The Promise for All Who Have Faith

The flesh is a built-in law of failure, making it impossible for the natural man to please or serve God. It is a compulsive inner force inherited from man’s fall, which expresses itself in general and specific rebellion against God and His righteousness. The flesh can never be re … More


Those who are trying for salvation often lean on either their own imagined goodness or some kind of religious observance or a combination of both. In the previous passages we have seen how the Jews boasted in circumcision and the law. Paul has already made it clear that there must be an inward change of heart and obedience to the law, and that mere external observances can never save a lost sinner.

Now Paul proceeds to show how Abraham was pronounced righteous before he was circumcised, on the basis of his faith alone (vv. 9-12). He does this by asking the Jews whether Abraham’s justification occurred before or after he was circumcised. Abraham’s age when he was declared righteous (Genesis 15:6) is not stated. However, when Hagar bore Ishmael Abraham was 86 (Genesis 16:16). It was not until he was 99 years old that he was circumcised (Genesis 17:23-27). This means that the circumcision of Abraham followed his justification by faith by more than 13 years.

Circumcision was an outward sign of the justification that Abraham had already received. Therefore both Jews and Gentiles must do more than be circumcised to be right with God. They must also walk in the footsteps of faith like Abraham did. Abraham was justified by believing God’s promise, and not by obeying God’s law; for God’s law had not been given as yet through Moses. The same is true today. God justifies the ungodly because they believe in His precious promise, and not because they obey the law. Those who are trying to work for their salvation often lean on two crutches:

Their own imagined goodness.

Some kind of religious observance.

Neither one of these things will help us to merit salvation. It is only in the finished work of Christ.


I know that I can never depend on my baptism, or church membership or good works to save me. This is what the Jews were doing with circumcision. The above things are only outward signs of the inward trust that took place when I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ.

Romans 4:9-25 (English Standard Version)

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 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. 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, 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. 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. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 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, 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. 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." 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. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

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