Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Romans 4:11

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.
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.

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
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
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
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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