Romans 4:1-9

Rom 4:1 (KJV)
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

Now Paul goes way back to Abraham in giving the proof that the doctrine of Justification was not something peculiar to this particular time and that justification by God alone was the only way that one could be saved. God justified His children as far back as the first one to become saved but Paul brings up Abraham. He speaks of Abraham in terms of the flesh because Israel was a physical descendant of Abraham while spiritual Israel was and is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. The phrase “pertaining to the flesh” could also refer to Abraham believing God on his own without inward spiritual regeneration as Paul would be using this for illustrative purposes only. Abraham was circumcised at the age of 90 and Paul may be bringing up the fact of the flesh as he builds the contrast in Abraham’s life concerning Law and Grace. The Jews held tenaciously to the fact that they were Abraham’s descendants and now Paul wanted to bring Abraham up, which would go right to the heart of their prideful belief system, especially since they believed their circumcision was their ticket to exclusivity with God.

Rom 4:2 (KJV)
For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

If Abraham was justified by works, then he would have the right to boast in that glory. Paul was trying to get the Jews to understand that circumcision was a work and if they were justified in their works, then they too would be boasting. The problem is that they can boast to each other but they have no standing before God to boast about any of their works, even beyond circumcision. The reason is that Paul had already explained to them that no one can be justified by any works. Circumcision was about 600 years before the law came. So if Abraham was not justified by circumcision outside the law, then no one could be justified by circumcision within the law. The principle stands the same, works are works.

Rom 4:3 (KJV)
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Remember in the three temptations of our Lord by Satan how He quoted Scripture in His responses to the Devil? Here Paul uses the same approach. He is letting the Scriptures do the talking since it is the Scriptures that can convict a person. He quotes from Genesis 15:6 which the Jews would have been familiar with.
(Gen 15:6 KJV) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. The Scripture teaches that Abraham believed in the Lord. In the above Romans verse, we read that “Abraham believed God.” Believing in the Lord always includes believing the Lord. At the time that Abraham believed God, he was already a believer who was indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It is only a true believer who is able to believe God and have righteousness imputed to them. The efficacy of the cross was already in effect when Abraham became a believer. Abraham was one of the Elect of God and was one of the earliest Gentiles in the Bible saved.

Rom 4:4 (KJV)
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

If a person is able to work for their salvation, then that salvation is not grace but rather is a debt. When a person works for a paycheck, the company owes them that money for the work they performed for it. Once that person receives their pay, then the company no longer owes them anything. Then next week when they start working, the company owes them for their work again. A principle arises here, how much works and what kind of works will get you into heaven? The answer is that no works will get a person into Heaven. Grace is unmerited favor and debt is payment for something you do. Works will yield the payment of eternal damnation.

Rom 4:5 (KJV)
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Paul now brings up justification through grace. Those under grace do not keep the law for salvation. The law has already been kept for them by Christ and is imputed to them. It says here that through Grace, God will justify the ungodly, that is, those who are His Elect. Every person prior to salvation is ungodly. The word “ungodly” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “impious or wicked.” By salvation, God takes the wicked and turns them into His children who are justified by Grace. Then when God gives them the ability to have faith (remember people are spiritually dead before salvation and unable to generate faith from themselves) it is counted as righteousness, but not the faith itself, it is the object of the faith, which is God. A person may have faith that their car will make it another 10,000 miles but that faith does not save. That is visible faith. True Christians believe God whom we cannot see and that is righteous faith through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Rom 4:6 (KJV)
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

In Psalm 32, David describes how happy a person is that God does not impute sin to. In fact, the man is twice blessed as he has righteousness imputed to him. It is a double blessing to have sins removed and righteousness implanted in its place. It is a total cleansing of the soul. Works can never cleanse the soul of its sin. Simply because works are physical and the soul is spiritual. Therefore, a spiritual cleansing is what is needed. Works may pacify the flesh but will never remove the sin and guilt from the soul. David has a trilogy of sorrow in Psalms 32, 38, and 51. When Nathan came to him and told him of his sin with Bathsheba, Nathan told him that God had already put away his sin, even though there were still physical consequences he had to face for those sins.
(2 Sam 12:13 KJV) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. The imputing of righteousness without works is the imputation of Grace to a person who is the Elect of God.

Rom 4:7 (KJV)
Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

(Psa 32:1 KJV) Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Paul takes another quote from the Hebrew Scriptures and teaches them that even in David’s time, there was the imputation of Grace and Justification to God’s Elect, even without keeping the law. Remember, Nathan told David his sin was removed. Prior to this, David did not make any type of sin offering according to the law to receive that forgiveness. He received that forgiveness because he was a child of God and all his sins were paid for by Christ at Calvary, even though the cross was still a thousand years in the future. This could happen because, in principle, Christ was already slain before the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8 KJV) And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. This goes back to the verse which speaks of the forbearance of God as He waited according to His timetable for the time when Christ would complete His salvation plan which would seal all the Elect from all periods of history and the future.

Rom 4:8 (KJV)
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Here is another great salvation verse. When God saves a person, He completely removes all their sin, which means both past and present, and will never lay that sin on the Elect.
(Psa 103:12 KJV) As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. When Christ went to the cross, all our sins were in the future. When we were born, we came into time, which means we began to sin those sins which Christ had already paid for two thousand years ago. So if Christ has already paid for the sins of His Elect in total, then what sin can God impute to a soul that has been redeemed and fully cleansed by His Son? Not one, that is why the person is blessed to whom God imputes no sin. I wish those who believe they can lose their salvation would consider that question. Now the unbeliever has sin imputed to them every hour they are alive. They are not blessed no matter how much of this world’s goods they have.

Rom 4:9 (KJV)
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

Now Paul asks another question concerning this blessedness. Does this blessedness only come on the Jews, the circumcision, or does it come to the uncircumcision also? The answer is both, because David is mentioned and he was an Israelite. Then Abraham is mentioned and he was a Gentile from Mesopotamia. Abraham’s circumcision was before the law was given. David’s was done in the confines of obedience to the law. So within the confines of this discourse, God is showing that His salvation plan is not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles. This verse teaches that salvation comes by faith and not by circumcision, and that faith was counted for righteousness. When Paul was writing this letter, many Gentiles were already being saved without the keeping of the law. When the Lord saved me I had no idea what the law was, in fact, it was only after I was saved that I came to know what the law of God was and how I was unable to keep it.