[Jas 2:20-26 NASB] (20) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? (22) You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; (23) and the Scripture was fulfilled [ἐπληρώθη] which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. (24) You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (25) In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? (26) For just as the body without [the] spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Was Genesis 22:12 the fulfillment of the prophecy in Genesis 15:6?:

[Gen 15:6 YLT] (6) And he hath believed in Jehovah, and He reckoneth it to him -- righteousness. [Prophecy]

[Gen 22:12 NASB] (12) He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." [Fulfillment]

James seems to suggest that Genesis 15:6 was not "fulfilled" until Genesis 22:12. However, Paul seems to see it as being immediate:

[Rom 4:1-7, 9-12 NASB] (1) What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? (2) For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. (3) For what does the Scripture say? "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (4) Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. (5) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, (6) just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: (7) "BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. ... (9) Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (10) How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; (11) and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, (12) and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

So who is right, James or Paul?!




3 Answers 3


Is Genesis 15:4-6 a Promise or Prophecy?

  1. Promises are future blessings spoken by God.
  2. Prophecies are future events spoken by righteous men.

Who is speaking in Genesis 15:4-6?

  • Word of YHVH (דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֤ה).

If "Devar YHVH" is speaking to Avram in Bereishit (Genesis) 15:4-6, then [Genesis 15:4-6] is a Promise.

[Bereishit (Genesis) 15:4] MT : 'And behold, the Word of YHVH came to him, saying, "This one will not inherit you, but the one who will spring from your innards-he will inherit you." ' ( וְהִנֵּ֨ה דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֤ה אֵלָיו֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר לֹ֥א יִירָֽשְׁךָ֖ זֶ֑ה כִּי־אִם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יֵצֵ֣א מִמֵּעֶ֔יךָ ה֖וּא יִֽירָשֶֽׁךָ)

[Bereishit (Genesis) 15:5] MT : 'And He took him outside, and He said, "Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So will be your seed." ' ( וַיּוֹצֵ֨א אֹת֜וֹ הַח֗וּצָה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הַבֶּט־נָ֣א הַשָּׁמַ֔יְמָה וּסְפֹר֙ הַכּ֣וֹכָבִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֖ל לִסְפֹּ֣ר אֹתָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ כֹּ֥ה יִֽהְיֶ֖ה זַרְעֶֽךָ)

In James 2:23, we are reminded that both Promises from the Devar-YHVH (Word of YHVH) were "fulfilled" [ἐπληρώθη] in Genesis 22:12 for:

  1. Avram to become a Father so that the 'the one who will spring from your innards - he will inherit you'. (Genesis 15:4). - 2. Abraham to become a Father of Nations regarding the multitude of stars (Genesis 15:5). * Both of these Promises were "fulfilled".

I am the author of this question, answering my own question, as it has come to my attention by an answer on Quora where I double-posted it that Luther understood the verse in precisely this way. As a result, he insisted that the author of James was not an apostle and dubbed the epistle "an epistle of straw".

An in depth commentary on the source for the above observation, Luther's introduction to The Epistle of James, please see this interesting link.

So yes, it seems quite clear that James wants to place "the fulfillment" of Genesis 15:6 all the way ahead in Genesis 22:12, just as it seemed to me. As Steve, in his answer on Quora noted:

Every time in the Bible when this kind of phrase is used it's ALWAYS referring to the scripture as being a prophecy, a prediction of a future event.

So does James intend to contradict and overthrow Paul's assertion that Abraham was justified before his circumcision in Genesis 17? In my investigation I came to the conclusion that both Paul and James are using "case law" to prove two valid points that have different and somewhat opposite concerns.

Paul's polemic is directed against those that say that believing God's promises is not enough to be justified; that in addition one must keep the terms of the Sinai covenant (IE: Torah aka "the law"). James' opponents are those who claim that intellectual assent alone is sufficient, without the corresponding action/obedience (by which he does not mean Torah observance, per se).

When we move ahead to Paul's appeal to Abraham's faith in offering his son Isaac we see that Paul makes the same case that James does; that justification is not a one time event and ultimate justification is dependent on persistence in obedience to the Christ:

[Rom 4:16-17 NLT] (16) So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. (17) That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.

He then illustrates what "a faith like Abraham's" looks like, smells like and acts like:

[Rom 4:18-22 NLT] (18) Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping--believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, "That's how many descendants you will have!" (19) And Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead--and so was Sarah's womb. (20) Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. (21) He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. (22) And because of Abraham's faith, God counted him as righteous.

So similar is Paul's exposition to that of James that it appears very possible that James was simply expounding Paul's words in the latter part of Romans 4:

[Rom 4:23-25 NLT] (23) And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn't just for Abraham's benefit. It was recorded (24) for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (25) He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

In other words, "Once Saved, Always Saved" is no part of Paul's soteriology. Ultimate justification is, for Paul, just as dependent on action as it is for James. No, not the activities of Torah, but obedience to Christ. Grace under fire.

[Jas 1:12 NLT] (12) God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

[Rev 2:10 NLT] (10) Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.

[Mat 10:22 CSB] (22) "You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

What remains an open question for me is whether or not James 1:12 is saying that after Abraham's faith was proved real by passing the fiery test of faith, he did enjoy "eternal security".



That is why James' letter was like garlic to Luther... he was an incredibly bright man, even brighter than today's best theologians who think they can reconcile James 2 with Luther's understanding of justification. Luther saw right through the implications of chapter 2 and concluded, "No way, not going anywhere near that", but since the days of the reformers many have come along, such as Melanchthon, saying, "No, Martin, it's possible to reconcile them, here, look"... LOL. Sorry, Luther was right, if you accept his view of justification, James 2 is kryptonite to you.

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    Commented May 20, 2022 at 18:14

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