Lectionary Year A
February 24, 2002
Romans 4:1-5,13-17

Step V: Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

(JFC) This pericope's theological center is the God (in) whom Abraham believed. Closely akin to this element is Abraham's belief/faith/trust of (in) that God, our sharing the faith of Abraham, and the law's being superceded by God's grace and its depending on faith. The other major matter here is God's having made Abraham the father of many nations. The minor concerns in this text are the reckoning as righteous image and the difference between the wages as a gift and God's grace as one.

B. Smoother Translation

(JFC) 1 What then shall we say with finding Abraham our forefather according to the human point of view? 2 For if Abraham, because of works, was treated as righteous with God, he has grounds for boasting, but not with reference to/pertaining to God. 3 For what do the scriptures say? "But Abraham believed/trusted in God and was reckoned to be among the right with God/righteous". 4 But in the works, the pay/wages are/is not calculated/considered to be a gift, but according to what is due. 5 But not to the one working, who yet trusts/believes in the righteousness of the impious/godless who is counted the faith of him among the righteous.
13 For the promise to Abraham and his descendants did not come through the law, but the very inheritance of the world, came through righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the ones from the law receiving it, he will be receiving, give up/lay aside the faith and render ineffective that which was promised; 15 for the law brings wrath; but where there is no law neither (is there) violation/disobedience. 16 Through this faith, so that according to grace, to the being confirmed the promise all the offspring, not the one from the law only but also the one from the faith of Abraham, who is father of all of us. 17 Accordingly, it is written that "I have made you father of many nations" before the presence of whom he believed in God as the one giving life to the dead and calling from not being into being.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(JFC) Sanday and Headlam, in the ICC, start discussing verses 13-17 with this statement, "in this section St. Paul brings up the key words of his own system Faith, Promise, Grace, and marshals them in array over the leading points in the current theology of the Jews - Law, Works or performance of Law, Merit. Because the working of this latter system had been so disastrous, ending only in condemnation, it was a relief to find that it was not what God really intended, but that the true principles of things held out a prospect so much brighter and more hopeful, and which furnished such abundant justification for all that seemed new in Christianity." Part of these sentiments is surely meant by the Apostle here.

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