on Romans 4 :5
But to him that worketh not - Which was the case with Abraham, for he was called when he was ungodly, i.e. an idolater; and, on his believing, was freely justified: and, as all men have sinned, none can be justified by works; and, therefore, justification, if it take place at all, must take place in behalf of the ungodly, forasmuch as all mankind are such. Now, as Abraham's state and mode in which he was justified, are the plan and rule according to which God purposes to save men; and as his state was ungodly, and the mode of his justification was by faith in the goodness and mercy of God; and this is precisely the state of Jews and Gentiles at present; there can be no other mode of justification than by faith in that Christ who is Abraham's seed, and in whom, according to the promise, all the nations of the earth are to be blessed.
It is necessary to observe here, in order to prevent confusion and misapprehension, that although the verb δικαιοω has a variety of senses in the New Testament, yet here it is to be taken as implying the pardon of sin; receiving a person into the favor of God. See these different acceptations cited in the note on Romans 1:17 (note), and particularly under No. 7. It is also necessary to observe, that our translators render the verb λογιζομαι differently in different parts of this chapter. It is rendered counted, Romans 4:3, Romans 4:5; reckoned, Romans 4:4, Romans 4:9, Romans 4:10; imputed, Romans 4:6, Romans 4:8, Romans 4:11, Romans 4:22-24. Reckoned is probably the best sense in all these places.
on Romans 4 :5
But to him that worketh not - Who does not rely on his conformity to the Law for his justification; who does not depend on his works; who seeks to be justified in some other way. The reference here is to the Christian plan of justification.
But believeth - Note, Romans 3:26.
On him - On God. Thus, the connection requires; for the discussion has immediate reference to Abraham, whose faith was in the promise of God.
That justifieth the ungodly - This is a very important expression. It implies,
(1) That people are sinners, or are ungodly.
(2) that God regards them as such when they are justified. He does not justify them because he sees them to be, or regards them to be righteous; but knowing that they are in fact polluted. He does not first esteem them, contrary to fact, to be pure; but knowing that they are polluted, and that they deserve no favor, he resolves to forgive them, and to treat them as his friends.
(3) in themselves they are equally undeserving, whether they are justified or not. Their souls have been defiled by sin; and that is known when they are pardoned. God judges things as they are; and sinners who are justified, he judges not as if they were pure, or as if they had a claim; but he regards them as united by faith to the Lord Jesus; and in this relation he judges that they should be treated as his friends, though they have been, are, and always will be, personally undeserving. It is not meant that the righteousness of Christ is transferred to them, so as to become personally theirs - for moral character cannot be transferred; nor that it is infused into them, making them personally meritorious - for then they could not be spoken of as ungodly; but that Christ died in their stead, to atone for their sins, and is regarded and esteemed by God to have died; and that the results or benefits of his death are so reckoned or imputed to believers as to make it proper for God to regard and treat them as if they had themselves obeyed the Law; that is, as righteous in his sight; see the note at Romans 4:3.
on Romans 4 :5