“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
The Greek expects a “yes” answer to the question that people justified Abraham by works when he offered Isaac on the altar. Abraham offered Isaac on the altar over two decades after his justification. God justified Abraham in Genesis 12-15. It was not till many years later that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice (Ge 22:3,12). A dynamic faith will eventually show itself in action (not inevitably and always).
Hebrews also relates the story of how Abraham developed a dynamic faith in God’s unalterable righteousness after he became a believer (15:6).
Heb. 11:17-19, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”
The action of offering Isaac matured Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s faith moved from a conviction that God would overcome his old age to produce a child to the conviction that He could raise his son from the dead.
Abraham failed God miserably at times. He took Hagar, his wife’s handmaiden, sexually because he did not believe God would give him a son through Sarah, his wife. This resulted in the birth of the first Arab (Ishmael). He lied that Sarah was his sister (Ge 12:19; 20:2). In these cases, his works did not verify his faith in the eyes of men.
There is no justification by faith plus works in the Bible; rather, there are two kinds of justification. Justification by faith is not the only kind of eternal justification. There is a justification by “works” by men. Men see your works and verify the authenticity of your faith. Note the word “only” in James 2:24,
Jas 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
Good works are the proof of faith – not the path to salvation.
There is nothing in James 2:14-26 about lordship salvation. However, this passage expresses the need for a faith that expresses itself in practical manifestation. Genuine faith will produce a certain good effect. There is true and false faith; a true faith will show itself in good works.
Genuine spirituality behaves according to its belief. Our works give testimony to our belief. John Calvin said, “Faith alone justifies, but the faith that justifies is never alone.” We vindicate our faith before others by our good works. We enter into eternal life by faith through grace.
Our moral bankruptcy before God demands that God justify us by faith. When God justifies us, we possess an unqualified acceptance before God. This is a transaction by God seen by God alone.
Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
We manifest that faith by doing God’s will. Since faith is invisible, we can only see faith by what it does. Faith becomes evident in its actions. A spiritual life that does not produce the fruit of the Spirit is not spirituality. Spirituality always produces something (Ga 5:22,23).
Ep 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
We know a dead faith by its lack of producing righteousness.
Jn 8:39-41, “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father.’Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.’”