Romans 4:9 – 12
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
In the previous verses, the apostle Paul brings up the patriarch Abraham, and uses the way that he was reckoned, or accounted, as righteous as an illustration of the righteousness of God by faith. So the Romans (Gentiles, largely¹) see this reference to Abraham, and would question how Abraham’s faith would be related to them. After all, he was the father of the Hebrew people, who were the circumcision, those that had the advantage:
Romans 3:1 – 2 — “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.”
Bringing Abraham into the argument might solidify the faith righteousness question for the believing Jew, but what about the believing Gentile? Would he have to become like Abraham? Would he have to become circumcised to have his part in this righteousness by faith, either before or after believing? Remember that before this chapter, the apostle had previously stated that God would justify the uncircumcision through faith:
Romans 3:29 – 30 — “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.”
The question however, could remain, “can they stay as uncircumcised Gentiles?”
Paul wrote an entire epistle against this very thing in his epistle to the Galatians, and even the apostles of the circumcision in Jerusalem came to understand this fully when they met to discuss the matter. The truth of the matter, they did not get together to come to some kind of agreement. Paul and Barnabas had “no small dissension and disputation” with men from Jerusalem that said that the Gentiles to which they preached Christ had to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1 – 2).
This is not a question for the most part among Christians today. There are other things that many think must be added to the cross today, but usually not circumcision. Back when the apostle sent this letter, you bet this was a problem. For roughly 1500 years Israel had been under the law covenant given to Moses, and according to Ussher’s dating, which there really is no reason to doubt, over 1900 years had passed since the covenant of circumcision was given to Abraham. It was not an option:
Genesis 17:14 — “And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.”
Yet, Paul, and Barnabas with him, were going to Jerusalem to set them all straight, regarding the Gentiles that he reached with the gospel of Christ without circumcision, without the law, without covenants, by only God’s grace through faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption on the cross of Calvary!
This was, as could be expected, hard for the believing in Israel to swallow. The Gentile believer, if he understood the Old Testament Scriptures at all, might ask this question:
“Righteousness was reckoned to Abraham by faith. He was a circumcised man. Must I then become a circumcised man to have righteousness reckoned to me?”
More simply, one might ask, “Do I need to become a Jew to be counted righteous?”
Does the uncircumcision take part of this righteousness reckoned by faith as uncircumcision, or must he become circumcised first?
We know, because we read Galatians; and Acts; and Romans.
We know because we read this passage from Romans 4. We are reminded here to go back to the record when righteousness was put to Abraham’s account. This was in fact before his illegitimate son Ishmael was even born. He was not even “Abraham” yet, but called Abram. And we see here in Paul’s epistle to the Romans that God did these things in this order for a reason: Abraham is counted as the father of all them that believe, whether they are of the circumcision, or of the uncircumcision.
The Lord called His circumcised nation to be His city on a hill and his light to the Gentile world, so they must be separate. Those of the circumcision if they were believing could truly count Abraham as their father². Now the Apostle Paul reveals that even those of the uncircumcision, when they believe, they can also call Abraham their father. This is not a “replacement theology”, but it is what the apostle of the Gentiles writes…to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints.
So the uncircumcised, or, Gentiles, can be counted righteous by simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, nothing more, and certainly nothing less. The Circumcision, or the people of the covenant that the Lord Jehovah made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob can be counted righteous … in the exact same way. They could not and cannot come to God pleading the covenants, because they were breakers of them. The cross stands as a testament to this breaking of the covenants, and while God, in mercy, continued to offer remission of sins and the times of restitution of all things to the people of Israel (Acts 2:38; 3:19), the majority of their leaders rejected, refused, and set themselves as the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ and said loud and clear, “we will not have this Man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).
John 1:11 – 12 — “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…”
We do not even think of this today, but there are other things that many teach that are prerequisites to being counted among the people of God. The apostle does not teach that we must fix ourselves, stop sinning, feel really bad, join anything, or do anything. He teaches us that believing on the God that justifies the ungodly is the first and only step to being reckoned righteous without the law. We are already ungodly, and will never be anything else until the righteousness of God without the law is reckoned to us. This is the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe. The same group that can reckon Abraham as their father, because God reckons it so. That is good enough for anyone who takes God at His word.
Are you believing on Him that justifies the ungodly. Have you placed your faith in the blood and the finished work of redemption that Christ our Lord finished when He died for our sins?
Romans 3:21 – 26 — “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
- Recognizing that there were both Jewish and Gentile believers in the church at Rome.
- Recall the Lord’s words to the unbelieving Jews: John 8:39, 44 — “They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. … Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.