And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God…and he was called the Friend of God.

JAMES 2:23

The image of God in man cannot extend to every part of man’s being, for God has attributes which He cannot impart to any of His creatures, however favored.

God is uncreated, self-existent, infinite, sovereign, eternal; these attributes are His alone and by their very definition cannot be shared with another. But there are other attributes which He can impart to His creatures and in some measure share with His redeemed children. Intellect, self-consciousness, love, goodness, holiness, pity, faithfulness—these and certain other attributes are the points where likeness between God and man may be achieved. It is here that the divine-human friendship is experienced!

God, being perfect, has capacity for perfect friendship. Man, being imperfect, can never quite know perfection in anything, least of all in his relationship to the incomprehensible Godhead.

The more perfect our friendship with God becomes the simpler will our lives be. Those formalities that are so necessary to keep a casual friendship alive may be dispensed with when true friends sit in each other’s presence. True friends trust each other.

Unquestionably the highest privilege granted to man on earth is to be admitted into the circle of the friends of God. Nothing is important enough to be allowed to stand in the way of our relation to God. We should see to it that nothing on earth shall separate us from God’s friendship![1]

2:22, 23 It is clear then that Abraham’s faith inspired his works, and by his works his faith was made perfect. True faith and works are inseparable. The first produces the second, and the second evidences the first. In the offering of Isaac we see a practical demonstration of the faith of Abraham. It was the practical fulfillment of the Scripture which said that Abraham was justified by believing. His good works identified him as the friend of God.[2]

21–24 The balance of the passage takes up two illustrations from the OT. The first is Abraham (vv. 21–24), who by offering up Isaac on the altar was justified by this expression of faith. The concept of “justification” here is different from that put forth by Paul at a number of points (although see Ro 2:13). James follows a more traditional use of the concept as found, for instance, in the LXX. In the traditional use of the concept, justification was an affirmation by God based on a person’s righteous actions. In other words, God proclaimed a person just based on his or her actions. But Paul sometimes used the term “justified” to speak of a right standing conferred on the basis of Christ’s work on the cross (Ro 3:24; 5:1).

In Abraham’s action, faith and works coalesced, faith being brought to its mature end by action (v. 22). Thus Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” spoken years before the offering of Isaac, was brought to full expression. Abraham’s reverence of God found full demonstration by his action of not holding back the most precious Isaac from sacrifice. The result was that Abraham was called God’s friend. Abraham was a man of faith, and that faith was evidenced in Abraham the man of action.[3]

2:23 the Scripture … says. Quoted from Ge 15:6; see notes on Ro 4:1–5. friend of God. Abraham is so called in 2Ch 20:7 and Is 41:8 because of his obedience (Jn 15:14, 15).[4]

2:23 James uses Gen. 15:6 in a way that complements rather than contradicts Paul (Rom. 4:1–9; Gal. 3:6), for he sees it as having been fulfilled (see James 2:22) in Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Genesis 22). James centers on Abraham’s act of obedience while Paul centers on God’s declaration of Abraham’s righteousness. Abraham was called a friend of God, in contrast to those who have no acts of obedience to prove their claims to faith and are therefore seen to be friends of this world (James 4:4).[5]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2229). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 240). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jas 2:23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2395). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.


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