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  • After dealing in Rom. 3 with the objective, positional justification accomplished by the death of Christ, Paul in this chapter shows the subjective, dispositional justification carried out by the resurrection of Christ. He uses Abraham as the example to show that adequate, living justification is God's deeper work in calling fallen people out of everything other than God and bringing them back to Himself, so that they place their full trust in Him rather than in themselves. In Gen. 15 Abraham's being justified by God was not related to sin; rather, it was for the gaining of a seed to produce a kingdom that will inherit the world (v. 13). Likewise, this chapter indicates that justification is not merely for man to be delivered out of God's condemnation, but even more for God to gain many sons (Rom. 8:29-30) to constitute the one Body of Christ (Rom. 12) as the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17) for the fulfillment of His purpose. The objective, positional justification covered in Rom. 3 is related to redemption, through which man may be reconciled to God; the subjective, dispositional justification covered in Rom. 4 is related to life, through which men may become heirs for the fulfillment of God's purpose. This requires that man's flesh and his natural ability be cut off, circumcised.

  • Abraham is the forefather of all believers, of both the uncircumcision who have the same faith and the circumcision who walk in the steps of the same faith.

  • This refers to Abraham's doing something for God by himself, as seen in his attempts to have God accept the fruit of his efforts (first Lot, then Eliezer, then Ishmael, who was born through Hagar) as God's promised seed. The result of Abraham's being justified, however, was that he eventually stopped his own work for God. This was signified by circumcision (v. 11), which is the cutting off of the flesh. Hence, circumcision became God's constant reminder to Abraham to stop his own doing and live by faith in God. Justification has nothing to do with the works and accomplishments of the flesh.

  • Believing God was Abraham's spontaneous reaction to God's repeated appearing to him. God appeared to Abraham a number of times (Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:1-7; Gen. 18; Acts 7:2), each time transfusing something of His glory, something of Himself, into Abraham. Hence, Abraham's believing was actually the springing up within him of the very element that God had transfused into him. God's reaction to Abraham's believing was to justify him, that is, to account him righteous. This accounting was not out of works but was based on his believing God.

  • The natural man always works for God in order to receive compensation (wages). With the natural man there is no grace, faith, or enjoyment (see Exo. 12:45).

  • God's justification is not a reward (wages) for our good works (labor); it is grace freely given to us through Christ's redemption. If God's justification were based on our good works, or if it required our good works, then it would be the wages we earn for our good works; that is, it would be something owed to us, not something freely given by God. Since God's justification is reckoned according to His grace, it is no longer out of works; otherwise, grace is no longer grace (Rom. 11:6). Our works can by no means replace God's grace; God's grace must be absolute.

  • Circumcision was not the reason that Abraham was justified; rather, it was the outward sign and confirmation that God had already justified him. It denoted the cutting off of the natural strength by which he had produced Ishmael in his effort to please God. Abraham was already justified before he was circumcised, and God had already confirmed His covenant with him in Gen. 15. Circumcision was to confirm the covenant from Abraham's side, to serve as a constant reminder to him that he should no longer use his natural strength and energy to please God.

  • The Greek word means to walk in a regulated, definite way (see note Gal. 5:252a and note Phil. 3:164a). Here it refers to walking in the steps by observing the elements of the faith. If one walks in the steps of Abraham's faith, Abraham becomes the father of circumcision to him, and this one enters into a life in which he does not trust in himself but in God, with the result that he is justified subjectively and thus becomes His genuine heir.

  • Justification is for God's chosen ones to inherit the world that they may exercise God's dominion on earth (Gen. 1:26).

  • The law was God's temporary economy (dispensation) for man in the Old Testament, since it was added temporarily because of man's transgressions (Gal. 3:19); the faith is God's eternal economy (dispensation) for man in the New Testament, because it is based on God's eternal plan (cf. note 1 Tim. 1:44e). In the Old Testament God dealt with man according to the law. If, according to that dispensation of God, man would have done what God commanded in the law, he would have obtained righteousness, that is, the righteousness of the law (Rom. 9:31), the righteousness which is out of the law (Rom. 10:5; Phil. 3:9). In the New Testament God deals with man according to the faith. If, according to this dispensation of God, man believes in Christ, the One in whom God has ordained that man should believe (1 John 3:23), he will obtain righteousness, that is, the righteousness of faith (v. 11), the righteousness which is out of faith (Rom. 9:30; 10:6). The faith, which is ordained by God in the New Testament economy and which replaces the law of the Old Testament, did not come until the New Testament time (Gal. 3:23, 25). This faith, which replaces the law, is objective to us. When according to this objective faith we believe subjectively in Christ, in whom God intended that we believe, we receive the righteousness of faith. This righteousness is the Christ whom we possess — whom we receive by our subjective believing according to the objective faith ordained by God — as God's righteousness received by us (1 Cor. 1:30).

  • As the father of all those called by God, Abraham was the first of a new race chosen by God. We were born into the fallen Adamic race, but we have been reborn into the called-out Abrahamic race. Whoever is of faith, as Abraham was, is a member of this new race and a son of Abraham (Gal. 3:7).

  • Abraham believed God regarding two things:
    1) the birth of Isaac, which is related to the God who "calls the things not being as being," and
    2) the offering up and the gaining back of Isaac, which is related to the God who "gives life to the dead."
    Abraham believed such a God and applied Him to his situation. Because Abraham had such faith, he believed God's seemingly impossible word concerning the birth of Isaac, and he also immediately obeyed God's commandment to offer Isaac, believing that God would raise him from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19).

  • This is God's great power of resurrection. This great power enables us to eliminate death and overcome all that belongs to death. Abraham experienced this great power of resurrection when he offered Isaac according to God's command.

  • This is God's mighty power of creation. As the creating God, He needs no material to work with; He can create something out of nothing simply by speaking: "For he spake, and it was done" (Psa. 33:9).

  • Lit., on. Abraham, as the example of one who is justified out of faith, lived by the things hoped for (see note Heb. 11:13b).

  • This indicates the termination of Abraham's natural strength. This termination is related to God's justifying him subjectively.

  • The faith that is accounted to us as righteousness is our believing on God, who righteously judged Christ for our sins, righteously put Him to death in our place, and righteously raised Him from the dead.

  • The death of Christ has fulfilled and fully satisfied God's righteous requirements; hence, we are justified by God through His death (Rom. 3:24). His resurrection proves that God's requirements were satisfied by His death for us, that we are justified by God because of His death, and that in Him, the resurrected One, we are accepted before God. Furthermore, as the resurrected One, He is in us to live for us a life that can be justified by God and is always acceptable to God.

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