“How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. 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” (Romans 4:10–11, KJV 1900)
The sequence of things is often very important. For instance, when driving a car. First, you must start the engine and then begin to drive it. Even when driving, there are several things that must be done in sequence on the journey. The spiritual journey in the Christian life is the same. In this passage, Paul is speaking about Abraham being counted as righteous because he believed God. His faith was first.
Many believers do not understand somethings regarding Abraham. Since the Jews claimed Abraham as their father, many believers think that Abraham was Jewish. Yet, when God called him and by faith Abraham believed God, he was from Ur of the Chaldeans, a land and a people characterized by idolatry.
Abraham was the father of the Jewish people as through his seed came Isaac and Jacob, and through Jacob the nation of Israel. Interestingly, the call of God and the covenant promise to Abraham came before the Mosaic law. Paul indicated in this passage that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness before he was circumcised.
This passage brings us to this conclusion. First, it proves that our justification is by faith and not legalistic obedience to the works of the law. The second is that Abraham, being justified by faith prior to circumcision shows that he is the father of all who believe without circumcision, meaning the Gentiles. Last, it shows that Abraham is not the father of all the circumcised, but only those who “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 4:12, ESV). Thus, Abraham is the father of all who have been justified by faith. Faith is first.