Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
Lent A15


What then are we to say was gainedA by Abraham,B our ancestorC according to the flesh?D For if Abraham was justifiedE by works, he has something to boast about,F but not before God.G 

Notes on verses 1-2

A “gained” = heurisko. This is to find, learn, or obtain. It is to discover something, which generally implies a period of searching for it. This is to find in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “heuristic” comes from.
B “Abraham” = abraam. From Hebrew Abraham (exalted father); from the same as Abiram (exalted father, a high father – lofty) {from ab (father literal or figurative) + rum (rise, bring up, being high, extol, exalt, haughty; to raise in a literal or figurative sense)}. This is Abraham, father of many nations or father of a multitude.
C “ancestor” = pater. Father literally or figuratively.
D “flesh” = sarx. May be from saroo (to sweep, cleanse by sweeping); from sairo (to brush off). This is flesh, the body, human nature, materiality, kindred. Flesh is not always evil in scripture (as when it refer to Jesus taking on a human body). However, it is generally used in a negative way for actions made selfishly and not through faith. This can mean animal flesh, i.e. meat, or refer to body in contrast to soul/spirit. Flesh can be a way of talking about how things or people are related or talking about human frailty (physical or moral).
E “justified” = dikaioo. From dikaios (correct, righteous – implies innocent; this is that which conforms to God’s notion of justice, uprightness); from dike (the principle of justice; that which is right in a way that is very clear; a decision or the execution of that decision; originally, this word was for custom or usage; evolved to include the process of law, judicial hearing, execution of sentence, penalty, and even vengeance; more commonly, it refers to what is right); may be from deiknumi (to show, point out, exhibit; figurative for teach, demonstrate, make known). This is to be righteous, plead the cause of, justify, acquit. Properly, it is being approved, particularly carrying the weight of a legal judgment. It is upright, render just, or innocent.
F “something to boast about” = kauchema. 11x in NT. From kauchaomai (to boast, glory, take pride; boasting in a good or bad sense); perhaps from aucheo (to boast) + euchomai (to pray, wish, request) OR from kuachaomai (see above); from auchen (neck). This is boast or boasting – the reason for pride, pride confidence. It focuses on the outcome or object of the boasting.
G “God” = theos. From Proto-Indo-European origins, meaning do, put, place. This is God or a god in general.

For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believedH God, and it was reckonedI to him as righteousness.”J Now to one who works,K wagesL are not reckoned as a giftM but as something due.N 

Notes on verses 3-4

H “believed” = pisteuo. From pistis (faith, faithfulness, belief, trust, confidence; to be persuaded or come to trust); from peitho (to have confidence, urge, be persuaded, agree, assure, believe, have confidence, trust). This is to believe, entrust, have faith it, affirm, have confidence in. This is less to do with a series of beliefs or doctrines that one believes and more to do with faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. It is trusting and then acting based on that trust.
I “reckoned” = logizomai. Related to “say” in v3. From logos (word, statement, speech, analogy; a word that carries an idea or expresses a thought, a saying; a person with a message or reasoning laid out in words; by implication, a topic, line of reasoning, or motive; a divine utterance or as Word – Christ); from lego (to speak, tell, mention). This is to compute, reckon, consider, reason, think, conclude, regard. It is a logical, bottom line decision. It can also mean taking an inventory or making an estimate in a literal or figurative sense.
J “righteousness” = dikaiosune. Related to “justified” in v2. From dikaios (see note E above). This is judicial or divine approval of character or action. This is righteousness, justice, justness, divine righteousness.
K “who works” = ergazomai. Related to “works” in v2. From ergon (word, task, action, employment). This is to work, do, perform, get through labor, work. It is any kind of work or an occupation. It implies effecting or engaging something.
L “wages” = misthos. This is wages, pay, or salary. It can also be reward, recompense, or punishment. It is pay for services rendered in a literal or figurative way, either good or bad.
M “gift” = charis. From chairo (to rejoice, be glad; used to say hello; properly, delighting in the grace of God or experiencing God’s favor); from char– (to extend favor, lean towards, be inclined to be favorable towards). This is grace, kindness, favor, gratitude, thanks. It is the sense of being inclined to or favorable towards – leaning towards someone to share some good or benefit. This can be literal, figurative, or spiritual. It is grace as abstract concept, manner, or action.
N “something due” = opheilema. 2x in NT – elsewhere in Matthew 6:12 “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” From opheilo (to owe, ought, be obliged; to be legally obligated; originally from the legal sphere, but then entered the language of moral duty); probably from ophelos (advantage, help, profit, use); from ophello (to heap up, increase). This is something owed so it could be a debt, offense, or sin. It emphasizes the after effect, the result of debt.

But to one who without works trustsO him who justifiesP the ungodly,Q such faithR is reckoned as righteousness.

Notes on verse 5

O “trusts” = pisteuo. Same as “believed” in v3.
P Literally “but to the one not working, but believing in the one justifying.”
Q “ungodly” = asebes. 9x in NT. From a (not) + sebo (to worship, revere, adore, be devout; properly this is personally placing a high value on someone or something, showing respect). Properly, this is being irreverent, not acting with appropriate respect or declining to show honor to the sacred. So, it could be ungodly, impious, wicked, or irreverent.
R “faith” = pistis. Related to “believed” in v3. From peitho (see note H above). This is to believe, entrust, have faith it, affirm, have confidence in. This is less to do with a series of beliefs or doctrines that one believes and more to do with faithfulness, loyalty, and fidelity. It is trusting and then acting based on that trust.

13 For the promiseS that he would inheritT the worldU did not come to Abraham or to his descendantsV through the lawW but through the righteousness of faith. 

Notes on verse 13

S “promise” = epaggelia. From epi (on, upon, against, what is fitting) + aggello (to announce, report); {from aggelos (angel, messenger); probably from ago (to lead, bring, carry, guide, drive)}. This is a summons, promise, or message. It is a formal promise that is officially sanctioned. In the New Testament, this usually refers to a promise made in the Old Testament.
T “inherit” = kleronomos. Related to “law” in v13. 15x in NT. From kleros (lot, apportionment, congregation, share, heritage); {from klero (to cast a lot) OR from klao (to break in pieces)} + the same as nomos (see note V below). This is heir or inheritor in a literal or figurative sense. It implies the one who possesses the property or matter in question.
U “world” = kosmos. Perhaps from the base of komizo (to carry, convey, recover); from komeo (to take care of). This is order, the world, the universe, including its inhabitants. Literally, this is something that is ordered so it can refer to all creation. It can also refer to decoration in the sense that something is better ordered and, thus, made more beautiful. This is were “cosmos” and “cosmetics” come from.
V “descendants” = sperma. From speiro (to sow seed, spread, scatter); perhaps from spao (to pull, to draw a sword). This is something sown so it could be seed or offspring and descendants. This is where the word “sperm” comes from.
W “law” = nomos. From nemo (to parcel out). Literally, this is that which is assigned. It can be usage, custom, or law. This word can be used for human or divine law. It can be used specifically for the law of Moses or as a name for the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). Sometimes it is used for scripture as a whole, used of the Gospel, or of any theology. It is also used for the “tradition of the elders,” which would be the oral Torah – the tradition of the laws plus their interpretations as they were passed down over time. We must carefully consider which meaning of “law” is meant when we interpret passages the word is found in.

14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs,X faith is nullY and the promise is void.Z 15 For the law bringsAA wrath;BB but where there is no law, neither is there violation.CC

Notes on verses 14-15

X “heirs” = kleronomos. Same as “inherit” in v13.
Y “is null” = kenoo. 5x in NT. From kenos (properly, something empty or void; hence, worthless, foolish, ineffective, morally void, pretentious, unreal, or false). This is properly to make something empty or void. It is something without recognition that is seen as having no value. Figuratively, this could be to neutralize, falsify, or cause something to be in vain.
Z “is void” = katargeo. Related to “works” in v2 & “who works” in v4. From kata (down, against, according to, among) + argeo (to delay, linger, be at rest, be idle, do nothing) [from argos (inactive, idle, lazy, thoughtless, useless, unemployed, unprofitable) {from a (not) + ergon (see note K above)]. This is making something inactive or bringing it to nothing. So, it could mean making something inoperative or powerless, annulling, or severing. It can also mean to make something ineffective or invalid.
AA “brings” = katergazomai. Related to “works” in v2 & “who works” in v4 & “is void” in v14. From kata (down, against, according to, among) + ergazomai (see note K above). This is achieve, produce, perform. Literally, it is working until something is finished – to work fully.
BB “wrath” = orge. From orgao (something that teems or stews; this is anger rising from prolonged personal contact that is fixed rather than an angry outburst; it can also be anger that stems from an individual’s sense of right and wrong, justice, etc.). This is impulse, wrath, anger, passion, punishment. Properly, this is fixed anger from ongoing personal irritation caused by something the one getting angry sees as unjust or evil. Wrath implies punishment. Can refer to human or divine wrath.
CC “violation” = parabasis. 7x in NT. From para (from beside, by, in the presence of) + the same as basis (a pace, which implies a foot or step); {from baino (to walk, to go)}. Literally, this is an overstepping or a going aside. It is a transgression or violation that is deliberate. So, this is one who knows the law, or knows what they ought to do, and chooses to do otherwise.

16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on graceDD and be guaranteedEE 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”)FF—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives lifeGG to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 

Notes on verses 16-17

DD “grace” = charis. Same as “gift” in v4.
EE “guaranteed” = bebaios. Related to “violation” in v15. 9x in NT. From the same as basis (see note CC above). Properly, this is ground that is solid enough to walk over. So, this is firm, unshakable. Figuratively, it is guaranteed, valid, sure, steadfast, enduring. Literally and figuratively “solid footing.”
FF “nations” = ethnos. Probably from etho (a custom or culture). This is people who are united by having similar customs or culture. Generally, it is used to refer to Gentiles. This is a tribe, race, nation, or Gentiles in general. This is where the term “ethnicity” comes from.
GG “gives life” = zoopoieo. 11x in NT. From the same as zoon (literally a thing that is alive; so, an animal or living creature); {from zao (to live literally or figuratively)} + poieo (to make, do, construct, cause). This is to bring life to something, including something that was dead. This can also be to revitalize in a literal or figurative sense.

Image Credit: “God’s Covenant with Abraham” from a Bible Primer of the Old Testament for use in the Primary Department of Sunday Schools by Adolf Hult, 1919.

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