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James 2:21-24

Faithful Obedience

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.


In order to illustrate the fruit that faith must produce in a man, James uses the story of Abraham, one with which every Jew would be familiar. He emphasized the Hebrew or Jewish connection with the words "our father." All Israel was descended from Abraham and he was noted by them for his faith.

Abraham was told to take his only son, Isaac, up the mountain, build an altar and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. He did not question the LORD's command, but set off first thing in the morning toward that mountain with Isaac, a knife, the wood and the fire. "And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here [am] I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me."(Genesis 22:9-12)

James then asks, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" Abraham's faith was still incomplete, but it compelled him to be obedient even at the cost of his own son. This faithful work made his faith perfect, or complete.

Continuing to quote scripture, James quoted from Genesis 15:6, "And he believed in the LORD, and he counted it to him for righteousness." Those who would say that James and Paul disagreed on the method of salvation should also read Romans 4:3 and Galatians 3:6 where Paul uses the same quote.

Furthermore, it was through this faithful act that the prophet Isaiah wrote, "But thou, Israel, [art] my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." (Isaiah 41:8) Those who are of great faith are indeed the friends of God. Jesus said so! "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:4)

"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." The two march side by side together. First comes faith and from it springs works... not the works of the law as the unredeemed Jews believed, but the works of faith.

Before The Throne:

We sometimes can find ourselves doing busy works that appear to be for the Lord but are born out of our own thoughts or emotions. What are you doing right now? Stop and pray. Ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to do. Ask Him to help you focus on that cause only, blocking out all of the other thoughts of the flesh and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for His counsel. Thank Him for calling you, "Friend."

For Further Study:

(v.21)
** Abraham. Josh 24:3; Isa 51:2; Matt 3:9; Luke 1:73; Luke 16:24, 30; John 8:39, 53; Acts 7:2; Rom 4:1, 12, 16; ** justified. Ps 143:2; Matt 12:37; Matt 25:31-40; Rom 3:20; ** when. Gen 22:9-12, 16-18;

(v.22) ** faith. Gal 5:6; Heb 11:17-19; ** faith made. 1John 2:5; 1John 4:17-18;

(v.23) ** the scripture. Mark 12:10; Mark 15:28; Luke 4:21; Acts 1:16; Rom 9:17; Rom 11:2; Gal 3:8-10, 22; 2Tim 3:16; 1Pet 2:6; ** Abraham. Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3-6; Rom 4:10-11, 22-24; Gal 3:6; ** the Friend. Exod 33:11; 2Chr 20:7; Job 16:21; Isa 41:8; John 15:13-15;

(v.24) ** Ps 60:12;

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