B. The Example of Righteousness (4: 1– 25) Romans
4: 1 Abraham our father. Paul uses the model of Abraham to prove justification by faith alone because the Jews held him up as the supreme example of a righteous man (John 8: 39), and because it clearly showed that Judaism with its works-righteousness had deviated from the faith of the Jews’ patriarchal ancestors. In a spiritual sense, Abraham was the forerunner of the primarily Gentile church in Rome as well (see notes on 1: 13; 4: 11, 16; cf. Gal. 3: 6, 7).
4: 2 justified by works. Declared righteous on the basis of human effort (see note on 3: 24 ). boast. If Abraham’s own works had been the basis of his justification, he would have had every right to boast in God’s presence. That makes the hypothetical premise of verse 2 unthinkable (Eph. 2: 8, 9; 1 Cor. 1: 29).
4: 3 A quotation of Genesis 15: 6, one of the clearest statements in all Scripture about justification ( see note on 3: 24 ). believed. Abraham was a man of faith (see note on 1:16; cf. 4: 18– 21; Gal. 3: 6, 7, 9; Heb. 11: 8– 10). But faith is not a meritorious work. It is never the ground of justification—it is simply the channel through which it is received and it, too, is a gift. See note on Ephesians 2: 8. accounted. Cf. verses 5, 9, 10, 22. This word can also be translated “imputed” (vv. 6, 8, 11, 23, 24). Used in both financial and legal settings, this Greek word, which occurs nine times in chapter 4 alone, means to take something that belongs to someone and credit to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction. Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply took His own righteousness and credited it to Abraham as if it were actually his . This God did because Abraham believed in Him (see note on Gen. 15: 6 ). righteousness. See notes on 1: 17; 3: 21.
Key Word Justification: 4: 25; 5: 18— derived from the Greek verb dikaioo, meaning “to acquit” or “to declare righteous,” used by Paul in4: 2, 5; 5: 1. It is a legal term used of a favorable verdict in a trial. The word depicts a courtroom setting, with God presiding as the Judge, determining the faithfulness of each person to the law. In the first section of Romans, Paul makes it clear that no one can withstand God’s judgment (3: 9– 20). The law was not given to justify sinners but to expose their sin . To remedy this deplorable situation, God sent His Son to die for our sins in our place. When we believe in Jesus, God imputes His righteousness to us, and we are declared righteous before God. In this way, God demonstrates that He is both a righteous Judge and the one who declares us righteous, our justifier (3: 26).
4: 4, 5 Broadening his argument from Abraham to all people, the apostle here makes it clear that the forensic act of declaring a person righteous is completely apart from any kind of human work. If salvation were on the basis of one’s own effort , God would owe salvation as a debt— but salvation is always a sovereignly given gift of God’s grace (3: 24; Eph. 2: 8, 9) to those who believe (cf. 1: 16 ). Since faith is contrasted with work, faith must mean the end of any attempt to earn God’s favor through personal merit.
MacArthur, John F. (2005-05-08). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 50010-50037). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
(2013-09-24). The MacArthur Study Bible, NIV (Signature) (Kindle Locations 4037-4038). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
3 What does Scripture say ? “Abraham believed God , and it was credited to him as righteousness.”