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. Chapter 4.

The Example of Abraham

1 WHAT, THEN, are we to say about Abraham, our ancestor in the natural line? 2 If Abraham was justified by anything he had done, then he has a ground for pride. 3 [ Gn.15.6. ] But he has no such ground before God; for what does Scripture say? 'Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.' 4 Now if a man does a piece of work, his wages are not 'counted' as a favour; they are paid as debt. 5 But if without any work to his credit he simply puts his faith in him who acquits the guilty, then his faith is indeed 'counted as righteousness'. 6 In the same sense David speaks of the happiness of the man whom God 'counts' as just, apart from any specific acts of justice: 7 [ Ps.32.1-2. ] 'Happy are they', he says, 'whose lawless deeds are forgiven, whose sins are buried away; 8 happy is the man whose sins the Lord does not count against him.' 9 [ Gn.15.6. ] Is this happiness confined to the circumcised, or is it for the uncircumcised also? Consider: we say, 'Abraham's faith was counted as righteousness'; 10 in what circumstances was it so counted? Was he circumcised at the time, or not? He was not yet circumcised, but uncircumcised; 11 and he later received the symbolic rite of circumcision as the hall-mark of the righteousness which faith had given him when he was still uncircumcised. Consequently, he is the father of all who have faith when uncircumcised, so that righteousness is 'counted' to them; 12 and at the same time he is the father of such of the circumcised as do not rely upon their circumcision alone, but also walk in the footprints of the faith which our father Abraham had while he was yet uncircumcised.

The Promise Realised through Faith

13 For it was not through law that Abraham, or his posterity, was given the promise that the world should be his inheritance, but through the righteousness that came from faith. 14 For if those who hold by the law, and they alone, are heirs, then faith is empty and the promise goes for nothing, 15 because law can bring only retribution; but where there is no law there can be no breach of law. 16 The promise was made on the ground of faith, in order that if might be a matter of sheer grace, and that it might be valid for all Abraham's posterity, not only for those who hold by the law, but for those also who have the faith of Abraham. 17 [ Gn.17.5, Gn.15.5. ] For he is the father of us all, as Scripture says: 'I have appointed you to be father of many nations.' This promise, then, was valid before God, the God in whom he put his faith, the God who makes the dead live and summons things that are not yet in existence as if they already were. 18 [ Is.48.13. ] When hope seemed hopeless, his faith was such that he became 'father of many nations', in agreement with the words which had been spoken to him: 'Thus shall your descendants be.' 19 Without any weakening of faith he contemplated his own body, as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb, 20 and never doubted God's promise in unbelief, but, strong in faith, gave honour to God, 21 in the firm conviction of his power to do what he had promised. 22 [ Gn.15.6. ] And that is why Abraham's faith was 'counted to him as righteousness'.

23 Those words were written, not for Abraham's sake alone, but for our sake too: 24 it is to be 'counted' in the same way to us who have faith in the God who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 for he was given up to death for our misdeeds, and raised to life to justify us. [Or: raised to life because we were now justified.]

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