Last time Paul was discussing the righteousness that Abraham received by faith. He continued.
Romans 4:4-11 (KJV)
Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
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 be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
In verse 4 Paul declared that the giving of eternal life to a person who earned his or her salvation by doing righteous deeds would be like repaying a debt. It had nothing to do with grace. However, for the person who had not worked for his salvation, but rather believed in the One who gave righteousness to the ungodly, his faith was counted as righteousness and eternal life became a gift of grace (verse 5). It should be stressed that Paul was not saying that anyone could earn salvation. He had already pointed out that "All have sinned." Nor was he saying that righteous deeds played no part in salvation. Righteous deeds are the evidence of salvation.
Next, Paul gave an example in verses 6 through 8 where David had described the blessedness of the man to whom God had imputed righteousness by faith and not works. He quoted Psalm 32:1.
Psalm 32:1 (KJV)
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
The reverse was also true, that the man to whom God did not impute sin, was blessed!
Paul then asked a leading question. Was this blessedness available only to the Jews or to the Gentiles also (verse 9)? Paul's readers were of the opinion that these blessings were reserved for the Jews, so he asked another question. When did Abraham receive God's righteousness? Did he receive it after he was circumcised or before (verse 10)? The fact is that Abraham received God's righteousness before he was circumcised. His circumcision was the sign or seal of God's righteousness that he had already received through faith (verse 11). By this, Abraham became the father of all of them that believe whether circumcised or not. God's righteousness could be imputed to both Jews and Gentiles.
Although circumcision was an advantage that the Jews had over the Gentiles, it was the sign that the Jews were in covenant with God. It was not a barrier to the Gentiles participating in the covenant. Abraham's receiving God's righteousness by faith before circumcision was the proof that both Jews and Gentiles could participate.
Paul's argument will continue next time!