Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

The Faith of Abraham
Romans 4:9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. (NKJV)






The Apostle Paul wrote the letter of Romans to the church in Rome while in Corinth, Greece for three months in A.D. late 56-early 57.  The letter was written to both Jew and Gentile (non-Jew) believers.

Proper interpretation requires interpreting the meaning of the verse in the context of the passage, the book of the Bible and the Bible itself. In the previous passage, Paul wrote of the blessing of imputed righteousness, and Paul continues that theme in this passage.

Verse 3 of this chapter says "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:6). This is a theological term called "imputed righteousness", where God puts righteousness upon us even when we are not righteous. When we become a Christian, God sees us as righteous, even though we are not.

In this passage, Paul answers two follow up questions about this imputed righteousness. The first question he asks is “Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.” (v. 9).

In other words, since Abraham, who was circumcised like Jews, was the first to receive God’s imputed righteousness is righteousness imputed only upon the circumcised, the Jews, or also upon the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. Paul answers this question with another question.

He asks “How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.” (v. 10). Abraham received imputed righteousness (Genesis 15:6) before he was circumcised (Genesis 17:24). Therefore. the fact that he was later circumcised had nothing to do with his receiving God’s righteousness.

Circumcision was merely a symbol that Abraham had already received righteousness. Paul wrote “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith” (v. 11a).

Abraham was the founder of the Hebrew nation. He was a Hebrew, not a Jew. Jews were named that later, as descendants of the tribe of Judah.

Abraham received righteousness “while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,” (v. 11b). He is “the father of all those who believe” in the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile.

God’s righteousness is imputed upon all who believe in Him. Abraham is “the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.” (v. 12). He is the father of all who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

“For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (v. 13). The Mosaic Law was given to Moses some 430 years later (Gal. 3:17).

So righteousness is not imputed upon us for obeying the Law, the Scriptures, which came much later. We do not receive righteousness by our good works. We receive it by our “faith” in Jesus Christ.

“For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,” (v. 14). In other words, if righteousness is received by obeying the Law, “faith is made void” and God’s “promise” of righteousness would have “no effect”. Mankind has proven that they are incapable of obeying all of God’s Law, so they could never earn righteousness through obedience.

So, the Law does not bring righteousness. Instead, it “brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” (v. 15). The Law defines sin and when we transgress, break, the Law, it brings the wrath of God.

This wrath is only avoided by becoming a Christian. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we accept His payment, on the cross, of the penalty for our transgressions.

In conclusion, imputed righteousness “is of faith that it might be according to grace,” (v. 16a). God’s righteousness is imputed upon us by our faith in Jesus through the grace of God.

This is “so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” (v. 16b).

The “promise” of God’s righteousness is for all people “who are of the faith of Abraham.” God’s imputed righteousness is for all who, like Abraham, put their faith in the Lord.