March 13, 2011
Vv. 9 through the end of the chapter seems to be the end of Paul's introduction to the strong doctrine he is going to present in the rest of this letter.
He has been showing from the law and the prophets that God is no respecter of persons. Both Jews and Gentiles are natural born sinners, lost in their sins. Though the" Jews had the special place before God as the recipients of the law and were proud of their special place with God because of the law, the law and their customs could not save them.
The Gentilesthough they had not the law, they had the law of nature not only written in their nature, but in all the natural world around them. So they were without excuse.
Paul is writing to the saints at Rome. The tone of the book shows us that though they had been converted, but their past upbringing influenced them to cling to the Jewish customs and notions about God, and their special place in God's plan. They were also being greatly troubled by the Judaizers, who taught that they must continue in the Jewish customs.
Part of that custom was that in order for a non-Jew to be saved, he had to convert to Judiasm, and be circumcised. The contention over that question was so great that it had to be taken to the head church at Jerusalem, Acts 21:19ff
Also note that the Jews of our day have absolutely no connection with the Jews of Paul's day. In Paul's day, Judaism was a physical heritage. Today it is no more than a religion picked up by a group of people some years ago. They realized the great advantage they could gain over the church and nations by claiming to be the same as the Old Testament Jews.
In these first 4 chapters, Paul is proving that though the Jews were indeed a special called out people of God, they had no special claim on the blessedness of God.
V. 8, blessed, or happy, recipient of God's pleasure is the man...
Paul quoted David to show that the blessedness consisted of peace with the Father through confession of sin, and the resulting imputed righteousness apart from the law. And that righteousness was the result of faith.
Then in v. 9, commeth this blessedness on the Jews only, or is it available to all men? Again, the Jewish mind held that the blessings of God were unique to the Israelites who were circumcised. Yet they did not believe all the seed of Abraham were blessed, for they did not hold this for Ishmeal and Esau, nor the many son's of Abraham after the death of Sarah.
Paul reaches back to the original command to Abraham to circumcise all the males in his household, even those bought with money, and to continue that practice throughout time, Genesis 17.
Let me give a very short history lesson here to help put a time table on Paul's words to the Jews who trusted in Abraham and in Moses.
There are several kinds of covenants, or agreements, but we will only look at the one Paul deals with; that is, between God and Abraham.
Obviously, any lasting covenant between God and sinful man must be one sided on God's part. All the God-man covenants point to Christ, who was given for a covenant. Isaiah 42:6, 49:8.
Ephesians 2:12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 ¶ For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
1921 BC. Genesis 12 gives us the first covenant with Abraham. Abraham was probably 75 years old at this time when, by faith, he left Haran not knowing to where he was going. A famine caused Abram to go down into Egypt, where he lies about his wife.
The next year, 1920, Genesis 13, Abram leaves Egypt. Then he parts with his nephew, Lot, and Lot goes to Sodom.
Ten years after they left Haran, 1911, there was still no son, so Sarai gave Abram her servant Hagar to wife.
The next year, 1910, when Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar bore a son, and named him Ishmael.
12 years later, 1897, at 99 years old God promised Abraham a son to be born about a year later. He also changed Abram's name to Abraham, and Sarai's name to Sarah. God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision as a pledge that God's word was true.
At the age of 99, Abraham and all of his household, even those purchased with money, were circumcised. Ishmeal was 13 at this time.
During the next year, between 1897 and 1896, the angels visited Abraham and again gave the promise of the birth of Isaacthis time for Sarah's sake. They also informed Abraham that they were going to destroy Sodom. Abraham pleads for Sodom for his nephew's sake.
Abraham goes to a place later called Beersheba, where he lies about his 90 year old wife, telling Abimelech that she is his sister. Abimeleck seeks to take Sarah as his wife. But being warned in a dream, he quickly restores here to Abraham.
Also during this time, 1897 to 1891, Sodom and Gomorrah, and 3 other cities of the planes are destroyed. There location is the Dead Sea of our day.
Five years later, 1896 BC the promised son Isaac is born.
And then five years later, 1891, at the age of 5, Isaac is weaned. At the great feast, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac.
Ishmael, now probably 18 years old, and his mother were sent away. Hagar was promised God's blessings upon her son because he also was a son of Abraham.
Finally, it was now about 30 years after Abraham left Haran. Abraham's departure from Haran started the 430 year countdown of when his desendents would be led by Moses out of Egypt . The 400 year prophesied persecution of Israel started with the persecution of Isaac by Ishmael, and ended with the Exodus from Egypt.
(Ussher, The Third Age of the World.)
Enough history, but this gives the time line into which Romans 4 fits. Romans 4:9ff.
Abraham's house, which included hundreds of servants, was chosen as God's peculiar people. To separate Abraham's household from the rest of the world, circumcision was commanded.
Over the years, circumcision became the source of a false hope of paradise and of great pride, for it was to mark the chosen people of God.
Paul is pointing out to the Jews who were proud of their circumcision that circumcision does not bring blessednessjoy nor happiness. Paul used David to prove that blessedness is the result of the righteousness of faith, which is the result of confession and the remission of sins through faith.
James 4:1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
Clearly, man's war against God results in his war against himself and with others. Vv. 9-12
Paul encourages the Gentiles and undercuts Jewish pride when he points out that it was Abraham's faith that was counted for righteous many years before his circumcision.
Circumcision, uncircumcision. The wording can become confusing, so let me just give the sum:
(Please see Romans #10 for a better understanding of 4:3, where we revisit v. 3 in introducing vv. 17ff.)
Though v. 3 is quoted from the promise of a child in Genesis 15:6 I believe that based upon
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
we can apply v. 3 to Abraham's leaving Haran with no harm to v. 3. He left with the faith that God would supply and direct him to where God wanted him.
First, Abraham's faith motivated his action.
We see, therefore, that faith motivates action
Second, it was Abraham's active faith that he had 25 years before he was circumcised that brought God's blessedness upon him..
Third, Paul proves that righteousness or blessedness is not based upon circumcision, but upon the same active faith Abraham had. He quoted David to prove he is not presenting any new doctrine, but one well-established in the Old Testament.
In other words, don't tell me about your faith; show me. It is the dooers of the work who is blessed, James 1:19ff.
Fourth, the conclusion, therefore, is that blessedness is not conditioned upon keeping the law, nor works of any kind, nor upon circumcision that is, on being a Jew or decendent of Abraham, as was believed in Paul's day.
Fifth, blessedness, that is, forgiveness of sin and righteousness, results in active faith. Therefore, it is available to all through Christ, regardless of their status concerning circumcision.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Sixth, the innumerable seed promised to Abraham is identified as both those who were the physical descendants and those who have the faith of Abraham. God's promise to him said that he would be the father of many nations, and that his seed would number as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea.
Seventh, v. 11, circumcision was a seal of the righteous of the faith which Abraham already had, though being uncircumcised. It was Abraham's circumcision that was a seal of the his faith that he already had. Circumcision of the flesh could not have been a seal of the faith of the rest of his household, for there were many circumcised whether or not they wanted to be. If this is not so, then what about Ishmael, whose actions proved he was faithless.
It was simply a sign of a faith Abraham already had. In other words, circumcision had no mystical value, any more than baptism has a mystical value today.
Human wisdom wishes to connect circumcision and baptism, but that is done with no scriptural support whatsoever. The connection is this is the way that seems right to me.
After Abraham, circumcision was neither a sign of faith nor a guarantee of acceptance into God's chosen people. Though circumcised, neither Ishmeal nor Esau were members of the chosen people. Moreover, Esau was hated by God. Romans 9:13
In addition, Abraham had many more sons by Keturah and his concubines, plural. Genesis 25. Obviously, they were all circumcised, but were not counted as part of the chosen people through Abraham.
Vv. 11, 12, Abraham is the father of all them that believe, whether circumcised or not.
The total argument by Paul here is that it is faith that counts one as a member of the covenant people, or Abraham's seed. It was and is not one's family heritage, social standing, feelings, nor even physical circumcision nor baptism, as many falsely claim today.
Of course, the padobaptist cling to circumcision being changed to baptism, which makes their infants heirs to the covenant of grace. Some even go as far as to believe in "presumptive regeneration"; that is, the baptized child is presumed to be regenerated unless the child shows differently.
But they fail to recognize the fact of Ishmeal, the children of Kertura and of Abraham's concubines, as well as Esau, who were all circumcised. Yet none were part of the covenant people.
Genesis 17:8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
The promise here concerned his physical seed. They forfeited the land of Canaan because of their sin, and the Lord gave it back to the heathen; first to Assyria, and then to Babylon. The Lord had given it to Rome by the time of Christ.
V. 13, heir to the world is fulfilled in Matthew 5, the meek shall inherit the earth, and in 28:19. 20 where his people are told to convert the world to Christ.
Genesis 12:3 In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
V. 13, Paul continues to destroy the false hopes which the Jews had in Moses and in the Jewish father's traditions.
The promise to Abraham was that his seed would be heir to the world hundreds of years before Moses gave the law, so the promise could not be based upon the law.
V. 13, heirship can only be through Christ. That heirship is through the righteousness of faith, not by the law of circumcision. Abraham received the promise hundreds of years before Moses gave the law.
The heirship to Canaan was also based upon the active faith of Abraham. When that was active, obedient faith was lost, so was the land.
V. 15, continues Paul's destruction of all hope in the law, Paul points out that the law can only point out sin to the sinner, making him more aware of his rebellion and sin against God.
Observe: Where no law is, there is no transgression is the reason people seek out preachers who will not preach the law. They do not want their sin exposed before others and to themselves. forcing them to deal with that sin.
V. 16, blessedness based upon grace through faith opens the door to all who will believe, making all who believe sons of Abraham. But if heirship was by the law, faith is useless.
But no matter how you understand law, heirship to Abraham's promises was based upon the faith of Abraham, which resulted in action.
Everything is strongly linked with God who is the Object of
the faith and the One who shows grace. To Abraham, God was personally
present. Abraham believed Him, trusted Him and knew He could work
where, as a man, he was powerless. To Abraham, God could raise
the dead, just as He could create out of nothing. Look at creation!
Psalms 33:9 says, "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded,
and it stood fast." By believing in this way, Abraham was
made by God "a father of many nations." Similarly to
when Abraham believed God's words, you who know God in your life
may hold Him to the promises He has given you in His Word. (M.G.