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Allow me to explain (2 of 439)

November 24, 2010

Full explanation was Monday. All of these are going to be collected here.

2. Was Abraham justified by faith or by works? Romans 4:2, James 2:21

I can’t believe someone was shameless enough to include this in a list of “contradictions.” Critical Reading 101.

Romans 4:2//
For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

James 2:21//
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

Those two sentences look like a contradiction, sure, but any two statements pulled so grossly out of context could be made to look like a document contradicts itself. All we have to do here is read the whole paragraph in James 2:

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. … 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect23 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.

Abraham was justified by faith. How do we know he had faith? He acted on it. Anyone can say they have faith, but it doesn’t matter if you aren’t willing to act on it. I can say that I believe a chair will support me, but if I refuse to sit on it my “faith” has no effect. I can say I love my husband, but if I never act on it, do I really?

Verse 20 above says “… faith without works is dead.” Faith is not faith if you don’t act on it.

Verse 23 goes on to quote the same verse that Romans is quoting when the supposed “contradiction” occurs, which is just dumb unless James meant to contradict Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Scripture tells us we’re not saved by “works,” that is, good deeds and sacrifices. You can’t earn salvation. This is what Paul was explaining in his letter to the Roman Christians. Abraham was considered righteous by God before he was circumcised, so righteousness is God’s work – that we get by our faith – not by the things we do ourselves.

Works of faith – acting on our faith – are not the same as good-deeds-that-I-hope-will-earn-my-salvation. They’re the evidence of true faith. James was pointing out that the way you act is evidence of what you really believe.

Abraham was saved by his faith, which was brought to bear by his corresponding act of obedience.

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