Romans 4:9
Comes this blessedness then on the circumcision only, or on the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
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(9-12) What is the bearing of this upon the relation between Jew and Gentile? Is the blessedness of the justified state reserved only for the former? Is it limited to those who are circumcised? On the contrary, the state of justification was attributed to Abraham himself before he was circumcised. Justification is the result of faith, not of circumcision. Circumcision is so far from superseding faith that it was only the sign or seal of it.

This, then, is the great test. Those who have it may hope for justification, whether their descent from Abraham is spiritual or literal.

(9) Cometh this blessedness.—We shall, perhaps. best see the force of the particles “then” and “for” if we take the sentence out of its interrogative form. “It follows from the language of David that the blessedness thus predicated belongs to the uncircumcised as well as to the circumcised, for”—then comes the first premise of the argument by which this is proved. It was the act of faith which was the cause of Abraham’s justification. But both the act of faith and the justification consequent upon it were prior to the institution of the rite of circumcision. The narrative of this institution falls in Genesis 17, when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and Ishmael, his son, thirteen (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:24-25), while the vision and promise of Genesis 15 apparently came before the birth of Ishmael.

Romans 4:9-10. Cometh this blessedness — Mentioned by Abraham and David; on the circumcision — Those that are circumcised only? or upon the uncircumcision also? — The circumcision are the Jews, the members of God’s visible church, and the uncircumcision are the Gentiles, who are out of the visible church. In this question, therefore, the justification of those who are out of the visible church, but who believe and obey God, is implied: for the apostle proves that such are justified, by appealing to Abraham’s justification while in uncircumcision. Abraham was not circumcised till he was ninety-nine years old, Genesis 17:24. At that time Ishmael was thirteen years old, Romans 4:25. But before Ishmael was born, Abraham had his faith counted to him for righteousness, Genesis 15:6, compared with Genesis 16:16. It is evident, therefore, that Abraham was justified in uncircumcision more than thirteen years before he and his family were made the visible church and people of God by circumcision. Heathen, therefore, who believe and obey the true God, as Abraham did, will, like him, have their faith counted to them for righteousness, though no members of any visible church.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.Cometh ... - The apostle has now prepared the way for an examination of the inquiry whether this came in consequence of obedience to the Law? or whether it was without obedience to the Law? Having shown that Abraham was justified by faith in accordance with the doctrine which he was defending, the only remaining inquiry was whether it was after he was circumcised or before; whether in consequence of his circumcision or not. If it was after his circumcision. the Jew might still maintain that it was by complying with the works of the Law; but if it was before, the point of the apostle would be established, that it was without the works of the Law. Still further, if he was justified by faith before he was circumcised. then here was an instance of justification and acceptance without conformity to the Jewish Law; and if the father of the Jewish nation was so justified, and reckoned as a friend of God, without being circumcised, that is, in the condition in which the pagan world then was, then it would follow that the Gentiles might be justified in a similar way now. It would not be departing, therefore, from the spirit of the Old Testament itself, to maintain, as the apostle had done Romans 3, that the Gentiles who had not been circumcised might obtain the favor of God as well as the Jew; that is, that it was independent of circumcision, and might be extended to all.

This blessedness - This happy state or condition. This state of being justified by God, and of being regarded as his friends. This is the sum of all blessedness; the only state that can be truly pronounced happy.

Upon the circumcision only - The "Jews" alone, as "they" pretended.

Or upon the uncircumcision also - The "Gentiles" who believed, as the "apostle" maintained.

For we say - We all admit. It is a conceded point. It was the doctrine of the apostle, as well as of the Jews; and as much theirs as his. With this, then, as a conceded point, what is the fair inference to be drawn from it?

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." This word cometh is not in the original, but it is aptly inserted by our translators.

Circumcision again is put for the circumcised, and uncircumcision for the uncircumcised: see Romans 2:28.

For we say; q.d. This we have proved, and it is on all hands confessed,

that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness: now, therefore, the question is, whether this blessedness of justification belongs to the circumcised only, or to the uncircumcised also. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only?.... That is, upon the circumcised Jews; are they the only persons that partake of this happiness? the word "only" is rightly supplied, and is in the Claromontane exemplar used by Beza, and in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions:

or upon the uncircumcision also? upon the uncircumcised Gentiles; do not they likewise share in this blessedness?

for we say, that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. The design of these words with the following, is to prove that the blessing of justification belongs to Gentiles as well as Jews, and that it is by faith, and not by circumcision; which is done by observing the state and condition Abraham was in when justified.

{6} Cometh this {e} blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

(6) A new proposition: that this manner of justification belongs both to uncircumcised and also to the circumcised, as is declared in the person of Abraham.

(e) This saying of David, in which he pronounces them as blessed.

Romans 4:9-10. From the connection (καθάπερ, Romans 4:6) of this Davidic μακαρισμός with what had previously been adduced, Romans 4:3-5, regarding Abraham, it is now inferred (οὖν) that this declaration of blessedness affects, not the circumcised as such, but also the uncircumcised; for Abraham in fact, as an uncircumcised person, was included among those pronounced blessed by David.

ἐπὶ τ. περιτ.] The verb obviously to be supplied is most simply conceived as ἐστι (the μακαρισμός extends to etc.; comp Romans 2:9; Acts 4:33 et al[994]). Less natural is λέγεται from Romans 4:6 (Fritzsche); and πίπτει (Theophylact, Bos) is arbitrary, as is also ἦλθεν (Oecumenius), and ἔρχεται (Olshausen). Comp Romans 4:13, and see Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 120 f.

ἐπὶτ. περιτ. κ.τ.λ[996]] to the circumcised, or also to the uncircumcised? The καί shows that the previous ἘΠῚ Τ. ΠΕΡΙΤ. is conceived as exclusive, consequently without a μόνον.

λέγομεν γάρ Κ.Τ.Λ[997]] In saying this Paul cannot wish first to explain, quite superfluously, how he comes to put such questions (Hofmann), but, as is indicated by λέγομεν, which lays down a proposition as premiss to the argument that follows, he enters on the proof (γάρ) from the history of Abraham for the καὶ επὶ τ. ἀκροβ. which is conceived as affirmed. The present denotes the assertion pointing back to Romans 4:3 as continuing: for our assertion, our proposition is, etc. The plural assumes the assent of the readers. The emphasis however is not on τῷ Ἀβρ. (Fritzsche, de Wette, Baumgarten-Crusius, Maier, Philippi, and others), which Paul would have made apparent by the position of the words ὅτι τῷ Ἀβρ. ἐλογίσθη; nor on ἐλογίσθη, which in that case would necessarily have a pregnant meaning not indicated in the whole connection (as a pure act of grace, independent of external conditions); but on ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην (and thus primarily on πίστις) brought together at the end, by which the import of Romans 4:3, ἐπίστευσε.… δικαιοσύνην, is recapitulated.

πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη] The proposition, that to Abraham, etc., is certain; consequently the point at issue is the question quomodo, viz. under what circumstances as to status (whether in his circumcision, or whilst he was still uncircumcised) that imputation of his faith to him for righteousness took place.[998] Hofmann places the first mark of interrogation after πῶς οὖν, so that the second question is supposed to begin with ἐλογίσθη. But without sufficient ground, and contrary to the usage elsewhere of the interrogative πῶς by Paul, who has often put τί οὖν thus without a verb, but never πῶς οὖν. We should in such case have to understand ἐλογίσθη; but this word, according to the usual punctuation, is already present, and does not therefore need to be supplied.

οὐκ ἐν περιτομῇ, ἀλλʼ ἐν ἀκροβ.] scil. ὄντι. The imputation in question took place as early as Genesis 15; circumcision not till Genesis 17; the former at least fourteen years earlier.

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

[996] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[997] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[998] Respecting the form of the discourse, Erasmus aptly observes: “Praeter interrogationis gratiam multum lucis addit dilemma, cujus altera parte rejecta alteram evincit. Nullum enim argumentandi genus vel apertius vel violentius.”Romans 4:9-12. In these verses the justification of Abraham appears in a new light. In virtue of its ground in his faith, he is not only a forefather κατὰ σάρκα (i.e., the natural ancestor of the Jews), but he is the spiritual ancestor of all believers. The faith which was imputed to him for righteousness constitutes him such; it is the same in essence as Christian faith; and so it is a vital bond between him and all who believe, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. God’s method has been the same through all history.9. Cometh this blessedness, &c.] Here the reference to David’s words merges again into the main argument from Abraham’s case. This is indicated by the word “then.” The literal rendering of this verse is, This assertion of blessedness therefore—does it concern the circumcision, or the uncircumcision as well? For we say that to Abraham his faith was reckoned for righteousness. This may be paraphrased: “Can it then be applied only to the circumcised? (for it may be urged that David was a circumcised Hebrew); or can we extend it to the uncircumcised? We ask this; for Abraham’s is the case now in hand; and we may look to that case for an answer.”Romans 4:9. ) Paul comprehends in this what he lately said respecting Abraham and David.—περιτομὴν) Does it come on the circumcision only, by itself, to the exclusion of others? or upon the circumcision also?λέγομεν, we say, Romans 4:3.Verses 9, 10. - Cometh this blessedness then (properly, is then this blessing) upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How (i.e., as the context shows, under what circumstances) was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. Faith, and not works, having been shown to be the principle of Abraham's justification, and those who were under the Mosaic Law, represented by David, having been seen to have shared the blessing of being so justified, the question still remains, whether it may not be confined to them only, or to Abraham's circumcised descendants only. That this cannot be is shown in two ways: firstly (vers. 10-13), from the fact that Abraham was himself uncircumcised when he was spoken of as being thus justified, so that neither the capability nor the inheritance of such justification can be viewed as dependent on circumcision; and, secondly (vers. 13-16), it is argued that the Law could not appropriate the privilege to his carnal descendants, the very principle of law being the opposite of that on which Abraham is said to have been justified. Thus the seed, innumerable as the stars, to be understood as inheritors of the promise made to him, and sharers in his blessing, are not his circumcised descendants, but a spiritual seed - they which are of faith being the true children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).
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