Romans 4:10-17
Rom 4:10 (KJV)
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

Next Paul asks a very important question. How then was righteousness reckoned to Abraham? When he was circumcised or before that? The question really equates to, “when was Abraham justified?” Here is a great principle. Faith or salvation had been given to Abraham before he was circumcised. This reveals plainly that circumcision has nothing to do with salvation. Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldees and his belief in God was previous to him being circumcised. Paul wanted the Jews to know this so they would not place their trust in their circumcision. He also is telling them that circumcision is not a requirement for salvation since that is a work and works do not lead a person to Heaven. Justification comes through grace without the works of the law.

Rom 4:11 (KJV)
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Abraham received the sign of circumcision which was the sign of the covenant which God was going to make with the physical descendants of Abraham. The sign of circumcision was not a sign of the grace of God because God spoke of a spiritual circumcision of the heart which would accompany salvation. For Abraham, circumcision was the outward sign of what happened to him about 14 years earlier. It is like water baptism with the Christian. Water baptism is an outward sign of what has happened to the believer on the inside. Abraham was considered the father of all the faithful who would believe down through the ages. The Jews had mistakenly believed that Abraham was their spiritual father by means of circumcision, when in essence, Abraham, when he was justified by God without circumcision, was in total opposition to justification by circumcision. It would be like believing that people become saved through water baptism. Abraham is the model that God uses when He teaches in this verse that even though there will be millions of believers through the ages, the vast majority will not be circumcised but that fact does not withhold God from imputing righteousness to His Elect. Effectual imputation of righteousness will come on God’s Elect no matter whether they are circumcised or not.

Rom 4:12 (KJV)
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Abraham is the type that God uses to show that he is the father of circumcision even to those who are not of physical Israel. Abraham was both the father of the physical nation of Israel and the father of the spiritual nation of Israel which is the body of believers. Paul continually drives home the point that Abraham was justified and saved even before he received the sign of circumcision. This is what Paul is trying to get these Jews to understand that circumcision is only a sign and reliance on signs is a dangerous practice. It is like those churches who rely on water baptism as a requirement for salvation. Water baptism is also only a sign.

Rom 4:13 (KJV)
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

Paul now goes on to say that Abraham was going to be heir of the world, not through the law, but through faith. Abraham was justified and saved 600 years before the law came into existence at Sinai. This shows that grace salvation has nothing whatsoever to do with keeping the law of God. The seed that Abraham would bring forth in his family line was not only the Lord Jesus Christ but the seed which is the true believers who would follow. Abraham would be heir of the world in two ways. First, the Gospel would go forth throughout all the world and people would become saved in every country. Secondly, the world that Abraham would be heir of would be the new Earth which would be the eternal abode for all the true believers of God. This is why the physical nation of Israel would not be the ones who would be the heir of the world because they were trying to keep the law and to attain, through the law, what could only be attained through Grace. The Israel that God is dealing with today, is the worldwide Israel of God known as the body of believers or the Elect.

Rom 4:14 (KJV)
For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

Now Paul sets up a conflicting scenario. If those who are attempting to keep the law are the heirs of the world, then the true Gospel, which is by faith, is made of no effect. The promise to Abraham would also be of no effect, simply because he did not have the law yet. The law of faith would then be made void in contrast to the law of works which could affect salvation. Law and Grace are contradictory to one another. Then the promise would be non-existent to all future believers and only those who are circumcised would have a chance to get to Heaven to the exclusion of the vast majority of the peoples of the Earth. One can be saved while in circumcision but if one is not circumcised, and circumcision is a requirement of the law for salvation, then the uncircumcised person has no chance of salvation.

Rom 4:15 (KJV)
Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

The law actually brings out the wrath of God. The law was given that it might intensify the reality that man is a very sinful person. It brings out the actuality of the sinfulness of man. If there was no law given, then man would have no transgression since there would be no law. It is like the traffic laws, if there were no posted speed limits, then a person doing 25 mph or 100 mph would both be legal and could not face charges for speeding or driving to slow. The law of God cannot justify sinners unto salvation, instead it shows that we need a Savior to bring us salvation, since the law only reveals us going from sin to sin. The breaking of the law of God represents eternal death. Basically, if the law did not come, then man would not know how sinful they are and in such a pitiful condition before a holy God.

Rom 4:16 (KJV)
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Paul now sums up what was said previously, that since the law works wrath and not salvation, therefore salvation comes by grace. That grace will be given to all of Abraham’s spiritual seed which is the body of believers. That promise will not only be effective for those Elect who are of the house of national Israel but to all believers worldwide, no matter what their nationality is or their prior religion. It is grace that makes the promise sure. The word “sure” carries with it the meaning of “constant, firm, or secure.” The law could never accomplish in a person’s life what grace has. Paul includes the statement that Abraham is the father of us all which includes those of national Israel as the physical descendants but Paul continues to teach that the physical descendants, if they rely on their circumcision and their relationship to Abraham through circumcision, they will never attain to salvation. Abraham is the spiritual father to every true believer down through the ages and in whatever country they become saved.

Rom 4:17 (KJV)
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Paul once again refers to Scripture concerning the Abrahamic Covenant
(Gen 17:5 KJV) Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. This verse leads into the fact that God had already told Abraham that He has “made him” a father of many nations. At that point, Abraham was 100 years old and still had no son to carry on the line. Abraham’s body was well past seed production but we are told that God quickens, or makes alive. God had rejuvenated Abraham’s and Sarah’s body for the purpose of bringing forth the son who would carry on the messianic line. A great promise that God calls those things which are not as though they are. Before Abraham had the child, God already told him he would be the father of many nations, which means God had already declared, even though Isaac was not born yet, that Abraham would have a son, even in his old age. We read many promises like that in Scripture. The New Heavens and the New Earth are not here yet, but God already declared that they will be. Those things that God has promised and declared which are not here yet, will be here in His timing. It also teaches us that God is a miracle working God and is not hindered by physical circumstances.