The commentary on Romans by Fr. MacEvilly can be accessed here.
ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 4
Scripture links are to the Douay Rheims translation
In this chapter, the Apostle adduces the example of Abraham, whose justification was the model of that of all the faithful, to prove the principal proposition and the leading subject of this Epistle, viz., that justification is neither derived from circumcision, nor from the works preceding faith, but from faith itself. He first proves that Abraham was not justified by circumcision or by the external works of the law of Moses (Rom 4:1-2); but that his justification was the gratuitous justification through faith. In proof of this, he quotes a text from the Book of Genesis, and builds his argument on this quotation (Rom 4:3-5). He also proves the gratuitousness of justification from the prophetic words of David (Rom 4:6-8), from the universal extension of which he also shows, that justification is conferred on the uncircumcised Gentiles; and, consequently, that it is independent of the works of the law (Rom 4:9). He likewise proves, from the date of Abraham’s justification, which occurred prior to his circumcision, that he was not indebted to circumcision, nor, consequently, to the works of the law, for his justification (Rom 4:9-10). He proves the same, also, from the object and nature of circumcision, which was a seal of his former justice, obtained in faith. Hence, his circumcision was posterior to his justification (Rom 4:11). He shows the reason why Abraham’s justification preceded his circumcision, and why he received circumcision after being justified (Rom 4:12). From the circumstances and qualities of the promise made to Abraham, the Apostle derives another argument in favour of justification by faith, independently of the observance of the law (Rom 4:13-15). Having shown, that justification comes neither from circumcision nor from the works of the law, the Apostle concludes, that it must come from faith, in which case, will be observed the gratuitousness of the promise made to Abraham, and its universal extension to all Abraham’s spiritual children (Rom 4:16). The Apostle, finally, extols the heroic firmness of the Patriarch’s faith, which, he tells us, was to be the model of ours, and similar in its object and happy results (Rom 4:17–25).
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER 4
Links are to the Douay-Rheims translation which is the text Fr. MacEvilly is commenting on. Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrase of the paasage.
Rom 4:1. What justification then shall we say, Abraham our father according to the flesh received? Was it the justification through faith, or through the works performed by his own natural strength, without grace or faith?
“That Abraham hath found, who is our father, according to the flesh.” Some Commentators, following the common Greek reading, τον πατερα ἡμων εὑρηκεναι κατα σαρκα, connect the words, “according to the flesh,” with the verb “found,” and understand the verse to mean—what did our father Abraham profit by carnal circumcision? These understand the words to mean the same as the question (chap. 3.) “What is the profit of circumcision?” To which, they say, the Apostle gives an answer in this chapter. Others, who also prefer the same construction, and connect the words “according to the flesh,” with the verb “found,” understand the word, “flesh,” of the works performed by his natural strength, so as to mean the same as “works” (verse 2). The particle “for,” would make it very probable, that the Apostle was referring to the same thing in both verses. The reading adopted in the Paraphrase is that of the Vulgate, which, as regards the words, “according to the flesh,” is conformable to the Codex Vaticanus, τι οὖν εροῦμεν Αβρααμ τον προπατερα ἠμῶν κατα σαρκα. In this reading of the Codex Vaticanus, the verb, εὑρήκεναι, found, is wanting. No doubt, the Vulgate reading, “Quid ergo dicemus invenisse Abraham patrem nostrum secundum carnem?” will admit of either construction. According to it, secundum carnem, may be joined to either, invenisse, or patrem nostrum. It is in favour of the former construction, that it does not seem to accord much with the Apostle’s scope in this Epistle, to attach any great importance to carnal descent from Abraham—(see Rom 9:10).
Rom 4:2. Surely, not the justification through the works in question, because if Abraham were justified by such works, he would have cause for glorying in himself (such works being supposed to be performed by his own natural strength), but not in God, whose gratuitous benefits would not be acknowledged in such a system of justification.
“Justified by works.” He speaks of works done without grace or faith; since, it is of these alone he could say, that they deprived a man of all cause for glorying in God, which is the meaning of the words, “before God,” according to Mauduit. Moreover, it was only of such works that there was question between the converted Jews and Gentiles, as establishing for them respectively a claim to the Gospel. The words of this verse are commonly explained by interpreters thus: “He would have external subject for glorying before men, but he would have no real subject for glorying in the sight of God,” and they connect the following verse, 3, thus: “But we have the testimony of Scripture assuring us that Abraham was really and interiorly justified before God, for it is said that ‘he believed, and his belief was reputed by God unto justice.’ ”—(Genesis 15:6). Therefore, it was not by external works, but by faith, he was justified. According to the interpretation adopted in the Paraphrase, which is that of Père Mauduit, making “before God” mean “in God,” the connexion in verse 3 is quite different (vide Paraphrase). This connexion adopted in the Paraphrase accords better with the Apostle’s reasoning on the Scriptural text in Rom 4:4-5 below “Whereof to glory,” καυχημα subject for boasting.
Rom 4:3. But that Abraham had cause for glorying in God, owing to the gratuitousness of his justification, which was wholly independent of the works performed by his mere natural strength, is clear from the history of his justification given in the book of Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it,” i.e., his faith (not his works), “was reputed to him unto justice.”
But that Abraham had reason to glory in God, on account of the gratuitousness of his justification, and not in himself, for any merit of works, is clear from the words of Genesis 15:6, in which his justification is described as perfectly gratuitous—“Abraham believed … and it was reputed to him unto justice.”
Rom 4:4. On which words I build this argument: to the man who performs a work, the wages due to the performance of that work is given, not as a matter of mere gratuitous favour, but as a debt due in strict justice. (As, therefore, justification was given to Abraham, as a matter of grace and favour, which is implied in the word, reputed, it must not proceed from works establishing a just claim to it).
On the words of Genesis, it was reputed, &c., the Apostle builds an argument in favour of the gratuitous justification of Abraham by faith. If the works of Abraham, performed by his natural strength, were the principle of his justification, it could not be said that it was a mere voluntary act of grace on the part of God to bestow it, as the word, “reputed” implies; it would be given as a debt of strict justice; for, the man who performs a work entitled to reward, shall receive that reward as a debt and not as a favour. Hence, as the justification of Abraham was a mere matter of gratuitous acceptance on the part of God, it was not bestowed in consideration of such works as establish a claim to it.
Rom 4:5. It is only in reference to the man who performs no works establishing a strict claim to justification, beyond the mere work of believing in him, who justifies the impious, that it could be said, “his faith is reputed to justice,” according to the decree of God, vouchsafing liberally and gratuitously to confer justice, as a grace, on such a person (and hence, it is only as having been gratuitously bestowed in consideration of his faith, that we can regard the justification of Abraham)
It is only on the supposition that he performed no works establishing a claim to justification, except the mere act of faith, or “believing in him who justifies the ungodly,” to which his justification is ascribed, that we can say that “his faith is reputed unto justice,” according to the liberal purpose of God, decreeing to give justification gratuitously, through grace and faith. The words, “according to the purpose of the grace of God,” are omitted in the Greek, and, from being a marginal explanation of how “faith is reputed,” very probably crept into the Sacred text.
Objection.—Does not this passage furnish an unanswerable argument in favour of the doctrine of justification by faith only, and against the Catholic doctrine of merit? 1st. The Apostle denies that the justification of Abraham could come from works, because works would establish a claim to merit and strict right. Therefore, justification by works, as held by Catholics, is opposed to its gratuitousness, on which the Apostle builds his argument. 2ndly. The Apostle not only excludes the works performed by Abraham before his conversion, but all works, even those performed in faith; for, at the time that the words of Genesis, chap. 15, here quoted, were used, Abraham was justified, as appears from Genesis, chap. 12, and from St, Paul to the Hebrews, chap. 11. Hence, the Apostle speaks of Abraham’s second justification, and denies, on the grounds of its perfect gratuitousness implied in the words, “he believed, … and it was reputed,” &c., that works had any share in Abraham’s second justification, which destroys the Catholic doctrine of merit.
Resp.—In reply to the 1st.—The works excluded by the Apostle from any share in the justification of Abraham are the works performed without grace or faith, and we exclude the same.—That these were the works excluded by the Apostle is clear from his scope in this Epistle, which is, to prove that the works performed by the sole aid of the natural law, or the law of Moses, gave neither Jew nor Gentile a claim to the Gospel. The same appears from verse 2. He excludes works which would give Abraham cause to glory in himself and not in God (this reason holds equally good should we understand “before God” to mean in the sight of God). Now, it is only the works performed by his sole natural strength, that would redound thus to his own glory. Whereas, no one can be impious enough to assert that the works done in grace and faith would not give us cause to glory in God, or, in the sight of God, since the grace of God would be the chief principle in their performance. Hence, the works excluded are those performed without grace or faith. But the gratuitousness of justification here insisted on by the Apostle does not exclude works done under the influence of grace and faith; for, according to Catholic doctrine, good works performed in grace and faith before justification are mere necessary conditions, establishing no claim to justification which God might not refuse; and hence, they leave it still quite a gratuitous act of grace on the part of God. This is no arbitrary interpretation. Besides the reasons already adduced, we have the authorty of St. James (chap. 2), who maintains that no one is justified by faith without good works, and he adduces the example of Rahab, (James 2:25), who he says, was justified by works, and this, probably, in her first justification; for, at the time she received the messengers, she was, most probably, an infidel and in sin; for he calls her, a harlot. St. James, then, speaks of good works done in faith, and St. Paul here speaks of faith accompanied by good works as dispositions of justification. The two Apostles opposed different errors; and hence, St. Paul puts forward one condition necessary for, or one of the ingredients of, justification, viz., faith; and St. James, another; namely, good works, done in grace and faith.
Resp. to the 2nd.—Although Abraham was justified at the time the words of Genesis here referred to were spoken, and his faith commended, still the inference deduced from this is quite unfounded. For, the Apostle is only proving that in the first justification of Abraham, works done without grace or faith, such as the converted Jews and Gentiles put forward, had no share, and this he proves effectually by an argument a fortiori, by referring to what the Scripture says of Abraham’s second justification; for, if Abraham, already just, did not receive an increase of justice, that is to say, second justification, through works without faith, therefore, a fortiori, he did not become just from being a sinner, or, in other words, did not receive first justification through the same works.
Objection.—But were not the works of Abraham, at the time these words were spoken of him, meritorious even of a reward? How then could the Apostle insist on the gratuitousness of his justification, since it was even merited as a debt, which is here excluded?—(verse 4).
Resp.—The Apostle only excludes such a strict debt and reward as would be independent of grace, such a debt as the works performed by the Jews and Gentiles would, in their minds, give them a claim to. Now, although second justification be given as a debt due to merit, it is a grace also. The Apostle views it under this latter respect; and by doing so sufficiently refutes the errors of the Romans; for they regarded justification as the price of works, as a strict debt without any reference to a gratuitous concession, such as Catholic faith teaches to exist in the reward of merit. The Apostle, then, only excludes such merit as would leave room for us to glory in ourselves, and not in God (verse 2); such a merit as the Jews and Gentiles put forward as claims for the Gospel—a merit in which grace has no part. Merit like this, the Catholic Church has ever repudiated; and although the works of Abraham were, at the time referred to, meritorious, they were still not meritorious in the sense understood by the Jews and Gentiles, that is to say, independently of grace and faith, and such merit as this and this only, as every candid reasoner on this passage must admit, is excluded in the argument of the Apostle.
Rom 4:6. This gratuitousness of justification, independenth of works establishing a claim to it, perfectly accords with what David says, when speaking on this subject.
Rom 4:7. Psalm 31. (modern translations, Ps 32) Blessed are they whose iniquities are gratuitously remitted, and whose sins are so fully wiped away as not to appear at all.
He adduces the authority of David also in proof of the gratuitousness of justification without works, of course, in the sense of works already assigned. Psalm 31 [Ps 32]. “Blessed are they,” &c. This furnishes no argument in favour of the erroneous doctrine of imputative justice, by which, in other words, is meant, that our sins are covered in consequence of God not regarding them for Christ’s sake, although still really unremitted. For, it is worse than foolish to say, that anything is concealed from God. Sins are said to be “covered” from him, because, wholly removed by the grace of justification, which, whilst it covers, heals and removes altogether the disease and leprosy of sin. The non-imputation of sin only proves that sin does not exist, because God essentially hates and abominates sin, wherever it does exist. To Him, the impious man and his impiety are alike an abomination. Hence, by not imputing sin, he removes and remits it. The words “not impute,” refer only to punishment with which sin will not be visited in consequence of having been remitted.
They may also have reference, as Bellarmine well remarks (Com. in Psalm 31 ) to those singularly just men, such as Abel, Henoch, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, &c., of whose sins the SS. Scriptures are silent; and also to Jeremias, John the Baptist, sanctified from the womb; not excepting Her, blessed above all the rest of creation, the solemn proclamation of whose glorious preservation from the stain of original sin has filled the earth with joy and universal jubilee. In this interpretation, there is no ground whatever for any objection; and even if we understand the words of those who sinned, the passage only proves that “sin is not imputed,” because having been gratuitously remitted, it no longer exists.
Nor, does it follow from this passage, that justification consists in the bare remission of sin, without the infusion of sanctifying grace; for, the same Psalmist represents justification as consisting in cleansing and rendering us “whiter than snow.” Hence, together with remitting sin, and removing from the soul that stain analogous to corporal leprosy which sin causes, it renders us pure and lovely in the sight of God, and by the increase of sanctifying grace which permanently inheres, the soul acquires still greater beauty and whiteness. Wash me yet more, &c. And I shall be made whiter than snow.—(Psalm 50 [Ps 51]).
Rom 4:8. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute sin, either as to guilt or punishment, in consequence of its gratuitous remission.
No comments are offered beyond the paraphrase.
Rom 4:9. From the universal extension of these words of David, it is clear, that this blessedness is not confined merely to the Jews, but that it extends to the Gentiles also. The same is clear from the case of Abraham, whose faith, we have said, was reputed unto justice.
The question is equivalent to a strong form of affirmation, deducing from the universality of the words of David, that this blessedness extends to the Gentiles also; and it is implied, and left to be inferred that, consequently, justification is bestowed independently of the works of the Mosaic law. The words, “doth it remain only,” are not expressed in the Greek; they are, however, understood as being necessary to complete the sense. “Circumcision” and “uncircumcision” mean Jew and Gentile; the abstract for the concrete. “For we say,” &c. Here is introduced another argument derived from the condition in which Abraham was, when the words “it was reputed unto justice,” were applied to him.
Rom 4:10. Let us see what state Abraham was in, at the time that this occurred to him. Was he circumcised or uncircumcised? Undoubtedly, it occurred to him not when he was circumcised, but while he was uncircumcised.
In what state was he when “his faith was reputed?” &c. He was yet uncircumcised. An interval of about thirteen or fourteen years elapsed between the date of his justification and his circumcision, as appears from the history of Genesis. The preceding is the reasoning of A’Lapide on this passage. Other Commentators say, that verses 9 and 10 contain but one argument, derived from the Apostle’s application of the case of Abraham, to his general purpose, which is, to show, that this beatitude extends to the Gentiles also. These Commentators do not admit that in the quotation from David, there is a distinct or independent argument in proof of the same. The interpretation of A’Lapide, as given in the Paraphrase, appears the more probable. According to it, two distinct proofs are referred to in verse 9; the one, founded on the words of David universally extended, the other, on the date of Abraham’s justification, prior to his circumcision.
Rom 4:11. We have an additional argument of Abraham’s having been justified before his circumcision, and consequently that his justification was independent of the legal observances, in the fact, that Abraham received circumcision as a seal and testimony, on the part of God, of the justice which had been bestowed on him, while uncircumcised, in consideration of his faith in God’s promises; and this justice had been conferred on him before his circumcision, in order that he would be the father of the uncircumcised Gentile believers, whose faith also, like his, may be reputed unto justice.
Another argument, to prove that Abraham was not justified in circumcision, is founded by the Apostle on the fact, that “he received the sign of circumcision”—i.e., circumcision itself (which was given as a “sign” of God’s covenant with Abraham, and of his faith in God’s promises), “as a seal of the justice” bestowed on him in consideration of his faith, while uncircumcised; consequently, his justification must have been anterior to his circumcision. It was a “seal of his justice”—i.e., a testimony whereby God declared and confirmed his justice. “That he might be the father of all them that believe,” &c. The justice was bestowed on Abraham in his uncircumcised state, in order that he might be the spiritual father of all the believing Gentiles, whose justification by faith would have his for a model, “which he had being uncircumcised,” is rather a liberal rendering of the words, τῆς εν τῃ ἀκροβυστία, quæ est in præputio, “which is in uncircumcision.” The same applies to the words, “them that believe being uncircumcised,” which should be literally rendered, “them that believe by uncircumcision.”
Rom 4:12. And after being justified, he received circumcision, that he might be the father of the circumcised Jews, not of them, who are merely circumcised externally, without imitating his faith; but, of them who also imitate the faith by which Abraham, though uncircumcised, was justified.
And he received circumcision after his justification, in order that he might be the spirtual father of the circumcised Jew. Not of the Jew who is merely circumcised externally, &c.—(Vide Paraphrase). In truth, by receiving justification while uncircumcised, and by receiving circumcision afterwards, he became the spiritual father of all believers, both Gentiles and Jews, circumcision having been a sign and a protestation of faith, on the part of Abraham, in the future Messiah; hence, for the Jews, who were destitute of this faith in Christ, circumcision is a vain, empty sign, without the reality signified; and it was only to the faithful Jews, that the signification of circumcision had reference.
Rom 4:13. Justification was no more attached to the observance of the Mosaic law than it was to circumcision; for, it was not on the condition of observing the law (which had not then existed) but on account of the justice which his faith procured for him before receiving the law, that God made to Abraham the promise of being the heir of the world.
Another argument in favour of justification by faith without works is derived from the circumstances of the promise made to Abraham.—(Vide Paraphrase). It is, therefore, through faith, and not through the law, that this promise is to be fulfilled in his posterity, his justification being the model of theirs.
Rom 4:14. For, if the inheritance were confined merely to those who observe the law, then, the faith of Abraham, believing in the multiplication of his seed, “as the stars of heaven,” &c. (Genesis 22:17), would be made void (because few or none observed the law); for the same reason, the promise would be of no effect, because the conditions being wanting on the part of man, the promise on the part of God would not be binding.
“Who are of the law,” may also mean, who are under the law, “be heirs.” That is to say, if the Jews alone be heirs, then, “faith is made void;” because, the law was confined merely to Judea, and did not extend to the entire earth. The interpretation in the Paraphrase, referring the words, “who are of the law,” to those who observe the law, appears, however, the more probable.
Rom 4:15. It is clear, if the promise were attached to the observance of the law, the promise would be voided for want of the performance of the conditions on the part of man; for, the law gave no help for its own fulfilment, and hence, it was the occasion of anger by its frequent violations; for, where there is no law manifesting the malice of sin, there can be no voluntary transgression of the law.
“The law worketh anger.” It became the occasion of anger by its frequent violations. It was not, however, given for that end, just as happened in the case of our Redeemer, who “was set,” as well, “for the fall,” as “for the resurrection of many in Israel.”—(St. Luke 2:34). The law, then, on account of its universal transgression, worked anger, which would not happen if the law were not given at all; for, in that case, there would be no prevarication, or voluntary transgression of it. A’Lapide connects this verse immediately with verse 12, “For where there is no law,” &c. This negative sentence, as Beelen well remarks, contains the opposite affirmative, that where there is a law, there prevarication is not wanting.
Rom 4:16. Therefore, this promise comes through faith; by which means, its gratuitousness will be consulted for, as well as its universal extension not only to the Jews, but to all the believers who imitate Abraham’s faith, who is the father of us all who believe, Gentiles as well as Jews.
As, then, the observance of the law, or according to others, the giving of it, was not sufficiently extensive and universal to answer the designs of God, in calling all mankind, Jew and Gentile; and, moreover, as the attaching to the observance of the law the grace of justification, in which the promise to Abraham chiefly consisted, would appear to interfere with the gratuitousness of this grace; it must, therefore, come from faith. The Apostle appears to make this disjunctive; “justice comes either from the law or from faith, but not from the law does it come, therefore, from faith;” in which case, will be preserved the gratuitousness of the promise, “that according to grace,” &c. And also, its universal extension, not only to the Jew, who observed the law, or received it, but to all the imitators of the faith of Abraham, who is the spiritual father of all the believers; “not to that only which is of the law,” &c.
Rom 4:17. (According as it is written of him in Genesis 17:5, where, in assigning the cause of his change of name from Abram to Abraham, God says, I have made thee a father of many nations), not by carnal generation, which is perceptible to men, but by spiritual paternity, which is seen only by God, and which recommends men to him, whom Abraham believed, relying on his promises, who exerts his omnipotence in raising the dead to life, and in calling into existence the things that are not, and uses them for his purposes, like things already in being.
He proves that Abraham was the father of us all from the quotation (Genesis 17:5), where God, assigning a reason for changing the Patriarch’s name from “Abram,’ i.e., high father, to “Abraham,” i.e., father of a multitude, says, “because I have made thee,” &c. This quotation is to be read within a parenthesis, and the words. “before God,” are to be immediately connected with the words of the last verse. “The father of us all (…) before God, whom he believed,” &c. Some understand the words, “before God,” to mean like God, who holds the relation of paternity towards us by creation, which Abraham does by faith. “Who quickeneth the dead,” &c., most probably, refers to the faith in God’s omnipotence, particularly manifested in the raising the dead to life, and creating all things out of nothing; and it, most likely, refers to the examples of each operation of Omnipotence, that came under Abraham’s faith. First, the raising of Isaac from the dead, of which the Apostle says to the Hebrews 11:19, “accounting, that God is able to raise up, even from the dead.” And, secondly, his creating a new unto the power of generation, and vivifying the dead womb of Sara. These two examples had a particular reference to the things believed by Abraham.
Rom 4:18. Relying on this power of God, so strong was the faith of Abraham, that he firmly hoped in that, which he should regard as naturally impossible, viz. that he should become, at so advanced an age, the lather of many nations, according to what was promised him (Genesis 15:5): Look up to heaven and number the stars if thou canst, so shall thy seed be.
The Apostle now gives an animated account of Abraham’s faith: he shows its heroism, and the happy consequences of imitating it. “Who, against hope,” i.e., against the natural obstacles apparently, and humanly speaking insuperable, “believed” in God’s promises, with a firm and unshaken confidence of their fulfilment. “That he might.” &c. This referred to his carnal descendants, but it was particularly verified in the spiritual children of Abraham; and this is principally referred to in the promise then given.
Rom 4:19. His faith was not weakened, nor had the consideration of natural impossibilities (his body being now dead as to generative powers, owing to his advanced age of nearly one hundred years, and the womb of Sara similarly dead) any effect upon his mind.
The consideration of natural impossibilities had no effect in weakening his faith. “The dead womb of Sara.” “Dead.” as to the power of conceiving children, being now ninety years old. In the Greek it is, τὴν νέκρωσιν τῆς μήτρας Σαῤῥας, “the deadness of the womb of Sara,” the sense of which is expressed in our version.
Queritur.—How could the body of Abraham be said to be dead, whereas, he had six children, forty years after this, by Cetura?
Resp.—This was the result of the miraculous power here given him, and which continued with him after. The same happened to Anna, the mother of Samuel, who had other children after Samuel, though his birth was miraculous.—(1 Kings, &c.)
Queritur.—Did not Abraham live seventy-five years after the one hundred? How, then, was his body dead at the age of one hundred?
Resp.—He was an old man at the age of one hundred; for, the decline as well as the vigour of life continued for a long time in the patriarchal age. Isaac was an old man at one hundred and twenty, so old, that he lost his sight from age, and still he lived to be an hundred and eighty.—(Genesis 35).
Rom 4:20. And at the promise of God he did not stagger through any feeling of unbelief, but he was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God (to whose attributes of omnipotence and veracity he paid homage by this belief).
“In the promise;” (in Greek, εἰς δὲ την ἐπαγγελίαν εἰς, frequently means, at “at the promise.”) “By distrust; (in Greek τῇ ἀπιστία, “unbelief.”) He gave “glory to God:” for, by this faith he acknowledged his infinite veracity and omnipotence, as in following verse.
Queritur.—But, did not Abraham stagger, for he said in his heart, on hearing the promise (Genesis 17), “Shall a son, thinkest thou, be born to him that is a hundred years old?”
Resp.—The common answer of the Holy Fathers is, that in these words, Abraham only expressed his unworthiness to be favoured with so great a blessing, as having a son at that age.
Rom 4:21. Being most fully and thoroughly persuaded that whatever God promised, he has power to execute and fulfil.
“Most fully knowing.” In Greek, και πληροφορηθεις, “and having obtained a plenitude,” i.e., of persuasion or conviction, as the subject matter implies; hence, our version expresses the meaning of the passage. “He is able to perform.” He expressly mentions Abraham’s faith in God’s omnipotence, because it was the more difficult point to be believed. The faith in his veracity is implied.
Rom 4:22. And this heroic faith was imputed to him unto justice.
“And, therefore, it was reputed,” &c. Hence, Abraham’s was a justifying faith. Now, the object of Abraham’s faith was not his own justification, but the power of God (verses 20, 21); and hence, the object of justifying faith is not our own individual justification, as is erroneously taught by the sectaries. As often as Abraham believed, after his justification, so often was his faith imputed unto justice, and so often did he obtain an increase of sanctifying grace.
Rom 4:23. Now, these words of Scripture, assuring us that Abraham was justified on account of his faith, were not written merely in praise of him.
Rom 4:24. But they were principally intended for our instruction and encouragement, to point out to us the model of our faith and also of our gratuitous justification by believing in him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead.
The Apostle now shows the application of the foregoing example of Abraham. His justification is the model of ours; hence, all his spiritual children i.e., all the believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, (verses 11, 12), are to be justified gratuitously by faith; of course, in the sense marked out in the foregoing. “Unto justice,” (verse 23), are omitted in the Greek. “If we believe in him that raised up,” &c. The resurrection of Christ is referred to by the Apostle, as the principal object of our faith. Under it, are included the other mysteries. It is also the great proof of faith; and our faith in it will be reputed to us unto justice, as his faith was reputed to Abraham.
Rom 4:25. Who was delivered unto death to make atonement and offer satisfaction for our sins, and was resuscitated from the dead to complete our justification (which comes through faith, and without the resurrection of Christ, our faith is vain).—1 Cor. 15:14.
The Apostle having referred to Christ’s resurrection, now shows its results to us. Although Christ merited nothing in his resurrection—he merited all by his death—still, if he had not risen, our faith would be vain; and, hence, we would not be justified. The word “for,” may also express the exemplary cause. As Christ’s death was a type of our death to sin, so he arose to be the model of our resurrection to grace, and of our walking in the newness of life. The exposition in the Paraphrase is the more natural meaning of “for,” in both cases—of his death and resurrection.