Romans 4 and working and "calling things"

What does Romans 4 mean in vs 4-5? " now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift but as an obligation." However, to the man who does no work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness"

Does vs 4 simply comment on the employee/employer relationship of working and earning our pay, then we get paid? If that is so, I guess I don’t follow the however part- is vs 5 talking about the gift of salvation that we can’t earn, moving it out of the realm of “work?” I know this is OT so it is righteousness they refer to, but is it the same concept? Am I all wet here?

Additionally, vs 17b says “…The God who gives life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were.” What does “calls things that are not as though they were.” mean? I know we aren’t to take things out of context but this is curious!


@plantaseed Great question :slight_smile: Romans 4:4-5 is simply saying that unlike the money we get paid for doing our jobs, the salvation God offers is not something that we have earned by our effort - it is a free gift of God’s grace. None of us can boast in what Christ has done in our lives because it is completely undeserved and unearned.

Regarding Romans 4:17, it appears the best understanding is that God is able to call nations into existence even though they do not yet exist. God promised to make of Abraham a great nation and God was able to declare that truth even before it had happened. God could bring His promises to pass.

Acts 4:17 Net Bible Note - Or “calls into existence the things that do not exist.” The translation of ὡς ὄντα (hōs onta) allows for two different interpretations. If it has the force of result, then creatio ex nihilo (“creation out of nothing,” a technical theological phrase) is in view and the variant rendering is to be accepted (so C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans [ICC], 1:244). A problem with this view is the scarcity of ὡς plus participle to indicate result (though for the telic idea with ὡς plus participle, cf. [Rom 15:15](javascript:{}); [1 Thess 2:4](javascript:{})). If it has a comparative force, then the translation given in the text is to be accepted: “this interpretation fits the immediate context better than a reference to God’s creative power, for it explains the assurance with which God can speak of the ‘many nations’ that will be descended from Abraham” (D. Moo, Romans [NICNT], 282; so also W. Sanday and A. C. Headlam, Romans [ICC], 113). Further, this view is in line with a Pauline idiom, viz., verb followed by ὡς plus participle (of the same verb or, in certain contexts, its antonym) to compare present reality with what is not a present reality (cf. [1 Cor 4:7](javascript:{}); [5:3](javascript:{}); [7:29](javascript:{}), 30 (three times), 31; [Col 2:20](javascript:{}) [similarly, [2 Cor 6:9](javascript:{}), [10](javascript:{})]).

I think this quotation from Isaiah 46 summarizes God’s ability to bring to pass what is not yet well (in contrast to idols):

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.
Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted,
you who are now far from my righteousness.
I am bringing my righteousness near,
it is not far away;
and my salvation will not be delayed.
I will grant salvation to Zion,
my splendor to Israel.


Thank you! I am happy that I actually understood the “work” verses and you helped make sense of God being able to do whatever he wants whenever he wants verbiage. There is comfort in that amazing power. Nothing is impossible for God! I have read through the Bible chronologically and now, at the urging of a friend, I am reading it using Dr. Horner’s method which is 10 separate chapters every day from different books. I will be posting other questions here from that. It is an interesting approach. ~Kathleen


@plantaseed Sure thing :slight_smile: That’s exciting that you are getting deeper into God’s Word! May the Spirit of Jesus grant you wisdom as you study and store His Word in your heart that it may come to mind in due season.

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