Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 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.
Comment: James makes three points. Two are examples from the past, the third a look at physical death.
- Abraham was a great man in the history of the Jews, the Muslims and of Christians. He has chapters 12-25 of the book of Genesis in a very large part dealing with him. He is called the father of faith. James uses the example when God, knowing what he was going to do at any rate, asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to God, even though Isaac was the one through whom God had promised to bless the world. His preparedness to do what he was asked to do, James highlights, was a work proving his faith. (Sacrifice of children was common in other religions then, as it is in our modern world. So maybe it was to be expected that God may have asked him to do it. But such a thing is obnoxious to God as shown by a ram being at hand to be sacrificed.)
- Rahab’s faith is mentioned in the ‘Hall of Fame’ to many in Hebrews chapter 11, but when the story is told in the book of Joshua only her works are mentioned! She showed her faith by her works.
- Without a spirit a body is merely transformed dust. The presence of the spirit makes it a person.
- Prayer: May I have a living faith, O God.