Τί οὖν ἐροῦμεν εὑρηκέναι Ἀβραὰμ τὸν προπάτορα ἡμῶν κατὰ σάρκα;
What therefore, shall we say Abraham, our forefather according to flesh, to have found?
Paraphrase: Let’s look at some examples from the Bible of men who all of us acknowledge were righteous men. Let’s start with the father of our people, Abraham. There is no question that he was a man who met with God’s approval. (Isaiah 41:8) Now on what basis did he find such favor with God? Why did God regard him so highly?
For εὑρηκέναι, see §122.
To “find grace” is a very common expression.
εἰ γὰρ Ἀβραὰμ ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, ἔχει καύχημα· ἀλλ’ οὐ πρὸς θεόν,
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has a boast but not before God.
Paraphrase: Perhaps God favored Abraham so highly because of all the wonderful things that Abraham did. He did so much good in the world; just think of how he rescued Lot from those who had kidnapped him and his family. (Genesis 14) If this was the case, however, then Abraham would have something to brag about. He could publish it far and wide that God loved him because he had earned it by all the good works he had done. He could proudly claim to be superior to other people, and that, as a result of this, God favored him so highly. (Isaiah 65:5) Now, this is impossible since we know that everyone is corrupt (Psalm 53:3); no one, not even Abraham, has any reason to think that they have done enough good to merit God’s favor.
τί γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ λέγει; Ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραὰμ τῷ θεῷ καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην.
For what does the Scripture say? Then Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.
Paraphrase: Let’s bring this question to the Bible. What does the Bible say about why God favored Abraham so highly? Recall the story of Abraham. There were so many things which led him to believe that God could not possibly keep the promises He had made, not the least of which was that Abraham was too old and Sarah’s childbearing years were long passed. That’s why we read in Genesis 15 that he cried out to God in his distress. In the face of all his doubts, however, Abraham continued to believe that God would not fail on His word even though he had no idea how it could ever happen. (Hebrews 11:19) We read, “Then Abraham trusted that God would never fail to keep His word; and as a result of this faith, God gave him the gift of a perfect righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
What is the antecedent of the “it” here? Miley argues that it must be faith. In some way, many of the Reformers apparently agreed; see the quotes here. Gill points out that this interpretation is impossible because Paul later (Romans 4:23-24) says that “it” will be imputed to us as well if we believe in Jesus, but Abraham’s faith is certainly not our righteousness before God. Hodge points out that Paul does sometimes use a word to denote its object, not the act itself. He references Romans 8:24 where “hope” is used to refer to what is hoped for, not the act of hoping and Galatians 1:23, where Paul speaks not of the act of faith but of what is believed or the object of faith. Elsewhere, Paul certainly distinguishes between faith and the righteousness that comes by it. (Romans 1:17; Philippians 3:9)
λογίζομαι is a word often used in the context of accounting and keeping a record of debits and credits. source
τῷ δὲ ἐργαζομένῳ ὁ μισθὸς οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα·
but to the one working, the wage is not reckoned according to grace but according to obligation.
Paraphrase: Now did Abraham earn this righteousness by a life of careful and loving obedience to God’s laws? Surely not. When one works for something, he is entitled to receive his wages. We would never think of someone’s wages as a gift. A person’s salary or wage is something to which he is entitled, and if they are withheld from him, he can sue his employer for theft.
Bonar: To do some great thing called faith, in order to win God’s favor, the sinner has no objection; nay, it is just what he wants, for it gives him the opportunity of working for his salvation. But he rejects the idea of taking his stand upon a work already done, and so ceasing to exercise his soul in order to effect a reconciliation, for which all that is needed was accomplished eighteen hundred years ago, upon the cross of Him who “was made sin for us, though He knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ, πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ, λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην,
but to the one not working but believing on the One who is justifying the ungodly, his faith is reckoned for righteousness.
Paraphrase: But Abraham did not obtain his righteous status by a careful and loving obedience to God’s law, and neither will any of us. On the contrary, we find righteousness with God when we are ready to stop all our efforts to better ourselves, when we recognize that even our good works are still stained with so much sin, and when we recognize that all our righteousness is mere self-righteousness and carries no weight with God. When we reach this place in our life, then we are ready to abandon our own efforts and to cast ourselves on the mercy of God. What else can we do? What other recourse do we have? Now to such persons, the gospel has a clear message. God gives to you, just as He did to our father Abraham, a perfect righteousness. Yes, God takes people who are guilty in themselves and credits to them a perfect and flawless record.
Watts notes that faith is here counted for righteousness; it is not αντι or υπερ, that is, for and instead of righteous works, but εις δικαιοσυνην, that is, in order to justification, or acceptance with God. Brown gives fourteen reasons why faith cannot be our righteousness before God.
Bonar: The great manifestation of self-righteousness, is this struggle to believe. Believing is not a work, but a ceasing from work; and this struggle to believe, is just the sinner’s attempt to make a work out of that which is no work at all, to make a labor out of that which is a resting from labor. Sinners will not let go their hold of their former confidence, and drop into Christ’s arms. Why? Because they still trust these confidences, and do not trust Him who speaks to them in the gospel. Instead, therefore, of encouraging you to embrace more and more earnestly these preliminary efforts, I tell you they are all the sad indications of self-righteousness. They take for granted that Christ has not done his work sufficiently, and that God is not willing to give you faith till you have plied him with the arguments and importunities of months or years. God is at this moment willing to bless you; and these struggles of yours are not, as you fancy, humble attempts on your part to take the blessing, but proud attempts either to put it from you or to get hold of it in some way of your own. You cannot, with all your struggles, make the Holy Spirit more willing to give you faith than He is at this moment. But our self-righteousness rejects this blessed truth; and if I were to encourage you in these efforts, I should be fostering your self-righteousness and your rejection of this grace of the Spirit.
Owen commends this definition of true faith: “it is the flight of a penitent sinner unto the mercy of God in Christ.”
καθάπερ καὶ Δαυὶδ λέγει τὸν μακαρισμὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ᾧ ὁ θεὸς λογίζεται δικαιοσύνην χωρὶς ἔργων·
Just as even David says the blessing of the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works.
Paraphrase: It’s the same story with David. This holy man also wrote about God’s gift of righteousness. The same righteousness which God charged to Abraham’s account apart from his own good works and which He also charges to our account when we believe in Jesus.
Μακάριοι ὧν ἀφέθησαν αἱ ἀνομίαι καὶ ὧν ἐπεκαλύφθησαν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι,
Blessed whose lawless actions are forgiven and whose sins are covered over.
Paraphrase: David wrote of this in Psalm 32 where he writes: “How blessed is that person whose transgressions and sins are forgiven and their guilt is removed.
μακάριος ἀνὴρ οὗ οὐ μὴ λογίσηται κύριος ἁμαρτίαν.
Blessed the man of whom
Ὁ μακαρισμὸς οὖν οὗτος ἐπὶ τὴν περιτομὴν ἢ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκροβυστίαν; λέγομεν γάρ· Ἐλογίσθη τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην.
πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη; ἐν περιτομῇ ὄντι ἢ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ; οὐκ ἐν περιτομῇ ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ·
καὶ σημεῖον ἔλαβεν περιτομῆς, σφραγῖδα τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πατέρα πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων δι’ ἀκροβυστίας, εἰς τὸ λογισθῆναι αὐτοῖς τὴν δικαιοσύνην,
Romans 4:12 καὶ πατέρα περιτομῆς τοῖς οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ.
Romans 4:13 Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, τὸ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου, ἀλλὰ διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως·
Romans 4:14 εἰ γὰρ οἱ ἐκ νόμου κληρονόμοι, κεκένωται ἡ πίστις καὶ κατήργηται ἡ ἐπαγγελία·
Romans 4:15 ὁ γὰρ νόμος ὀργὴν κατεργάζεται, οὗ δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος, οὐδὲ παράβασις.
Romans 4:16 Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, ἵνα κατὰ χάριν, εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι, οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ (ὅς ἐστιν
πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν,
Romans 4:17 καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι Πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν τέθεικά σε), κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν θεοῦ τοῦ ζῳοποιοῦντος τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα·
Romans 4:18 ὃς παρ’ ἐλπίδα ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον· Οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου·
Romans 4:19 καὶ μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῇ πίστει κατενόησεν τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σῶμα νενεκρωμένον, ἑκατονταετής που ὑπάρχων, καὶ τὴν νέκρωσιν τῆς μήτρας Σάρρας,
Romans 4:20 εἰς δὲ τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ θεοῦ οὐ διεκρίθη τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ ἀλλὰ ἐνεδυναμώθη τῇ πίστει, δοὺς δόξαν τῷ θεῷ
Romans 4:21 καὶ πληροφορηθεὶς ὅτι ὃ ἐπήγγελται δυνατός ἐστιν καὶ ποιῆσαι.
Romans 4:22 διὸ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην.
Romans 4:23 Οὐκ ἐγράφη δὲ δι’ αὐτὸν μόνον ὅτι ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ,
Romans 4:24 ἀλλὰ καὶ δι’ ἡμᾶς οἷς μέλλει λογίζεσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν ἐγείραντα Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἐκ νεκρῶν,
Romans 4:25 ὃς παρεδόθη διὰ τὰ παραπτώματα ἡμῶν καὶ ἠγέρθη διὰ τὴν δικαίωσιν ἡμῶν.