Jew. What shall we then say that Abraham, our father as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? - The κατα σαρκα, pertaining to the flesh, must here refer to the sign in Abraham's flesh, viz. his circumcision; on which the Jew would found his right to peculiar blessings. That this is the meaning of κατα σαρκα, according to the flesh, Dr. Taylor has proved by a collation of several parallel scriptures, which it is not necessary to produce here. We may, therefore, suppose the Jew arguing thus: But you set your argument on a wrong footing, viz. the corrupt state of our nation; whereas we hold our prerogative above the rest of mankind from Abraham, who is our father; and we have a right to the blessings of God's peculiar kingdom, in virtue of the promise made to him; his justification is the ground of ours. Now what shall we make of his case, on your principles? Of what use was his obedience to the law of circumcision, if it did not give him a right to the blessing of God? And if, by his obedience to that law, he obtained a grant of extraordinary blessings, then, according to your own concession, Romans 3:27, he might ascribe his justification to something in himself; and, consequently, so may we too, in his right; and if so, this will exclude all those who are not circumcised as we are.
What shall we say then? - See Romans 3:1. This is rather the objection of a Jew. “How does your doctrine of justification by faith agree with what the Scriptures say of Abraham? Was the Law set aside in his case? Did he derive no advantage in justification from the rite of circumcision, and from the covenant which God made with him?” The object of the apostle now is to answer this inquiry.
That Abraham our father - Our ancestor; the father and founder of the nation; see the note at Matthew 3:9 The Jews valued themselves much on the fact that he was their father; and an argument, drawn from his example or conduct, therefore, would be especially forcible.
As pertaining to the flesh - This expression is one that has been much controverted. In the original, it may refer either to Abraham as their father “according to the flesh,” that is, their natural father, or from whom they were descended; or it may be connected with “hath found.” “What shall we say that Abraham our father hath found in respect to the flesh?” κατὰ σάρκα kata sarkaThe latter is doubtless the proper connection. Some refer the word “flesh” to external privileges and advantages; others to his own strength or power (Calvin and Grotius); and others make it refer to circumcision. This latter I take to be the correct interpretation. It agrees best with the connection, and equally well with the usual meaning of the word. The idea is, “If people are justified by faith; if works are to have no place; if, therefore, all rites and ceremonies, all legal observances, are useless in justification; what is the advantage of circumcision? What benefit did Abraham derive from it? Why was it appointed? And why is such an importance attached to it in the history of his life.” A similar question was asked in Romans 3:1. Hath found - Hath obtained. What advantage has he derived from it?
Hath found - Hath obtained. What advantage has he derived from it?
All boasting of merit in ourselves is out of place. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23, 24. COL 401.1
The reward is not of works, lest any man should boast; but it is all of grace. “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Romans 4:1-5. Therefore there is no occasion for one to glory over another or to grudge against another. No one is privileged above another, nor can anyone claim the reward as a right. COL 401.2
The first and the last are to be sharers in the great, eternal reward, and the first should gladly welcome the last. He who grudges the reward to another forgets that he himself is saved by grace alone. The parable of the laborers rebukes all jealousy and suspicion. Love rejoices in the truth and institutes no envious comparisons. He who possesses love compares only the loveliness of Christ and his own imperfect character. COL 402.1Read in context »