Romans 4:1-8 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. For what said the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that work not, but believe on him that justify the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also described the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputed righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
‘What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found? … For what said the scripture?’ Paul here (4:1-3), after proving in Romans 3:21-31 that both Jews and Gentiles could only be saved by grace through faith, shows by examples how Abraham and David were justified. Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was a heathen, an uncircumcised Gentile, before God pardoned him by grace through faith. He could not have been justified by obedience to the law, which was not until 430 years later (Gal. 3:17). Paul points out that Abraham was pardoned the same way the gospel saves Jews and Gentiles. Why should the Jews condemn Christianity and oppose Gentiles when they were included in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:4)? Paul also proves that this blessing did not come through circumcision, for Abraham had it many years before he was circumcised (4:9-12; Gen. 12:1-3; 15:6; 17:1-14). If Abraham was blessed before and without circumcision, then Gentiles also could be.
‘Our father’ Jews claimed Abraham as their father (9:5; Luke 1:73; John 8:39; Acts 7:2).
‘Believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ before he was circumcised (Gen. 15:6).
‘Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt’ if Abraham worked for and merited justification, then it was not of grace because God owed it to him. But if he believed God for it instead of working for it, then faith was counted for righteousness and God gave it to him as a favour. Since he was called when he was a Gentile idolater and he was justified freely by faith, then all other sinners can likewise be justified (3:21-28; 5:1-11). ‘Even as David also described the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputed righteousness without works’ now the apostle proves his point by showing how David, a man under law, was justified by faith without the law and works (4:6-7; Ps. 32:1-2). Quoting Psalm 32:1-2 “…Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” A fourfold blessing is noted here of the blessed man: His sins are forgiven; his sins are covered; his forgiven sins are no longer imputed to him and his spirit is cleansed of guile (Ps. 15:1-5; 24:3-5).