In the fourth chapter of Romans Paul turns the corner on his opening thoughts, where he outlines that the whole world is condemned, in one way or another, and comes down a stretch where he explains why exactly not only faith in Jesus matters, but also why it works.  Romans four might be the most Jewish chapter in the whole New Testament.

Translation Notes:  The reoccurring word I have translated here as “counted” is a sticky wicket.  It can be rendered in so many different ways, and they all would be accurate.  It might be reason, reckon, thought, considered or even evaluated.  I seriously thought about going with evaluated, because I think that is part of what Paul is communicating:  “God evaluated Abraham’s faith as righteousness.”  I am also intrigued by the word being translated here, because it is in the same root family from which the English word “logic” comes from:  “It was a logical conclusion that Abraham’s faith was righteousness.”  I like that a lot because of the shocking and alarming juxtaposition of “logic” and “faith” so close together.

One other note, about verse 14.  I have rendered the last phrase as, “the promise doesn’t work” but the actual word should probably be translated as “broken.”  I opted not to do that because it would indicate that the covenant is broken, but that is not really what Paul is saying.  Therefore, I opted for “doesn’t work” instead.

Theological Notes:  This entire chapter reads like a proof for a geometry problem we all had to work on in high school.  Remember those?  This one goes like this.  If Abraham was counted as a righteous person before he was circumcised and if it was his faith that made him righteous, then he is the spiritual father of all those who have faith, regardless of genetics.

Paul then tells us that the object of faith now is Jesus and his resurrection.

Chapter Four
1. Then what can we say about Abraham, was it only biologically that he was found to be our ancestor?
2. If Abram was made righteous because of works he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3. For what does the scripture say? “But Abram believed God and it was counted as righteousness to him.”
4. Now, to someone who has worked wages are not counted as a gift of grace, but as a debt.
5. Yet to the one not working, the one believing in him who makes the ungodly righteous, it is his faith that is counted as righteous.
6. Just as David says, “Blessed is the person who God counts as righteous without works.
7. Blessed are those whose lawlessness has been forgiven and those whose sins are covered.
8. Blessed is a man whose sins the Lord does not hold against him.”
9. Therefore, who is this blessing for then, the circumcised or those uncircumcised too? We say, “He counted Abram’s faith as righteousness.”
10. When was he counted? Was it when he was circumcised or while uncircumcised? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
11. He received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness of faith he had when uncircumcised, to be a father of many people who believe yet are not circumcised, so that righteousness might be counted to them too,
12. to be not only a father to those who are circumcised, but to those who are outside of circumcision who follow the footsteps of the uncircumcised faith of our father Abraham.
13. It was not by law that the promise to be heirs of the world was made to Abraham’s offspring, but by the righteousness of faith.
14. If it is by law that they are inheritors, then faith is empty and the promise doesn’t work.
15. The law causes wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
16. That is why it is by faith through grace, so that the promise might be reliable for all the offspring; not only those from the law but those who also are from the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.
17. Just as it is written, that “I have appointed you as a father to may nations,” in the sight of God, whom he believed gave life back from the dead and called forth things into being that did not exist.
18. He hoped against all hope. He believed that he would become, “A father to many nations,” according to the words spoken, “about his offspring.”
19. And not weakened in faith, he considered his already impotent one hundred year old body, not to mention Sarah’s dead womb,
20. but he did not doubt the promise of God in unbelief. Instead he was strengthened in his faith, giving glory to God.
21. And he was fully convinced that the one who had promised is able to do it.
22. And this is why, “He counted him righteous.”
23. That it was, “counted to him” was not written down for him only.
24. But it is for us that it is counted, those believing upon the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead.
25. Who was handed over because of our trespasses and was resurrected for our righteousness.

Romans One

Romans Two

Romans Three


In the second chapter of Romans Paul gives his reader a constant barrage of contrasts.  There is the contrast of having the law but not doing the law, not having the law but doing it anyway, failing at the law but teaching others about it, good works and bad works, eternal life and eternal wrath, circumcision and uncircumcision, secret Jew and the apparent Jew, and spirit and letter.  If one dug harder a person could find more contrasts, I’m sure.

All of these contrasts serve the purpose of showing the reader how unsuccessful a life committed to Hebrew law is, and how judgment looms on the horizon for all human beings.  Verse 6, in my opinion, takes its place alongside Job 1:8 and Hebrews 10:31 as some of the most frightening in all of scripture.

Translation Notes:  Verses 1 and 3 have a vocative and that is rare.  I think it sets a philosophical tone for the chapter.  Verse 18 was a particularly sticky wicket for me.  I think Paul is referring to the idea that Jews not only have the law, but that they know (they think they know?) what it means.  He is talking about hermeneutics and application.  I played with verse 27 quite a bit.  The phrase “by nature” I take to be best connected to the idea of judging rather than the usually take that it modifies circumcision as a natural or physical (ESV) reality.  It is possible that I am applying a modern idiomatic construct here, but I like the way I worded it.

Chapter Two
1. Therefore, O Man, you are without excuse! For whoever judges someone else condemns himself, because he is doing the same kind of things as the person he judged.
2. We know that the judgment of God truly is upon those who practice these.
3. What do you think, O Man, that you who do these things, and yet judge those doing them, that somehow you will yourselves escape the judgment of God?
4. Or do you, in the light of his abundant goodness, tolerance, and patience, not know that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5. But with your hard and unrepentant hearts you stored up for yourselves wrath on the day of the revelation of the just judgment of God,
6. who will give to each according to his works.
7. On the one hand, for those who seek perseverance in good works, glory, honor, and incorruption, there is eternal life.
8. But, on the other hand, for those who out of ambition and disobedience to the truth are persuaded by unrighteousness, there is wrath and rage.
9. Distress and anguish will be upon every person who works evil, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
10. In contrast, glory, honor, and peace will be upon all those working good, to the Jew first and then the gentile.
11. There are no favorites with God.
12. Those who sin without the law will be destroyed without it, and those who sin with the law will be judged by the law.
13. Hearers of the law are not made righteous by God, but those doing the law will be made righteous.
14. For when gentiles, who do not have the law, might naturally do the things of the law, even though they don’t have the law, they are a law to themselves.
15. Since these people show the work of the law to be written on their hearts, their conscience bears witness, reasoning within them—both accusing and defending them
16. on the day when God judges people’s secrets by my good news through Messiah Jesus.
17. Now, if you call yourself a Jew and rely upon law and boast in God,
18. and you know the will, and you determine the best understanding of the law,
19. and so you believe yourselves to be guides, leading the blind out of darkness into light,
20. an instructor of the stupid, a teacher of babies, having the formulas of knowledge and truth in the law.
21. Therefore, you who are teaching others, will you teach yourselves? Will you who preach “do not steal” steal?
22. Will you say, “Do not commit adultery,” but be an adulterer? Do you detest idols yet rob temples?
23. Those who boast in the law dishonor God by their transgressions of the law.
24. Just as it is written, “The name of God is being blasphemed among the gentiles because of you.”
25. Now then, circumcision only benefits you if you keep the law, but if you transgress the law your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26. So if an uncircumcised person observes the decrees of the law, will not his uncircumcison be counted as circumcision?
27. Naturally, the uncircumcised who keeps the law will judge you who have the letter and circumcision yet transgress the law.
28. It is not those who are apparent, neither is it those who are clearly circumcised in the flesh who are Jews.
29. But the secret Jew, who has a circumcision of heart in spirit, not letter, not the praise of people, but of God.

Read Romans Chapter One