V9-10. I have to take you back to Genesis 17 to help you understand the subject of verses 9-12. When treating Romans 2:28-29, I also alluded to this. You may want to read that section again as a reminder. In Genesis 17 we read about a covenant God made with Abraham. As a sign of this covenant, all boys and men had to be circumcised. This was an outward sign that every boy received on the eighth day after his birth. With this sign God separated all of the people who were to be born as Abraham’s descendants – Israel – from the rest of mankind. It was a great privilege to belong to God’s earthly people.
But as to receiving the righteousness of God, there is no difference for God. It doesn’t matter whether you belong outwardly to God’s people to know the happiness that forgiveness brings. The thing that matters is what’s on the inside – your faith in Him. When Abraham’s faith was reckoned as righteousness, he had not yet been circumcised.
V11-12. He received circumcision as a seal of the faith he had when he had not as yet been circumcised. This is brought out here to indicate that Abraham is not only the father of a literal posterity, the people of Israel, but he is the father of a spiritual posterity as well.
In fact, there are three kinds of posterity. In verse 11 he first is called the father of the uncircumcised. This deals with non-Jews who, being uncircumcised, believed in the same way as Abraham did when he hadn’t as yet been circumcised. This is the first kind of posterity.
In verse 12 you find the second and third kinds of posterity. He is called the father of circumcision which deals with his literal posterity, the people of Israel, but this literal posterity consists of two groups. The first group is Abraham’s posterity outwardly by the outward (physical) circumcision. The second group is Abraham’s posterity both in an outward sense and in a spiritual sense. These people show they are Abraham’s spiritual posterity by walking in the footsteps of the faith he had while he was still uncircumcised.
V13-15. The promise that Abraham and his posterity would inherit the world wasn’t given as part of the law. The law has a different connection than circumcision between God and his earthly people. In Abraham’s days, the law was many years in the future.
If a law had been given by which they could obtain the promise, then faith would have been no longer necessary because the promise would have been dependent upon personal merit or effort. However, this would have resulted only in wrath rather than a fulfillment of the promise because no one could fulfill the demands of the law. The certainty of the promise is in faith and grace. Everything is strongly linked with God who is the Object of the faith and the One who shows grace.
V16-17. To Abraham, God was personally present. Abraham believed Him, trusted Him and knew He could work where, as a man, he was powerless. To Abraham, God could raise the dead, just as He could create out of nothing. Look at creation! Psalm 33 says: “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:99For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
By believing in this way, Abraham was made by God “a father of many nations”. Similarly to when Abraham believed God’s words, you who know God in your life may hold Him to the promises He has given you in His Word.
Now read Romans 4:9-17 again.
Reflection: Are there any promises that God has made to you? Do you trust Him to keep them?