1. What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
1. Quid ergo dicemus, invenisse Abraham patrem nostrum secundw carnem?
2. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God.
2. Si enim Abraham ex operibus justificatus est. habet quo glorietur, sed non apud Deum.
3. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 1
3. Quid enim Scripture dicit' Credidit Abraham Deo, et imputa tum est illi in justitiam.
The passage, which is quoted, is taken from Genesis15:6; in which the word
Taking this view, we cannot but see that those understand not the principles of theology, who think that this testimony recorded by Moses, is drawn aside from its obvious meaning by Paul: for as there is a particular promise there stated, they understand that he acted rightly and faithfully in believing it, and was so far approved by God. But they are in this mistaken; first, because they have not considered that believing extends to the whole context, and ought not to be confined to one clause. But the principal mistake is, that they begin not with the testimony of God's favor. But God gave this, to make Abraham more assured of his adoption and paternal favor; and included in this was eternal salvation by Christ. Hence Abraham, by believing, embraced nothing but the favor offered to him, being persuaded that it would not be void. Since this was imputed to him for righteousness, it follows, that he was not otherwise just, than as one trusting in God's goodness, and venturing to hope for all things from him. Moses does not, indeed, tell us what men thought of him, but how he was accounted before the tribunal of God. Abraham then laid hold on the benignity of God offered to him in the promise, through which he understood that righteousness was communicated to him. It is necessary, in order to form an opinion of righteousness, to understand this relation between the promise and faith; for there is in this respect the same connection between God and us, as there is, according to the lawyers, between the giver and the person to whom any thing is given, (datorem et donatarium -- the donor and the donee:) for we can no otherwise attain righteousness, than as it is brought to us, as it were, by the promise of the gospel; and we realize its possession by faith. 5
How to reconcile what James says, which seems somewhat contrary to this view I have already explained, and intend to explain more fully, when I come, if the Lord will permit. to expound that Epistle.
Only let us remember this, -- that those to whom righteousness is imputed, are justified; since these two things are mentioned by Paul as being the same. We hence conclude that the question is not, what men are in themselves, but how God regards them? not that purity of conscience and integrity of life are to be separated from the gratuitous favor of God; but that when the reason is asked, why God loves us and owns us as just, it is necessary that Christ should come forth as one who clothes us with his own righteousness.
1 This chapter, as Turrettin observes, divides itself into three parts. The first from 1 to 12 inclusive, the second from 13 to 17 inclusive, in which it is proved that the promises made to Abraham did not depend on the law; and the third from 18 to the end, in which the faith of Abraham is commended, and the Christian faith briefly referred to.
But Pareus makes a different division: 1, Four proofs of justification by faith, from 1 to 16; 2, The dispensation of Abraham, from 17 to 22; 3, The application of the subject, from 23 to 25. -- Ed.
2 So did all the fathers according to Pareus, and so does the Vulgate. But later commentators have taken the words as they stand, and with good reason, for otherwise the Correspondence between this and the following verse would not be apparent. Beza, Hammond, and Macknight take the words in their proper order; and this is what is done by the Syriac and Arabic versions.
3 Epicheirema; in Greek
The word for "glorying" here,
4 The adoption is evidently included in the words, found in the first verse of this chapter, "I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." What follows is connected with this, and the promise of a numerous seed arose from what Abraham said respecting an heir. His believing them had an especial regard to the first promise, as the second, respecting his "seed," was only, as it were, an enlargement of the first, or an addition to it. -- Ed.
5 The foregoing observations contain a lucid and a satisfactory view of the character of Abraham's faith, perfectly consistent with what is said of it by Paul in this chapter, and in the epistle to the Galatians. Some think that the principle of faith was the only thing which the Apostle had in view in referring to Abraham's faith, and that he had no special regard to the object of justifying faith, that is, Christ. But that Christ was, in a measure, revealed to him, is evident from the account given in Genesis, and from what Christ himself has said, -- that Abraham saw his day and rejoiced, John 8:56. At the same time it was the promise of gratuitous mercy, as Calvin intimates, that formed the most distinctive object of Abraham's faith, the promise of a free acceptance, without any regard to works. There are two things which the Apostle clearly intended to show, -- that imputation of righteousness is an act of gratuitous favor, -- and that it is alone by faith.
There is some difference in the wording, though not in the meaning, of the sentence from Genesis 15:6. Paul gives it literally according to the Septuagint. The word "Abraham," is put in; instead of "Jehovah, it is "God;" the verb "count," is made passive, and a preposition is placed before "righteousness." The Hebrew is this, -- "And he believed on Jehovah, and he counted it to him righteousness." The "it," no doubt, refers to what is included in the word "believed." So Paul explains it in verse 9, where he expressly puts down
It has been said that this faith of Abraham was not faith in Christ, according to what the context shows in Genesis. And it was not so specifically: nor does Paul represent it as such; for this was not his object. He states it throughout as faith in God; it was believing the testimony of God; but that testimony embraced a promise respecting Christ; so that it included the Savior within its compass. We must remember that Paul's object is to establish this truth, -- that righteousness is attained by faith and not by works; and that for this end he adduces the examples both of Abraham and David. It was not his design to point out specifically the object of justifying faith. We must keep this in view, in order to understand the reasoning of the Apostle in this chapter: it is the power and efficacy of faith, in opposition to all works, that he particularly dwells upon, and the gracious promise of God was its object. -- Ed.