CHURCH OF CHRIST: What about James 2:24 and ‘not justified by faith only’?

ARE WE SAVED BY FAITH OR WORKS

SOURCE: Members of the Church of Christ will sometimes cite James 2:24 as ‘proof’ that the believer’s justification is not by faith alone.

Here they will point out that ‘this is the only passage in the Bible where these two words (faith & alone) come together, and the Bible is very clear when it says that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.’

Keep in mind that context of James 2:24 is dealing with Abraham, and this verse concerns the time when Abraham was about to offer up his son Isaac upon the altar.

And here James asks the rhetorical question, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
It is here that I’d like to pose a question as it relates to the context.
Is this passage talking about Abraham’s (forensic or legal) justification where God ‘deemed, or declared Abraham as righteous’, or is the passage talking about Abraham being justified (shown, deemed, or declared as righteousness) before men?

This is a very relevant question because Romans 4 tells us that Abraham was justified before God long before Isaac was even born,

And it wasn’t by his works, but rather by his faith!
The point of all this is that the justification found in James 2:24 concerns a completely different time, circumstance, and event, which was over 20 years after the justification where “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
James 2:24 says, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?”
Yes, Abraham was justified by his works-
But was he justified (shown, deemed, or declared “as righteous”) before God or before men?

Anyone who understands James 2:24 to be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic  justification before God has a real problem, because when Paul talks about Abraham’s justification in Romans 4, he makes it very clear that justification before God is not by works:

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Romans 4:3

Unless Scripture contradicts itself— and it doesn’t since it is God’s inerrant Word, James 2:24 cannot be talking about Abraham’s legal or forensic justification before God, but rather about being ‘shown, deemed, or declared as righteous’ before men.

Looking at the context, Abraham’s justification before men by works “fulfilled” his positional justification before God, which was by faith years before.
In other words, because of his faith God ‘deemed and declared Abraham as righteous’, and he was righteous in his position; this was a legal and binding act. However, when Abraham offered up Isaac, he was living his life experience before men in a manner that was consistent with his position.
“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” James 2:21-24

But there’s another point that relates to the words only and alone.

The NKJV reads: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”

The Greek word translated only here is monon, which is an adverb.
Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, or other adverbs.
Adverbs do not modify nouns.
Adjectives modify nouns.
We know that this is an adverb (monon) and not an adjective (monhs) since Greek has a different forms for each word.
Hodges makes this comment concerning the adverb monon used here in James 2:24
“The Greek adverb “only” (monon) … does not qualify (i.e., modify) the word faith, since the form would then have been monhs. As an adverb, however, it modifies the verb justified implied in the second clause [“and not only justified by faith”]. In other words, James is saying that a by-faith justification is not the only kind of justification there is. There is also a by-works justification. The former type is before God; the latter type is before men.” 
Thus, we might paraphrase the sense of Jas 2:24 in this way: ‘You see then that a man is justified by works, and not only justified by faith.’
Hodges also makes a helpful observation that this distinction is also found in Paul’s writings in Romans 4:2. The apostle tells us that there is such a thing as “works” justification before men, but not before God:
“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Thus, the only way a man can be justified before God is by faith.
References:
1) Zane C. Hodges, The Epistle of James: Proven Character Through Testing (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1994), 71
2) Zane C. Hodges, The Gospel Under Siege: Faith and Works in Tension, Second Edition (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1992), 34

About Damon Whitsell

Hello, my name is Damon. I have been studying Christian Cults since 1985 and doing Cult Apologetics online since 1998 because I grew up with Mormons, Oneness Pentecostals and Bible Missionaries in my family. All three of these groups (or Cults) think they are the One True Church and the Only True Christians and to be Saved you must join their Church. So as a result I started studying the Bible for myself to try to determine which of these groups had the truth. After much praying, reading and studying I decided the Mormon, Oneness Pentecostal and Bible Missionarie churches are not real Christian Churches at all, rather they are Christian Cults because they do not line up with what the bible really teaches about Salvation and they are not in agreement with other Essential Christian Doctrines. I found that according to what the Word of God teaches, and Historic/Orthodox Christian Teaching, Salvation cannot be earned by any form of human works or efforts I found that Salvation is ALL by the Grace and Work of God and that Salvation and Eternal Life are a Free Gift from God (Ephesians 2:8, Romans 6:23, John 3:16) to all who will Trust in Jesus Christ and the atoning sacrifice He made for us by dying on the Cross for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The Word of God is clear and plainly says “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Because I know what it is like to be targeted by Cult Groups and to suffer from the spirtual confusion and frustration brought on by their false teachings, I have endeavored to help others find True Eternal Life in Jesus Christ and to break free from the clutches of, and to be healed from the damage done by, Cult Groups who claim to be the One True Church. So it is my hope and prayer that the Lord will use my Websites to help those that need help and that some who use my websites will be helped by them to find the Free Gift of God’s Salvation, that is only found in His only begotten son Jesus Christ.

Posted on January 3, 2016, in Book of James., Salvation, Saved by Grace through Faith and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: