James 2:22 (ESV) … “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works…”
James uses an event in Abraham’s life, an event that took place many years after Abraham’s conversion. This event is the offering up of Isaac on the altar (Gen. 22). Abraham was not saved by obeying God’s difficult command. His obedience proved that he already was saved. “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works” (James 2:22, esv). There is a perfect relationship between faith and works. As someone has expressed it, “Abraham was not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith that works.”
How was Abraham “justified by works” (James 2:21) when he had already been “justified by faith”? (see Rom. 4) By faith, he was justified before God and his righteousness declared; by works he was justified before men and his righteousness demonstrated. It is true that no humans actually saw Abraham put his son on the altar, but the inspired record in Genesis 22 enables us to see the event and witness Abraham’s faith demonstrated by his works.
D.L. Moody often said, “Every Bible should be bound in shoe leather.” He did not say that because he had been a successful shoe salesman; he said it because he was a dedicated Christian. Dynamic faith obeys God and proves itself in daily life and works. Alas, we still have church members today who fit the description given in Titus, “They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). Paul also writes, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).