New American Standard Bible
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
King James Bible
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Darby Bible Translation
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
World English Bible
Wasn't Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
Young's Literal Translation
Abraham our father -- was not he declared righteous out of works, having brought up Isaac his son upon the altar?
James 2:21 Parallel
CommentaryBarnes' Notes on the Bible
Was not Abraham our father - Our progenitor, our ancestor; using the word "father," as frequently occurs in the Bible, to denote a remote ancestor. Compare the notes at Matthew 1:1. A reference to his case would have great weight with those who were Jews by birth, and probably most of those to whom this Epistle was addressed were of this character. See the Introduction.
Justified by works - That is, in the sense in which James is maintaining that a man professing religion is to be justified by his works. He does not affirm that the ground of acceptance with God is that we keep the law, or are perfect; or that our good works make an atonement for our sins, and that it is on their account that we are pardoned; nor does he deny that it is necessary that a man should believe in order to be saved. In this sense he does not deny that men are justified by faith; and thus he does not contradict the doctrine of the apostle Paul. But he does teach that where there are no good works, or where there is not a holy life, there is no true religion; that that faith which is not productive of good works is of no value; that if a man has that faith only, it would be impossible that he could be regarded as justified, or could be saved and that consequently, in that large sense, a man is justified by his works that is, they are the evidence that he is a justified man, or is regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker. The point on which the apostle has his eye is the nature of saving faith; and his design is to show that a mere faith which would produce no more effect than that of the demons did, could not save.
In this he states no doctrine which contradicts that of Paul. The evidence to which he appeals in regard to faith, is good works and a holy life; and where that exists it shows that the faith is genuine. The case of Abraham is one directly in point. He showed that he had that kind of faith which was not dead. He gave the most affecting evidence that his faith was of such a kind as to lead him to implicit obedience, and to painful sacrifices. Such an act as that referred to - the act of offering up his son - demonstrated, if anything could, that his faith was genuine, and that his religion was deep and pure. In the sight of heaven and earth it would justify him as a righteous man, or would prove that he was a righteous man. In regard to the strength of his faith, and the nature of his obedience in this sacrifice, see the notes at Hebrews 11:19. That the apostle here cannot refer to the act of justification as the term is commonly understood, referring by that to the moment when he was accepted of God as a righteous man, is clear from the fact that in a passage of the Scriptures which he himself quotes, that is declared to be consequent on his believing: "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness."
The act here referred to occurred long subsequent to that, and was thus a fulfillment or confirmation of the declaration of Scripture, which says that "he believed God." It showed that his faith was not merely speculative, but was an active principle, leading to holy living. See the notes at James 2:23. This demonstrates that what the apostle refers to here is the evidence by which it is shown that a man's faith is genuine, and that he does not refer to the question whether the act of justification, where a sinner is converted, is solely in consequence of believing. Thus the case proves what James purposes to prove, that the faith which justifies is only that which leads to good works.
When he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar - This was long after he believed, and was an act which, if any could, would show that his faith was genuine and sincere. On the meaning of this passage, see the notes at Hebrews 11:17.
1. Is Jesus Christ altogether lovely? Then I beseech you set your souls upon this lovely Jesus. I am sure such an object as has been here represented, would compel love from the coldest breast and hardest heart. Away with those empty nothings, away with this vain deceitful world, which deserves not the thousandth part of the love you give it. Let all stand aside and give way to Christ. O if only you knew his worth and excellency, what he is in himself, what he has done for you, and deserved from …
John Flavel—Christ Altogether Lovely
Progress of Calvinism
The King James Version --Its Influence on English and American History
Whether all Sins are Connected with one Another?
Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;
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