Romans 4: God’s Covenant with Abraham

Abraham the Father of Both Uncircumcised and Circumcised

So, then, does this blessing come on circumcised people or on uncircumcised? This is the passage we quoted: ‘His faith was calculated to Abraham as indicating that he was in the right.’ How was it calculated? When he was circumcised or when he was uncircumcised? It wasn’t when he was circumcised; it was when he was uncircumcised! He received circumcision as a sign and seal of the status of covenant membership, on the basis of faith, which he had when he was still uncircumcised. This was so that he could be the father of all who believe even when uncircumcised, so that the status of covenant membership can be calculated to their account as well. He is also, of course, the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who follow the steps of the faith which Abraham possessed while still uncircumcised.

Abraham Is the Father of All Believers

The promise, you see, didn’t come to Abraham or to his family through the law – the promise, that is, that he would inherit the world. It came through the covenant justice of faith. For if those who belong to the law are going to inherit, then faith is empty, and the promise has been abolished. For the law stirs up God’s anger; but where there is no law, there is no lawbreaking.

That’s why it’s ‘by faith’: so that it can be in accordance with grace, and so that the promise can thereby be validated for the entire family – not simply those who are from the law, but those who share the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all, just as the Bible says, ‘I have made you the father of many nations.’ This happened in the presence of the God in whom he believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist.

Abraham’s Faith – and Ours

Against all hope, but still in hope, Abraham believed that he would become the father of many nations, in line with what had been said to him: ‘That’s what your family will be like.’ He didn’t become weak in faith as he considered his own body (which was already as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old), and the lifelessness of Sarah’s womb. He didn’t waver in unbelief when faced with God’s promise. Instead, he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God had the power to accomplish what he had promised. That is why ‘it was calculated to him in terms of covenant justice’.

But it wasn’t written for him alone that ‘it was calculated to him’. It was written for us as well! It will be calculated to us, too, since we believe in the one who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was handed over because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.

Romans 4, New Testament for Everyone

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