James 2:23-24

James 2:23‑24  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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BUT the reasoning goes farther, and the weight of Abraham's example is urged yet more in a way as telling as simple. So did our Lord Himself when here below in divine wisdom and grace dealing with the Jews; so did the great apostle of the Gentiles repeatedly and in the power of the Spirit.
“And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness, and be was called Friend of God. Ye see that a man is justified by works and not by faith only” (vers. 23, 24).
It is a striking arrangement that the offering up of Isaac is introduced before the statement of Abraham's believing God. This departure from the order of fact and of the inspired history was of course not only intentional, but essential to the question in hand. For it is asked in the first place if Abraham our father was not justified when he offered Isaac his son upon the altar.
Greater trial than such a demand never was laid by God on a believing father. For many years had passed after the promise to make of him a great nation, to bless him, and to bless in him all the families of the earth (Gen. 12) This was ere long enlarged by defining the land or visible scene of the blessing with a promise also of his seed made as. the dust of the earth beyond number (Gen. 13) Later on, when there appeared to the childless man no possessor of his house but Eliezer of Damascus, Jehovah assured him that one to come forth from his own bowels should he his heir, and that as the stars, for He bade him look up, should his seed be. And he believed Jehovah, Who counted it to him for righteousness. Long years after this was the son born, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And not a few years elapsed during which Isaac grew up, the object not only of the tenderest love but of hopes far deeper and higher than filled any other heart on earth. God then proved Abraham. It was not to resign him in death, as many a father has sorrowfully known. It was not to have another son as a substitute for Isaac. For, in the bitter trial of Ishmael sent away with his bondwoman mother, Abraham knew from God that in Isaac should his seed be called. In him only was the line of promise. Yet God, in no way softening the blow, “after these things” said, “Take now thy son, thine only one, Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Gen. 22:22And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:2)).
What! God, the true God, the God of grace, lay such a claim on His Friend—the demand on such a father of such a son, the surely and solely expected channel of blessing so immense and hopes so glorious! And not this only, but in a way so unexpected and so terrible, as a burnt offering to Himself, and from his father's hand as the slaughterer! Yes, it was a trial beyond example, heightened by all that nature could feel, by the very faith that received the word of Jehovah so implicitly, and by the hope so fed by promise, and matured by experience of divine mercy beyond all he dared to ask when interceding. It was just to prove the faith unqualified which His grace had given to Abraham, and this not in word only but in deed and truth. Truly it was faith perfected by works.
This could not be deduced from Gen. 15 It was manifest to the highest degree in Gen. 22 And hence we see the ground which requires that this 5 should take here the first place.
But it is carefully added, “And the scripture; was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness,” as the earlier chapter has. For this was the joint result of a faith proved to be of God. The works had nothing in common with those activities of benevolence which fill the horizon of man and are the boast of such as make the creature all but God nothing. Here it was one who looked death in the face and in a form incomparably harder to bear than if he had been called to die for his son—to smite with the knife at God's word his only and well-beloved son on whose life hung the promises of blessing for all mankind! It was not only to trust God for his own character who would seem the worst of murderers, but for raising from the dead him who must live again to make good the promised blessings for Israel and for man.
Yet, however differently applied at the last, it was the same divinely given faith on which God at the first had pronounced. “The scripture was fulfilled.” No wonder he was called God's Friend. So Jehovah treated him in Gen. 18 when He disclosed His secret intentions. “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” So Jehovah treated him when drawing out his heart there in intercession. Hence in due time the pious king of Judah (2 Chron. 20:77Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever? (2 Chronicles 20:7)) and the prophet friend of another pious king (Isa. 41; 8) called Abraham Jehovah's friend.
But it was a work that man would never have thought of, a work deriving all its virtue from absolute trust in the God Who demanded what He alone was entitled to ask, as He alone could have availed by resurrection power to conciliate it with His love, His truth, His character, and His purposes, turning it too, spite of appearances, to such experimental blessing as Abraham had never yet enjoyed, and to like blessing for the family of faith in their turn. We see from such a case how far Abraham was from a bare faith of the mind, when justified out of his works, and not out of the empty assent there denounced. How could it justify any one? Surely we may here apply the Lord's word, Wisdom is justified of all her children.