“Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?”
King James Version (KJV)
2:21 Was not Abraham justified by works - St. Paul says he was justified by faith, #Rom 4:2|, &c.: yet St. James does not contradict him; for he does not speak of the same justification. St. Paul speaks of that which Abraham received many years before Isaac was born, #Gen 15:6|. St. James, of that which he did not receive till he had offered up Isaac on the altar. He was justified, therefore, in St. Paul's sense, (that is, accounted righteous,) by faith, antecedent to his works. He was justified in St. James's sense, (that is, made righteous,) by works, consequent to his faith. So that St. James's justification by works is the fruit of St Paul's justification by faith.
Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father. The father of the Jewish race; also the father of all his children by faith. See Ga 3:7-9. Justified by works? By a faith which showed itself in works. This is the argument of James, that faith is of no avail unless accompanied by works. Of this all Abraham's life was a demonstration. He was told when in Mesopotamia to go forth into the land God would show him, and "he went out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb 11:8); an act of faith. "By faith he sojourned in the land of promise" (Heb 11:9). When he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Each of these acts of faith secured Divine approval, but the supremest trial was when he offered Isaac. See PNT "Heb 11:17". This victory of faith was followed by crowning approval and glorious promises.