Summary: James teaches that Abraham's faith that Paul taught about in Romans chapter four is the same faith that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write about and both he and Paul teach that biblical faith is a working faith.
1. Open your bible to James 2:21-24.
2. In the earlier lessons from this chapter James has declared and illustrated over and over the truth that a Christian is saved, “not by just faith, but rather by faith and works”.
3. In the last six verse of the second chapter of James, two Old Testament character examples are used to further illustrate and get his point across about the necessity of a Christian demonstrating both faith and works.
4. In this lesson we will only have time to discuss one of those O. T. characters.
I. FIRST, JAMES 2:21 PRESENTS THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM AND ASK A QUESTION ABOUT WHEN HE WAS JUSTIFIED?
1. Let’s read James 2:21. “21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
2. The word “justified” refers to when a person is recognized by God as one that is acceptable and pleasing to God.
3. Abraham was justified, that is, he was counted, reckoned, pronounced, declared to be in a right relationship with God. The basic significance of justification is to declare one as not guilty; to not be considered as an enemy of God; to be in a condition that no separation exists between a justified person and God.
4. Turn to Isaiah 59:1&2. This passage teaches that when un-repented sin exist in the life of an individual that they are un-justified and spiritually separated from God. Let’s read Isaiah 59:1&2, “1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.”
5. Abraham had been commanded by God to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice and it was not until Abraham literally and actually placed Isaac on the altar and “stretched for his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” that God accounted him as being justified.
6. Understand that the plan and action to offer Isaac as a sacrifice did not originate with Abraham.
(1) If Abraham had thought of the plan and presented it to God in an effort to become justified it would not have done Abraham any good at all.
(2) If the plan had originated with Abraham it would have been a way for Abraham to try and merit or earn his justification.
(3) The plan originated with God and it was given to Abraham as a command. Thus Abraham’s works were “working and obeying” what were actually the works of God and not his own works.
(4) Since the works to obey originated from God this kept them from being works of merit or works presented to try and earn his justification.
7. Thus, when James says that “Abraham was justified by works”, James is talking about Abraham being justified due to his obedience to the works that originated with God.
8. The type of works that Abraham obeyed are the kind that the N. T. teaches one to obey when they are searching to find out what to do in order to become justified and acceptable in the sight of God.