Main point summary
Even Abraham has nothing to boast about before God because it was his belief (not his actions) that resulted in his being counted righteous.
What then shall we say was gained by 1 Abraham, t our forefather according to the flesh?
Further, even Abraham our father did not earn anything from God by his actions.
For if Abraham was justified by works,
Let me take a moment to explain this : if Abraham was counted righteous due to his actions,
he has something to boast about,
then he would certainly have something to boast about,
but u not before God.
but, nevertheless, the reality is that he has no reason to boast before God.
For what does the Scripture say?
[I say this for 2 reasons.] (1) First, what do you see when you read about Abraham's encounter with God?
v “Abraham believed God,
"Abraham believed what God had said,
and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
and it [his belief] resulted in his being counted righteous."
Now w to the one who works,
(2) Second, if someone works, using his own effort to accomplish something,
his wages are not counted as a gift
then the payment for his work is not considered a gift,
but as his due.
but rather something earned, something he deserves to receive.
And to the one who does not work
But if someone [like Abraham] does not work [to earn his own righteousness]
but x believes in 1 him who justifies the ungodly,
but rather believes in one who is able and willing to count righteous those who are not worthy,
his faith is counted as righteousness,
then his belief results in his being counted righteous [like Abraham].
just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
You can even compare this to what David says because he also speaks of the great blessing it is for God to count someone righteous apart from his works:
y “Blessed are those
"Blessed are the ones
whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
whose wrongful actions are completely forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
whose sins are not even seen anymore;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not z count his sin.”
blessed is the man who will not have to face judgment from the Lord for his sins!"
Is this blessing then only for a the circumcised,
But to whom is this blessing about which David speaks? Is it for the physical descendants of Abraham only
or also for the uncircumcised?
or is it for them and for Gentiles as well?
b For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
For we have already said above that it was Abraham's belief [not his circumcision] that resulted in his being counted righteous.
How then was it counted to him?
Think about when his belief resulted in his being counted righteous:
Was it before or after he had been circumcised?
was it before or after he was circumcised?
It was not after,
He was not counted righteous after he was circumcised,
but before he was circumcised.
but rather before he was circumcised.
c He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith
His circumcision was a sign and seal of the righteousness that came as a result of his belief
while he was still uncircumcised.
even when he had still not yet been circumcised.
The purpose was d to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised,
God's sovereign design in all of this was (1) to make Abraham the father of everyone else who would go on to believe in God even while not being circumcised,
so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,
in order that righteousness would be counted to all of them as well,
and to make him the father of the circumcised
and also (2) to make Abraham the father of the circumcised,
who are not merely circumcised
though I'm not talking about those who are merely physically circumcised,
but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had
but further who also follow in Abraham's belief that he had
before he was circumcised.
even before he was circumcised.
Observations : Main Point : We live in a world of "do stuff to get stuff." Work hard to get paid. Work overtime to earn a promotion. Do extra to get recognized. If you do enough, you'll earn something for it. This is the American way. And it's the way my heart operates. In fact, if I work hard and get little or nothing in return, it's depressing. This is why, internally, it can be so hard to understand the amazing truth of justification by faith alone. But Abraham is a great example, especially for religious people who could easily think that they gain a good standing with God based on their religious practices (like circumcision). The truth that is fleshed out in the rest of the passage comes in verse 1 through a rhetorical question, which, after reading the rest of the verses, ends up having the answer "Nothing." Abraham did not earn anything from God by his actions. This is the truth in this passage that shocks the religious person and gives great hope to the sinner. The religious person is shocked because he feels he is earning favor from God by his actions. Abraham circumcised himself. The religious person has all of his religious practices. The sinner finds hope because if even Abraham was justified as a result of his faith, then there's hope that I could be justified in the same way. Salvation by Faith All Along : Paul uses David to support everything he's saying about Abraham. David himself talked about the fact that God would count people righteous by faith (apart from works): blessed is the man who will not have to face judgment from the Lord for his sins! God's plan from the very beginning has been to rescue from their sins a people who do not deserve it. And his plan all along has been that the rescue would be by faith, as proved in Abraham's life and David's writings. And vv.11-12 make clear that God even orchestrated the details of Abraham's life to make him an example people from all nations, Jews and non-Jews. His faith before circumcision makes him the father of non-Jews with faith, so that righteousness will be counted to them as well. His faith in addition to circumcision makes him the father of Jews who share that same faith. The common denominator is faith: faith looking forward to the coming Messiah (in the Old Covenant) and faith looking back on the Messiah (in the New Covenant). Applications : The Details : God does not live in the big picture only. He doesn't just orchestrate the end. He's involved in the gritty details. God had made Abraham some incredible promises, promises that I would scoff at and think were impossible (as many children as the stars, having a son when I'm a hundred years old). And Abraham believed what God said. And it was counted to him as righteousness. And after that God gave him a sign of circumcision as a symbol of the righteousness that he had by faith and a seal of his commitment to God. Circumcision was an outward sign of an inward commitment that had already happened. Therefore, circumcision itself didn't do anything, much like baptism today doesn't do anything. It's a sign, a symbol. But God is in the details. If Abraham's faith and God's promise came after his circumcision, it could look like the circumcision was earning something. God had a sovereign design and worked it out perfectly in order to make Abraham the father of all who have faith and to give him as many spiritual descendants as the stars of the sky. Favor : My favor with God does not come from trying harder to be better. The gospel tells me that I cannot be "better" enough to please God. Abraham did not earn anything from God by his actions. I cannot earn anything from God by my actions. Favor from God comes as I look to Christ and put my faith in his perfections and in his atonement in my place . It's staggering but it's true. It's completely freeing. And if I truly believe it, it motivates me to live a righteous life, full of the Spirit, full of faith. God's favor stays on me as I continue looking away from myself daily and believing that Jesus is my only hope of acceptance. When I sin, I confess and look to Jesus. When I am faithful, I profess that it's empowered by the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit inside of me. All glory to God!