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Romans 4:17

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As it is written, I have made thee a father - That Abraham's being a father of many nations has relation to the covenant of God made with him, may be seen, Genesis 17:4, Genesis 17:5; : Behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations: neither shall thy name any more be called Abram; but thy name shall be Abraham, for a father of many nations have I made thee, i.e. he was constituted the head of many nations, the Gentile world, by virtue of the covenant, which God made then with him.

God, who quickeneth the dead, etc. - God is the most proper object of trust and dependence; for being almighty, eternal, and unchangeable, he can even raise the dead to life, and call those things which be not as though they were. He is the Creator, he gave being when there was none; he can as infallibly assure the existence of those things which are not, as if they were already actually in being. And, on this account, he can never fail of accomplishing whatsoever he has promised.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

As it is written - Genesis 17:5.

I have made thee - The word used here in the Hebrew Genesis 17:5 means literally, to give, to grant; and also, to set, or constitute. This is also the meaning of the Greek word used both by the Septuagint and the apostle. The quotation is taken literally from the Septuagint. The argument of the apostle is founded in part on the fact that the past tense is used - I have made thee - and that God spoke of a thing as already done, which he had promised or purposed to do. The sense is, he had, in his mind or purpose, constituted him the father of many nations; and so certain was the fulfillment of the divine purposes, that he spoke of it as already accomplished.

Of many nations - The apostle evidently understands this promise as referring, not to his natural descendants only, but to the great multitude who should believe as he did.

Before him - In his view, or sight; that is, God regarded him as such a father.

Whom he believed - Whose promise he believed; or in whom he trusted.

Who quickeneth the dead - Who gives life to the dead, Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5. This expresses the power of God to give life. But why it is used here has been a subject of debate. I regard it as having reference to the strong natural improbability of the fulfillment of the prophecy when it was given, arising from the age of Abraham and Sarah, Romans 4:19. Abraham exercised power in the God who gives life, and who gives it as he pleases. It is one of his prerogatives to give life to the dead ( νεκρους nekrous), to raise up those who are in their graves; and a power similar to that, or strongly reminding of that, was manifested in fulfilling the promise to Abraham. The giving of this promise, and its fulfillment, were such as strongly to remind us that God has power to give life to the dead.

And calleth … - That is, those things which he foretels and promises are so certain, that he may speak of them as already in existence. Thus, in relation to Abraham, God, instead of simply promising that he would make him the father of many nations, speaks of it as already done, “I have made thee,” etc. In his own mind, or purpose, he had so constituted him, and it was so certain that it would take place, that he might speak of it as already done.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The promise was made to Abraham long before the law. It points at Christ, and it refers to the promise, Ge 12:3. In Thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. The law worketh wrath, by showing that every transgressor is exposed to the Divine displeasure. As God intended to give men a title to the promised blessings, so he appointed it to be by faith, that it might be wholly of grace, to make it sure to all who were of the like precious faith with Abraham, whether Jews or Gentiles, in all ages. The justification and salvation of sinners, the taking to himself the Gentiles who had not been a people, were a gracious calling of things which are not, as though they were; and this giving a being to things that were not, proves the almighty power of God. The nature and power of Abraham's faith are shown. He believed God's testimony, and looked for the performance of his promise, firmly hoping when the case seemed hopeless. It is weakness of faith, that makes a man lie poring on the difficulties in the way of a promise. Abraham took it not for a point that would admit of argument or debate. Unbelief is at the bottom of all our staggerings at God's promises. The strength of faith appeared in its victory over fears. God honours faith; and great faith honours God. It was imputed to him for righteousness. Faith is a grace that of all others gives glory to God. Faith clearly is the instrument by which we receive the righteousness of God, the redemption which is by Christ; and that which is the instrument whereby we take or receive it, cannot be the thing itself, nor can it be the gift thereby taken and received. Abraham's faith did not justify him by its own merit or value, but as giving him a part in Christ.
Ellen G. White
Education, 254

In the study of the Bible the student should be led to see the power of God's word. In the creation, “He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” He “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Psalm 33:9; Romans 4:17); for when He calls them, they are. Ed 254.1

How often those who trusted the word of God, though in themselves utterly helpless, have withstood the power of the whole world—Enoch, pure in heart, holy in life, holding fast his faith in the triumph of righteousness against a corrupt and scoffing generation; Noah and his household against the men of his time, men of the greatest physical and mental strength and the most debased in morals; the children of Israel at the Red Sea, a helpless, terrified multitude of slaves, against the mightiest army of the mightiest nation on the globe; David, a shepherd lad, having God's promise of the throne, against Saul, the established monarch, bent on holding fast his power; Shadrach and his companions in the fire, and Nebuchadnezzar on the throne; Daniel among the lions, his enemies in the high places of the kingdom; Jesus on the cross, and the Jewish priests and rulers forcing even the Roman governor to work their will; Paul in chains led to a criminal's death, Nero the despot of a world empire. Ed 254.2

Such examples are not found in the Bible only. They abound in every record of human progress. The Vaudois and the Huguenots, Wycliffe and Huss, Jerome and Luther, Tyndale and Knox, Zinzendorf and Wesley, with multitudes of others, have witnessed to the power of God's word against human power and policy in support of evil. These are the world's true nobility. This is its royal line. In this line the youth of today are called to take their places. Ed 254.3

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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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