James 2:17 and James 2:21
- Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:17)
Many say this verse shows that those who have faith will have works we can see, and therefore if we can't see their works, then they probably aren't saved (and therefore aren't justified). Some will then go on to say that Abraham was justified by his works, as shown in the same paragraph:
- Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (James 2:21)
But the question is, justified to whom? In Romans 4 we find that it can't be talking about justification before God:
- For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, [Saying], Blessed [are] they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed [is] the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:2-8)
The conclusion must be that James 2:21 was talking about justification before men, as men throughout time have read about Abraham's story. And the faith is dead, for verse 17, because it's not being spread to other men and women. They don't see your faith. It is alone.