I was pleasantly surprised that there was so much interest in the difference between how Catholics and Protestants understand Romans 10. That being the case, I’d like to highlight where Catholics and Protestants differ on the understanding of Romans 4. This chapter contains several quotes which Protestants also use to support faith alone. Unfortunately, they don't recognize the Sacramental Teachings which underly St. Paul's words.
Anyway, let’s proceed.
King James Version (KJV)
1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
Abraham is our father, according to the flesh. The Apostle asks, "what has he found"?
2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Now, he asks, "did Abraham justify himself?" If he did, then more power to him, but if that it true, then it is not of God.
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
Now, he quotes Gen 15:6, Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
and he begins to explain what that means.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
This is a reference to the Jew. The Jews had made an agreement with God. They would do what He commanded and He would save them:
Ex 19:5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine : 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do . And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.
Notice the underlined words. The Jews agreed to obey God and to keep His Covenant, in order that He would protect them. They made a contract with God. If they obey and keep His Covenant, He will treasure them.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Abraham was born way before Moses. Way before any of the Israelites. He had made no contract. He was yet, uncircumcised when God appeared to him and told him that he would make him the father of many nations. That is why this verse begins with the words, “to him that worketh not”. Because, Abraham had as of yet, under no Covenant.
Therefore, Abraham is described as “he who worketh not”. But this is not meant to imply that Abraham did not obey God. Otherwise, St. Paul would contradict Scripture.
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.
And this ties the Catholic back to Abraham. We also work. Not from obligation, but because of our faith in and love for God.
6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
David is one of the circumcised. In other words, he is living under the Mosaic Covenant. But St. Paul also describes him as one who was justified without works. Why is that? Is it true that David did not keep the Law of Moses?
On the contrary, Scripture is replete with David’s good works. But this is a reference, not to the covenant of works. But to the covenant of reconciliation. What is that? Well, let’s see:
2 Sam 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
David confessed his sin to God's human representative and God forgave him. It is the first confession on record. David confessed through a priest, the same as we confess in the New Testament Church.
2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation ;
No one can deny that David did many works. But here, in his confession, all he did was believe in God's mercy. That is what Catholics do when we attend the Sacraments.
St. Paul acknowledges this. Note how God normally forgave iniquity in the Old Testament.
Ezekiel 18:21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 22 All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.
In the Old Testament, God did not forgive iniquity right there and then, but waited for a change of behavior to prove the person’s righteousness. This verse assumes that we know Ezekiel is making a reference to the Final Judgement.
But not in David’s case. Therefore, David sings to joyfully acknowledge this wonderful gift he was given. The forgiveness of sins apart from works. A gift which we now have also received, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
9 Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
Is this blessed reconciliation without works only offered to the Israelites (i.e. the circumcision). By no means. Abraham was not an Israelite. He was not even circumcised yet, when God acknowledged his faith. And because of his faith, declared him righteous.
This is what happens to us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We approach God in faith. He sees our faith and reckons it to us as righteousness apart from our works.
It is a bit deeper for us, though. Because neither Abraham nor David were washed of their sins. Note that neither of them received the promise. But we do. We receive the promised Holy Spirit in the Sacraments, if we believe.
10 How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:
This is a prophecy which showed that even the gentiles would be justified by faith.
12 And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
That pretty much repeats what I just said. We, Jew or Gentile, having faith like Abraham, believe and are imputed righteousness, in the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.
13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
The promise of God, then, was not restricted to the Israelites but given to the whole world, but to all who believe God's promises:
Hebrews 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
Here, St. Paul is contrasting the Old Testament with the New Testament.
The Old Testament is the Law.
The New Testament is the Faith.
Those who followed the Old Testament were not members of the body of Christ. They were not born again, nor could they be, because the Spirit was not yet given. Therefore Scripture says:
Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
So, even though they did everything by faith which they were supposed to do, they did not inherit the promise UNTIL Jesus died upon the Cross and established the Sacraments with His Blood.
15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
There was no ministry of reconciliation in the Old Testament. David's reconciliation was the exception and it was to show the blessedness to come. It was a foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
Again, this explains why Catholics, Jews and Gentiles, are children of Abraham. Because we believe and it is counted to us righteousness in the Sacraments.
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
That is the promise which God made to Abraham.
19 And being not weak in faith,
and Abraham, having a very strong faith, did not waver.
he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
And believing God, even though there were many obstacles, he worked. Believing God, he performed. Having faith in God, he did all which he knew was required of him to do.
What is it that he did? He sacrificed Isaac, his only Son.
James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
And it was imputed to him righteousness. Just as it is imputed to the Catholic, who believing the promises of God, approaches the font of grace and submits to the Sacraments, calling on his name.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
And that was not written for Abraham alone, but for us, who would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Jesus Christ.
Acts 2:37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children , and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Hebrews 12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
So, Romans 4 is not about faith alone. It is about the faith which we express in the Sacraments of Jesus Christ. Wherein God, sees our faith and credits it to us as righteousness. Only those who keep the Commandments and do the righteous works of mercy which God commands, are thus justified by God.