Our outline of the book of Romans:
Rom 1:1-7, Greeting and benediction;
Rom 1:8-15, Desire to visit Rome;
Rom 1:16-17, Theme of the letter: the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God;
Rom 1:18-5:11, Justification and the righteousness of God;
Rom 5:12-8:39, Sanctification and the righteousness of God;
Rom 9:1-11:36, God’s righteousness and Israel;
Rom 12:1-15:13, Practical application of God’s righteousness;
Rom 15:14-16:27, Conclusion.
Paul’s topic from Rom 1:18-3:19 is the unrighteousness of man, which calls for the righteous wrath of God. From Rom 3:20-31, he establishes that the Law, even though righteous, cannot solve the problem of man’s unrighteousness by obedience to it.
My outline of Rom 4:1-25:
Rom 4:1-22, The faith of Abraham imputed as righteousness:
Rom 4:1-3, Abraham not justified by works but by faith;
Rom 4:4-5, He who works receives earnings, but he who believes receives righteousness as a gift;
Rom 4:6-8, Blessed is the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works;
Rom 4:9-12, Abraham justified prior to circumcision that he might be the father of both the uncircumcised and circumcised;
Rom 4:13-22, Abraham received the promise by faith not works;
Rom 4:23-25, Righteousness (justification) also imputed to us by faith.
The greater part of Rom 4 also forms a chiastic structure:
1a) Rom 4:1-3, Abraham not justified by works but by faith;
1b) Rom 4:4-5, He who works receives earnings; he who believes receives the gift of righteousness;
central axis) Rom 4:6-8, Blessed is the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works;
2b) Rom 4:9-12, Abraham not justified by circumcision;
2a) Rom 4:13-22, Abraham received the promise by faith not by works.
That the B pair goes together, can be see by the fact that Abraham did not receive the sign of circumcision as an earned debt, but after he had received imputed righteousness as a gift by faith, he received the sign of circumcision.
First, Abraham believed God, and because of that faith God imputed righteousness or justification, to Abraham;
Second, as a consequence of faith which resulted in justification, God established His covenant with Abraham;
Third, the command to be circumcised was given to him, a work which Abraham was required to perform. Even so, it was nevertheless a sign of his covenant status with God (Rom 4:11) which followed faith (as a wedding ring is a sign of the covenant status between a man and wife, which follows their entering into a love relationship) and not the cause of the relationship (as the wedding ring is not the CAUSE of the love between a man and his wife in the first place).
Does a man, now that he is in covenant with his wife, go out and have affairs (break the Law), because his wife’s love and her heart has been given to him by faith? No, he obeys the Law of fidelity to his wife, because they are now in covenant relationship, and he desires to do that which reveals his love for his wife.
For further reading:
romans 4, faith and works of the law (2011)