For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants (NASB)

Is "it" "the promise" (4:13, 14, 16), or something else? Can you provide evidence?

If it's "the promise" then it seems odd that Paul would not continue to use pronouns through the entire verse.

  • 1
    Righteousness is the it, would you like a long answer? Feb 8, 2019 at 5:33

2 Answers 2


I’m seeing the other answers and obviously I disagree that ‘it’ is referring to justification though it’s not entirely incorrect, from context the it is referring to righteousness.

“That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness."” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭4:22‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you are righteous, yes you are justified but the order is faith, righteousness and then justification, if I were to use only these three. Nonetheless I’m not going to develop this point so I’ll include a few more contextual verses.

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Righteousness is used immediately prior to the sentence following in v14. It makes sense in the syntax that ‘it’ would be righteousness and not a different word from paragraphs earlier like in chapter 3.

“He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well,” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Clearly again the context is righteousness and not justification.

  • I think it’s worth looking into the MMT portion of the Dead Sea Scrolls to see what Paul was up against both in the book of Romans and Galatians. sabbathreformation.com/… Feb 9, 2019 at 2:40

The Commentaries are very much divided on what is the subject of this sentence. What makes it harder is that the subject is implied only so one has to look at either the previous context or what follows.

Here is the listing from "Exegetical Summaries" which summarizes the translations and the major commentaries that address the issue.

QUESTION—What relationship is indicated by διὰ τοῦτο ‘therefore’? 1. It refers forward to the purpose clause ‘in order that it might be in accordance with grace’ which immediately follows; that is, the reason the promised inheritance is received by faith is so that it might be a matter of grace [BECNT, ICC2, NAC, NICNT, NTC]: For this reason it is from faith, namely that it might be in accordance with grace. 2. It refers backward and draws a conclusion from what has been stated [AB, Gdt, HNTC, Ho, ICC1, Mor, Mu, SSA, TH; GW, KJV, NCV, NIV, NLT]. It refers backward to 4:14, and insists that promise, faith, and grace belong together inseparably [HNTC]. It refers backward to 4:13; since law and promise are incompatible, it has to be by faith [AB]. It refers backward to the impossibility of salvation by law [Mor] or that the divine plan could be achieved by law [ICC1]. Law and the promised inheritance are contradictory, since law knows no grace, so the inheritance must therefore be of faith and by grace [Mu]. Because the law only brings wrath, the fulfillment of the promise had to be on the basis of faith and grace [Gdt, Ho]. It draws a conclusion from all that is stated in 4:13–15; that is, because God’s blessings to Abraham were given because he believed God and not because of obeying law, we can conclude that we will receive what God has promised because we trust in him [SSA].

QUESTION—What is it that is from faith and in accordance with grace, and which is the implied subject of this sentence? 1. The implied subject is the promise [AYB, BECNT, Gdt, Ho, Mu, NAC, NICNT, NTC, SSA, TH, WBC]. 1.1 It is the promised inheritance [AYB, BECNT, Gdt, Ho, NAC, NICNT, SSA]. 1.2 It is the promise of salvation [NTC]. 2. The implied subject is God’s plan of salvation [HNTC, ICC1, ICC2], or justification [St].

David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Romans 1-8, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 333.

I copied this from my Logos software where the abbreviations are all hyperlinks to the actual commentaries. It is too much work to expand the abbreviations here. If you want to lookup the particular commentary look at this listing on a great website:


I would favor the comments from [SSA] which is from Deibler, Ellis W. Jr. A Semantic and Structural Analysis of Romans. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1998:

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