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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 5

Verse 5. But to him that worketh not. Who does not rely on his conformity to the law for his justification; who does not depend on his works; who seeks to be justified in some other way. The reference here is to the Christian plan of justification.

But believeth. See Barnes "Ro 3:26".


On him. On God. Thus the connexion requires; for the discussion has immediate reference to Abraham, whose faith was in the promise of God.

That justifieth the ungodly. This is a very important expression. It implies,

(1.) that men are sinners, or are ungodly.

(2.) That God regards them as such when they are justified, he does not justify them because he sees them to be, or regards them to be righteous; but knowing that they are in fact polluted. He does not first esteem them, contrary to fact, to be pure; but knowing that they are polluted, and that they deserve no favour, he resolves to forgive them, and to treat them as his friends.

(3.) In themselves they are equally undeserving, whether they are justified or not. Their souls have been defiled by sin; and that is known when they are pardoned. God judges things as they are; and sinners who are justified, he judges not as if they were pure, or as if they had a claim; but he regards them as united by faith to the Lord Jesus; and In THIS RELATION he judges that they SHOULD be treated as his friends, though they have been, are, and always will be, personally undeserving. It is not meant that the righteousness of Christ is transferred to them so as to become personally theirs—for moral character cannot be transferred;—nor that it is infused into them, making them personally meritorious—for then they could not be spoken of as ungodly; but that Christ died in their stead, to atone for their sins, and is regarded and esteemed by God to have died; and that the results or benefits of his death are so reckoned or imputed to believers as to make it proper for God to regard and treat them as if they had themselves obeyed the law; that is, as righteous in his sight.

{l} "his faith is counted" Hab 2:4

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