(1) A new argument of great weight, taken from the example of Abraham the father of all believers: and this is the proposition: if Abraham is considered in himself by his works, he has deserved nothing with which to rejoice with God.4:2 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God.
(a) By works, as is evident from the next verse.
(2) A preventing of an objection. Abraham may well rejoice and extol himself among men, but not with God.4:3 3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
(3) A confirmation of the proposition: Abraham was justified by imputation of faith, and therefore freely, without any regard being give to his works.4:4 4 Now to him that b worketh is the reward not c reckoned of grace, but of debt.
(4) The first proof of the confirmation, taken from opposites: to him who deserves anything by his labour, the wages are not counted as favour, but as debt: but to him that has done nothing but believe in him who freely promises, faith is imputed.4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that d justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
(b) To him that has deserved anything from his work.
(c) Is not reckoned or given to him.
(d) That makes him who is wicked in himself to be just in Christ.4:6 5 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
(5) Another proof of the same confirmation: David puts blessedness as a part of the free pardon of sins, and therefore justification also.4:9 6 [Cometh] this e blessedness then upon the circumcision [only], or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
(6) A new proposition: that this manner of justification belongs both to uncircumcised and also to the circumcised, as is declared in the person of Abraham.4:10 7 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
(e) This saying of David, in which he pronounces them as blessed.
(7) He proves that it belongs to the uncircumcised (for there was no doubt of the circumcised) in this way: Abraham was justified in uncircumcision, therefore this justification belongs also to the uncircumcised. Nay, it does not belong to the circumcised, in respect of the circumcision, much less are the uncircumcised shut out from it because of their uncircumcision.4:11 8 And he received the f sign of circumcision, a g seal of the righteousness of the faith which [he had yet] being uncircumcised: 9 that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
(8) A preventing of an objection: why then was Abraham circumcised, if he was already justified? That the gift of righteousness (he says) might be confirmed in him.4:12 10 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which [he had] being [yet] uncircumcised.
(f) Circumcision, which is a sign: as we say the "ordinance of baptism", for "baptism", which is a ordinance.
(g) Circumcision was previously called a sign, with respect to the outward ceremony. Now Paul shows the force and substance of that sign. That is, to what end it is used, that is, not only to signify, but also to seal up the righteousness of faith. By this we come to possess Christ himself: for the Holy Spirit works that inwardly indeed, which the ordinances being joined with the word, represent. (9) An applying of the example of Abraham to the uncircumcised believers, whose father he also makes Abraham.
4:13 11 For the promise, that he should be the h heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the i law, but through the righteousness of faith.
(10) An applying of the same example to the circumcised believers, whose father is Abraham, but yet by faith.
4:14 12 For if they which are of the k law [be] heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
(11) A reason why the seed of Abraham is to be considered to be by faith, because Abraham himself through faith was made partaker of the promise by which he was made the father of all nations.
(h) That all the nations of the world should be his children: or by the "world" may be understood the land of Canaan.
(i) For works that he had done, or upon this condition, that he should fulfil the Law.
4:15 13 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression.
(12) A double confirmation of that reason: the one is that the promise cannot be apprehended by the law, and that if it could it would be made of no effect: the other, that the condition of faith would be joined in vain to the promise if it could be apprehended by works.
(k) If they are heirs who have fulfilled the law.
4:16 14 Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the l seed; 15 not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
(13) A reason of the first confirmation, why the promise cannot be apprehended by the law: because the law does not reconcile God and us, but rather proclaims his anger against us, because no man can fully keep it.
4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a 16 father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] m God, who n quickeneth the dead, and o calleth those things which be not as though they were.
(14) The conclusion of this argument: the salvation and justification of the posterity of Abraham (that is, of the Church which is composed of all believers) proceeds from faith which lays hold on the promise made to Abraham, and which promise Abraham himself first of all laid hold on.
(l) To all the believers.
(15) That is to say, not only of those who believe and are also circumcised according to the law, but of those also who without circumcision and with respect of faith only, are counted among the children of Abraham.
4:18 17 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
(16) This fatherhood is spiritual, depending only upon the power of God, who made the promise.
(m) Before God, that is by membership in his spiritual family, which has a place before God, and makes us acceptable to God.
(n) Who restores to life.
(o) With whom those things are already, which as yet are not indeed, as he can with a word make what he wishes out of nothing.
4:19 And being p not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now q dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Saras womb:
(17) A description of true faith wholly resting in the power of God, and his good will, set forth in the example of Abraham.
(p) Very strong and steadfast.4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving r glory to God;
(q) Void of strength, and unfit to have children.
(r) Acknowledged and praised God, as most gracious and true.4:21 And being s fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
(s) A description of true faith.4:23 18 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
4:25 Who was delivered for our t offences, and was raised again for our justification.
(18) The rule of justification is always the same, both in Abraham, and in all the faithful: that is to say, faith in God, who after there was made a full satisfaction for our sins in Christ our mediator, raised him from the dead, that we also being justified, might be saved in him.
(t) To pay the ransom for our sins.