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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. (James 2:23)
Here, James is referring to Genesis 15:6 about Abraham. In Genesis 15:4, God had told Abraham that he would provide an heir and many descendants from his seed. Then in Genesis 15:5, to confirm his promise, God asked Abraham to go out and count the stars. In the same way, the stars were too numerous to count, so would Abraham’s descendants be through the promised child. Despite being old and against all the odds, it says in Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in Jehovah, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham had not seen his son, and the child was not even conceived in the womb at this point. However, Abraham still believed God would carry out his promises. Since Abraham believed, what God said was firm and trustworthy, he was willing to sacrifice his son, and as a result, be declared righteous in God’s eyes. As stated before, the word righteousness carries with it the idea of being right, moral, and just.
Genesis 21:12 tells us, “And God said to Abraham, ‘Let it not be displeasing in your eyes because of the lad, and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice, for through Isaac your offspring will be named.’” When it came time for Abraham to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, these words certainly must have gone through his mind, even thinking the sacrifice would cancel the promise from God, as with no Isaac, how could the promise be fulfilled. Nevertheless, we get an insight into Abraham’s faith from the apostle Paul, as Abraham “having reasoned that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” (Heb. 11:19) So, we have Genesis 15:6 stating, “And he [Abraham] believed in Jehovah, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” The works of Abraham evidenced what God had already declared, what God had already foreknown concerning the faith of Abraham.
The Certainty of God’s Promise
Hebrews 6:13-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by someone greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 In the same way God, wanting to show even more to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his resolve, guaranteed it with an oath.
Abraham’s faith took him to this complete validation of the promise God had made because it was a real faith that resulted in works. God long had known that Abraham had this genuine faith, so God brought about the event that would produce works demonstrating it beyond question. If Abraham had refused to offer up Isaac, his faith would have been defective, worthless. Therefore, James makes a strong argument that real, genuine faith has no choice but to have works as evidence. The faith of Abraham from Ur of Chaldea to the sacrifice of Isaac up unto his death resulted in major works that gave us the Israelite nation. We say yes to James at 2:21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” Abraham had been declared righteous many years before that event, and was clearly a man of faith when chosen in Ur. But it was this one action (work) that established the declaration that God had made years earlier at Genesis 15:6, and now we have God at this point reasserting his initial pronouncement. Thus, here in one argument, James has debunked anyone at that time, who claims all they need is faith; works are not necessary.
and he was called a friend of God:
The works of Abraham give us an outward image of him and his profound, heartfelt faith, which showed that he truly loved God. We find in the Scriptures concerning this man that he showed the world in both what he said and what he did that he was, always, God’s friend. Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of Jehovah, before the new court, and he said, “Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the offspring of Abraham your friend?” (2 Chron. 20:7) And God himself, through his prophet Isaiah, said, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend.” (Isaiah 41:8) Abraham not only believed in God but was also willing to put that into practice by sacrificing his son; he was declared right in God’s eyes. God declared him right in the fact that Abraham acted on his faith through his actions. As a result, he was also called a friend of God, which is the only time in the Bible where someone is called a friend of God.