Romans 4:13

13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, 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, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while he was in uncircumcision, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they be in uncircumcision, that righteousness might also be accounted to them.
12 The father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father, Abraham, which he had in uncircumcision.
13 For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of no effect.
15 For the law works wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience.