What did Abraham, the father of the Jews according to the flesh, find?  Of course, the context teaches us that Paul is speaking in terms of justification and salvation.  The question he is posing is: how did Abraham obtain salvation from God?  If it could be proven from scripture that God saved Abraham at least in part because of his good works and sterling character, then Paul’s argument, which is thoroughly based upon the universal sinfulness and spiritual destitution of all mankind, would fall apart.

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Paul has just argued that his doctrine of salvation through free grace received by faith utterly excludes boasting.  But might Abraham prove an exception?  Paul admits that if he were justified by works, he would have ground for glorying, or boasting.  But he is convinced that his opponents have no leg to stand on in this contention.  He concludes, “But not before God.”  By this he means, that even Abraham, as excellent a man as he was, had positively no ground for boasting in the presence of God about how he had earned salvation through his own virtue.

 

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