“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
You see then
The words “you see then” show that the situation of Abraham’s offering of Isaac substantiates that his justifying faith is an active faith that extends into his daily life.
that a man is justified by works,
People justified (vindicated) Abraham’s faith by the work of offering Isaac (2:21; Ge 22) on an altar maybe as much as forty years after his conversion (Ge 15:6). God is not the Author of justification in this verse but men.
Remember that the word “justify” has two basic meanings: 1) to declare righteous and 2) to vindicate. The first meaning carries the idea of acquittal. God judicially(forensically) declares us as right as He Himself is right eternally when we believe on His Son for eternal life.
Ro 3:24, 27 “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law [principle] of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
Ro 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Ga 2:16 “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
The second idea of “justify” is vindication or proving righteousness. This is the sense that James uses “justified” in this verse. Abraham supremely proved his past relation to God by offering up Isaac subsequent to his salvation (Gen. 22:3). Works accompany faith because genuine faith involves regeneration.
Ro 3:4 “Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:
‘That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.’”
1 Ti 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
and not by faith only.
Works verified Abraham’s faith. He perfected (matured) his faith by his works (application of truth to experience). His unabashed willingness to do God’s will vindicated his unadulterated faith in God.
The word “only” qualifies justification by works. There is justification by faith and there is a vindication by works. Paul himself held to the view that works justified us before other men but not before God. We cannot sever or separate faith and works in the Christian life for works have a vital part in the spiritual life.
Ro 4:2 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
We show our righteousness standing before God by our actions.
There is no contradiction between Paul and James on justification. Paul looks at justification from God’s viewpoint and James looks at it from man’s viewpoint. From God’s viewpoint, He declares us as righteous as He is righteous eternally by faith in the death of Christ for our sins (Ro. 4:1–25; Ga. 3:6–9). Only Christ could do the doing in this. Nothing we can do can justify us.
An active faith declares to others that we possess saving faith. Some Christians have a dead faith that does not prove anything to those without Christ. Dynamic belief behaves by operative faith.
Works do not procure our salvation but they do declare it to others. We prove our justification by what we do.