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Romans 4:11

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal, etc. - So far was obedience to the law of circumcision from being the reason of his justification, that he not only received this justification before he was circumcised, but he received the sign of circumcision, as a seal of the pardon which he had before actually received. And thus he became the father, the great head and representative, of all them that believe; particularly the Gentiles, who are now in precisely the same state in which Abraham was when he received the mercy of God. Hence it appears, says Dr. Taylor, that the covenant established with Abraham, Genesis 17:2-15, is the same with that, Genesis 12:2, Genesis 12:3; Genesis 15:5, etc.; for circumcision was not a seal of any new grant, but of the justification and promise which Abraham had received before he was circumcised; and that justification and promise included the Gospel covenant in which we are now interested. St. Paul refers to this, Galatians 3:8; : The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify us, heathens, through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. The whole of the apostle's argument, in this fourth chapter to the Romans, proves that we, believing Gentiles, are the seed of Abraham, to whom, as well as to himself, the promise was made; and that the promise made to him is the same in effect as that promise which is now made to us; consequently, it is the Abrahamic covenant in which we now stand; and any argument taken from the nature of that covenant, and applied to ourselves, must be good and valid. It is also undeniably evident, from this eleventh verse, as well as from Genesis 17:1-11, that circumcision was a seal or sign of the Gospel covenant in which we now stand. See Taylor.

There is nothing more common in the Jewish writers than the words אוה oth, Sign, and חותם chotham, Seal, as signifying the mark in the flesh, by the rite of circumcision; see on Genesis 4:15; (note). Sohar Genes., fol. 41, col. 161, has these words: And God set a mark upon Cain; this mark was the sign of the covenant of circumcision. Targum, Cant. iii. 8: The seal of circumcision is in your flesh; as Abraham was sealed in the flesh. Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 64: Joseph did not defile the sign of the holy covenant; i.e. he did not commit adultery with the wife of Potiphar. Liber Cosri, part i., c. 115, p. 70: Circumcision is a Divine sign which God has placed on the member of concupiscence, to the end that we may overcome evil desire. Shemoth Rabba, sec. 19, fol. 118: Ye shall not eat the passover unless the Seal of Abraham be in your flesh. Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 36: God said to Abraham, I will seal thy flesh. Sohar Levit. fol. 6: Abraham was sealed with the holy seal. See Schoettgen.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And he received the sign … - A sign is that by which any thing is shown, or represented. And circumcision thus showed that there was a covenant between Abraham and God; Genesis 17:1-10. It became the public mark or token of the relation which he sustained to God.

A seal - See the note at John 3:33. A seal is that mark of wax or other substance, which is attached to an instrument of writing, as a deed, etc., to confirm, ratify it, or to make it binding. Sometimes instruments were sealed, or made authentic by stamping on them some word, letter, or device, which had been engraved on silver, or on precious stones. The seal or stamp was often worn as an ornament on the finger; Esther 8:8; Genesis 41:42; Genesis 38:18; Exodus 28:11, Exodus 28:36; Exodus 29:6 To affix the seal, whether of wax, or otherwise, was to confirm contract or an engagement. In allusion to this, circumcision is called a seal of the covenant which God had made with Abraham. That is, he appointed this as a public attestation to the fact that he had previously approved of Abraham, and had made important promises to him.

Which he had, yet being circumcised - He believed Genesis 15:5; was accepted, or justified; was admitted to the favor of God, and favored with clear and remarkable promises Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:1-9, before he was circumcised. Circumcision, therefore, could have contributed neither to his justification, nor to the premises made to him by God.

That he might be the father … - All this was done that Abraham might be held up as an example, or a model, of the very doctrine which the apostle was defending. The word “father” here is used evidently in a spiritual sense, as denoting that he was the ancestor of all true believers; that he was their model, and example. They are regarded as his children because they are possessed of his spirit; are justified in the same way, and are imitators of his example; see the note at Matthew 1:1. In this sense the expression occurs in Luke 19:9; John 8:33; Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29.

Though they be not circumcised - This was stated in opposition to the opinion of the Jews that all ought to be circumcised. As the apostle had shown that Abraham enjoyed the favor of God previous to his being circumcised, that is, without circumcision; so it followed that others might on the same principle also. This instance settles the point; and there is nothing which a Jew can reply to this.

That righteousness … - That is, in the same way, by faith without works: that they might be accepted, and treated as righteous.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
To meet the views of the Jews, the apostle first refers to the example of Abraham, in whom the Jews gloried as their most renowned forefather. However exalted in various respects, he had nothing to boast in the presence of God, being saved by grace, through faith, even as others. Without noticing the years which passed before his call, and the failures at times in his obedience, and even in his faith, it was expressly stated in Scripture that "he believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness," Ge 15:6. From this example it is observed, that if any man could work the full measure required by the law, the reward must be reckoned as a debt, which evidently was not the case even of Abraham, seeing faith was reckoned to him for righteousness. When believers are justified by faith, "their faith being counted for righteousness," their faith does not justify them as a part, small or great, of their righteousness; but as the appointed means of uniting them to Him who has chosen as the name whereby he shall be called, "the Lord our Righteousness." Pardoned people are the only blessed people. It clearly appears from the Scripture, that Abraham was justified several years before his circumcision. It is, therefore, plain that this rite was not necessary in order to justification. It was a sign of the original corruption of human nature. And it was such a sign as was also an outward seal, appointed not only to confirm God's promises to him and to his seed, and their obligation to be the Lord's, but likewise to assure him of his being already a real partaker of the righteousness of faith. Thus Abraham was the spiritual forefather of all believers, who walked after the example of his obedient faith. The seal of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification, making us new creatures, is the inward evidence of the righteousness of faith.
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 396

Every move from the first made by Satan was the beginning of his work to continue to the end to exalt the false, to take the place of the genuine Sabbath of Jehovah. He is just as intent now and more determined to do this than ever before. He has come down with great power to deceive them who dwell on the earth with his satanic delusions.... 3SM 396.1

As we meet the emergency, the law of God becomes more precious, more sacred, and as it is more manifestly made void and set aside, in proportion should arise our respect and reverence for the law.... 3SM 396.2

In the exercise of the longsuffering of God, He gives to nations a certain period of probation, but there is a point which, if they pass, there will be the visitation of God in His indignation. He will punish. The world has been advancing from one degree of contempt for God's law to another, and the prayer may be appropriate at this time, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law” (Psalm 119:126).... 3SM 396.3

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 18

The danger has been presented to me again and again of entertaining, as a people, false ideas of justification by faith. I have been shown for years that Satan would work in a special manner to confuse the mind on this point. The law of God has been largely dwelt upon and has been presented to congregations, almost as destitute of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relation to the law as was the offering of Cain. I have been shown that many have been kept from the faith because of the mixed, confused ideas of salvation, because the ministers have worked in a wrong manner to reach hearts. The point that has been urged upon my mind for years is the imputed righteousness of Christ. I have wondered that this matter was not made the subject of discourses in our churches throughout the land, when the matter has been kept so constantly urged upon me, and I have made it the subject of nearly every discourse and talk that I have given to the people. FW 18.1

In examining my writings fifteen and twenty years old [I find that they] present the matter in this same light—that those who enter upon the solemn, sacred work of the ministry should first be given a preparation in lessons upon the teachings of Christ and the apostles in living principles of practical godliness. They are to be educated in regard to what constitutes earnest, living faith. FW 18.2

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 70.2

And what is it to believe? It is to fully accept that Jesus Christ died as our sacrifice; that He became the curse for us, took our sins upon Himself, and imputed unto us His own righteousness. Therefore we claim this righteousness of Christ, we believe it, and it is our righteousness. He is our Saviour. He saves us because He said He would. Are we going to go into all the explanations as to how He can save us? Do we have the goodness in ourselves that will make us better and cleanse us from the spots and stains of sin, enabling us then to come to God? We simply cannot do it. FW 70.2

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Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 150.5

Holding up Christ as our only source of strength, presenting His matchless love in having the guilt of the sins of men charged to His account and His own righteousness imputed to man, in no case does away with the law or detracts from its dignity. Rather, it places it where the correct light shines upon and glorifies it. This is done only through the light reflected from the cross of Calvary. The law is complete and full in the great plan of salvation, only as it is presented in the light shining from the crucified and risen Saviour. This can be only spiritually discerned. It kindles in the heart of the beholder ardent faith, hope, and joy that Christ is his righteousness. This joy is only for those who love and keep the words of Jesus, which are the words of God (Manuscript 24, 1888). LHU 150.5

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 787.3

When He sees men lifting the burdens, trying to carry them in lowliness of mind, with distrust of self and with reliance upon Him, He adds to their work His perfection and sufficiency, and it is accepted of the Father. We are accepted in the Beloved. The sinner's defects are covered by the perfection and fullness of the Lord our Righteousness. Those who with sincere will, with contrite heart, are putting forth humble efforts to live up to the requirements of God are looked upon by the Father with pitying tender love; He regards such as obedient children, and the righteousness of Christ is imputed unto them.—Letter 4, 1889. 2MCP 787.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 138

At this time the rite of circumcision was given to Abraham as “a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised.” Romans 4:11. It was to be observed by the patriarch and his descendants as a token that they were devoted to the service of God and thus separated from idolaters, and that God accepted them as His peculiar treasure. By this rite they were pledged to fulfill, on their part, the conditions of the covenant made with Abraham. They were not to contract marriages with the heathen; for by so doing they would lose their reverence for God and His holy law; they would be tempted to engage in the sinful practices of other nations, and would be seduced into idolatry. PP 138.1

God conferred great honor upon Abraham. Angels of heaven walked and talked with him as friend with friend. When judgments were about to be visited upon Sodom, the fact was not hidden from him, and he became an intercessor with God for sinners. His interview with the angels presents also a beautiful example of hospitality. PP 138.2

In the hot summer noontide the patriarch was sitting in his tent door, looking out over the quiet landscape, when he saw in the distance three travelers approaching. Before reaching his tent, the strangers halted, as if consulting as to their course. Without waiting for them to solicit favors, Abraham rose quickly, and as they were apparently turning in another direction, he hastened after them, and with the utmost courtesy urged them to honor him by tarrying for refreshment. With his own hands he brought water that they might wash the dust of travel from their feet. He himself selected their food, and while they were at rest under the cooling shade, an entertainment was made ready, and he stood respectfully beside them while they partook of his hospitality. This act of courtesy God regarded of sufficient importance to record in His word; and a thousand years later it was referred to by an inspired apostle: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2. PP 138.3

Abraham had seen in his guests only three tired wayfarers, little thinking that among them was One whom he might worship without sin. But the true character of the heavenly messengers was now revealed. Though they were on their way as ministers of wrath, yet to Abraham, the man of faith, they spoke first of blessings. Though God is strict to mark iniquity and to punish transgression, He takes no delight in vengeance. The work of destruction is a “strange work” to Him who is infinite in love. PP 138.4

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 140

Love for perishing souls inspired Abraham's prayer. While he loathed the sins of that corrupt city, he desired that the sinners might be saved. His deep interest for Sodom shows the anxiety that we should feel for the impenitent. We should cherish hatred of sin, but pity and love for the sinner. All around us are souls going down to ruin as hopeless, as terrible, as that which befell Sodom. Every day the probation of some is closing. Every hour some are passing beyond the reach of mercy. And where are the voices of warning and entreaty to bid the sinner flee from this fearful doom? Where are the hands stretched out to draw him back from death? Where are those who with humility and persevering faith are pleading with God for him? PP 140.1

The spirit of Abraham was the spirit of Christ. The Son of God is Himself the great Intercessor in the sinner's behalf. He who has paid the price for its redemption knows the worth of the human soul. With an antagonism to evil such as can exist only in a nature spotlessly pure, Christ manifested toward the sinner a love which infinite goodness alone could conceive. In the agonies of the crucifixion, Himself burdened with the awful weight of the sins of the whole world, He prayed for His revilers and murderers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. PP 140.2

Of Abraham it is written that “he was called the friend of God,” “the father of all them that believe.” James 2:23; Romans 4:11. The testimony of God concerning this faithful patriarch is, “Abraham obeyed My voice, and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” And again, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” It was a high honor to which Abraham was called, that of being the father of the people who for centuries were the guardians and preservers of the truth of God for the world—of that people through whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed in the advent of the promised Messiah. But He who called the patriarch judged him worthy. It is God that speaks. He who understands the thoughts afar off, and places the right estimate upon men, says, “I know him.” There would be on the part of Abraham no betraying of the truth for selfish purposes. He would keep the law and deal justly and righteously. And he would not only fear the Lord himself, but would cultivate religion in his home. He would instruct his family in righteousness. The law of God would be the rule in his household. PP 140.3

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Ellen G. White
Patriarchs and Prophets, 147

The instruction given to Abraham touching the sacredness of the marriage relation was to be a lesson for all ages. It declares that the rights and happiness of this relation are to be carefully guarded, even at a great sacrifice. Sarah was the only true wife of Abraham. Her rights as a wife and mother no other person was entitled to share. She reverenced her husband, and in this she is presented in the New Testament as a worthy example. But she was unwilling that Abraham's affections should be given to another, and the Lord did not reprove her for requiring the banishment of her rival. Both Abraham and Sarah distrusted the power of God, and it was this error that led to the marriage with Hagar. PP 147.1

God had called Abraham to be the father of the faithful, and his life was to stand as an example of faith to succeeding generations. But his faith had not been perfect. He had shown distrust of God in concealing the fact that Sarah was his wife, and again in his marriage with Hagar. That he might reach the highest standard, God subjected him to another test, the closest which man was ever called to endure. In a vision of the night he was directed to repair to the land of Moriah, and there offer up his son as a burnt offering upon a mountain that should be shown him. PP 147.2

At the time of receiving this command, Abraham had reached the age of a hundred and twenty years. He was regarded as an old man, even in his generation. In his earlier years he had been strong to endure hardship and to brave danger, but now the ardor of his youth had passed away. One in the vigor of manhood may with courage meet difficulties and afflictions that would cause his heart to fail later in life, when his feet are faltering toward the grave. But God had reserved His last, most trying test for Abraham until the burden of years was heavy upon him, and he longed for rest from anxiety and toil. PP 147.3

The patriarch was dwelling at Beersheba, surrounded by prosperity and honor. He was very rich, and was honored as a mighty prince by the rulers of the land. Thousands of sheep and cattle covered the plains that spread out beyond his encampment. On every side were the tents of his retainers, the home of hundreds of faithful servants. The son of promise had grown up to manhood by his side. Heaven seemed to have crowned with its blessing a life of sacrifice in patient endurance of hope deferred. PP 147.4

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 215

The human family are in trouble because of their transgression of the Father's law. But God does not leave the sinner until He shows the remedy for sin. The only-begotten Son of God has died that we might live. The Lord has accepted this sacrifice in our behalf, as our substitute and surety, on the condition that we receive Christ and believe on Him. The sinner must come in faith to Christ, take hold of His merits, lay his sins upon the Sin Bearer, and receive His pardon. It was for this cause that Christ came into the world. Thus the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the repenting, believing sinner. He becomes a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King, an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ. 1SM 215.1

Christ and the Law

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 1, 273

As soon as the long fast of Christ commenced in the wilderness, Satan was at hand with his temptations. He came to Christ, enshrouded in light, claiming to be one of the angels from the throne of God, sent upon an errand of mercy to sympathize with Him, and to relieve Him of His suffering condition. He tried to make Christ believe that God did not require Him to pass through self-denial and the sufferings He anticipated; that he had been sent from heaven to bear to Him the message that God only designed to prove His willingness to endure. 1SM 273.1

Satan told Christ that He was only to set His feet in the bloodstained path, but not to travel it. Like Abraham He was tested to show His perfect obedience. He also stated that he was the angel that stayed the hand of Abraham as the knife was raised to slay Isaac, and he had now come to save His life; that it was not necessary for Him to endure the painful hunger and death from starvation; he would help Him bear a part of the work in the plan of salvation. 1SM 273.2

The Son of God turned from all these artful temptations, and was steadfast in His purpose to carry out in every particular, in the spirit and in the very letter, the plan which had been devised for the redemption of the fallen race. But Satan had manifold temptations prepared to ensnare Christ, and obtain advantage of Him. If he failed in one temptation, he would try another. He thought he would succeed, because Christ had humbled Himself as a man. He flattered himself that his assumed character, as one of the heavenly angels, could not be discerned. He feigned to doubt the divinity of Christ, because of His emaciated appearance and unpleasant surroundings. 1SM 273.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 176.2

Righteousness by Faith Does Not Downgrade the Law—Holding up Christ as our only source of strength, presenting His matchless love in having the guilt of the sins of men charged to His account and His own righteousness imputed to man, in no case does away with the law or detracts from its dignity. Rather, it places it where the correct light shines upon and glorifies it. This is done only through the light reflected from the cross of Calvary. The law is complete and full in the great plan of salvation, only as it is presented in the light shining from the crucified and risen Saviour. This can be only spiritually discerned. It kindles in the heart of the beholder ardent faith, hope, and joy that Christ is his righteousness. This joy is only for those who love and keep the words of Jesus, which are the words of God. 3SM 176.2

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 283

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9. TMK 283.1

Through all my sickness the last eight months, [Written during Ellen White's long illness in Australia.] I have had during my sleepless hours the most precious contemplations of the love of God to man, expressed in the wonderful sacrifice made to save him from ruin. I loved to repeat the name of Jesus; how full of sweetness, light, and love it is! Looking upon the cross, at the humiliations and sufferings endured in bearing our sins, that His righteousness might be imputed to us, softens the heart and fills the soul with His love.... TMK 283.2

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Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 183.3

The Jews claimed to have descended from Abraham, but by failing to do the works of Abraham, they proved that they were not true children of his. Only those who are spiritually in harmony with him are reckoned as true descent. Christ recognized the beggar [Lazarus] as one whom Abraham will take into the very heart of friendship, although he belonged to a class looked upon by men as inferior. TDG 183.3

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