For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Note 3 at Ro 4:3: Paul was showing an inspired revelation of the Old Testament scriptures. All devout Jews knew the story of Abraham, but they had missed this simple truth that Paul brought out. In Ge 15:6, the Scriptures clearly say that Abraham believed God and God counted Abraham's faith for righteousness. It can't get any clearer than that. Later in this same chapter, Paul referred to the interval of time (over thirteen years) between when the Scriptures state Abraham was counted righteous and the time when he was circumcised, as further proof that Abraham's righteousness was given to him before he performed the righteous acts of the Law (see note 3 at Ro 4:10).
Note 4 at Ro 4:3: Paul had just made a series of radical statements (see note 4 at Ro 3:19 and note 1 at Ro 3:21) that were hard for these Jews to swallow. Here he went back to Old Testament scripture and the founder of the Jewish nation to prove his assertions. He skillfully used the very scriptures they had misunderstood to verify his Gospel of grace. He also quoted David to draw on two of the most revered men of the Old Testament as examples of salvation by grace through faith.
Note 5 at Ro 4:3: Heb 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him." It was Abraham's faith that pleased God. The Lord promised Abraham that his seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, and Abraham believed God. That pleased God so much that He counted Abraham righteous right then, even though Abraham had not yet fulfilled the rite of circumcision and was not living such a holy life.
According to Le 18:9, it was an abomination (Le 18:26) for a man to marry a half sister. Sarah, Abraham's wife, was his half sister (Ge 20:12). Therefore, Abraham's marriage to Sarah was not what pleased God. Abraham had already lied about Sarah being his wife so that he could save his own neck. He was willing to let a man commit adultery with his wife with no objections from him. Immediately after this instance where the Lord counted Abraham's faith for righteousness (Ge 15:6), Abraham tried to accomplish God's will in the flesh with Hagar (Ge 16) and then repeated this terrible sin with Sarah again (Ge 20).
Anyone who really looked at the life of Abraham and the favor that he found with God would have to conclude that it was Abraham's faith that pleased God. It's the same with any of us. The only thing that we can do to please God is put faith in Jesus as our Savior.
Note 6 at Ro 4:3: The Greek word that was translated "counted" in this verse is "LOGIZOMAI," and it means "to take an inventory, i.e. estimate" (Strong's Concordance). It is an accounting term that means "to enter in the account book" ("Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament" by Fritz Rienecker). This same word is used eleven times in this chapter. It was translated "counted" twice (Ro 4:3 and 5), "impute" once (Ro 4:8), "imputed" four times (Ro 4:11 and 22-24), "imputeth" once (Ro 4:6), and "reckoned" three times (Ro 4:4 and 9-10). By comparing the different ways this same Greek word was translated into English, it becomes very easy to discern an accurate meaning for it.
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