“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they might be uncircumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”

“And he received the sign of circumcision”
Literally:  “And he received a sign of circumcision.”–The outward mark in the flesh: circumcision, which was a sign or token of his being in covenant with God. A sign is that by which anything is shown or represented. And circumcision thus showed that there was already a covenant between Abraham and God (Gen. 17:1-10). 

                        SIGN:  (Grk.–sēmeion)— A sign is that by which anything is displayed or represented.

             And circumcision showed that there was a covenant between Abraham and God.  This was all that circumcision was:  a visible sign and seal to his own descendants of the righteousness that is of faith; but not confining it to them,   or in itself conferring it.  Circumcision became the public mark or token of the relation which he now had with God.
            So far was obedience to the law of circumcision from being the reason of Abraham’s 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 already received. And thus he became the father, the great head and representative, of all them that believe (i.e. believe; have faith); particularly the Gentiles, who are now in precisely the same state in which Abraham was when he received the mercy of God.
            It seems that the covenant established with Abraham, (Genesis 17:2-15), is the same with that in Genesis 12:2, 3; 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.

“a seal of the righteousness of the faith”–A token, or visible sign, that by means of the  faith which he exercised before he was circumcised, he was justified and accepted with God.

              SEAL: (Grk.–sphragida)—refers to the religious import.  Simply speaking, this   Greek noun, Sphragis is the old Greek word for the seal placed on books (Rev. 5:1), on a signet-ring (Rev. 7:2), or the stamp made by the seal (II Tim.2:19).  This seal is that by which anything is confirmed (I Cor. 9:2) as here–i.e., “signed, sealed and delivered.”         

          A seal is that mark of wax ,or other substance, which is attached to an instrument of writing, as a deed, etc., to confirm, or ratify it, or to make it binding.  Sometimes instruments were sealed, or made authentic by stamping on them some word, letter, or device, that 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; Gen. 41:42; 38:18; Exodus 28:11; 39:1-43).
          To affix the seal, whether of wax or otherwise, was to confirm a contract or engagement. In allusion to this, circumcision is called a Seal of the Covenant which God had made with Abraham. That is, God appointed this as a public attestation to the fact that he had previously approved of Abraham, and had made important promises to him
         Paul here puts forth his view of the real importance of circumcision. It was not (as so many of his contemporaries supposed) the cause or condition of Israel’s privileges so much as it is the sign or ratification of them. It ratified a state of things already existing when it was instituted. Therefore, to those who inherited that state of things (Justification by Faith) the want of circumcision was no bar.  The circumcision did not convey the righteousness, but only gave outward confirmation of the existence of righteousness.. However, those who depend on the sign are destitute of the very thing signified by the circumcision; and so long as they continue to do it will remain destitute. Glorying in the shadow, they lose its substance“A wicked adulterous generation seeketh after a sign…”  (Matt. 16:4).
          The righteousness came by faith and “the faith which he had while in uncircumcision.”  Whatever parallel exists between baptism and circumcision as here stated by Paul argues for faith before baptism and for baptism as the sign and seal of the faith already placed before baptism.

“that he might be the father of all them that believe”
Literally:  “for him to be a father of the {ones} believing”–That is, the father; rather, the model or pattern as to the way of acceptance with God, for all who should believe, though not descendants of Abraham, and not circumcised: to encourage them to exercise such faith as he did, that they also might be justified, and through grace be delivered from the    punishment of sin and rewarded with eternal bliss.

“the father”
Literally:  “A father.”–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, (v. 11),  but, in a special sense, the father of the Jewish people.

In this, Paul 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.  All this was done that Abraham might be held up as an example, or a model, of the very doctrine which Paul was defending. They are regarded as Abraham’s children because they are possessed of his spirit; are justified in the same way that he was, and are imitators of his example.  

          FATHER:   (Grk.–patera)—The word “father” (patera), used here is seems to be used in a spiritual sense, as denoting that he was the ancestor of all true believers; that he was their model and example.

“which he had yet being circumcised”
Literally:   {While} in uncircumcision.”  Abraham believed, (Gen. 15:6) was accepted, or justified; that he was admitted to the favor of God, and favored with clear and remarkabl promises, (Gen. 15:18-21; 17:1-9) before he was circumcised. Therefore, circumcision, could not have had anything at all to his being justified.            .

The whole of Paul’s argument, in this fourth chapter to the Romans, proves that we, believing Gentiles, are the seed (descendants) of Abraham, to whom also, as well as to himself, the promise was made; and that the promise made to Abraham 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 verse 11, as well as from Gen. 17:1-11, that circumcision was a seal or sign of the Gospel covenant in which we now stand.

            “though they be not circumcised”
            Literally: “Through uncircumcision.”–This was stated fix opposition to the opinion of the
Jews, that all ought to be circumcised.

As Paul had shown that Abraham enjoyed the favor of God before he was circumcised; that is, without circumcision, so it followed that others might also do so on the same principle. This really should settle the point; for there is nothing which any Jew can reply in opposition to this.

“that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.”
Literally: “For righteousness to be reckoned to them also.”–That is, in the same way, by faith without works: that they might be accepted, and treated as righteous.

“And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.”

            “And the father of circumcision”
             Literally: “And A father of circumcision.”–The father of those who are circumcised, and who possess the same faith that he did.

Not only the father of all believers, (v. 11) but, in a special sense, the father of the Jewish people. In this, Paul suggests 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”
Literally: “to those not of circumcision only.”–Meaning those who are 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 peculiarly his descendants.

“who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham”
Literally:  “But also to those walking in the steps of faith of our father Abraham.” —Who have his faith; who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

“Who not only are – but who also walk”
It seems apparent that Paul is speaking of two classes, but he is really just speaking of only one, that is designated by two different attributes.  Paul means that Abraham received a seal, etc., that he might be the father of circumcision to those who not only are circumcised, but adds to this outward sign the
faith which Abraham exhibited.

                        WALK: (Grk.–stoicheô)—This Greek word stoicheô is military term meaning, “to walk in file” as in Gal. 5:25; Phil. 3:16.

            “being yet uncircumcised”
            Literally: “During uncircumcision.”  Before he was circumcised, (comp. Gen. 15:6, with Gen. 17:1-27).

“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

“For the promise”–To show that the faith of Abraham, on which his justification depende, was not by the law, Paul now proceeds to show that the promise concerning which his faith was so remarkably displayed was before the Law was given.

           PROMISE:  (Grk.–epangelia)—Literally:  “promise; what is promised; consent; decision” (Acts 23:21).  i.e. “that he” (Abraham, in his seed) “should be heir of the world.” In other words, that Messiah, the Son of Abraham, (and thereby His “Israel”), should enjoy a sacred victory and dominion.

          This promise intimated that Abraham should be the medium through whom the mercy of God should be communicated to the world, to both Jews and Gentiles; and the manner in which he was justified, be the rule and manner according to which all men should expect this blessing.  Abraham is here represented as having all the world given to him as his inheritance; because in him all nations of the earth are blessed: this must therefore relate to their being all interested in the Abrahamic covenant; and every person, now that the covenant is fully explained, has the privilege of claiming justification through faith, by the blood of the Lamb, in virtue of this original grant.
          The promise at first, had respect to Abraham’s numerous natural descendants, and to their possessing the land of Canaan. But it is also regarded in the N.T. as extending to the Messiah (Gal. 3:16) as his descendant, and to all his followers as the spiritual seed of the father of the faithful. When Paul calls him “the heir of the world,” he sums up in this comprehensive expression all the promises made to Abraham, intimating that his spiritual descendants, i.e. those who possess his faith shall yet be so numerous as to possess all lands.

 “that he should be the heir of the world”
{For} him to be the heir of the world.”–

           HEIR:   (Grk.–klēronomos)—“One who receives what God has promised to His people; heir” (Matt. 21:38).

          Those promises were, that God would make of him a great nation, (Gen. 12:2) that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed (Gen. 12:3); that his posterity should be as the stars for multitude (Gen. 15:5) and that he should be a father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). As this latter promise is one to which Paul particularly refers, (Rom. 4:17) it is probable that he had this in mind. 
          An heir is one who succeeds, or is to succeed to an estate. In this passage, the world, or the entire earth, is regarded as the estate to which reference is made; and the promise is, that the posterity of Abraham should succeed to that, or should possess it as their inheritance. The precise expression here used, “heir of the world,”  is not found in the promises made to Abraham.

            “To his seed.”–To his posterity, or descendants.               

                        SEED:  (Grk.–spermati)—Meaning the physical descendants of Abraham.

“was not . . . through the law”
Literally:  “not through Law”–The article “the” is not in the Greek text.NO body of law had been given. The Mosaic Law was given centuries afterward. The law of circumcision   had not yet been enacted.

Not by the observance of the Law; or made in consequence of observing the Law; or depending on the condition that he should observe the law. The covenant was made before the law of circumcision was given; and long before the Law of Moses, and was independent of both.

“but through the righteousness of faith.”
Literally: “But through a righteousness of faith.”–That is, in consequence of, or in connection with, the strong confidence which he showed in the promises of God (Gen.15:6).

“For if they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.”

“For if they which are of the Law be heirs”
Literally:  “For if those of Law {are} heirs.”–Those who seek for justification and acceptance by the Law; or who have kept the whole law.  If the blessing is to be earned by obedience to the Law (which it really cannot be).  “For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in (even) one {point} he is guilty of all(James 2:10)

“faith is made void”
Literally: “Faith has been voided.”If the
Jews only be heirs of the promise made to Abraham, and that on the ground of prior obedience to the law, then faith is voided; that is, it is made entirely useless; and the promise, which was made to faith, is made of none  effect.  The whole divine method is subverted.

          IS MADE VOID:  (Grk.–kekenōtai)—Literally:  “has been voided.”  Faith is emptied of all meaning.  That is, it is emptied of its meaning; becomes an empty name.  There is nothing left for either to do, if the votaries of law, simply as such, are to be the inheritor of the Messianic kingdom. Faith is thereby rendered inoperative and the promise of none effect.

Faith would have no place in the scheme; and consequently the strong commendations bestowed on the faith of Abraham, would be bestowed without any just cause. If men are justified by the law, they cannot be by faith, and faith would be useless in this work. If they are by their own merits entitled to the blessings which God promised to Abraham. Faith is made void; is not needful.  If it be true that to be subject to the law is the condition of obtaining the possession of the world, nothing further can be said either of a saving power of faith.

“the promise made of none effect”
Literally:  “the promise has been annulled.”– All the promises of God have this design and  tendency; and consequently, as God has given many promises, the object is to call forth the lively and constant faith of people, all going to show that in the divine estimation, faith is of inestimable value.

         A promise looks to the future. Its design and tendency is to excite trust and confidence in the one making the promise. All the promises of God have this design and tendency; and consequently, as God has given many promises, the object is to call forth the lively and constant faith of men, all going to show that, in the Divine estimation, faith is of inestimable value. 
          If people are justified by the Law; if they are rendered “acceptable” by conformity to the institutions of Moses; then they cannot depend for acceptance on any promise made to Abraham, or his seed. They cut themselves off from that promise.

             NONE EFFECT:  (Grk.–katērgētai)—Have been cancelled by the mere fact of a legal condition.  The promise; which God made to faith, has been annulled;  of none effect; useless.  If, therefore, the Jews depended on the Law for justification, they were cut out from all the promises made to Abraham; and if they could be justified by the law, the promise was useless.

          This is as true now as it was then. If men seek to be justified by their morality, or their forms of religion, they cannot depend on any promise of God; for He has made no promise to any such attempt. They stand independently of any promise, covenant, or compact, and are depending on a scheme of their own; a scheme which would render his plan vain and useless; which would render his promises, and the atonement of Christ, and the work of the Spirit of no value. It is clear, therefore, that such an attempt at salvation cannot be successful.

Because the Law worketh wrath; for where no law is, there is no transgression.”

“For the Law.”
Literally: “Because the Law”–ALL law. Considered apart from grace, which though it was in fact mingled with it, yet is no part of the legal dispensation. Instead of bringing us a blessing, it only worked wrath; that is, it becomes to us an occasion of  God’s wrath, and exposes us to punishment as transgressors

“worketh wrath”
Literally:  “Works out wrath.”  Produces or causes wrath. While man is fallen, and a sinner, its tendency, so far from justifying him, and producing peace, is just the reverse.  It condemns, denounces and causes wrath, and produces suffering.

          WRATH: (Grk.–orgē)—Literally: “anger; wrath retribution; punishment; revenge.”  Wrath here is to be taken in the sense of punishment (2:8); and the meaning is that the Law of God, demanding perfect purity, and denouncing every sin, condemns the sinner, and consigns him to punishment.

         As Paul had proved (1:1-3) that all were sinners, so it followed that if any attempted to be justified by the law, they would be involved only in condemnation and wrath. It has nothing to give to those who break it but condemnation and vengeance. The Law threatens punishment to all who break its demands, and since none keep it perfectly, it works punishment to ALL.
         No law makes provision for the exercise of mercy, for it works wrath, (orgē)that is, punishment for the disobedient. Law necessarily subjects the transgressor to punishment.        

“for where no law is, there is no transgression.”
Literally:  “For where no law is neither transgression.”–Where no law is; where no rule   of duty is enacted and acknowledged, there is no transgression; and where there is no transgression there can be no punishment, for there is no law to enforce it.  There is no responsibility for the violation of a non-existent law. No law made is any better than its makers desire to enforce it.

         Law is a rule of conduct. If no such rule is given and known, there can be no crime. Law expresses what may be done, and what may not be done. If there is no command to pursue a certain course, no injunction to forbid certain conduct, actions will be innocent. The connection in which this declaration is made here seems to imply, that as the Jews had a multitude of clear laws, and as the Gentiles had the laws of nature, there could be no hope of escape from the charge of their violation. Since human nature was depraved, and men are prone to sin, the more just and reasonable the laws, the less hope was there of being justified by the law, and the more certainty was there that the law would produce wrath and condemnation.
          But the Jews did have a law, (which they have broken) and now they are exposed to the penal sanctions of that law; and, if the promises of pardon without the works of the Law, do not extend to them, they must be finally miserable, because they have all broken the law, and the Law exacts punishment.  This was a home stroke by Paul and his argument is unanswerable.