James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Using sleight of hand once again, God points to a wonderful moment in Abraham's life, and asks the pointed question: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, WHEN he offered Isaac his son upon the altar?" Theologians have often ooohed and aaahed in awe of the great work of faith performed by Abraham that somehow managed to justify him.
And yet, the faith that justified Abraham was not his faith. And the faith that justified Abraham had nothing to do with his offering up of Isaac.
God could have made said:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works WHEN he took out the trash after waking up that morning?"
Or, God could have said,
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when Sarah, his wife, forced him to do the dishes?"
Some theologians have such sacred reverence for Abraham, that they might feel putting things this way, is akin to blasphemy. "How dare you minimize the great and faithful work of Abraham that justified him in God's sight."
The only problem is that the Bible will not allow, not for a single second, the idea that Abraham was justified by his own works (see Galatians 2:16).
Therefore the works that justified him, WHEN he offered up Isaac were not his own works. They were Christ's works at the foundation of the world applied to Abraham at some point in his life when he became saved. And after he became saved, at any time thereafter, the statement could be made, "Was not Abraham justified by works, WHEN..." he did anything at all.
But someone not quite understanding might say, "Taking out the trash and doing dishes isn't anything holy and certainly isn't work that would justify a man." Neither can a man be justified by offering up his son. That's exactly the point. No work of any kind that a man performs can justify him.
And yet, after God has imputed the work of Christ in paying for His sins to that person's account, then no matter what work he's involved in, he is justified at that point in time.