Let's take Abraham as an example. From a human viewpoint he is the father of our nation. Let's ask, “What was his experience?” For if Abraham was set right by what he did, he would have had something to boast aboutbut not in God's eyes. However, what does Scripture say? “Abraham trusted God, and so he was considered as being a good person who did right.”* Whoever works gets paid—it's not considered as a gift, but because they've earned their wages. But God, who makes sinners right, considers them as right not because they've worked for it but because they trust in him. This is why David speaks of the happiness of those whom God considers as right, and not because they worked for it: How happy are those whose wrongs are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. How happy are those the Lord does not consider sinful.”
Now is this blessing just for the Jews, or is it for others too? We've just stated that Abraham was accepted as good and right because he trusted God. 10 But when did this happen? When Abraham was a Jew or before? 11 It was actually before he became a Jew by being circumcised, which was a confirmation of his trust in God to make him right. This happened before he was circumcised, so he is the father of everyone who trusts in God and are considered as right by God, even though they may not be circumcised Jews. 12 He is also the father of circumcised Jews not merely because they're circumcised, but because they follow the example of the trust in God our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 God's promise to Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him was not based on his keeping of the law, but because he was made right through his trust in God. 14 For if the promised inheritance is based on keeping the law, then the issue of trusting God is not necessary, and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law results in punishmentbut if there's no law then it cannot be broken.
16 So the promise is based on trusting God. It is provided as a free gift, guaranteed to all the children of Abrahamnot merely to those who follow the law,§ but also to those who trust like Abraham, the father of us all. 17 As Scripture says, “I've made you the father of many nations.”* For in the presence of God, Abraham trusted in the God who makes the dead alive and speaks into existence what didn't previously exist. 18 Against all hope Abraham in hope trusted God, so he could become the father of many peoples, just as God had promised him: “This is how many descendants you'll have!” 19 His trust in God didn't weaken even though he thought his body was practically dead (he was around a hundred years old), and knew that Sarah was too old to have children. 20 He held on to God's promisehe didn't doubt it. Instead his trust in God grew stronger, and he gave glory to God. 21 He was totally convinced that what God had promised he had the power to deliver. 22 That's why Abraham was considered right by God.
23 The wordsAbraham was considered right weren't just written down for his benefit. 24 They were for us too, those of us who will be considered as right, since we trust in God who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead. 25 Jesus was handed over to die because of our sins,§ and was raised to life to make us right.
* 4:3 Quoting Genesis 15:6. 4:8 Quoting Psalms 32:1-2. 4:15 Punishment for law-breaking, which of course includes everyone. § 4:16 Paul is not saying here that those who obey the Mosaic law are consequently made right with God—he has already dealt with that issue. He is simply pointing out that those who are not following the Mosaic law are not excluded by God. * 4:17 Quoting Genesis 17:5. 4:18 Referring to Genesis 15:5. 4:23 Quoting Genesis 15:6. § 4:25 See Isaiah 53:4-5