Justified in Faith: James 2:21-24.

May 11th, 2009

James 2:21-24.
 2:21.  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
 2:22.  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
 2:23.  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'' And he was called the friend of God.
 2:24.  You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Justified in Faith

First, what does justified mean? It sounds like it's one of those religious word, but we justify things all the time. It's similar to some accounting words like reconcile, or to balance. To justify means to make things come out correctly, so things even up.

For an example, on my computer's word processor there is a function called 'justify.' When lines are typed, each has different words, and a different amount of characters, so each line ends at a different length. To make the righthand margin come out as straight as the left, extra spaces are inserted to stretch out the line and make it come out right.

Throughout each day of our lives, we do things that falls short of God's laws and expectations. The real justification is when we make changes to our behavior to meet God's standard. Instead we often consider ourselves to be right and try to justify our world around us.

In Abraham's example. The intended outcome of God was not to sacrifice his son, but instead it was just a test. Without knowing God's intent, he could have tried to justify reasons to not offer his son. He was old, his wife was old, God had told him already that this son was to be his true heir, and not his other son Ishmael. Surely God doesn't want me to sacrifice him. It would have been so easy to just not do anything, and ignore thise strange request that God made. Abraham didn't know why God asked for such a thing, but he had faith and trusted God that if this was what he wanted, God would work it out.

Of course, God didn't intend for Isaac to be killed, but he knew that Abraham was a man who needed things of faith to be demonstrated, acted out. God led Abraham through the motions that would make his faith solid for him.

James makes the claim that the works justified Abraham. If there is anything difficult about this passage it isn't that a faith without works is dead, it's the idea that works justifies. Action is the thing that makes faith complete. Imagine if Abraham decided to act without his being called by God to do so. It would be the same act, but for what purpose? He would have just been a guy who was out to kill off his only heir.

Faith comes first. Without faith, works don't matter. It should be more precisely said that the works, that are done as a result of our faith, is what justifies us to God.

To wrap up: God has a standard for us to meet. We fall short. To be made right or justified, to God's standards, we need Jesus. Believe in God. There are things he wants for us to do, ways to live our lives. Now that you have faith, take actions based on what belief in Jesus teaches.

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