Saved by faith - James 2:24

 

Using the Disciplines for Studying Godís Word

 

James 2:24 must be put in spiritual context with all of the verses of the Word (Disciplines 6). Otherwise it is easy to come to the false conclusion that we are not saved by faith alone, that we must do works to be justified, to have our sins forgiven.

*You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Ja 2:24 NKJV+

 

Jesus tells us, the preponderance of verses in the New Testament tell us, in the New Covenant we are saved by faith. We are saved when we believe Christís sacrificial death on the cross atoned for our sins. Our God gives us this free gift of grace, there is nothing we can do to earn it.

*to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.' Ac 26:18 NKJV+

*For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 NASB+

*knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Gal 2:16 NKJV+

*who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 2Ti 1:9 NKJV+

 

Works do not save us, yet believers do good works out of love to our Savior, out of love to our neighbors. And any work not given in love will not be accepted by our Father. We will be rewarded with the greatest gifts we can be given, blessings in Heaven that will last forever, for all we do out of love for our great God. Yet all who have faith that enables them to love our God above all things, our neighbor as ourselves will be saved.

*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. Tit 3:8 NKJV+

*And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 1Co 13:3 NKJV+

*For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a rewardIf any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1Co 3:11-15 NASB+

 

We must use all the verses James used in making his point to better understand what he is saying. To help us keep the Word spiritually in context with the verses above, without contradicting itself.

 

Verses 14-20 +26 are in context with the Word, as James is warning us to evaluate our lives, to see whether our faith is genuine. Anyone can believe there is a God, even the demons know there is a God. But a saving faith will produce a love within our hearts which makes us want to love, follow and obey our God. Do what our God would have us do.

18 *"You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." Ja 2:18 NASB+

19 *You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. Ja 2:19 NASB+

 

James is telling us if we have a saving faith which enables us to love our God above all things, our neighbors as ourselves, it will produce the works which our God would have us do. It will be shown in the spiritual attitude we have in our hearts, in the physical actions we do out of love for our God, out of love for our fellow man.

14 *What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? Ja 2:14 NKJV+

17 *Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Ja 2:17 NKJV+

20 *But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Ja 2:20 NKJV+

26 *For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. Ja 2:26 NKJV+

 

And what infuriated James was when one, who claimed to believe in Christ, had the ability to help the poor and the needy, yet would not help them. They would instead merely offered meaningless words to them. Their hearts being as cold as their words were empty, just a diversion to get away without giving to those who needed their love and help the most. Though they thought they were Christians, they were just lying to themselves, for Christ was not in their hearts, they were not one with their Savior.††††

*If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ďDepart in peace, be warmed and filled,Ē but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Ja 2:15-16 NKJV

 

But to understand the context of verses 21-23 we must first understand the Old Testament story of how God made Abraham righteous by faith (Disciplines 8). Especially the time element, for James uses this timeline to illustrate the point he was making in verse 24. The important dates of the timeline are as follows:

 

God made Abram (God later named Abraham) righteous when He was dwelling in the land of Canaan. Abram was credited with righteousness when he believed the Lord would give him a son, and descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens.

*But Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" Gen 15:2-3 NKJV+

*And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gen 15:4-6 NKJV+

 

Some time later (probably a few years, keeping it simple, will not compute this time) Sarai (God later named Sarah) gave Hagar her slave maid to have a child with Abram. Abram had a son with Hagar when he was 86, and they called him Ishmael.

*Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. Gen 16:3 NKJV+

*Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. Gen 16:16 NASB+

 

Abraham was given a covenant from the Lord which required him to be circumcised when he was 99 years old.

*This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; Gen 17:10 NKJV+

*Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Gen 17:24 NKJV+

 

Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah when Abraham was 100 years old.

*Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Gen 21:5 NKJV+

*"But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year." Gen 17:21 NASB+

 

Abraham offered to sacrifice Isaac to God when was probably around 12 years old. For Abraham put the wood for the fire onto Isaac to carry.

*Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Gen 22:6 NASB+

*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." Gen 22:12 NASB+

 

Between the time Abraham was made righteous and when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice there was around 26 years (14+12=26). During this whole period Abraham was righteous before God because of his faith.

Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born and 100 when Isaac was born = 14 years

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 and was around 12 years old when he was offered as a sacrifice by Abraham = 12

 

When the Lord tested Abrahamís faith it was a strong saving faith. Abraham was willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice to his God. For this great act of faith all who heard considered Abraham righteous.

*You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? Ja 2:21 NIV+

 

Abrahamís great faith was shown by his actions, his faith was working through how he lived his life.

You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. Ja 2:22 NIV+

 

Scripture proved Abraham had a saving faith 26 years before he was tested, did a great work of faith. Something the Lord already knew when He credited Abram with righteousness. Abraham also knew he was saved, his Lord would take care of him 26 years before He proved his faith.

And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. Ja 2:23 NIV+

 

And finally James 2:24 the verse we started with, the verse which must be in context with the story of Abraham.

*You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. Ja 2:24 NIV+

 

James cannot be telling us that Abraham was not made righteous by faith. When the Lord told Abraham he was righteous for believing Him, Abraham was righteous. All of his sins were forgiven, forgotten forever. Godís words are true, He keeps His word. Abraham did not have to wait 26 years to become righteous, by doing a good work, offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Any other interpretation would not keep this verse in context with the Word.

*"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Nu 23:19 NASB+

*For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Ps 103:11-12

 

Nor can James be telling us that God made Abraham righteous by doing anything. Abraham was made righteous before he was circumcised, before he offered Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord. He was made righteous before any laws, works, or deeds were required. So he could be the father of all who would be saved by faith, through Christís grace on the cross in the New Covenant. Those who would believe in Christ are not be under the law, would not need to do any works to save them. Abraham was later circumcised so he also became the father of all those in the Old Covenant, those who had to live under the law, do works to be justified, to be saved. (Read Romans chapter 4)

*Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "Faith was credited to abraham as righteousness. "How then was it credited? While he was circumcised , or uncircumcised ? Not while circumcised , but while uncircumcised ; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, Ro 4:9-11 NASB+

*And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. Gal 3:8 ASV

 

Abrahamís story is not the story about works, but about a great faith. It shows that a great faith would produce righteous deeds. Abraham faith was so great that he would offer his most valuable possession, his own son to the Lord. His faith was so great he know the Lord would take care of Isaac, bring him back to Him. For God had promised Abraham that later, through Isaac, through his seed, the Messiah, Jesus would be born. And Abraham believed his God.

*By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; Heb 11:8-9 NASB+

*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," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. Heb 11:17-19 NKJV+

 

Rahabís story is verse 25 is also about great faith, and what this faith produced.

25 *In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? Ja 2:25 NIV+

 

For Rahab believed in God and by this faith risked her life, gave lodging to the spies, and hid them. Because of this the leaders of Israel considered her righteous, saved her and allowed her to live as one of them.

*And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. Josh 2:11 NKJV+

*By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. Heb 11:31 NKJV+

 

In conclusion we believe when verse 24 is put in context with the story of Abraham on which it is based, with the section of verses it is part of, and the context of verses in the Word, the real meaning James intended in verse 24 would be something like this. (Disciplines 12)

We like Abraham are justified by a saving faith which will produce works. Not merely a faith that acknowledges there is a God, and does not love, follow, obey and do the will of our Lord.

*You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. Ja 2:24 NIV+

 

We are made righteous by faith, we are made holy by Christís grace, and it is a free gift from our God. See Holiness and Righteousness

* Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Ro 3:28 NKJV+

*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, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Tit 3:5-7 NKJV+

 

Yet we should live our lives so we all will glorify our God in Heaven above, by what we do here on earth below.

*"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket , but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matt 5:14-16 NASB+

 

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Copyright 2011, amended 2012, by Ron Borkey

+ NIV Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSIONģ. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

+ NASB "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLEģ, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

+ NKJV "Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."