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Romans 4:12

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And the father of circumcision - He is also the head and representative of all the circumcision of all the Jews who walk in the steps of that faith; who seek for justification by faith only, and not by the works of the law; for this was the faith that Abraham had before he received circumcision. For, the covenant being made with Abraham while he was a Gentile, he became the representative of the Gentiles, and they primarily were included in that covenant, and the Jews were brought in only consequentially; but salvation, implying justification by faith, originally belonged to the Gentiles; and, when the Gospel came, they laid hold on this as their original right, having been granted to them by the free mercy of God in their father and representative, Abraham. So that the Jews, to be saved, must come under that Abrahamic covenant, in which the Gentiles are included. This is an unanswerable conclusion, and must, on this point, for ever confound the Jews.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And the father of circumcision - The father, that is, the ancestor, exemplar, or model of those who are circumcised, and who possess the same faith that he did. Not only the father of all believers Romans 4:11, but in a special sense the father of the Jewish people. In this, the apostle intimates that though all who believed would be saved as he was, yet the Jews had a special proprietorship in Abraham; they had special favors and privileges from the fact that he was their ancestor.

Not of the circumcision only - Who are not merely circumcised, but who possess his spirit and his faith. Mere circumcision would not avail; but circumcision connected with faith like his, showed that they were especially his descendants; see the note at Romans 2:25.

Who walk in the steps … - Who imitate his example; who imbibe his spirit; who have his faith.

Being yet uncircumcised - Before he was circumcised. Compare Genesis 15:6, with Genesis 17.

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.
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