James 2:24
You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) Ye see then how that by works . . .—Observe that St. James says a man is not justified “by faith only,” putting the adverb in the last and most emphatic position. He never denies Justification by Faith; but that fancied one of idle, speculative, theoretic faith, with no corresponding acts of love.

2:14-26 Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, ver. 24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him.Ye see then - From the course of reasoning pursued, and the example referred to.

How that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only - Not by a cold, abstract, inoperative faith. It must be by a faith that shall produce good works, and whose existence will be shown to men by good works. As justification takes place in the sight of God, it is by faith, for he sees that the faith is genuine, and that it will produce good works if the individual who exercises faith shall live; and he justifies men in view of that faith, and of no other. If he sees that the faith is merely speculative; that it is cold and dead, and would not produce good works, the man is not justified in his sight. As a matter of fact, therefore, it is only the faith that produces good works that justifies; and good works, therefore, as the proper expression of the nature of faith, foreseen by God as the certain result of faith, and actually performed as seen by men, are necessary in order to justification. In other words, no man will be justified who has not a faith which will produce good works, and which is of an operative and practical character. The ground of justification in the case is faith, and that only; the evidence of it, the carrying it out, the proof of the existence of the faith, is good works; and thus men are justified and saved not by mere abstract and cold faith, but by a faith necessarily connected with good works, and where good works perform an important part. James, therefore, does not contradict Paul, but he contradicts a false explanation of Paul's doctrine. He does not deny that a man is justified in the sight of God by faith, for the very passage which he quotes shows that he believes that; but he does deny that a man is justified by a faith which would not produce good works, and which is not expressed by good works; and thus he maintains, as Paul always did, that nothing else than a holy life can show that a man is a true Christian, and is accepted of God.

24. justified and, not by faith only—that is, by "faith without (separated from: severed from) works," its proper fruits (see on [2606]Jas 2:20). Faith to justify must, from the first, include obedience in germ (to be developed subsequently), though the former alone is the ground of justification. The scion must be grafted on the stock that it may live; it must bring forth fruit to prove that it does live. Ye see then; an inference either from the instance of Abraham, or from the whole preceding discourse.

How that by works; works of new obedience.

A man is justified; declared to be righteous, or approved as such, and acquitted from the guilt of hypocrisy.

And not by faith only; not by a mere profession of faith, or a bare assent to the truth, without the fruit of good works.

Question. How doth this general conclusion follow from the particular case of Abraham?

Answer. Abraham’s faith and justification, both before God and the world, are set forth as the exempars of ours, to which the faith and justification of all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, is to be conformed, Romans 4:11,12,23,24.

Question. Doth not James here contradict Paul’s doctrine in the matter of justification, Romans 4:1-25?

Answer. The contradiction is but seeming, not real, as will appear, if four things be considered:

1. The occasion of these apostles’ writing, and their scope in it. Having to do with different sorts of persons, they had likewise different designs. As Christ speaks one way when he dealt with proud Pharisees, whom he would humble; another way, when with humble hearers, whom he would encourage. and Paul carried it one way when among weak brethren, in condescension to whose infirmities he circumcised Timothy, Acts 16:2,3; and another, when he was among false brethren, and men of contention, who opposed Christian liberty, seeking to bring believers into bondage, and then would not suffer Titus to be circumcised, Galatians 2:3-5. So in the present affair. Paul’s business lay with false apostles and Judaizing Christians, such as did, in the matter of justification, either substitute a self-righteousness instead of God’s grace, or set it up in conjunction with it; and therefore his scope is (especially in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians) to show the true cause and manner of justification, and vindicate the freeness of grace in it, by the exclusion of man’s works, of what kind soever; to which purpose he propounds the examples of Abraham and David, in their justification, Romans 4:1-1-25. Whereas James having to do with carnal professors, and such as abused the doctrine of grace to encourage themselves in sin, and thought it sufficient that they had faith, (such as it was), though they did not live like believers, resting in an empty profession, with the neglect of holiness; his design plainly is, to show the effects and fruits of justification, viz. holiness and good works; thereby to check the vanity and folly of them who did thus divorce faith from a holy life, (which God hath joined to it), and fancied themselves safe in the profession of the one, without any respect to, or care of, the other, as appears in this chapter, Jam 2:14,17,26. And because they might bear themselves high in this false confidence by the example of Abraham, their father according to the flesh, and whom Paul had set forth, Romans 4:1-25, as justified by faith, without the concurrence of works to his justification; James makes use of the same example of Abraham, as one eminent for holiness as well as faith, and who made his faith famous by the highest act of obedience that ever a saint did, to show, that faith and holiness ought not to be separated; Abraham’s faith being so highly commended, especially as productive of it. To the same purpose he makes use of the instance of Rahab, who, though a young saint, and newly come to the knowledge of God, yet showed the truth of her faith by so considerable an exercise of her love and mercy to God’s people, as her receiving the spies in peace was. This therefore helps not a little to reconcile the difference between these two apostles. Paul deals with those that magnified works too much, as if they were justified by them, and slighted faith and grace; and therefore, though he frequently shows the usefulness of faith and good works unto salvation, and presseth men every where to the practice of them, yet he proves that they have no interest in the justification of a sinner before God’s tribunal, which he asserts to be wholly and solely of grace, and by faith. But James, in dealing with loose Christians, who magnified faith, and slighted good works, not only as having no influence on justification, but as not necessary at all to salvation; he takes upon him to maintain good works, not as necessary to justification, but as the effects, signs, and evidences of it, and such as without which their faith was vain, and themselves in an unjustified state.

2. Paul and James take faith in different senses: Paul speaks of a true, lively faith, which purifies the heart, and worketh by love, Galatians 5:6. Whereas James speaks of a profession, or presumption of faith, barren, and destitute of good fruits, such a faith as is dead, Jam 2:17, such as the devils may have, Jam 2:19, which is but historical, and consists only in a belief of God’s being, not a consent to his offer, or relying on his promises. What contradiction then is there here between these two apostles, if Paul assert justification to be by faith, viz. a lively, working faith; and James deny it to be by faith, viz. an idle, inactive, barren faith, and which hath only the name, but not the nature of that grace, and is rather the image of faith than faith itself?

3. But because James not only denies justification to the faith he speaks of, but ascribes it to works in this verse; therefore it is to be considered, that justification is taken one way by him, and another by Paul. Paul takes it for the absolution and acceptation of a sinner at God’s bar, by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, which is the primary and proper notion of justification. But James takes it for the manifestation and declaration of that justification; and the word is taken in the like sense in other scriptures: Luke 7:29, the people justified God, i.e. owned and declared his righteousness by confession of their sins, and submission to John’s baptism; and Luke 7:35, Wisdom is justified, i.e. declared to be just and right. Romans 3:4, justified in thy sayings, i.e. acknowledged and declared to be true in thy word. And what is Christ’s being justified in the Spirit, 1 Timothy 3:16, but his being declared to be the Son of God? Romans 1:4. And that James takes justification in this sense, appears:

(1.) By the history of Abraham here mentioned: he was (as hath been said) justified by faith long before his offering up his son, Genesis 15:1-21, but here is said to be justified, i.e. declared and proved to be so, by this testimony which he gave to the truth of his faith, and consequently to his justification by it; and the Lord therefore tells him, Genesis 22:12, Now I know that thou fearest God, & c.; q.d. By this obedience thou hast abundantly showed the sincerity of thy graces.

(2.) Because if James doth not here speak of Abraham’s being justified declaratively, how can it be true which he speaks, Jam 2:23, that the Scripture was fulfilled (in his sacrificing his son) which saith, He believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness? For if James intends justification in the proper sense, how was Abraham’s being justified by works a fulfilling of the Scripture, which asserts him to be justified by faith? Here therefore again there is no contradiction between these apostles. For it is true, that Abraham was justified, i.e. accepted of God, and absolved from guilt, by faith only; and it is as true, that he was justified, i.e. manifested and declared to be a believer, and a justified person, by his works.

4. Lastly, we may distinguish of the person that is said to be justified; either he is a sinner, in the state of nature; or a believer, in a state of grace; whence ariseth the two-fold justification here mentioned. The justification of a sinner, in the remission of his sins through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and acquitting him from the condemnation of the law, is the justification properly so called, and which Paul speaks so much of; and this is by faith only. The justification of a believer, is his absolution from condemnation by the gospel, and the charge of infidelity, or hypocrisy, and is no other than that declarative justification James speaks of, or an asserting and clearing up the truth and reality of the former justification, which is done by good works, as the signs and fruits of the faith, by which that former is obtained: and this is but improperly called justification. The former is an absolution from the general charge of sin, this from the special charge of hypocrisy, or infidelity. A sinner’s great fear (when first awakened to a sense of his sin and misery) is of a holy law, and a righteous Judge ready to condemn him for the violation of that law; and so his first business is to look to Christ by faith for righteousness, and remission of sin. But when he is justified by that righteousness, men may charge him with hypocrisy or unbelief, and so may the devil and conscience too, when faith is weak, or a temptation strong; and therefore his next work is to clear himself of this imputation, and to evidence the truth and reality of his faith and justification in God’s sight, which must be done by producing his obedience and good works, as the indications of his faith; and hereby he proves that he hath indeed closed with the promise of the gospel, and so is clear of the charge of not believing it, which was false; as well as (by consequence) is justified from the charge of sin against the law, which was true. To conclude, therefore, here is no opposition between Paul and James. Paul speaks of Abraham’s being justified as a sinner, and properly, and so by faith only; James speaks of his being justified as a believer, improperly, and so by works; by which not his person was justified, but rather his faith declared to be justifying: nor he constituted righteous, but approved as righteous. In a word, what God hath joined must not be divided, and what he hath divided must not be joined. He hath separated faith and works in the business of justification, and therefore we must not join them in it, as Paul disputes; and he hath joined them in the lives of justified persons, and there we must not separate them, as James teaches. Paul assures us they have not a co-efficiency in justification itself; and James assures us they may, and ought to have, a co-existence in them that are justified. If the reader desire further satisfaction yet, let him consult Turretine de Concordia Pauli et Jacobi, where he may find much more to the same purpose as hath been here said. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified,.... Not as causes procuring his justification, but as effects declaring it; for the best works are imperfect, and cannot be a righteousness justifying in the sight of God, and are unprofitable in this respect; for when they are performed in the best manner, they are no other than what it is a man's duty to perform, and therefore cannot justify from sin he has committed: and besides, justification in this sense would frustrate the grace of God, make void the death of Christ, and encourage boasting in men. Good works do not go before justification as causes or conditions, but follow it as fruits and effects:

and not by faith only: or as without works, or a mere historical faith, which being without works is dead, of which the apostle is speaking; and therefore can bear no testimony to a man's justification; hence it appears, that the Apostle James does not contradict the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:28 since they speak not of the same sort of faith; the one speaks of a mere profession of faith, a dead and lifeless one; the other of a true faith, which has Christ, and his righteousness, for its object, and works by love, and produces peace, joy, and comfort in the soul. Moreover, the Apostle Paul speaks of justification before God; and James speaks of it as it is known by its fruits unto men; the one speaks of a justification of their persons, in the sight of God; the other of the justification and approbation of their cause, their conduct, and their faith before men, and the vindication of them from all charges and calumnies of hypocrisy, and the like; the one speaks of good works as causes, which he denies to have any place as such in justification; and the other speaks of them as effects flowing from faith, and showing the truth of it, and so of justification by it; the one had to do with legalists and self-justiciaries, who sought righteousness not by faith, but by the works of the law, whom he opposed; and the other had to do with libertines, who cried up faith and knowledge, but had no regard to a religious life and conversation; and these things considered will tend to reconcile the two apostles about this business, but as effects declaring it; for the best works are imperfect, and cannot be a righteousness justifying in the sight of God, and are unprofitable in this respect; for when they are performed in the best manner, they are no other than what it is a man's duty to perform, and therefore cannot justify from sin he has committed: and besides, justification in this sense would frustrate the grace of God, make void the death of Christ, and encourage boasting in men. Good works do not go before justification as causes or conditions, but follow it as fruits and effects:

and not by faith only: or as without works, or a mere historical faith, which being without works is dead, of which the apostle is speaking; and therefore can bear no testimony to a man's justification; hence it appears, that the Apostle James does not contradict the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:28 since they speak not of the same sort of faith; the one speaks of a mere profession of faith, a dead and lifeless one; the other of a true faith, which has Christ, and his righteousness, for its object, and works by love, and produces peace, joy, and comfort in the soul. Moreover, the Apostle Paul speaks of justification before God; and James speaks of it as it is known by its fruits unto men; the one speaks of a justification of their persons, in the sight of God; the other of the justification and approbation of their cause, their conduct, and their faith before men, and the vindication of them from all charges and calumnies of hypocrisy, and the like; the one speaks of good works as causes, which he denies to have any place as such in justification; and the other speaks of them as effects flowing from faith, and showing the truth of it, and so of justification by it; the one had to do with legalists and self-justiciaries, who sought righteousness not by faith, but by the works of the law, whom he opposed; and the other had to do with libertines, who cried up faith and knowledge, but had no regard to a religious life and conversation; and these things considered will tend to reconcile the two apostles about this business.

{12} Ye see then how that by works a man is {o} justified, and not by {p} faith only.

(12) The conclusion: Only he who has faith that has works following it is justified.

(o) Is proved to be just.

(p) Of that dead and fruitless faith which you boast of.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Jam 2:24. An inference universally valid from the adduced example of Abraham: “Ye see that by works a man is justified (declared righteous), and not by faith alone,”

ὁρᾶτε] is not imperative (Erasmus, Grotius), but indicative; Griesbach, Schott, Schulthess incorrectly understand the sentence as a question, which it is as little as in Jam 2:22.

ἐξ ἔργων] is emphatically placed first, because the chief stress is upon it.

δικαιοῦται] has the same meaning as in Jam 2:21. James thus infers from the foregoing that the declaration of man’s righteousness proceeds ἐξ ἔργων, and, with special reference to his opponents, he adds: οὐκ ἐκ πίστεως μόνον.[156] The chief emphasis is on μόνον; for as little as James in Jam 2:14 has not said that faith cannot save (σῶσαι), so little will he here say that a man is not justified ἐκ πίστεως (rather πίστις is to him the presupposition, without which the attainment of salvation cannot be conceived, as without it the ἔργα, ἐξ ὧν δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος are impossible); but that the faith, which justifies, must not be χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων. μόνον is therefore not to be united with οὐκ (Theile: appositionis lege explenda est oratio: non solum fide, sed etiam operibus … nempe cum fide conjungendis), but with πίστεως (Theophylact, Grotius, Knapp, Hottinger, Wiesinger, and others); comp. 1 Corinthians 12:31; 2 Corinthians 11:23; Galatians 1:23; Php 1:26. The declaration of righteousness, which James intends, is not that by which the believer on account of his faith receives the forgiveness of his sins, but, as is evident from the connection of the whole section, that which occurs to the believer, who has proved his living faith by his works, at the judgment (ἐν τῇ κρίσει, ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαι), and by which he receives σωτηρία (Jam 2:14). When James, in reference to this, appeals to what happened to Abraham, there is nothing unsuitable, for why should not that which God has done in a definite instance be regarded as a type and testimony of what He shall do at the future judgment? Moreover, this is completely appropriate, since to Abraham, by the address to him after the offering of Isaac, the promise which was before made to his faith, was rendered unchangeably firm at the close of his theocratic life. The present δικαιοῦται is explained, because the thought was to be expressed as a universal sentence.[157]

[156] Philippi, according to his explanation of ἐδικαιώθη, ver. 21, must find here the thought expressed, that “faith alone without works cannot prove a man before men to be a believer, and justified by faith;” but this thought is in fact so self-evident, that James would not have thought it necessary to state it as a consequence from the history of Abraham. The idea opposed to ἐξ ἔργων should not be ἐκ πίστεως, but must be ἐκ λόγων (comp. λέγῃ, ver. 14); moreover, the simple δικαιοῦται ἄνερωπος cannot possibly denote: “a man is justified as a believer whom God, on account of his faith, has justified.”

[157] See remarks by the author in the April number of the Erlang. Zeitschrift für Protest. Frank, in his reply (in the same, p. 220), combating the reference of δικαιοῦται to the final judgment, says: “If there was in the life of Abraham a justification by works, which may be considered as the type and testimony of the final acquittal, so there occurs also in the life of Christians such acts of justification by works, that they may also be regarded as a testimony and type of their future justification before the judgment-seat of God.” To this it is to be replied, that such an act of justification is here treated of by which the accounting of his faith for righteousness already imparted to the believer comes to its termination, as was here the case with Abraham. But this act, as concerns Christian believers, occurs not in their earthly life, but only at the judgment. Philippi also incorrectly says that the reference to the judgment is not indicated, since it is sufficiently indicated by the whole context; see remarks on ver. 14.Jam 2:24. ὁρᾶτε: The argument between the two supposed disputants having been brought to a close, the writer addresses his hearers again, and sums up in his own words.—μόνον: the writer, by using this word, allows more importance to faith than he has yet done; there is not necessarily any inconsistency in this, the exigencies of argument on controversial topics sometimes require special stress to be laid on one point of view to the partial exclusion of another in order to balance the one-sided view of an opponent.24. Ye see then] The better MSS. omit the then. The Greek verb may be indicative, imperative, or interrogative. The English Version is probably right in giving the preference to the first.

not by faith only] There is, it is obvious, a verbal contradiction between this and St Paul’s statement in Romans 3:28, but it is verbal only. St James does not exclude faith from the work of justifying, i. e. winning Good’s acquittal and acceptance, but only a faith which stands “by itself,” “alone,” and therefore “dead,” and assumes that “works” have their beginning in the faith which they ripen and complete. St Paul throughout assumes that faith will work by love and be productive in good acts, while the works which he excludes from the office of justifying are “works of the law,” i.e. works which, whether ceremonial or moral, are done as by a constrained obedience to an external commandment, through fear of punishment, or hope of reward, and are not the spontaneous outcome of love and therefore of faith. It will be felt that St James presents the more practical, St Paul the deeper and more mystical aspect of the Truth, and this is in itself a confirmation of the view maintained throughout these notes, that the latter was the later of the two, and therefore that so far as one corrects or completes the popular version of the teaching of the other, it was to St Paul and not to St James that that task was assigned.Jam 2:24. Ὁρᾶτε, ye see) So βλέπεις, seest thou, Jam 2:22.—ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται, is justified by works) See Jam 2:21, note.—ἄνθρωπος, a man) whether Jew or Greek.—μόνον, only) The Scripture has foreseen and marked out here the error of those gospel-bearing Cyclopians, as Erasmus terms them, and degenerate disciples of Luther, who have for their banner faith only, not as taught by St Paul, but apart (desolatam, separated) from works.
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