Paul has opened chapter 4 by establishing that Abraham was made righteous in the same way we are today. He now backs it up with a reference from a second great man of Jewish stature – David.
6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness irrespective of works:
7 ‘Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.’
Remember when Paul said that the law and prophets testified that the righteousness of God would be delivered apart from law? Well Abraham was an example of the Law, in that his story is contained in the Torah. And now Paul uses David as an example of the Prophets, the part of the Old Testament that follows the Torah. David lived in a time following the giving of the Mosaic Law. Yet Paul says it was just as with David – no different, “Blessed” are those who God forgives – indeed. Then in verse 8, David suggests that there is a way that God will not take into account our sin, and again, the Law and prophets both taught the same way to salvation – grace.
Now Paul spends the rest of chapter 4 exhausting all the implications from Abraham’s life.
Romans 4: 9-13
9 Is this blessedness, then, pronounced only on the circumcised, or also on the uncircumcised? We say, ‘Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.’
10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.
11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them,
12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
Paul asks is God’s blessing for Jew or Gentile also? Some Jews might think that God has two systems for salvation. For the Gentile, God intended a system of faith, but for the Jew the system was to be works through the Law. Well, Paul says, let’s consider when Abraham received his affirmation of righteousness, was it before or after circumcision? Abraham was not the first Jew born, that was Isaac. Abraham was a gentile when God called him and granted him the promise of a nation, and that promise led to his circumcision, which marked his entry into the new designation of Hebrews. So clearly, God’s plan for salvation by grace can’t be limited to Jews through the law, Abraham received that designation while still a Gentile and before the Law. So Abraham becomes a symbol for both the uncircumcised to come to faith and the circumcised who imitate his faith.
Looking at Abraham’s faith even deeper.
Romans 4: 14-17
14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,
17 as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
So if God had ever planned to make a set of laws – rules – that we were to keep so that we could please Him, then any promise of salvation would have been void.
so if I promise my daughter 50 dollars for her birthday, then later I came back and said that she can have the 50 if she clean her room. The birthday money is no longer in effect only obeying my rules became the only way to receive that money, it’s no longer a gift but a wage.
That’s the difference between works and grace.