Last week we took a much-needed detour to look at the passages surrounding Passover week and Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We took time to recognize the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
I hope you enjoyed a blessed week and the time spent was a time of renewal.
Today, we continue our look at the passages we started at week.
Our Verse of the day comes from James 2:21-26.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
Let’s dig in.
James wrote for a Jewish audience. The readers would recognize his reference to Abraham.
My research led me to a commentary I use from time to time, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews through Revelation. Please note the following from this commentary.
Reference James 2:22
Here James makes it clear that he is not talking about works as the sole source of Abraham’s justification, as v. 21 taken out of its context might lead one to believe. Instead, Abraham’s “faith and his actions were working together.” Faith and works are inseparable. It is not possible for one person to have valid faith without works and for another to have genuine works without faith, as James’s opponent argued in verse 18.
Reference James 2:24–25
(EBC Heb–Re:) product of genuine faith. In both writers, faith that produces no good deeds is incapable of saving a person.
The second Old Testament person cited as an example of genuine faith is “Rahab the prostitute.” She, too, was “considered righteous for what she did.” Although her faith was like that of Abraham, she was unlike the patriarch in almost every other way. She had been a pagan; she was a woman, and she was a prostitute. Nevertheless, she chose to become identified with the people of Israel, a decision based on faith (cf. Josh 2:8–13; Heb 11:31). Far from being dead or worthless, her faith moved her to risk her life to protect the spies. As a result, James 2:25–26 (EBC Heb–Re): “even” (kai) the prostitute was declared righteous. James does not give approval to Rahab’s former life; it is her living faith, seen against the background of her previous immorality, he commends.
The argument of verses 18–25 concludes with a statement that cites the human body as an illustration. “The body without the spirit” is nothing but a corpse. “Faith without deeds” is as dead as a corpse and equally useless. James does not imply that deeds are the actual life principle that gives life to faith, but only that faith and deeds are inseparable. If there are no acts springing from faith, that faith is no more alive than “the body without the spirit.”
Next time we are together, we will look at Paul’s words on faith and works. I hope you will join me.