World English Bible translation
4:9Is this blessing then pronounced on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 4:10 How then was it counted? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 4:11 He received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them. 4:12 The father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father, Abraham, which he had in uncircumcision. 4:13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith. 4:14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of no effect. 4:15 For the law works wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience. 4:16 For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace, to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
Paul has quoted from the Psalms of King David. "'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, Whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not charge with sin.'" Then he asks the rhetorical question, Are the blessings of forgiveness and grace only available to the Jew (the circumcised)? David was under the Mosaic covenant, some might say. There was ample reason for David to think that God might forgive His covenant people. To answer this question Paul returns to the example of Abraham.
Abraham was uncircumcised when God declared that he was righteous because of his faith. Abraham did not receive the sign of circumcision until he was 99 years old. God told Abraham that though he was childless and already advanced in years that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham believed what God told him and that belief was credited to him as righteousness.
Paul writes that because of this Abraham is "the father of all those who believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them." No one could doubt that the great patriarch Abraham was justified before God. And, if Abraham was declared righteous while uncircumcised then God is free to declared righteous Gentiles outside of the Mosaic covenant for the same basis even today.
Abraham is also the father of all those who live by faith under the covenant of circumcision as well. The righteousness of faith is available to all men. Jesus was a Jew who lived under the covenant of Moses and all of his apostles who helped to found the early church were Jews under the covenant of Moses. The promise of God is available for the circumcised and the uncircumcised, for the Jew and the Greek.
Paul states that if the promise were only available to those under law then faith would be "made void" and the promise "of no effect." This is because the law "works wrath." Law is concerned with consequence and punishment. The best that can be said of someone that keeps the law is that they are "law-abiding." Law defines disobedience and iniquity. But, where there is no law, there is no disobedience.
Thus the promise is of faith so that it might be available to all who are of the faith of Abraham whether they be of the Law or outside of the Law. The grace of God that is given through Jesus Christ is available to all people in every situation of life. They have only to believe the message of God that was given through Jesus Christ and his apostles.
For Paul's day this meant that a Gentile need not convert to Judaism in order to be a Christian. For today it means that not only do I not have to convert to Judaism but it also means that I do not have to piece together bits and pieces of that code to gauge my performance as a Christian. It means that as a member of the body of Christ I am under a bond of faith and not a law of works. It means that the covenant of grace of which I am a part is available to everyone I will ever meet or speak with.
Are you a child of the covenant of grace? Have you believed the promise of God that is in Jesus Christ?
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