October 16, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Let’s continue to look at Abraham, the third of Four Examples Of Faith. Here is our scripture, James 2:21 through 24:
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac
his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with
his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was
fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to
him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see
then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
The point James is making here is that Abraham showed his faith was real – proved his faith was real – “…when he offered Isaac his son on the altar….” You see, Isaac was the promised son, and had wrongly become the focus of his father’s faith – which faith only should have been centered on God! The Lord had told the patriarch in Genesis 15:4 and 5, “…one who will come from your own body shall be your heir….count the stars if you are able to number them….So shall your descendants be…” from that one heir! Abraham showed his initial faith in the next verse, Genesis 15:6: “And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” This is faith – believing God’s promises! And such faith has always produced salvation – God’s righteousness “…imputed to us who believe in Him…” (Romans 4:24) through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, according to Genesis 17:17. In the last blog I pointed out what Paul wrote in Romans 4:19 through 21 – that Abraham…
…not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead
(since he was about an hundred years old), and the deadness of Sara’s
womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was
strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that
what He had promised He was able also to perform.
But, as mentioned earlier, Abraham, over the years, had gotten his faith too tied up in the son of his old age – and not in the fact that it was still the Lord who was accomplishing His promise. That was when God gave the old man a hard command in Genesis 22:2:
Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land
of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains
of which I shall tell you.
It was a command that, if obeyed, would realign Abraham’s faith back where it should be – in God instead of in Isaac!
It must have been a terribly hard night of wrestling with this command in light of what God had plainly said in Genesis 21:12: “…in Isaac shall your seed be called.” How was Abraham supposed to produce seed – seed to be produced through Isaac as numerous as the stars of heaven (see Genesis 15:5) – if this promised boy was dead?! But in the morning Abraham obeyed, as it says in Genesis 22:9 and 10:
Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham
built and altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac
his son and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched
out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
Of course, in Genesis 22:11 and 12, God stopped him!
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abra-
ham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him;
for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son,
your only son, from Me.”
But the only explanation given of the patriarch’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, and the faith that backed up what he was about to do, is found in Hebrews 11:17 through 19 – the faith chapter:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had
received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said,
“In Isaac your seed shall be called,” accounting that God was able to raise
him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative
So Abraham proved his faith by his actions! No wonder James wrote in James 2:22, “…that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect….”
Now couple this to the first verse of our scripture, James 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? ” Is James saying it was works that saved him, and not faith? No! He was justified by faith in the promise of God! Remember, he was “…accounted…righteous…” when he “…he believed in the LORD…” (Genesis 15:6), not when he offered Isaac!