When Paul and James wanted to present their readers an example of faithfulness to God they used Abraham. And for good reason, he’s the father of the faithful (Rom 4:12; Gal 3:7). Let’s learn the lessons that Paul and James wanted to teach them, and us, concerning the faith of Abraham.
By Faith Abraham was Justified (Rom 4:1-25) – In his discussion that righteous before God is on the bases of faith and not in the keeping the Law (Rom 3:28), Paul points back to Abraham and shows that he was justified by faith before he was circumcised say, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom 4:3; cf. Gen 15:6) So Abraham was in a right standing before God because his faith not because he relied on his work of circumcision to be right before God. This is why Paul would remind his audience, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11).
But somebody might ask, “So are you saying that we are saved by faith alone?” We’ll let’s James answer that question.
By Faith Abraham was Obedient (Jms 2:14-26) – In this passage, James is teaching that one must have faith and works in order to be saved (Jms 2:14) because faith without works is dead (Jms 2:20). He illustrates this point by turning to Abraham and using the same passage that Paul used in Romans, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Jms 2:23; Gen 15:6). However instead of talking about Abraham’s faith and circumcision, James talks about Abraham’s faith and the offering of his son Isaac as a sacrifice. James says that Abraham’s faith was made complete by his willingness to perform the work God had given him. So James concludes then “that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (Jms 2:24).
On the surface these two passages (Romans and James) seem to contradict each other. On one hand Paul is saying we are justified by faith, while James says it is by works and not faith alone that we are justified. To alleviate any confusion just look back at Romans 1:5, 16:26, and look at the kind of faith that is under consideration. It’s an obedient faith. Roman’s begins and ends with an obedient faith in mind. So when Paul points to Abraham as being justified by faith was it not an obedient faith that justified him? Yes that’s why he was obedient to God’s command to be circumcised (Rom 4:11). It wasn’t the circumcision that justified him but the faith that lead him to obey God’s commandment to be circumcised.
This applies to Christians today. While some religious groups use Romans as their proof-text to point out that a person is saved by faith alone, nothing could be farther from the truth. For Christians to be justified before God, like Abraham was, we must have faith in God (that’s Romans) and be obedient to God’s word (that’s James). What does that look like? Well a person who is justified by faith will believe God and His promises and their faith will lead them to do the obedient works to His word. Together, faith and works, a person will be saved.
Are we justified by faith? Yes but not by faith alone but by an obedient faith that works.
It would be my pleasure to talk with you about the salvation of your soul. Please email me at email@example.com and let’s talk about God’s word.