English Standard Version (ESV)
Abraham Justified by Faith
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
The Promise Realized Through Faith
13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Chapter 3 review
Paul has just revealed that only through Christ can man be counted as righteous before God, not through works of the Law. Faith in Christ alone is sufficient for all men, regardless of lineage, for salvation because we are all in the same boat before God. He concluded with saying that the Law was not nullified by Christ, but rather was fulfilled in Christ.
Chapter 4 continues the thought
Now Paul reconciles his doctrine of justification and righteousness through faith in Christ with the example of Abraham. He shows his audience that there is no discordance between his teachings and the examples given in the Old Testament, appealing to the most revered figure in Judaism, Abraham. Paul asks the reader, what was Abraham’s experience with God? Was Abraham made righteous through circumcision? No, Abraham was counted as righteous in God’s sight not after circumcision (a work of the Law), but before circumcision was prescribed by God. Genesis 15:6 states
“And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
The circumcision was the seal of righteousness accounted to Abraham by God. The purpose of which, Paul states, was to make him the father of all who would believe, Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised.
“13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”
Paul explains that the promise given to Abraham could not be fulfilled through the Law, because wrath was revealed through the Law. If only those who fulfilled the Law were saved, then the promise would be null and void, as it would not extend to those who shared the faith of Abraham, but did not have the Law.
“17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”
In Genesis 17:5, God promises Abraham that he will be the ‘father to many nations’; and Abraham believed God’s promise despite his body’s inability to father a child, much less nations.
19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
Abraham rejected what his human understanding told him, and instead believed God with an unwavering faith. Paul states that Abraham grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God. Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised, and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Hebrews 11:6-7)
23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Praise God for the glorious promise we have in Christ! That we who believe in Him will be counted as righteous before the Almighty God through Christ’s sacrifice. See the power of faith? (MT. 17:20) It is our faith that God rewards, not our deeds, not our works of righteousness, which are as filthy rags to Him. (Isaiah 64:6) Notice that our righteousness is likened to filth, the true meaning of that term being used menstrual rags! But faith is commended (Hebrews 11; MT. 15:22-28), and the reward is righteousness. We have this same promise through faith that we will see God, and Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for our sins.
Related: To be read alongside Romans 4
1 Corinthians 1:31
“Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
A maskil. Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.
2 Corinthians 5:19
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.
No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,
“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
1 Peter 1:21
Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
- Sola Fide – Justification by Faith Alone.
- Solus Christus – by Christ Alone
- Sola Gratia – by Grace Alone