In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome he set forth the case (through chapter 3) that all are under sin and the Law of Moses given to the Jews could not justify (or save) a person, including Jews. Paul now illustrates his point with the historical account of Abraham’s salvation. Paul asked plainly concerning Abraham’s justification, was it before or after circumcision? The word circumcision is a word that stands for the whole of the Mosaic Law in this context. To be circumcised (males) was to be in covenant relationship with God and His people. Thus, when was Abraham declared righteous before God? It was before his circumcision. This illustrates that the Mosaic Law did not and could not justify any (4:15). In making this point, Paul puts emphasis on God who justifies and nothing on “works” (the Law of Moses) being able to do so. The importance of this is not to be missed by New Testament readers. Abraham was justified by God because it was (and is) God who justifies. With the emphasis on God and not something else, Paul said those who would be justified like Abraham must respond as Abraham did. How was Abraham justified? He was justified (declared righteous) because in his faith (trust) he obeyed God (cf. Hebrews 11:8-10).