Romansby David Cook
Paul anticipates objection to what he said. It is so revolutionary that people will think that he simply thought it up. Objectors to the gospel today often reject it on the basis that it is just Paul’s gospel.
To prove that what he is saying is not innovative, Paul gives two illustrations.
First, he takes us back to the experience of Abram. He shows that Abram was not justified by works, or he would have had something to boast about (v. 2). Rather, he quotes Genesis 15:6. Abram knew the blessing of credited righteousness by faith. This righteousness was unearned. It came as a gift to Abram through faith (vv. 4–5).
Second, Paul quotes Psalm 32:1–2 to show that even the great King David anticipated the blessing of a covering for sin and that God will not count sins against the guilty.
Abram has a credited righteousness, while David’s sins are not imputed to David himself. So justification is not new; the experiences of Abraham and David confirm it.
Is this justification for Jews only? This is Paul’s next question. His response is “No”, because when Abram received the blessing (Genesis 15), he was uncircumcised. It was not until 14 years later that his circumcision took place (Genesis 17). Circumcision did not confer the blessing on Abraham; it was the sign and seal (v. 11) of the blessing of credited righteousness. So circumcision does not establish our lineage to Abraham. Ours is a spiritual lineage, faith being the common link. Abraham is the father of those who believe God and so “follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had” (v. 12).
The law did not confer the blessing on Abraham, either (vv. 13–15). Righteousness was credited to him well before the law was given. The law brings only wrath because it accuses us, and we cannot keep it. Abraham’s righteousness was by grace through faith, not by circumcision nor by law-keeping. Consequently, he is the father of all believers in God’s promise, the gospel.
As we shall see in verses 16 to 25, God’s method of salvation has never changed. Faith focused on God’s gospel is always to be the controlling factor of our lives. Abraham is our father in this, because for him, as for us, God spoke and man believed. Here is God and man in a right relationship.
The Jews believed that having the law and being circumcised were safe shelters against God’s displeasure. In what ways do we substitute things for the only safe shelter we have for salvation, namely, Jesus?