Romans 4:13

13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

Romans 4:13 Meaning and Commentary

Romans 4:13

For the promise that he should be heir of the world
This promise is thought by some to refer to that of his being "the father of many nations", ( Genesis 17:4 Genesis 17:5 ) ( Romans 4:17 Romans 4:18 ) ; by whom the Gentiles are particularly meant, who are sometimes called "the world", and "the whole world", or the elect of God, the believing part of the world; whether among Jews or Gentiles, who sometimes go by the name of "the world" in Scripture: but to this it may be objected, that the promise here spoken of is made to Abraham's seed, as well as to himself; by which is meant not the Messiah, who is indeed heir of the world, and all things in it, but all believers, whether Jews or Gentiles; as appears from ( Romans 4:16 ) ; and therefore cannot be both heirs and inheritance too. Others think the land of Canaan is designed, and by a synecdoche, a part of the world is put for the whole world; but that land is never so called, and, besides, the promise of it belonged to those of the law, and to them only, contrary to what the apostle argues, ( Romans 4:14 Romans 4:16 ) . Others therefore consider Canaan as a type of heaven, which Abraham and his spiritual seed are heirs of by promise. But rather, by "the world" here, is meant, both this world and that which is to come; Abraham and all believers are the "heirs" of this world, and of all things in it; "all things" are theirs, and, among the rest, the world, Christ being theirs, and they being Christ's; he is heir of all things, and they are joint heirs with him; and how little soever they may enjoy of it now, the time is coming, when they, by virtue of their right, "shall inherit the earth"; see ( Psalms 37:9 Psalms 37:11 ) ; and now they have as much of it as is necessary, and with a blessing, and which the Jews call their "world". It is a saying in their Talmud F15, (Kyyxb hart Kmlwe) , "thou shall see thy world" in thy lifetime; which the gloss explains, "thou shalt find", or enjoy all thy necessities, or what is needful for thee; and of Abraham they say F16, that

``he was the foundation of the world, and that for his sake the world was created;''

and introduce God saying of him thus F17

``as I am the only one in my world, so he is the only one, (wmlweb) , "in his world".''

And as he and all the saints are heirs of this world, so of the world to come, the future salvation, the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, never fading, and reserved in the heavens; for they are heirs of God himself, and shall inherit all things: now this large and comprehensive promise, which takes in the things of time and eternity,

[was] not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law:
not through the law of circumcision, or on the score of their obedience to that, for this promise was made before that was enjoined; see ( Genesis 12:2 Genesis 12:3 ) ; nor through the law of Moses, which was not as yet given; nor through the law of nature, nor by any righteousness of the law;

but through the righteousness of faith:
by virtue of which they have "all things that pertain to life and godliness", ( 2 Peter 1:3 ) ; and have "the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come", ( 1 Timothy 4:8 ) ; enjoy with a blessing what they now have, and have a right and title to the heavenly glory.


F15 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 17. 1.
F16 Caphtor, fol. 99. 2.
F17 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 118. 1.

Romans 4:13 In-Context

11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them,
12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised.
13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.
15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.