2. Was Abraham justified by faith or by works?

Posted: April 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

rom 4:2 ≠ jam 2:21

Rom. 4:2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.

James 2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?

In fact, The Reason Project could have sharpened their point even further if they’d read a little earlier in Romans and a little further in James…

Rom. 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

The contradiction initially seems insurmountable, but what we need to realise is that while Paul and James are both using “justified” to mean “declared righteous”, they’re talking about two different events. Paul is talking about God declaring a sinner righteous (not guilty) when they initially put their trust in Jesus because Jesus has taken the punishment in their place. James is talking about God declaring that a sinner is righteous (not guilty) at the end of their life because their good works show that they have put their trust in Jesus.

In other words, our justification now (God declaring us right with him) on the basis of Jesus’ death always leads to good works, which will lead to our justification (God declaring us right with him) on the last day.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. B says:

    I agree with what your saying about the two uses, but you haven’t told us why you’ve come to that conclusion. If the aim is to help people understand what is happening using reason, I think it’s worth explaining why you say the passages are talking about two different events.

    • Ben Rae says:

      Yes, fair comment. Probably the easiest way to show that they’re talking about different events is to look at how Paul and James talk about Abraham. James 2:21-24 says:

      Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

      James sees a process at work in the life of Abraham:
      1. Abraham trusted God
      2. God credited it to him as righteousness (i.e. justified, declared righteous purely on the basis of faith)
      3. Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar in obedience to God
      4. Abraham was justified (i.e. declared righteous because his works have demonstrated that his faith is real)

      So when James is talking about being justified he’s talking about event 4. But when we look at Romans 4 we can see that when Paul talks about justification, he’s just talking about event 2.

      4:2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s