James 2:21-26 KJV
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.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
We now come to the conclusion of James’s argument about the correlation between faith and works. You can sense that James really wanted to make sure people get the point since he used so many different arguments bringing home the fact that we must have works in our life after we get saved. We cannot just go happily on our way once we leave the altar and not do anything productive for the Lord.
The first example he gives us as Abraham. There are so many ways that Abraham believed God and other ways that he walked contrary to what God would have wanted. In other words Abraham was not perfect. But he was the father of our faith and as such we should look to him as an example. The example that James pulls out of the Old Testament is that of Abraham offering his son Isaac.
Isaac was probably a teenager at this point. God had promised Abraham that his seed would be like the stars of the heaven and the sand of the sea (Gen 15:5, 22:17). At age 100 Abraham had his first Child by his wife Sarah who is now in her 90’s (Gen 21). Then one day God told Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. You have to realize that child sacrifice was quite common in those days. Many other gods required children to be sacrificed so this was not as weird as we might think. The only reason Abraham would have had any reason not to offer his son was because of God’s promise. But Abraham knew what God had promised and had faith that God would do as He said. Just before they walked up the mountain Abraham said we are going up to sacrifice and we will return. The emphasis is on the “we” (Gen 2:5).
I believe that Abraham had faith that God would either raise his son up if he killed him or that he would provide another sacrifice. As he laid the wood on the altar his son asked him where the sacrifice was and Abraham said God will provide one. I can imagine Isaac looking up at his father when he himself on the altar. But Isaac was a dutiful son and we see no sign of struggle. I think that Abraham taught him well. And God did provide another sacrifice, but not until Abraham had raised up the knife and was ready to take his son’s life.
The Bible tells us because Abraham believed God it was imputed to him for righteousness(Gen 15:6). That faith that Abraham had was mentioned before he offered his son. It was counted toward his righteousness when he believed God would provide him a son. Abraham was 100 years old at the time, but he still believed God’s promise. When we believe God and carry out the things that God asks us to do it becomes an act of righteousness on our behalf and brings us closer to God.
The next example is Rahab. Rahab was a heathen harlot and yet God used her. When the spies came into the Jericho to check out the defenses they went to Rahab’s house (Joshua 2). The men of the city came and tried to take them. Rahab had a house that was on the wall and she let them down from their place of hiding outside the wall so they could escape. But before she did, she asked them to spare her life when they came and took the city. She had no doubt that their God would give them victory over the mighty walls of Jericho (Joshua 2:9-10). And she also had faith that these men would save her household. She had so much faith that she had many family members there when they came back and took the city. And the Israelites held up their end of the bargain. Rahab ended up being in the lineage of Jesus historically. What a testimony this is to the way God rewards our faithfulness.
The big question for us is how well we listen to what God asks us to do. I think most of us, especially me, miss dozens of opportunities every week to minister to others because we’re not listening close enough when God asks us to do something. Or we hear him and we think that God can’t want me to do that that’s too bold. On the contrary God wants us to be bold. He wants us to step out of our comfort zone and touch other people with his power and his authority.
What kind of works are you producing? Are you being faithful every time you can in carrying out what God asked you to do? Are you listening carefully to God everyday to see if he has a task for you? James concludes by saying that the body without the spirit is dead and so is faith without works. Let us not have a dead faith but a living faith that reaches out to this world and makes a difference.