2:21justified. James appeals to Abraham as his chief exhibit of one who is justified by his works. This involves no conflict with Paul who also appeals to Abraham as the chief exhibit of one justified by faith. Note that James appeals to Gen. 22, while Paul appeals to Gen. 15. In the sight of God Abraham is justified in Gen. 15, long before he offers Isaac on the altar. God knew Abraham’s faith to be genuine. Abraham is justified to us, to human eyes, in Gen. 22 when he shows his faith through his obedience. Jesus used the same verb in Luke 7:35 when he declared “wisdom is justified by all her children” (i.e., shown to be genuine wisdom by its results). Here, to “justify” does not mean to be reconciled to God but to demonstrate the truth of a prior claim. Just as true wisdom is demonstrated by its fruit, Abraham’s claim to faith is justified by his outward obedience. Yet his works were not the meritorious cause of his salvation; they added no merit to the perfect and sufficient merit of Christ.
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