Have you ever considered how much Abraham is mentioned in the New Testament" 74 times in N.T. 32 times from Romans to I Peter. His life is used as an illustration in Christian doctrine many times. He is called the father of all those who believe, both Jews and Gentiles. Rom 4:10-12. It is my humble opinion that the life of Abraham sheds much light on the justifications in Paul's and James writings.
Romans 3:28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
These justifications in Paul's and James writings (when taken out of context as above) have been a "bug-a-boo" for many and a stone of stumbling for even more. In actuality they are two different types of justifications when they are understood in their proper context--Pauls justification is "to declare" and James justification is"to show/demonstrate"--AND the time line of the life of Abraham in Genesis sheds much light on this--in essense, that faith and works are evidences of regeneration, which itself must precede both.
(Regeneration: In Titus 3:5 it denotes that change of heart elsewhere spoken of as a passing from death to life...This change is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. It originates not with man but with God...As to the nature of the change, it consists in the implanting of a new principle or disposition in the soul; the impartation of spiritual life to those who are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins." Eastons Bible Dictionary)
In the short discussion to follow I will attempt to prove this.
In the next 4 paragraphs I am going to mostly quote & paraphrase scripture--then I will give an explanation of what I am saying.
SCRIPTURE & PARAPHRASE
In Romans 4 the account of Abraham believing the good news of God in Genesis 15 is used as an example of Justification by faith and the imputation (reckoning, counting) of righteousness to him.
Rom 4:3 "counted unto him for righteousness"
Rom 4:4 "reckoned of grace"
Rom 4:5 "faith is counted for righteousness"
Rom 4:6 "God imputeth righteousness without works"
Rom 4:8 "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin"
It also says that it was not recorded in scripture for Abrahams sake alone but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Rom 4:23-24.
In Glatians 3 it is again said that Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. It also says that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham--and that God is justifying the heathen through faith--so then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. Gal 3:6,7,8,9.
In Hebrews 11 the scripture again speaks of the faith of Abraham as he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Heb 11;8,9,10.
In Hebrews 11 (vs 17,18,19) and James 2 (vs 14-26) it speaks of Abrahams life again when he was tried and by faith offered up Isaac. It speaks of this incident and says that Abraham our father was justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar (2:21). It says that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect (2:22). 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 (2:23,24). James also speaks of Rahab the Harlot being justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way (2:25).
Now it is interesting how the scriptures speak of a justification by faith and imputed righteousness in Romans and a justification by works in James. In James it speaks of Abrahams faith and works working together proving that he was the friend of God--so James is not talking of works alone, but faith and works. In Romans Paul is talking of faith alone and an imputed righteousness. There is NO IMPUTATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS in James because of works, or of faith and works working together. This is self evident to anyone who will read these verses. The only mention of imputation is the quotation of Genesis 15:6 in 2:23.
Oh the articles that have been written concerning Paul's justification and James's justification. Let me be clear to say I agree with the Protestant understanding of this "seeming" problem, which is no problem at all. Paul is talking about a justification in the sight of God and James is talking about a justification in the sight of men. I am not trying to teach the Roman Catholic doctrine of Justification by faith and works, which by the way is becoming very popular today among many so-called Protestants in many so-called conservative circles. I heard a conservative pastor say the other day that James in James 2:14-26 was caught up in a "Jewish legalistic spirit" and what he said was wrong--the man actually believes that what James wrote was heresy--so much for inspiration (and the book of James) . Brethren, we have got to deal with this better than that. Here is Strongs definition of Justify:
1344 dikaiow dikaioo dik-ah-yo'-o
from 1342; TDNT-2:211,168; v
AV-justify 37, be freed 1, be righteous 1, justifier 1; 40
1) to render [to cause to be or become] righteous or such he ought to be
2) to show, exhibit, evince [to display clearly], one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered
3) to declare, pronounce[to announce], one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be
Justify can mean "to render", "to show", or "to declare". To listen to many speakers it always means to declare--not so.
I would like to point out something very interesting that might be helpful to many in understanding the justifications in Paul and James. I have found it very easy for me to see what Paul and James are saying by looking at the Genesis accounts of the life of Abraham (which both Paul and James are talking about) as a time line. Just remember that faith and works are evidences of regeneration--just as repentance, love, patience, etc.
Now we who believe in sovereign grace understand that regeneration comes before faith. It has to because all men are dead in trespasses and sins. Eph 2:4-5 "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)". It is very, very important that we remember this. In John 3:1ff our Lord explains this to Nicodemus and even taunts Nicodemus by saying "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things" . Now I realize that some will stop here because they do not agree with my order of salvation. If you will stay with me through out the remainder of the article, you might find that I will prove my point.
This grace of regeneration comes to dead men because of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only those whom Christ died for are in time regenerated--in fact they are regenerated because they were justified at the cross by the death of Christ:
The manifold blessings flowing from resurrection and ascension are not to be overlooked, but nowhere does Scripture teach justification by these. The one passage sometimes quoted to prove this declares the opposite (Romans 4:25), for the words truly translated run thus: "He was delivered because we had sinned, and raised again because of our justification." It was because the justifying work was finished that resurrection was possible. Had it not been so, he must have remained under the power of the grave. But the cross had completed the justification of his church. He was raised from the dead. Death could no longer have dominion over him. The work was finished, the debt paid, and the surety went forth free. He rose not in order to justify us, but because we were justified. In raising him from the dead, God the Father cleared him from the imputed guilt which had nailed him to the cross and borne him down to the tomb. That resurrection in which we are one with him does not justify us, but proclaims that we were justified--justified by his blood and death.
The Everlasting Righteousness. Horatius Bonar. The Trinity Foundation. P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN37692. Page 22. First published 1874. Revised edition copyright 1994 John W. Robbins.
Romans 4:25-5:1 Youngs Literal Translation
"...who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised up because of our being declared righteous. Having been declared righteous, then, by faith, we have peace toward God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."
So, in God's good time the Holy Spirit is sent to the elect to give them life and light through the gospel. With this in mind let us look briefly at the life of Abraham in Genesis.
Brethren, please read these verses--they are important!
ABRAHAM IN GENESIS
REGENERATED - DEPARTED - HE HAD LIFE / FAITH - Gen 12 & Heb 11
Gen 12:1-4 "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him , and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran."
Heb 11:8-10"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
(Gen 15:7 "And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."
Neh 9:7 "Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham")
BELIEVED - JUSTIFIED BY FAITH / RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPUTED - Gen 15 & Rom 4
Gen 15:5-6 "And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
Rom 4:1-8 "What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found" 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what saith the scripture" Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, 7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
BELIEVED & WORKED - JUSTIFIED BY WORKS / FRIEND OF GOD - Gen 22 & Heb 11 & Ja 2
Gen 22:1-18 "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt [tested] Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of, 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering" 8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. 9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen. 15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
Heb 11:17 "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac""
James 2:14 "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works" can faith save him" 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit" 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead" 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar" 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect" 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way" 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
Abraham, The Friend of God:
Exodus 33:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.
2 Chron 20:7 "Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever""
Isa 41:8 "But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend."
* In Gen 12 Abraham was called and subsequently obeyed - and in Heb 11 it says Abrahm had faith at this time, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called". Therefore Abraham had ALREADY been regenerated before he was called and subsequently obeyed.
* In Gen 15 Abraham believed and righteousness was imputed - but Abraham had faith PREVIOUSLY before this event also.
* In Gen 22 God says Abraham obeyed His voice when he was willing to offer Isaac.
* In James 2 it says nothing about righteousness being imputed because of "works" or "faith and works", but of Abraham's Gen 22 work proving his faith of Gen 15 genuine and therefore demonstrating/showing that he was truly the friend of God.
Amazing, the Gen 22 incident proving by his work that he was truly the friend of God and this a fulfilling of Genesis 15 when it said Abraham believed God and it was imputed unto him for righteousness--and this was made possible by God's previous regeneration and effectual call of Abraham in Gen. 12.
In conclusion, James IS saying that a person who ONLY has a profession of faith without ANY good works is not really a believer at all. He is NOT saying that faith and works are imputed for righteousness. Maybe now the reader can better understand verses 22 through 24 of James: "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect" And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto 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".
Pauls justification is "to declare" and James justification is "to show/demonstrate"--AND the time line of the life of Abraham in Genesis sheds much light on this--in essense, that faith and works are evidences of regeneration, which itself must precede both.
Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
And what do you suppose verse 8 says"!
Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
In order to have an understanding of "what is a good work", you might want to read this article: Good Works.