Romans 4


Abraham Justified by Faith

4 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

That is a key Christian concept: We are saved by faith, because God credits it to us as righteousness.  We can’t be good enough on our own because of our sinful natures.  But God, in his mercy, forgives us when we put our trust in him.

But that leaves us nothing to boast about, which actually is a good thing.  Jesus did all the work.  We don’t have to worry if we have “enough” faith – we just have to put our faith in what He did, not what we do.

4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. 6 David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

7 “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

Yes, we are blessed, and should remember that every day!  Consider the thousands and thousands of sins that God has removed from us if we trust in Jesus.  All the things we did that we shouldn’t have done, the things we should have done but didn’t do, and all the evil thoughts.

9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

13 It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15 because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.

We were spiritually dead before God saved us.

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

I love v. 20-21, especially where it says Abraham was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”  God promises so many things to us (watch for the promises as you read the Bible).  And we can be 100% confident that He’ll deliver on them all.

What parts of this chapter stood out to you and why?

0 thoughts on “Romans 4”

  1. The Jews of Jesus’ time used Abraham as an example of justification by works, but Paul holds him up as a shining example of righteousness through faith.

    Abraham had some anxious moments (Genesis 17), but God did not count these against him. Faith does not refuse to face reality, but looks beyond all difficulties to God and His promises.

    vs. 20 “gave glory to God” – Works are man’s attempt to establish a claim on God, faith brings glory to Him.

    vs. 24 “but also for us” – As Abraham was justified because he believed in a God who brought life from the dead, so we will be justified by believing “in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”


    1. I reconcile them very easily.

      If a person has authentic faith in the Lord, it will naturally express itself in good works.

      And no good act can ever be undertaken without God’s assistance, and so good works are properly often called “signs” of our faith, precisely because they point to something other than themselves, that is, the faith.

      Glenn’s point is mostly correct. Scripture is rightly drawing a contrast between “faith” and “works” because faith is not the type of activity that, say, feeding the hungry is.

      Another way to think about it is this: Faith is the supreme ultimate act/work, and so it is placed in an entirely different catagory as other acts/works. Similar to how a person having sexual relations with their spouse is indeed an action, but we rightly place it in a totally different catagory than, say, eating a grilled cheese.

      Either way, Scripture is trying to show that faith (be it an activity or a special thing unto itself) is really and fundamentally different from the actions that we undertake because of our faith.

      The phrase “gave glory to God” is a very important one for understanding what can appear to be a contradiction. If you read through the Gospels (especially John I believe) the scriptures repeatedly explain, “The people gave glory to Jesus, but he gave all glory to God”.. so he did not take credit or glory for himself for his own good works, but credited all to God.

      In this way we start to enter into the mystery that all good actions we ever undertake (sinners though we remain) are in a very real sense only possible due to Faith and God acting through us. That is why we, like Jesus, are to give all glory to God.

      The wicked man who trusts the Father is none the less on the narrow path, while the ‘good’ man who does not the trust the Father is on the wide path to destructon.


      1. LCB,

        Faith is NOT a work at all. The idea that it is a work is something dreamed up by Lutherans and Reformed theology, so that they can maintain that God chooses us and we have no free will. The claim is that if we exercise faith, then we save ourselves. So bogus. If I throw a life preserver to a drowning person and he grabs it, does he save himself? If I give a gift to someone, and they accept it, did they give the gift to themselves? Faith is NOT a work and no where in Scripture is it even hinted as such.


  2. This is how my self-study Bible explains James 2:21 – 24….”Apart from its context, this verse might seem to contradict the Biblical teaching that peole are saved through faith and not by good deeds (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:15-16). But James means only that righteous action is evidence of genuine faith – not that it saves, for the verse that he sights in verse 23 to substantiate his point says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it [i.e., faith, not works] to him as righteousness.” (Gen.15:6) Furthermore, Abraham’s act of faith recorded in Genesis 15:6 occurred before he offered up Isaac, which was only a proof of the genuineness of his faith. As Paul wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith that saves produces deeds. ”

    Hope this helps.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s