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.(Romans 4:9-12)
Was Abraham blessed by God because he was circumcised,and kept God’s statutes and commands? Was that how Abraham was so blessed? Or was it the other way around? That is, that Abraham believed in the gospel, was justified, and as an outcome of that justification, he was circumcised and conformed to God’s will.
Our text tells us that it is the second option. As a sinner , Abraham believed God, and was justified before God. All of Abraham’s good works came as a result of his justification, and outflow of being made the friend of God.
It was while Abraham was uncircumcised, that God reckoned righteousness unto him. All Abraham could say of himself was, that as an idolator , he met the LORD, who told him the good news of the one who would come through his loins, to bless every family on earth. He simply believed God.
Abraham was justified by God before any of his children were born. But he was not circumcised until his son Ishmael was 13 years old. He was justified well before he rendered any ‘works’ unto God. Saving faith in God’s promise is the cause and not the effect of all good works.
Why does it matter which came first, Abraham’s faith or his works? it matters because it is deeply ingrained in the human heart to want to earn God’s blessings, to put God in debt to ourselves. This is almost the default position of humanity, to try to earn our own way, to obligate God to ourselves by our own works. It is humbling to have to be rescued by a free gift.
It is critical to understand once and for all that God cannot and will not be indebted to any man. The only way to be saved is to humbly accept by faith the gift of God’s righteousness, and that it would be impossible to earn it.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:34-36)
The difference between Salvation by God’s grace and a religion that seeks to earn life by works, or obligate God, is the difference between Life and death, pride and humility, true spirituality and humanism, and even ultimately it will be the difference between heaven and hell.
Abraham was not justified by being circumcised , his circumcision came more that thirteen years after his justification. The circumcision was a seal, an evidence of his God given righteousness, it was an effect and not a cause. Abraham the idolator was justified and included in God’s purposes only by the free love and choice of the Holy God.
He is called the Father of all who believe because in Abraham, God took an idolator,revealed Himself to Him, preached the gospel to him, gave him faith to believe, justified him, and made him the Father of true faith for all time. That is the story of my life and countless millions of others also.
Though I am not physically a child of Abraham, my encounter with God as a sinner, who simply believed the gospel when it came to me, who was willing as a result of this faith, to “leave my Father’s land and kindred”(morally and spiritually) puts me in spiritual affinity with Abraham.
This is the teaching of Jesus, to the physical seed of Abraham, that it is spiritual affinity with Abraham that counts with God, not physical blood relation alone,
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.But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham…Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.(John 8:39-40,56)
Therefore Abraham is ever the type , not only of the true Hebrew, (literally means One who crosses over”), but of all believing gentiles. The common thread is faith in the gospel of God. Abraham believed in Jesus, he believed in the gospel, and was justified by God.