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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : James ii. 20-24

The Epistle Of James Practically Explained by Augustus Neander

James ii. 20-24

By the Jews Abraham was claimed, as the representative of the faith in one God in the midst of nations devoted to idolatry; and therein was placed (as by others indeed in his circumcision) his great significance. James therefore proceeds to show, that the significance of this faith did not consist in a passive belief of the understanding in one God. It was a devotion of the whole life to God. It proved its genuineness by works of self-denial; by his readiness, in love to God and reliance upon him, in confiding resignation to his will, to deny all natural feelings and make of the object dearest to himself an offering to God. He, therefore, who would follow Abraham in his faith and by that faith be justified before God, must also attest his faith by like works of self-denial. |But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?| Thus might he say, that faith and works must here have wrought together. How wrought together? For the justification of man before God? So that Abraham could not appear as one justified before Him, until after the works had been performed? Had James intended this, it must have been on the supposition, that God can know man only so far as he manifests himself in outward acts. He could not therefore have recognized him as the omniscient God, who looks into the heart, and discerns the inward feeling before it comes to light. Recognizing his omniscience, he must have known that to the eye of God, this faith, which afterwards showed itself in such works of self-denial, already appeared as genuine justifying faith. But speaking from the stand-point of human consciousness, taking into account only the outward manifestation, he might so express himself; viz. that faith and works wrought together for justification. So also when he says, that |by works was faith made perfect,| he could not mean that works, -- the mere outward phenomena of faith, -- are that which perfects faith itself; but only that in them faith shows itself genuine and complete, the attestation of faith in the life and conduct. |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.| And in that sense he then says: |Ye see then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.|

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