Now he asks two critical questions, the answers to which go very far in explaining and confirming the doctrine which he has been unfolding.  First, he asks how this faith was reckoned; and then, to clarify and expand upon the first question, he puts it more plainly by asking if faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness after he was circumcised, or before.  The answer is absolutely critical, and is a fatal blow to the self-righteousness of the Jews who gloried in their circumcision as being an essential part of their righteousness with God: “Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”  Because the Jews believed that circumcision was absolutely necessary to salvation (let us not forget that this was the main point of dispute at the great Jerusalem church council of Acts 15), it would stand to reason that their great patriarch Abraham entered into righteousness when he circumcised himself and his family.  But in God’s sovereign wisdom, He saw to it that the proclamation of Abraham as righteous through faith occurred before he was circumcised.


The chronology here is of the utmost importance.  Had it been otherwise, the Jews could have argued very reasonably that Abraham became righteous because he was obedient to God’s command to circumcise himself and all the male members of his household.  But since the scriptures declared Abraham to have righteousness accounted to him because of his faith many years before circumcision entered the picture, it is indisputable that the righteousness which saved Abraham was entirely unconnected to his circumcision.