Many descendants (Rom 4:18)

“Hoping against hope,

Abraham believed

That he would become

The father of many nations.

According to what was said.

‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’”

ὃς παρ’ ἐλπίδα ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ἐπίστευσεν εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι αὐτὸν πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον Οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου·

Paul said that hoping against hope (ὃς παρ’ ἐλπίδα ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι), Abraham believed (ἐπίστευσεν) that he would become (εἰς τὸ γενέσθαι) the father of many nations (αὐτὸν πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν).  According to what was said (κατὰ τὸ εἰρημένον), “So numerous shall your descendants be (Οὕτως ἔσται τὸ σπέρμα σου).”  Paul used Genesis, chapter 15:5, to back up his argument.  Yahweh had told Abraham to look toward heaven, and count the stars, if he was able to count them.  Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”  Abraham believed Yahweh, so that he reckoned him as righteousness. This was the calling of Abram.  Yahweh appeared in a vision to him and told him not to be afraid because Yahweh would be his shield.  Abraham said that he was sterile and the inheritor of his estate was to be his household slave, Eliezer of Damascus.  Yahweh said that Abraham would have his own heir and that his descendants would be like the stars in the heaven.  Thus, Abraham believed that hoping against hope, he would become the father of many nations.  Paul knew the story of Abraham very well.  Do you know the biblical story about Abraham?

God controls life (Rom 4:17)

“As it is written.

‘I have made you

The father of many nations.’

This took place

In the presence

Of the God

In whom he believed,

Who gives life

To the dead.

God calls

Into existence

The things that do not exist.”

καθὼς γέγραπται ὅτι Πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν τέθεικά σε, κατέναντι οὗ ἐπίστευσεν Θεοῦ τοῦ ζωοποιοῦντος τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ καλοῦντος τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα·

Paul said that as it is written (καθὼς γέγραπται), “I have made you (τέθεικά σε) the father of many nations (ὅτι Πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν).”  This took place in the presence (κατέναντι) of the God (Θεοῦ) in whom he believed (οὗ ἐπίστευσεν), who gives life (τοῦ ζωοποιοῦντος) to the dead (τοὺς νεκροὺς). This God Yahweh calls (καὶ καλοῦντος) into existence the things that do not exist (τὰ μὴ ὄντα ὡς ὄντα).  This was based on Genesis, chapter 17:5, that said that Abraham fell on his face.  And God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you.  You shall be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham.  I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful.  I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.  I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.  I will give to you and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting perpetual possession.  I will be their God.”  Abraham fell on his face, and God told him that he would be the father of a multitude of nations.  No longer would his name be Abram, but Abraham “exalted ancestor” or “father of many”.  Throughout generations there will be an everlasting covenant.  Abraham will get the land of Canaan as a perpetual holding.  Paul pointed out that the God of Abraham was a creative God who brought everything into existence.  Abraham was not just a Jewish Patriarch, but he was now the father or ancestor of all people under a creative God.

Abraham is the father of all (Rom 4:16)

“This is the reason

That it depends on faith.


The promise

May rest on grace

And be guaranteed

To all his descendants,

Not only to the adherents

Of the law

But also to those

Who share

The faith of Abraham,

Who is the father of all of us.”

Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως, ἵνα κατὰ χάριν, εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι, οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ, ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν,

Paul said that the reason that it depends on faith (Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως) is that the promise (τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) may rest on grace (ἵνα κατὰ χάριν) and be guaranteed (εἰς τὸ εἶναι βεβαίαν) to all his descendants (παντὶ τῷ σπέρματι), not only to the adherents of the law (οὐ τῷ ἐκ τοῦ νόμου μόνον) but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (ἀλλὰ καὶ τῷ ἐκ πίστεως Ἀβραάμ), since he is the father of all of us (ὅς ἐστιν πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν).  Paul reiterated that faith was more important than anything else.  The promise of God rests on grace, but it is guaranteed to all the descendants of Abraham, not merely to those who follow the law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, because he is the father of all people.  Following the Mosaic law was not as important as faith.  Do you believe that faith is more important than following the law?

Law and transgression (Rom 4:15)

“The law brings wrath.

But where there is no law

Neither is there a violation.”

ὁ γὰρ νόμος ὀργὴν κατεργάζεται· οὗ δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος, οὐδὲ παράβασις.

Paul said that the law (ὁ γὰρ νόμος) brings wrath (ὀργὴν κατεργάζεται).  But where there is no law (οὗ δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος), neither is there a violation or transgression (οὐδὲ παράβασις).  Only the Pauline letters used this word παράβασις, that means going aside, a transgression, overstepping, or deviation.  Paul insisted that the law of Moses brought the wrath of God.  However, it there was no law, then there would be no breaking of the law or no deviations or transgressions from the law.  Would you like to live in a world without laws?

Is faith useless? (Rom 4:14)

“If the adherents

Of the law

Are to be the heirs,

Then faith is null

And the promise

Is void.”

εἰ γὰρ οἱ ἐκ νόμου κληρονόμοι, κεκένωται ἡ πίστις καὶ κατήργηται ἡ ἐπαγγελία·

Paul said that if the adherents of the law (εἰ γὰρ οἱ ἐκ νόμου) are to be the heirs (κληρονόμοι), then faith (ἡ πίστις) is null or empty (κεκένωται) and the promise (ἡ ἐπαγγελία) is void or has no effect (καὶ κατήργηται).  Only the Pauline letters used this word κεκένωται, that means empty, deprived of content, or unreal.  Paul said that if the followers of the Mosaic law were to be the heirs to the promise of God about the world and righteousness, then their faith was null and void, empty or unreal.  The promise of Yahweh God is then void and has no effect.  It is not the law of Moses that brings righteousness and the promise of God.  It is the faith of those who believe in God that are the true inheritors of God’s promise.  Do you believe in the value of faith?

Inheritance through faith (Rom 4:13)

“The promise

To Abraham

And his descendants,

That they would

Inherit the world,

Did not come

Through the law

But through

The righteousness of faith.”

Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, τὸ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου, ἀλλὰ διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως.

Paul said that the promise to Abraham (ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῷ Ἀβραὰμ) and his descendants (ἢ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ), that they would inherit the world (τὸ κληρονόμον αὐτὸν εἶναι κόσμου), did not come through the law (Οὐ γὰρ διὰ νόμου) but through the righteousness of faith (ἀλλὰ διὰ δικαιοσύνης πίστεως).  Paul indicated that any promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants to inherit the world, did not come from the later law of Moses but through the righteousness of their faith.  Circumcision and the law did not make them righteousness, because that could only come from faith, but it certified that they had faith in God.  Do you believe in God?

Faith before circumcision (Rom 4:12)



Is the ancestor

Of the circumcised

Who are not only the circumcised,

But all who also follow

The example of the faith

That our ancestor

Abraham had

Before he was circumcised.”

καὶ πατέρα περιτομῆς τοῖς οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ.

Paul said that likewise, the ancestor of the circumcised (καὶ πατέρα περιτομῆς) who are not only the circumcised (τοῖς οὐκ ἐκ περιτομῆς μόνον), but all who also follow the example or walking in the steps (καὶ τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν) of the faith (πίστεως) that our ancestor Abraham (τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ) had before he was circumcised (τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ).  Paul said that Abraham, who believed before he was circumcised, is the example of faith for those who were circumcised because they should follow his example.  Circumcision did not cause Abraham to believe in God, but it certified or sealed that faith that preceded circumcision.  How has your faith been sealed or certified?

Circumcision as a seal of faith (Rom 4:11)

“Abraham received

The sign of circumcision

As a seal

Of the righteousness

That he had by faith,

While he was still uncircumcised.

The purpose

Was to make him

The ancestor

Of all who believe

Without being circumcised.

They have righteousness

Reckoned to them.”

καὶ σημεῖον ἔλαβεν περιτομῆς σφραγῖδα τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῆς πίστεως τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πατέρα πάντων τῶν πιστευόντων δι’ ἀκροβυστίας, εἰς τὸ λογισθῆναι αὐτοῖς τὴν δικαιοσύνην,

Paul said that Abraham received (ἔλαβεν) the sign (καὶ σημεῖον) of circumcision (περιτομῆς) as a seal (σφραγῖδα) of the righteousness (τῆς δικαιοσύνης) that he had by faith (τῆς πίστεως), while he was still uncircumcised (τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀκροβυστίᾳ).  The purpose was to make him (εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν) the ancestor of all (πατέρα πάντων) who believed (τῶν πιστευόντων) without being circumcised (δι’ ἀκροβυστίας).  They have righteousness (τὴν δικαιοσύνην) reckoned to them (εἰς τὸ λογισθῆναι αὐτοῖς).  Paul explained that Abraham received the sign of circumcision as a seal of his righteousness that had come from faith, while he was still not circumcised.  Thus, he became the ancestor of all the uncircumcised people who believe and are thus righteous themselves.  In other words, circumcision was a seal of what had already taken place via faith.  Abraham had faith in God, Yahweh, before he was circumcised.  Thus, he is the father or ancestor of all who believe in God, circumcised or not.  This word seal or σφραγίς will be used by the early Christians in conjunction with initiation baptism as the seal of the Spirit, what later Christians would call confirmation, replacing the concept of circumcision.  Have you been sealed with the Spirit?

How was Abraham righteous? (Rom 4:10)

“How then was it

Reckoned to Abraham?

Was it before

Or after

He had been circumcised?

It was not after,

But before

He was circumcised.”

πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη; ἐν περιτομῇ ὄντι ἢ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ; οὐκ ἐν περιτομῇ ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ·

Paul asked another of his rhetorical questions with his own answers.  “How then was it reckoned or credited (πῶς οὖν ἐλογίσθη) to Abraham?  Was it in his circumcision (ἐν περιτομῇ ὄντι) or as uncircumcised (ἢ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ)?”  Paul’s answer was that it was not after the circumcision (οὐκ ἐν περιτομῇ), but before he was circumcised in the foreskin uncircumcised state (ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ).  Paul was clear.  Abraham was reckoned or credited with faith while he was still uncircumcised.  In other words, the circumcision did not give him faith.  He had faith while he was still in an uncircumcised state.  How important do you think that circumcision is?

Blessings for the circumcised and uncircumcised (Rom 4:9)

“Is this blessing

Pronounced only

On the circumcised,

Or also on the uncircumcised?

We say.

‘Faith was reckoned

To Abraham

As righteousness.”

ὁ μακαρισμὸς οὖν οὗτος ἐπὶ τὴν περιτομὴν ἢ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκροβυστίαν; λέγομεν γάρ Ἐλογίσθη τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην.

In his usual manner, Paul then asked a question and then answered it himself.  “Is this blessing (ὁ μακαρισμὸς οὖν οὗτος) pronounced only on the circumcised (ἐπὶ τὴν περιτομὴν), or also on the uncircumcised (ἢ καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἀκροβυστίαν)?  His response (λέγομεν γάρ) was that faith (ἡ πίστις) was reckoned or credited (Ἐλογίσθη) to Abraham (τῷ Ἀβραὰμ) as righteousness (εἰς δικαιοσύνην).  There was no doubt about that.  Without explicitly answering this question, Paul reiterated that Abraham was considered righteous because of this faith, not his deeds or actions.  He had faith before he was circumcised and faith after he was circumcised.  How is faith related to circumcision?