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The Example of Abraham


What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. 5But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness. 6So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:


“Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,

and whose sins are covered;


blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, “Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” 10How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.

God’s Promise Realized through Faith

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, 17as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” 19He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 23Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, 24but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.


24. Who believe on him, etc. I have already reminded you of the design of those periphrastic expressions: Paul introduced them, that he might, according to what the passages may require, describe in various ways the real character of faith — of which the resurrection of Christ is not the smallest part; for it is the ground of our hope as to eternal life. Had he said only, that we believe in God, it could not have been so readily learnt how this could serve to obtain righteousness; but when Christ comes forth and presents to us in his own resurrection a sure pledge of life, it then appears evident from what fountain the imputation of righteousness flows.

25. Who was delivered for our offences, 150150     It is διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμων, “for our offenses,” and διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμων, “for our justification.” The preposition διὰ, has here clearly two meanings: the first signifies the reason why, and the second, the end for which. How is this to be known? By the character of the sentence, and by what is taught elsewhere. For, to which Johnson attaches forty meanings, is commonly understood here as having a different sense, and this is sufficiently indicated by what is connected with it. But in case a doubt arises, we have only to consult other passages in which the subject is handled.
   Take the first instance — “for our offenses.” There are those who say that διὰ here means because of, or, on account of; and this, in order to evade the idea of a propitiation. The preposition, no doubt, has this sense; but is this its sense here? If the sentence itself be deemed insufficient to determine the question, (though to a plain reader it is,) let us see what is said elsewhere of Christ’s death in connection with our sins or offenses. He himself said, that he came “to give his life a ransom (λύτρον — a redeeming price) for many,” Matthew 20:28. It is said, that he “gave himself a ransom (ἀντίλυτρον — a redeeming price for another) for all,” 1 Timothy 2:6. It is expressly declared, that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Hebrews 9:28. And more to the purpose still, if possible, is the testimony of John, when he says that Christ “is the propitiation (ἱλασμός — expiation) for our sins,” 1 John 2:2. Now, can it be that we can give any other meaning to the text, than that God delivered his Son as a sacrifice for our offenses? This is the doctrine of Scripture throughout. — Ed.
etc. He expands and illustrates more at large the doctrine to which I have just referred. It indeed greatly concerns us, not only to have our minds directed to Christ, but also to have it distinctly made known how he attained salvation for us. And though Scripture, when it treats of our salvation, dwells especially on the death of Christ, yet the Apostle now proceeds farther: for as his purpose was more explicitly to set forth the cause of our salvation, he mentions its two parts; and says, first, that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, — and secondly, that by his resurrection was obtained our righteousness. But the meaning is, that when we possess the benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection, there is nothing wanting to the completion of perfect righteousness. By separating his death from his resurrection, he no doubt accommodates what he says to our ignorance; for it is also true that righteousness has been obtained for us by that obedience of Christ, which he exhibited in his death, as the Apostle himself teaches us in the following chapter. But as Christ, by rising from the dead, made known how much he had effected by his death, this distinction is calculated to teach us that our salvation was begun by the sacrifice, by which our sins were expiated, and was at length completed by his resurrection: for the beginning of righteousness is to be reconciled to God, and its completion is to attain life by having death abolished. Paul then means, that satisfaction for our sins was given on the cross: for it was necessary, in order that Christ might restore us to the Father’s favor, that our sins should be abolished by him; which could not have been done had he not on their account suffered the punishment, which we were not equal to endure. Hence Isaiah says, that the chastisement of our peace was upon him. (Isaiah 53:5.) But he says that he was delivered, and not, that he died; for expiation depended on the eternal goodwill of God, who purposed to be in this way pacified.

And was raised again for our justification. As it would not have been enough for Christ to undergo the wrath and judgment of God, and to endure the curse due to our sins, without his coming forth a conqueror, and without being received into celestial glory, that by his intercession he might reconcile God to us, the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the completeness of his favor appears more clear by his coming to life again. 151151     Christ is said here to have been raised from the dead by God, as well as delivered into death. “However much of the import of this,” says Chalmers, “may have escaped the notice of an ordinary reader, it is pregnant with meaning of the weightiest importance. You know that when the prison door is opened to a criminal, and that by the very authority which lodged him there, it envinces that the debt of his transgression has been rendered, and that he stands aquitted of all it’s penalties. It was not for his own, but for our offenses that Jesus was delivered unto the death, and that his body was consigned to the imprisonment of the grave. And when an angel descended from heaven, and rolled back the great stone from the door of the sepulchre, this speaks to us, that the justice of God is satisfied, that the ransom of our iniquity has been paid, that Christ has rendered a full discharge of all the debt for which he undertook as the great surety between God and the sinners who believe in him.” — Ed.

But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life. 152152     “Either therefore as the evidence of the acceptance of his suffering as our substitute, or as a necessary step toward securing the application of their merit to our benefit, the resurrection of Christ was essential to our justification.” — Professor Hodge He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.

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