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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

Romans Chapter 4

Romans 4:1

rom 4:1

What shall we say? (τι ἐροῦμεν)

See Rom 4:1; Rom 6:1; Rom 7:7; Rom 8:31; Rom 9:14, Rom 9:30. The phrase anticipates an objection or proposes an inference. It is used by Paul only, and by him only in this Epistle and in its argumentative portions. It is not found in the last five chapters, which are hortatory.

Our Father

The best texts read προπάτορα forefather.

Hath found

Westcott and Hort omit. Then the reading would be "what shall we say of Abraham," etc. Found signifies, attained by his own efforts apart from grace.

As pertaining to the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα)

Construe with found. The question is, Was Abraham justified by anything which pertained to the flesh? Some construe with Abraham: our father humanly speaking.

Romans 4:2

rom 4:2


Supply, Abraham found nothing according to the flesh; for, if he did, he has something to boast of.

By works (ἐξ ἔργων)

Lit., out of works. In speaking of the relation of works to justification, Paul never uses διά by or through, but ἐκ out of; works being regarded by the Jew as the meritorious source of salvation.

Romans 4:3

rom 4:3

The Scripture (ἡ γραφὴ)

The scripture passage. See on Joh 2:22; and footnote on Joh 5:47.

It was counted for righteousness (ἐλογίσθη εἰς δικαιοσύνην)

For the phrase λογίζεσθαι εἰς to reckon unto, compare Rom 2:26; Rom 9:8, where εἰς is rendered for. The verb is also used with ὡς as. So Rom 8:36; Co1 4:1. So in Sept., εἰς, Psa 56:1-13 :31; Isa 29:17; Isa 32:15; Isa 40:17 : ὡς. Gen 31:15; Job 41:20; Psa 44:22; Isa 5:28; Isa 29:16. The phrases ἐλογίσθη εἰς and ἐλ. ὡς are thus shown to be substantially equivalent. See further on Rom 4:5.

Romans 4:4

rom 4:4

The reward (ὁ μισθὸς)

See on Pe2 2:13.

Not of grace but of debt (οὐ κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα)

Lit., according to grace, etc. Not grace but debt is the regulative standard according to which his compensation is awarded. The workman for hire represents the legal method of salvation; he who does not work for hire, the gospel method; wages cannot be tendered as a gift. Grace is out of the question when wages is in question.

Romans 4:5

rom 4:5

Believeth on Him (πιστεύοντι ἐπὶ τὸν)

The verb πιστεύω to believe is used in the New Testament as follows:

1. Transitively, with the accusative and dative: to entrust something to one, Luk 16:11; Joh 2:24. In the passive, to be entrusted with something, Rom 3:2; Co1 9:17; Gal 2:7. With the simple accusative, to believe a thing, Joh 11:26; Jo1 4:16.

2. With the infinitive, Act 15:11.

3. With ὅτι that, Mat 9:28; Mar 11:24; Jam 2:19. Especially frequent in John: Joh 4:21; Joh 11:27, Joh 11:42; Joh 13:19; Joh 14:10, Joh 14:11; Joh 16:27, Joh 16:30, etc.

4. With the simple dative, meaning to believe a person or thing, that they are true or speak the truth, Joh 2:22; Joh 4:21; Joh 5:46. See on Joh 1:12; see on Joh 2:22, Joh 2:23; see on Joh 8:31; see on Joh 10:37.

5. With the preposition ἐν in. Not frequent, and questioned in some of the passages cited for illustration. In Joh 3:15, ἐν αὐτῷ in Him, is probably to be construed with have eternal life. The formula occurs nowhere else in John. In Mar 1:15 we find πιστεύετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ believe in the gospel. The kindred noun πίστις faith, occurs in this combination. Thus Gal 3:26, though some join in Christ Jesus with sons. See also Eph 1:15; Col 1:4; Ti1 3:13; Ti2 3:15; Rom 3:25. This preposition indicates the sphere in which faith moves, rather than the object to which it is directed, though instances occur in the Septuagint where it plainly indicates the direction of faith, Psa 78:22; Jer 12:6.

6. With the preposition ἐπί upon, on to, unto. a. With the accusative, Rom 4:5; Act 9:42; Act 11:17; Act 16:31; Act 22:19. The preposition carries the idea of mental direction with a view to resting upon, which latter idea is conveyed by the same preposition. b. With the dative, Ti1 1:16; Luk 24:25; compare Rom 9:33; Rom 10:11; Pe1 2:6. The dative expresses absolute superposition. Christ as the object of faith, is the basis on which faith rests.

7. With the preposition εἰς into, Mat 18:6; Joh 2:11; Act 19:4; Rom 10:14; Gal 2:16; Phi 1:29, etc. The preposition conveys the idea of the absolute transference of trust from one's self to another. Literally the phrase means to believe into. See on Joh 1:12; see on Joh 2:23; see on Joh 9:35; see on Joh 12:44.

Is counted for righteousness (λογίζεται εἰς δικαιοσύνην)

Rev., is reckoned. See on Rom 4:3. The preposition εἰς has the force of as, not the telic meaning with a view to, or in order that he may be (righteous); nor strictly, in the place of righteousness. Faith is not a substitute for righteousness, since righteousness is involved in faith. When a man is reckoned righteous through faith, it is not a legal fiction. He is not indeed a perfect man, but God does not reckon something which has no real existence. Faith is the germ of righteousness, of life in God. God recognizes no true life apart from holiness, and "he that believeth on the Son hath life." He is not merely regarded in the law's eye as living. God accepts the germ, not in place of the fruit, but as containing the fruit. "Abraham believed God.... No soul comes into such a relation of trust without having God's investment upon it; and whatever there may be in God's righteousness - love, truth, sacrifice - will be rightfully imputed or counted to be in it, because, being united to Him, it will have them coming over derivatively from Him" (Bushnell). The idea of logical sequence is inherent in λογίζεται is reckoned - the sequence of character upon faith. Where there is faith there is, logically, righteousness, and the righteousness is from faith unto faith (Rom 1:17). Nevertheless, in the highest development of the righteousness of faith, it will remain true that the man is justified, not by the works of righteousness, which are the fruit of faith, but by the faith which, in making him a partaker of the life and righteousness of God, generates and inspires the works.

Observe that the believer's own faith is reckoned as righteousness. "In no passage in Paul's writings or in other parts of the New Testament, where the phrase to reckon for or the verb to reckon alone is used, is there a declaration that anything belonging to one person is imputed, accounted, or reckoned to another, or a formal statement that Christ's righteousness is imputed to believers" (President Dwight, "Notes on Meyer").

Romans 4:6

rom 4:6

Describeth the blessedness (λέγει τὸν μακαρισμὸν)

Μακαρισμός does not mean blessedness, but the declaration of blessedness, the congratulation. So Plato: "The man of understanding will not suffer himself to be dazzled by the congratulation (μακαρισμοῦ) of the multitude ("Republic," ix., 591). Compare Gal 4:15 (Rev.), and see note there. Rev., correctly, pronounceth blessing.

Romans 4:7

rom 4:7

Iniquities (ἀνομίαι)

Lit., lawlessnesses.

Are forgiven (ἀφέθησαν)

Lit., were forgiven. See on Mat 6:12; see on Jam 5:15; see on Jo1 1:9. Also see on remission, Luk 3:3.

Romans 4:11

rom 4:11

The sign - a seal (σημεῖον - σφραγῖδα)

Sign refers to the material token; seal to its religious import. Compare Co1 9:2; Gen 17:11. See on to seal, Rev 22:10.

That he might be (εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν)

Not so that he became, but expressing the divinely appointed aim of his receiving the sign.

Romans 4:12

rom 4:12

Father of circumcision

Of circumcised persons. The abstract term is used for the concrete. See on Rom 11:7.

Who not only are - but who also walk

Apparently Paul speaks of two classes, but really of but one, designated by two different attributes. The awkwardness arises from the article τοῖς, erroneously repeated with στοιχοῦσιν walk, which latter word expresses an added characteristic, not another class. Paul means that Abraham received a seal, etc., that he might be the father of circumcision to those who not only are circumcised, but who add to this outward sign the faith which Abraham exhibited.

Walk (στοιχοῦσιν)

See on elements, Pe2 3:10.

Romans 4:13

rom 4:13

Heir of the world (κληρονόμον κόσμου)

See on divided by lot, Act 13:19; and see on inheritance, Pe1 1:4. "Paul here takes the Jewish conception of the universal dominion of the Messianic theocracy prefigured by the inheritance of Canaan, divests it of its Judaistic element, and raises it to a christological truth." Compare Mat 19:28, Mat 19:29; Luk 22:30. The idea underlies the phrases kingdom of God, kingdom of Heaven.

Romans 4:16

rom 4:16

Sure (βεβαίαν)

Stable, valid, something realized, the opposite of made of none effect, Rom 4:14.

Romans 4:17

rom 4:17

A father of many nations

See Gen 17:5. Originally his name was Abram, exalted father; afterward Abraham, father of a multitude.

Have I made (τέθεικα)

Appointed or constituted. For a similar sense see Mat 24:51; Joh 15:16, and note; Act 13:47; Ti1 2:7. The verb shows that the paternity was the result of a special arrangement. It would not be used to denote the mere physical connection between father and son.

Who quickeneth the dead

This attribute of God is selected with special reference to the circumstances of Abraham as described in Rom 4:18, Rom 4:21. As a formal attribute of God it occurs Sa1 2:6; Joh 5:21; Co2 1:9; Ti1 6:13.

Calleth (καλοῦντος)

The verb is used in the following senses:

1. To give a name, with ὄνομα name, Mat 1:21, Mat 1:22, Mat 1:25; Luk 1:13, Luk 1:31; without ὄνομα Luk 1:59, Luk 1:60. To salute by a name, Mat 23:9; Mat 22:43, Mat 22:45.

2. Passive. To bear a name or title among men, Luk 1:35; Luk 22:25; Co1 15:9. To be acknowledged or to pass as, Mat 5:9, Mat 5:19; Jam 2:23.

3. To invite, Mat 22:3, Mat 22:9; Joh 2:2; Co1 10:27. To summon, Mat 4:21; Act 4:18; Act 24:2. To call out from, Mat 2:15; Heb 11:8; Pe1 2:9.

4. To appoint. Select for an office, Gal 1:15; Heb 5:4; to salvation, Rom 9:11; Rom 8:30.

5. Of God's creative decree. To call forth from nothing, Isa 41:4; Kg2 8:1.

In this last sense some explain the word here; but it can scarcely be said that God creates things that are not as actually existing. Others explain, God's disposing decree. He disposes of things that are not as though existing. The simplest explanation appears to be to give καλεῖν the sense of nameth, speaketh of. Compare Rom 9:7; Act 7:5. The seed of Abraham "which were at present in the category of things which were not, and the nations which should spring physically or spiritually from him, God spoke of as having an existence, which word Abraham believed" (Alford). In this case there may properly be added the idea of the summons to the high destiny ordained for Abraham's seed.

Romans 4:19

rom 4:19

Being not weak in faith he considered not (μὴ ἀσθενήσας τῇ πίστει οὐ κατενόησεν)

The best texts omit οὐ not before considered. According to this the rendering is as Rev., he considered, etc. Being not weak or weakened: (Rev.) is an accompanying circumstance to he considered. He considered all these unfavorable circumstances without a weakening of faith. The preposition κατά in κατενόησεν considered, is intensive - attentively. He fixed his eye upon the obstacles.

Dead (νενεκρωμένον)

The participle is passive, slain. Used here hyperbolically. Hence, Rev., as good as dead.

Romans 4:20

rom 4:20

Staggered (διεκρίθη)

Rev., better, wavered. See on Act 11:12; see on Jam 1:6; see on Jam 2:4. The word implies a mental struggle.

Promise (ἐπαγγελίαν)

See on Act 1:4.

Was strong (ἐνεδυναμώθη)

Passive voice. Lit., was strengthened, or endued with strength. Rev., waxed strong.

Romans 4:21

rom 4:21

Being fully persuaded (πληροφορηθεὶς)

Rev., more accurately, fully assured. See on most surely believed, Luk 1:1. The primary idea is, being filled with a thought or conviction.

Able (δυνατός)

The sense is stronger: mighty; compare Luk 1:49; Luk 24:19; Act 18:24; Co2 10:4; Rev 6:15.

Romans 4:24

rom 4:24

It shall be reckoned (μέλλει λογίζεσθαι)

Not the future of the verb to reckon, but μέλλω to intend points to God's definite purpose. See on Act 27:2; see on Pe2 1:12.

Who believe

Since we are those who believe.

Romans 4:25

rom 4:25

Was delivered (παρεδόθη)

See on Mat 4:12; see on Pe1 2:23. Used of casting into prison or delivering to justice, Mat 4:12; Mat 10:17, Mat 19:21. Frequently of the betrayal of Christ, Mat 10:4; Mat 17:22; Joh 6:64, Joh 6:71. Of committing a trust, Mat 25:14, Mat 25:20, Mat 25:22. Of committing tradition, doctrine, or precept, Mar 7:13; Co1 11:2; Co1 15:3; Rom 6:17; Pe2 2:21. Of Christ's yielding up His spirit, Joh 19:30. Of the surrender of Christ and His followers to death, Rom 8:32; Co2 4:11; Gal 2:20. Of giving over to evil, Rom 1:26, Rom 1:28; Co1 5:5; Eph 4:19.

Raised again for our justification

"But if the whole matter of the justification depends on what He has suffered for our offenses, we shall as certainly be justified or have our account made even, if He does not rise, as if He does. Doubtless the rising has an immense significance, when the justification is conceived to be the renewing of our moral nature in righteousness; for it is only by the rising that His incarnate life and glory are fully discovered, and the righteousness of God declared in His person in its true moral power. But in the other view of justification there is plainly enough nothing depending, as far as that is concerned, on His resurrection" (Bushnell). Compare Rom 6:4-13.

Next: Romans Chapter 5