Exposition of Romans 4:9-10, Study carefully to get it right!

One of the big questions philosophers juggle is what are the sources of that which we know? Knowledge comes from a number of sources, but for a Christian, the revelation recorded in the Bible has primacy over all other written sources. An observant Jew would regard the Old Testament with the same esteem we have for the whole Bible.

Even a sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (Antonin Scalia) has commented on the value of such biblical sources by citing the Jewish Babylonian Talmud, which instructs with respect to the Scripture: Turn it over, and turn it over, for all is therein.. . . . Divinely inspired text may contain the answers to all earthly questions . . .[1]

Presumably, if God has spoken at book length to reveal himself, then he has been careful to say what he means. Since God has used such care, we must sift what he has said with diligence to get it right. Paul said, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

(ESV) Romans 4:9-10

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

In keeping with accurate interpretation of the Old Testament, Paul challenges his Jewish opponents to go back to Genesis and determine whether Abraham was declared righteous before or after he was circumcised (4:10). By doing so they will find the answer to the question posed in 4:9, which asks: Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? If righteousness is available to the uncircumcised (i.e. Gentiles), then being a Jew is not required! Even a Roman Catholic like Justice Scalia would be eligible.

In the second half of 4:9, Paul takes us right back to Genesis 15:6 and repeats his thesis that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness (4:9b). In Genesis 17:1, we find that Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised. Going back to Genesis 16:16, we find that Abraham was 86 at the time Ishmael was born. The Jewish interpreters assumed that the events of Genesis 15:6 took place 16 years prior to the birth of Ishmael. By the reckoning of the rabbis, Abraham was declared righteous 29 years prior to being circumcised.[2]

From his biblical analysis, Paul concluded that Abraham was uncircumcised when his faith led God to declare him righteous. Not only did Abraham attain righteousness by faith, but he was not yet qualified to be a Jew at the time!

Facts undercut prejudices

Jesus used similar methods to those of Paul: A lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ (Luke 10:2526). To answer the most serious question life offers, Jesus sent the scribe back to the teaching of the Old Testament. Afterward Jesus evaluated what the scribe said and directed him toward life.

1. If you were paid by $5/word for reading the Bible, how much would you make for what you read last week? What does your answer tell you?

2. When you read something in the Bible that you do not understand, what sources of information do you have to clarify it (e.g. study Bible, Christian websites, friends, a pastor or other)? What incentives could you create to motivate yourself and your children, if any, to read the Bible and find good answers for their questions?

Many times the Gospel writers quote Jesus saying Have you not read . . . during his teaching ministry (Matt. 12:3; 12:5; 19:4; 21:16; 21:42; 22:31; Mark 12:26; Luke 6:3). A lot of questions have answers, if you look in Gods Word!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Caperton v Massey Coal, 556 U.S. ___ (2009), Scalia, J., dissenting.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 235.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:11–13

Genesis 3:11–13
11 And the LORD God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.”  13 So the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman replied, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
(NET Bible)


We all have played the blame game. It seems so much easier than actually taking responsibility! We may laugh to see children do it, but some people never grow out of it.

How well does the blame game work out when the other party knows the truth? If in the end the blame game does not work in our favor, why do we keep playing? What is the alternative?

The sense of “who told you” is actually “who informed you,” because we are informed of what we previously did not know. Hamilton lists the alternatives: “Was it the serpent who told you? Was it the woman who told you? Was it your own eyes that told you?”[1] The last option can only mean one thing: the man has gained knowledge of good and evil, and there was just one way to do that.

The man is cornered! God then gives him an immediate opportunity to confess. His second question goes straight to the point like an arrow: “The tree that I commanded you not to eat from it—did you eat?” (my rough translation of Genesis 3:11b). This translation preserves the original word order and shows that God places immediate stress on the one forbidden tree. The NET Bible Notes say: “The Hebrew word order . . . is arranged to emphasize that the man’s and the woman’s eating of the fruit was an act of disobedience.”[2]

Genesis 3:12 is amazing for a direct confession, because it blames others including even God! Hamilton says: “Through rationalization the criminal becomes the victim, and it is God and the woman who emerge as the real instigators in this scenario. Adam plays up their contribution in his demise and downplays his own part.”[3] This is the blame game in its full-blown form. No repentance is offered.

What does the blame game accomplish? Wenham says, “Here the divisive effects of sin, setting man against his dearest companion (cf. 2:23) and his all-caring creator, are splendidly portrayed.”[4] The blame game is great for generating alienation in the worst spots—crucial relationships.

The interrogation of the woman is more brief but reaches no happier result (Gen. 3:13). She at least does not blame God or her mate, but she does blame the serpent. Once again, no repentance is offered. The crux of her downfall is described by the word “tricked.” This verb is often associated with excessive self-confidence (sometimes based on seemingly-safe physical security) or wishful thinking. Perhaps the woman thought she could handle the encounter with the wily serpent and she entertained the promised rewards without counting the cost. Her answer is pathetic.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 193.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Gen. 3:11.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 194.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 77.


Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 3:8-10

Genesis 3:8-10

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the orchard.
But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
(NET Bible)

Assessing a disaster

Barriers to communication present some of the worst problems we experience. When a dangerous storm passes over your loved ones, you want to know what is going on right now! All too often critical questions go unanswered.

What causes problems in our communication with God? How can the causes be overcome? What is God doing to reach out to us?

Although the woman was engaged by the voice of the serpent, a different reaction occurs when the man and his wife hear the voice (as translated by the King James Version; the same word given as sound in NET) of God calling while customarily walking in the garden during the breezy evening (Gen. 3:8). They must hide!

Gordon Wenham says: A more complete transformation could not be imagined. The trust and innocence are replaced by fear of guilt. The trees that God created for man to look at (2:9) are now his hiding place to prevent God seeing him.[1]

A more literal translation of Gen. 3:8b would say, and so they kept themselves hidden from the face of the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden (my rough translation). Fat chance that will work! Parents among us may think of their small children hiding by placing their little hands over their eyes; the ineffectiveness is uppermost.

The trees hide nothing from Gods eyes (Gen. 3:9). Bruce Waltke rightly says: God models justice. The just King will not pass sentence without careful investigation (cf. 4:9-10; 18:21). Although omniscient, God questions them, inducing them to confess their guilt.[2]

The call (the Lord God called in 3:9) is to give an accounting (as in 12:18; 20:9; 26:9-10). The question (Where are you?) is rhetorical (Gen. 3:9) and is directed to the man. Wenham notes: The couple emerge shamefaced from the trees. Their reply to Gods inquiry shows that they understood the question as an invitation to come out and explain their behavior.[3]

However, the barriers to communication are shown in the inverse order of the mans confession (Gen. 2:10). He says he hid because he was naked and therefore afraid. Notice the careful avoidance of how he got that way! He fails to realize that the word naked provides more than an explanation; it gives confirmation of his disobedience. How difficult it is for us to admit to God the true depth of our sinful acts.

The thoughtful reader will realize that God could have walked into this scene and simply announced judgment on the basis of what he already knew. But it is vital, now that the man has entered the realm of death, that the man and woman learn the value of confession and restoration of communication with their creator; he is the only one who can save this disaster.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 115, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 76.

[2] Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 92.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 115, 77.