justification was ‘according to grace,’ for it treated man as having what he had not—meritorious righteousness.” We might of course supply “the promise,” or “the inheritance,” instead of “justification,” as the subject in these clauses. But the latter idea is so much the more prominent, that it is the safer suggestion.

sure] i.e. not imperilled by the conditions of the Law for the Jewish believer, and by the lack of its privileges for the Gentile believer.

not to that only] The Gr. has grammatical difficulties, but the sense is practically as in E. V. The “seed” is regarded as in its two great divisions; and here first, that which is “of the law,” i.e. Jewish believers, not as really having a claim from the law, but taken as having one, to bring out the validity of the claim of faith on the Gentiles’ part.

the faith of Abraham] Abraham is here the example of manifestly extra-legal faith, and therefore the case in point for the Gentile. Not that the Jewish believer (Romans 4:12) did not equally need “Abraham’s faith,” but the stress here is on the case of the Gentile.

us all] i.e. all believers; the “nations of the saved” (cp. Galatians 3:7). Here first St Paul seems distinctly to turn from his Jewish opponents to his co-believers, Jewish or Gentile. Henceforth there is little if any anti-Jewish reasoning.—Wonderful was the triumph of the Gospel, which made it not only possible but profoundly natural for former Pharisees and former idolaters to unite as “we” and “us” in Christ.

Romans 4:16. Ἐκ πίστεως, of faith) So ἐκ, Ch. Romans 3:30, Romans 5:1. Supply heirship (the heirship is of faith) comp. Romans 4:14.—ἐκ το͂υ νόμου, of the law) so of the circumcision, Romans 4:12, where the not only belongs to of the circumcision, but in this verse, not only refers to the expression, to that seed which.

Verses 16, 17. - Therefore it is of faith, that it may be according to grace (κατὰ χάριν, as in ver. 4); to the end the promise may be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all, (as it is written, A father of many nations have I made thee,) before him whom he believed, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth the things that are not as though they were. Ver. 16 introduces no new thought, being but a summing up of what has been said, except that, in ver. 17, the text Genesis 17:5 is adduced in support of the extended sense in which "the seed of Abraham" has been understood. In ver. 17, too, the thought is introduced of how Abraham evinced his faith; and this with a view of showing it to have been in essence the same as the justifying faith of Christians. Romans 4:16Sure (βεβαίαν)

Stable, valid, something realized, the opposite of made of none effect, Romans 4:14.

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