James 2:23
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
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(23) The scripture was fulfilled.—Namely, that earlier declaration of God (Genesis 15:6) when the childless Abraham, with only a Syrian slave for his heir, trusted in the divine promise that his own seed should be as the number of the stars of heaven.

Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.—He proved his faith by obedience, when he freely gave back to the Giver his son, the heir of all the promise.

The Friend of God.Amatus a Deo—beloved of Him, not the friend to God, nor lover of Him, as some have hastily imagined. It is not an exact quotation from the Hebrew Bible, though the substance thereof may be found in Isaiah 41:8. The term was traditional throughout the East, and is used by the Arabs as descriptive of the patriarch to this day.



Jam 2:23.

When and by whom was he so called? There are two passages in the Old Testament in which an analogous designation is applied to the patriarch, but probably the name was one in current use amongst the people, and expressed in a summary fashion the impression that had been made by the history of Abraham’s life. A sweet fate to have that as the brief record of a character, and to be known throughout the ages by such an epitaph. As many of us are aware, this name, ‘the Friend,’ has displaced the proper name, Abraham, on the Lips of all Mohammedan people to this day; and the city of Hebron, where his corpse lies, is commonly known simply as ‘the Friend.’

‘My object in this sermon is a very simple one. I merely wish to bring out two or three of the salient elements and characteristics of friendship as exercised on the human level, and to use these as a standard and test of our religion and relation to God.

But I may just notice, for a moment, how beautiful and blessed a thought it is which underlies this and similar representations of Scripture - viz., that the bond which unites us to God is the very same as that which most sweetly and strongly ties men to one another, and that, after all, religion is nothing more or less than the transference to Him of the emotions which make all the sweetness of human life and society.

Now, I shall try to bring out two or three points which are included in that name, ‘the Friend of God,’ and to ask ourselves if they apply to our relations to Him.

I. First, friends trust and love one another.

Mutual confidence is the mortar which binds the stones in society together, into a building. It makes the difference between the herding together of beasts and the association of men. No community could keep together for an hour without mutual confidence, even in regard of the least intimate relationships of life. But it is the very life-blood of friendship. You cannot say, ‘A.B. is my friend, but I do not trust him.’ If suspicion creeps in, like the foul malaria of tropical swamps, it kills all friendship. Therefore ‘he was called the Friend of God’ is by James deduced from the fact that ‘he believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.’ You cannot make a friend of a man that you do not know where to have. There may be some vague reverence of, or abject reluctant submission to, ‘the unknown God,’ the something outside of ourselves that perhaps makes for righteousness; but for any vivid, warm throb of friendship there must be, first, a clear knowledge, and then a living grappling of that knowledge to my very heart, by my faith. Unless I trust God I cannot be a friend of God’s. If you and I are His friends we trust Him, and He will trust us. For this friendship is not one-sided, and the name, though it may be ambiguous as to whether it means one whom I love or one who loves me, really includes both persons to the compact; and there are analogous, if not identical, emotions in each. So that, if I trust God, I may be sure that God trusts me, and, in His confidence, leaves a great deal to me; and so ennobles and glorifies me by His reliance upon me.

But whilst we know that this belief in God was the very nerve and centre of Abraham’s whole character, and was the reason why he was called the friend of God, we must also remember that, as James insists upon here, it was no mere idle assent, no mere intellectual conviction that God could not tell lies, which was dignified by the name of belief, but that it was, as James insists upon in the context, a trust which proved itself to be valid, because it was continually operative in the life. ‘Faith without works is dead.’ ‘And Abraham, our father, was he not justified by works?’

And so the Epistle to the Hebrews, if you will remember, traces up to his faith all the chief points in his life. ‘By faith he went out from the land where he dwelt; by faith he dwelt in tabernacles,’ in the promised land, believing that it should be his and his seed’s; ‘by faith’ he offered up his son on the altar.

Thus we come to this, that the heavenly and the earthly friend, like friends on the low levels of humanity, love each other because they trust each other, I have said that the words ‘My friend’ may either mean one whom I love or one who loves me, but that the two things are in the present connection inseparable. Only let us remember where the sweet reciprocation and interchange of love begins. ‘We love Him because He first loved us.’ ‘When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.’ And so we have to turn to that heavenly Friend, and feel that as life itself, so the love which is the life of life, has its beginning in Him, and that never would our hearts have turned themselves from their alienation, unless there had poured down upon them the attractive outflow of His great love. It was an old fancy that, wherever a tree was struck by lightning, all its tremulous foliage turned in the direction from which the bolt had come. When the merciful flash of God’s great love strikes a heart, then all its tendrils turn to the source of the life-giving light, and we love back again, in sweet reverberation to the primal and original love. Dear brethren, I lay upon your heart and mine this thought, that friends trust and love each other. Do we trust and love our God?

II. Friends have frank, familiar intercourse with one another.

Let us turn to the illuminatlve example in our text, and remember God’s frankness with Abraham. ‘Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I will do?’ Let us cap that-as we can, marvellous and great as the utterance is - by another one, ‘I call you not servants, but friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I declare unto you.’ So much for God’s frankness. What about Abraham’s frankness with God? Remember how he remonstrated with Him; how he complained to Him of His dealings; how he persisted with importunity, which would have been presumptuous but for the friendship which underlay it, and warranted the bold words. And let us take the simple lesson that if we are friends and lovers of God, we shall delight in intercourse with Him. It is a strange kind of religion that does not care to be with God, that would rather think about anything else than about Him, that is all unused to quiet, solitary conversation and communion with Him, but it is the religion of, I wonder, how many of us to-day. He would be a strange friend that never crossed your threshold if you could help it; that was evidently uncomfortable in your presence, and ill at ease till he got away from you, and that when he came was struck dumb, and had not a word to say for himself, and did not know or feel that he and you had any interests or subjects in common. Is that not a good deal like the religion of hosts of professing Christians? ‘He was called the friend of God,’ and he never, all his days, if he could help it, thought about Him or went near Him!

If we are friends of God, we shall have no secrets from Him. There are very few of those who are dearest to us to whom we could venture to lay bare all the depths of our hearts. There are black things down in the cellars that we do not like to show to any of our friends. We receive them upstairs, in the rooms for company. But you should take God all through

the house. And if there is the trust and the love that l have been speaking about, we shall not be afraid to spread out all our foulness, and our meanness, and our unworthy thoughts of, and acts towards, Him, before His ‘pure eyes and perfect judgment,’ and say, ‘Nobody but my best friend could look at such a dungheap, but I spread it before Thee. Look at it, and Thou wilt cleanse it; look at it, and it will melt away. Look at it, and in the knowledge that Thou knowest, my knowledge of it will be less of a torment, and my bosom will be cleansed of its perilous stuff.’

Tell God all, if you mean to be a friend of His. And do not be afraid to tell Him your harsh thoughts of Him, and your complaints of Him. He never resents anything that a man who loves Him says about Him, if he says it to Him. What He resents - if I might use the word - is our huddling up grudges and murmurings and questionings in our own hearts, and saying never a word to the friend against whom they offend. Out with it all, brethren! Complaints, regrets, questionings, petitions, hot wishes, take them all to Him; and be sure that instead of their breaking, they will, if spoken, cement the friendship which is disturbed by secrecy on our parts.

If we are God’s lovers, He will have no secrets from us. ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.’ There is a strange wisdom and insight, sometimes amounting even to prophetic anticipation, which creeps into a simple heart that is knit closely to God. But whether the result of our friendship with Him be such communication of such kinds of insight or no, we may be sure of this, that, if we trust Him, and love Him, and are frank with Him, He will in so far be frank with us, that He will impart unto us Himself, and in the knowledge of His love we shall find all the knowledge that we need.

III. Friends delight to meet each other’s wishes.

Let us go back to our story again. The humble, earthly friend of God did as God bade him, substantially all his life, from the day when he made the ‘ Great Refusal,’ and left behind him home and kindred and all, until the day when he went up the sides of Moriah to offer there his son. Abraham met God’s wishes because Abraham trusted and loved God.

And what about the Divine Friend? Did He not meet Abraham’s wishes? You remember that wonderful scene, which presents, in such vivid and dramatic form, the everlasting truth that the man who bows his will to God, bows God’s will to his, when he pleaded for Sodom, and won his case by persistence and importunity of lowly prayer. And these historical notices on both sides are for us the vehicles of the permanent truth that, if we are God’s lovers and friends, we shall find nothing sweeter than bowing to His will and executing His commandments. As I dare say I have often said to you, the very mark and signature of love is that it delights to divine and fulfil the desires of the beloved, and that it moulds the will of each of the parties into conformity with the will of the other.

Ah, dear brethren I what a commentary our religion is. upon such thoughts! To how many of us is the very notion of religion that of a prohibition of things that we would much like to do, and of commands to do things that we had much rather not do? All the slavery of abject submission, of reluctant service, is clean swept away, when we understand that friendship and love find their supreme delight in discovering and in executing the will of the beloved. And surely if you and I are the friends of God, the cold words, ‘duty,’ ‘must,’ ‘should,’ will be struck out of our vocabulary and will be replaced by ‘delight,’ ‘cannot but; ‘will.’ For friends find the very life - I was going to say the voice-of their friendship in mutual obedience.

And God, the heavenly Friend, will do what we wish. In that very connection did Jesus Christ put the two thoughts of friendship with Him and His executing His disciple’s behests; saying in one breath, ‘Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you,’ and in the next, ‘Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ This conformity of will, so that there is but one will in, the two hearts, which is the very consummation and superlative degree of human friendship and love, applies as truly to the friendship between man and God.

IV. Friends give gifts to each other.

Let us go back to our story. What did Abraham give God? ‘Forasmuch as he hath not withheld his only son from Me, I know that he fears Me.’ And what does God give to His friends? ‘He that spared not His own Son, but freely delivered Him up to the death for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?’ Abraham’s gift of his son to God was but a feeble shadow of God’s gift of His Son to men. And if the surrender on the part of the human friend was the infallible token of his love, surely the surrender on the part of the heavenly Friend is no less the infallible sign of His love to all the world. Generalise these thoughts and they come to this.

If we are God’s lovers God will give us Himself, in so far as we can receive Him; and all other gifts in so far as they are good and needful. If we are God’s friends and lovers we shall give Him, in glad surrender, our whole selves. And, remember, if you feel that you have separate interests from Him, if you keep things and do not let Him say, ‘These are mine’; if you grudge sacrifice, and will not hear of self-surrender, and are living lives centred in, ruled by, devoted to, self, you have little reason to call yourself a Christian. ‘Ye are My friends if ye’ - not only ‘do whatsoever I command you,’ but ‘if you give yourself to Me.’ Yield yourselves to God, and in the giving of yourselves to Him, you will get back yourselves glorified and blessed by the gift. There is no friendship if self shuts out the friend from participation in what is the other’s. As long as ‘mine’ lies on this side of a high wall, and ‘thine’ on the other, there is but little friendship. Down with the wall, and say about everything ‘Ours’; and then you have a right to say ‘I am the friend of God.’

V. Lastly, and but a word. Friends stand up for each other.

‘I am thy shield; fear not, Abraham,’ said God, when His friend was in danger from the vengeance of the Eastern kings whom he had defeated; and all through life the same strong arm was cast around him. Abraham, on his part, had to stand up for God amidst his heathen neighbours.

If we are God’s ‘friends and lovers He will take up our cause. Be sure that if God be for us, it matters not who is against us. If we are God’s friends and lovers we have to take up His cause. What would you think of a man who, in going away to a far-off country, said to some friend, ‘I wish you would look after so and so for me as long as I am gone’; and the friend would say ‘Yes!’ and never give a thought nor lift a finger to discharge the obligation? God trusts His reputation to you Christian people; He has interests in this world that you have to look after. You have to defend Him as really as He has to defend you. And it is the dreadful contradiction of religious people’s profession of religion that they often care so little, and do so little to promote the cause, to defend the name, to adorn the reputation, and to further what I may venture to call the interests, of their heavenly Friend in the world.

Dear brother, looking at these things, can you venture to say that you are a friend of God? If you cannot, what are you? Our relations to men admit of our dividing them into three - friends, enemies, nothings. We may love, we may hate, we may be absolutely indifferent and ignorant. I am afraid the

three states cannot be transferred exactly to our relations to God. If not His friend, what are you? Have you only a far-off, bowing acquaintance with Him? Well, then, that is because you have neglected, if you have not spurned, His offered friendship. And, oh! how much you have lost! No human heart is a millionth part so sweet, and so capable of satisfying you as God’s. All friendship here has its limits, its changes, its end. God’s is boundless, immutable, eternal All things are the friends of God’s friend; and all things are arrayed against him who rejects God’s friendship.

I beseech you, let Him woo you to love Him; and yield your hearts to Him. ‘If when we were "enemies," we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,’ much more, being friends, all the fulness of His love and the sweetness of His heart will be poured upon us through the living Christ.

James 2:23-24. And the scripture — Which was afterward written, was hereby eminently fulfilled. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. This was twice fulfilled, when Abraham first believed, and when he offered up Isaac. St. Paul speaks of the former fulfilling, and St. James of the latter. And he was called the friend of God — Both by his posterity, (2 Chronicles 20:7,) and by God himself, Isaiah 41:8. So pleasing to God were the works he wrought in faith! “The passage of Scripture which St. James here says was fulfilled, contains two assertions: 1st, That Abraham believed God; 2d, That his believing God was counted to him for righteousness. By the offering of Isaac that scripture was confirmed or proved to be true in both its parts. For, 1st, By offering Isaac, in the firm expectation that God would raise him from the dead, and fulfil in him the promise of the numerous seed, Abraham showed that he believed God in the firmest manner. 2d, By offering Isaac, Abraham had the promise, that God would count his faith to him for righteousness, renewed and confirmed in a solemn manner with an oath.” — Macknight. Ye see then — By this instance of the great father of the faithful, (for the characters of the children are to be estimated in the same manner as those of the father,) that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only — It is by no means sufficient, in order to our salvation, that the great principles of religion be credited, if they have not their practical influence on the heart and life.

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.And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith - That is, the fair and full meaning of the language of Scripture was expressed by this act, showing in the highest sense that his faith was genuine; or the declaration that he truly believed, was confirmed or established by this act. His faith was shown to be genuine; and the fair meaning of the declaration that he believed God was carried out in the subsequent act. The passage here referred to occurs in Genesis 15:6. That which it is said Abraham believed, or in which he believed God, was this: "This shall not be thine heir (namely, Eliezer of Damascus), but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels, shall be thine heir." And again, "Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them. And he said unto him, So shall thy seed be," James 2:3-5. The act of confiding in these promises, was that act of which it is said that "he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

The act of offering his son on the altar by which James says this Scripture was fulfilled, occurred some 20 years afterward. That act confirmed or fulfilled the declaration. It showed that his faith was genuine, and that the declaration that he believed in God was true; for what could do more to confirm that, than a readiness to offer his own son at the command of God? It cannot be supposed that James meant to say that Abraham was justified by works without respect to faith, or to deny that the primary round of his justification in the sight of God was faith, for the very passage which he quotes shows that faith was the primary consideration: "Abraham believed God, and it was imputed," etc. The meaning, therefore, can only be, that this declaration received its fair and full expression when Abraham, by an act of obedience of the most striking character, long after he first exercised that faith by which he was accepted of God, showed that his faith was genuine. It he had not thus obeyed, his faith would have been inoperative and of no value. As it was, his act showed that the declaration of the Scripture that, he "believed" was well founded.

Abraham believed God, and it was imputed ... - See this passage fully explained in the notes at Romans 4:3.

And he was called the friend of God - In virtue of his strong faith and obedience. See 2 Chronicles 20:7; "Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend forever?" Isaiah 41:8. "But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend." This was a most honorable appellation; but it is one which, in all cases, will result from true faith and obedience.

23. scripture was fulfilled—Ge 15:6, quoted by Paul, as realized in Abraham's justification by faith; but by James, as realized subsequently in Abraham's work of offering Isaac, which, he says, justified him. Plainly, then, James must mean by works the same thing as Paul means by faith, only that he speaks of faith at its manifested development, whereas Paul speaks of it in its germ. Abraham's offering of Isaac was not a mere act of obedience, but an act of faith. Isaac was the subject of the promises of God, that in him Abraham's seed should be called. The same God calls on Abraham to slay the subject of His own promise, when as yet there was no seed in whom those predictions could be realized. Hence James' saying that Abraham was justified by such a work, is equivalent to saying, as Paul does, that he was justified by faith itself; for it was in fact faith expressed in action, as in other cases saving faith is expressed in words. So Paul states as the mean of salvation faith expressed. The "Scripture" would not be "fulfilled," as James says it was, but contradicted by any interpretation which makes man's works justify him before God: for that Scripture makes no mention of works at all, but says that Abraham's belief was counted to him for righteousness. God, in the first instance, "justifies the ungodly" through faith; subsequently the believer is justified before the world as righteous through faith manifested in words and works (compare Mt 25:35-37, "the righteous," Mt 25:40). The best authorities read, "But Abraham believed," &c.

and he was called the Friend of God—He was not so called in his lifetime, though he was so even then from the time of his justification; but he was called so, being recognized as such by all on the ground of his works of faith. "He was the friend (in an active sense), the lover of God, in reference to his works; and (in a passive sense) loved by God in reference to his justification by works. Both senses are united in Joh 15:14, 15" [Bengel].

And the Scripture was fulfilled; this illustrious instance of Abraham’s obedience did so clearly evidence the sincerity of his faith, that it did most plainly appear, that what the Scripture said of him, it spoke most truly, viz. that he did indeed believe God,

and it was counted to him for righteousness. Things are said to be fulfilled when they are most clearly manifested. As those words, Psalm 2:7: This day have I begotten thee, are said to be fulfilled at Christ’s resurrection, Acts 13:32,33; not that he was then first begotten of the Father, but that he was then in a glorious manner declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, Romans 1:4. So here Abraham’s offering up his son being the evident discovery of his faith, it did by that appear, that the Scripture report of him was true, that he

believed God, & c.: he did believe before, and his faith was imputed to him before, but it was never so fully made known, as by this so high an act of obedience.

It was imputed unto him for righteousness; viz. as apprehending Christ in the promise. Faith is said to be imputed for righteousness, Romans 4:3-6, as being the instrument or means of applying Christ’s righteousness, by which elsewhere we are said to be justified, Romans 3:24,25 5:19 2 Corinthians 5:21 Philippians 3:9.

And he was called the Friend of God; either he was the friend of God; to be called, sometimes times implies as much as to be, Isaiah 48:8; or properly, he was called, 2 Chronicles 20:7 Isaiah 41:8; and that not only on the account of God’s frequent appearances to him, conversing with him, revealing secrets to him, Genesis 18:17,18 Joh 15:15, and entering into covenant with him; but especially his renewing the covenant with him upon the sacrificing of his son, and confirming it by oath, and thereby, as it were, admitting him into a nearer degree of friendship, Genesis 22:16, &c.

And the Scripture was fulfilled,.... Genesis 15:6 which speaks of Abraham's faith, and the imputation of to him for righteousness; for the above action of Abraham, in offering up his son, was a clear proof of the truth of his faith, there commended: by this it was made known what a strong faith he had in God, and what reason there was to believe that he was a justified person.

Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness; See Gill on Romans 4:3 which shows both that Abraham was justified before he wrought this work, and therefore that could not be the cause or matter of his justification, but only an effect and evidence of it; and that his justification was by faith, or that object which his faith regarded, and had to do with, was his justifying righteousness:

and he was called the friend of God, 2 Chronicles 20:7 he was loved by God with an everlasting love, who showed acts of friendship to him; called him by his grace, and blessed him with spiritual blessings, and increased him with the increase of God; favoured him with near communion with him, honoured him with high characters, and distinguished him by peculiar marks of his favour, and reckoned his enemies and friends as his own; Genesis 12:8 and Abraham, on the other hand, loved God, and showed himself friendly to him; trusted in him, and believed every word of his; readily complied with his will, and not only yielded a cheerful obedience to his commands, but enjoined his children after him to observe them: this was a name which Abraham was well known by among the eastern nations; hence he is called by the Mahometans, , "Khalil Allah", the friend of God; and Mahomet says himself (c),

"God took Abraham for his friend.''

(c) Koran, Sura 4:125.

And the scripture was {n} fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

{n} Then the Scripture was fulfilled, when it appeared plainly how truly it was written about Abraham.

Jam 2:23. Since what was said of Abraham in the preceding appears to conflict with the Scripture, Genesis 15:6, James was obliged to solve this apparent contradiction, therefore he adds to what he has said: and (thus) the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “But Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness; and he was called a friend of God.” Most expositors (also von Oettingen) explain πληροῦν by comprobare, confirmed, and find here the thought expressed, that by Abraham being justified ἐξ ἔργων, the scripture: “that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness,” received its confirmation. But in this explanation of the word πληροῦν there is an arbitrary weakening of the idea. πληροῦν signifies neither in the N. T. nor in classical usage: “to confirm,” but always “to fulfil” (see Cremer); with regard to a saying, the realization of the thought expressed in it by an action following is indicated by πληροῦν, whether that saying be in the form of a prediction or not. This meaning of the verb is also here to be recognised, and indeed so much the more as James uses the formula with which not only in the N. T. but also in the O. T. (1 Kings 2:27; 2 Chronicles 36:22; 1Ma 2:55) generally the fulfilment of a proper prediction, and always the real proof of an earlier spoken thought, is expressed.

The scripture which was fulfilled is Genesis 15:6, where it is said not only that Abraham believed Jehovah, but that He (Jehovah) reckoned it to him for righteousness. James (as also Paul in Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; see also 1Ma 2:52) cites the passage according to the LXX., where the passive ἐλογίσθη is used instead of the active יַהְשְׁבֶהָ; whilst he only deviates from the Greek text in this, that he (as also Paul in Romans 4:3) uses ἐπίστευσεν δέ instead of καὶ ἐπίστευσεν; it is to be observed that in the corresponding passage, Psalm 106:31, the passive וַתֵּחָשֶׁב is also in the Hebrew.

Instead of the expression used in these passages, the form: תִּהְיֶה לְךָ צְרָקָה לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה, is also found in the O. T. Deuteronomy 24:13; Deuteronomy 6:25 (where the LXX. incorrectly translate צְרָקָה by ἐλεημοσύνη). The contrary of this is indicated by the expression: תֵּחָשֶׁב לוֹ קְלָלָה, Proverbs 27:14.

All these expressions import a judgment which God pronounces to Himself on a definite conduct of man, by which He either reckons it for righteousness or for a curse; with Abraham it was his faith on account of which God declared him a righteous person.

But in what does James see the fulfilment of this scripture, that testifies this judgment of God on believing Abraham? Evidently in what he had already said, namely, that Abraham ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη, and which he indicates by what follows: καὶ φίλος Θεοῦ ἐκλήθη; for these words—since they belong not to the scripture—are co-ordinate not with καὶ ἐλογίσθη, but with καὶ ἐπληρώθη κ.τ.λ. It is true God regarded Abraham as His φίλος (φίλος Θεοῦ is not, as Hofmann and Philippi think, God’s friend, who loved God, but God’s friend whom God loved[153]) the instant he reckoned his faith to him for righteousness; but he was called so at a later period, namely, only at the time that he was declared righteous by God on account of his works. The expressions ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην and ἘΔΙΚΑΙΏΘΗ are not regarded by James as equivalent, but according to his representation the former was imparted to Abraham purely on account of his faith (ἐπίστευσεν), but the latter only when his faith was completed by works, thus on account of his works (ἐξ ἔργων), so that thereby that scripture was fulfilled. It is true this scripture is abstractly no promise; but as it notifies facts which point to later actions in which they received their full accomplishment, James might consider it as a word of promise which was fulfilled by the occurrence of these later actions.[154]

The appellation of Abraham as a ΦΊΛΟς ΘΕΟῦ is not indeed found in the LXX.; but in 2 Chronicles 20:7, Jehoshaphat calls him in his prayer אֹֽהַבְךָ (LXX.: Ὁ ἨΓΑΠΗΜΈΝΟς ΣΟΥ), and in Isaiah 41:8 God Himself calls him אֹֽהֲבִי (LXX.: ὋΝ ἨΓΆΠΗΣΑ); comp. also Ges. Asar. v. 11: διὰ Ἀβραὰμ τὸν ἠγαπημένον ὑπὸ σοῦ; also it was not unusual for the Jews to call him φίλος Θεοῦ; to Genesis 18:17, the LXX. have added to ἀπὸ Ἀβραάμ the words τοῦ παιδός μου, for which Philo puts τοῦ φίλου μου. It is evident from what has preceded that we cannot, with Grotius, Hornejus, Pott, and others, explain ἐκλήθη = factus est, fuit.

[153] Lange comprehends both; but at all events, according to the context, the reference given above is to be recognised as the prevailing one.

[154] Namely: the faith with which Abraham received the promise of God points to the later obedience, and the divine reckoning of his faith for righteousness points to the declaration of righteousness imparted to him by God at a later period after proof of his obedience.


When de Wette explains πληροῦν by realized, this is so far inappropriate, as πληροῦν does not directly refer to the fact itself, but to the saying of scripture, and as neither of πιστεύειν of Abraham, nor of ἑλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικ., can it be said that it “was something not yet wholly real, but the full realization of which occurred only at a later period.” For although both point to a later period, yet there was in them something which had actually taken place, as Lange correctly adduces. Hofmann also gave an incorrect reference to the word, explaining it: “In the offering of Isaac it was proved that God had rightly estimated the faith of Abraham when He counted it for righteousness;” for, on the one hand, there was no need of a proof that God had rightly estimated something, of which there is no indication in James, and, on the other hand, πληροῦν has not the meaning of confirming or proving.[155] In opposition to the explanation of Philippi: “the scriptural expression concerning Abraham’s justification by faith was, because His justification by faith is in itself a thing invisible as it were, an unfulfilled prophecy, until it became visible through proof by works,” it is, apart, from the unjustifiable insertion of “as it were,” to be observed that Abraham’s act of obedience, happening at a later period, confirmed indeed his faith (thus that ἐπίστευσεν τῷ Θεῷ), but not the righteousness adjudged to him on account of his faith (that ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικ.), and accordingly ἐπληρώθη would be suitable only for the first half of the scriptural expression. It is peculiar that, according to the explanation of Philippi, the same meaning: “to be proved,” is in essence ascribed to the three words

δικαιοῦσθαι, τελειοῦσθαι, πληροῦσθαι.

[155] Also in Brückner’s explanation: “Both the fact that Abraham believed God, and that this faith was reckoned to him by God for righteousness, was confirmed and proved in the offering of Isaac, leading to this that Abraham ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη,” the idea τληροῦν receives not its right meaning. Lange has here in essentials adopted the correct meaning.

Jam 2:23. There is some little looseness in the way the O.T. is used in these verses; in Jam 2:21 mention is made of the work of offering up Isaac, whereby, it is said (Jam 2:22), faith is perfected; then it goes straight on (Jam 2:23) to say that the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, “Abraham believed …”; this reads as though the quotation were intended to refer to the offering up of Isaac,—the proof of perfected faith; but as a matter of fact the quotation refers to Abraham’s belief in Jehovah’s promise to the effect that the seed of Abraham was to be as numerous as the stars of heaven. In the O.T., that is to say, there is no connection between the quotation from Genesis 15:6 and the offering-up of Isaac. This manipulation of Scripture is strongly characteristic of Jewish methods of exegesis.—ἐπίστευσεν δὲ Ἀβραὰμ …: the N.T. = Septuagint, which differs from the Hebrew in reading τῷ Θεῷ instead of τῷ κυρίῳ, and the passive ἐλογίσθη for the active. Faith, according to Jewish teaching, was a good deed which was bound to bring its reward; it was one of those things which demanded a reward; the phrase זכות אמונה (“the merit of faith, i.e., “trustfulness”) occurs in Beresh. Rabba, chap. 74, where it is parallel to זכות תורה (“the merit of [keeping] the Law”); merit, that is to say, is acquired by trusting God, just as merit is acquired by observing the precepts of the Torah; the man who has acquired sufficient merit is in a state of Zecûth, i.e., in that state of righteousness, attained by good works, wherein he is in a position to claim his reward from God. Very pointed, in this connection, are the reiterated words of Christ in Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16, “Verily, I say unto you, they have received their reward”.—φίλος θεοῦ: Cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; Dan. 3:35 (Septuagint); in Sir 6:17 the Septuagint reads: ὁ φοβοίμενος Κύριον εὐθύνει φιλίαν αὐτοῦ, ὅτι κατʼ αὐτὸν οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλησίον αὐτοῦ; the Hebrew has: “For as He Himself is, so is His friend, and as is His name, so are his works” (“works” must refer, most likely, to the “friend,” not to God); the Syriac runs: “They that fear God show genuine friendship, for as He Himself is, so are His friends, and as is His name, so are His works”. In the Book of Jubilees, xix. 9, it says in reference to Abraham; “For he was found faithful (believing), and was written down upon the heavenly tablets as the friend of God”; this is repeated in xxx. 20, but from what is said in the next verse it is clear that all those who keep the covenant can be inscribed as “friends” upon these tablets. Deissmann (Bibelstudien, pp. 159 f.) points out that at the court of the Ptolemies φίλος was the title of honour of the highest of the royal officials. In Wis 7:27 the “friends of God” is an expression for the “righteous”. The phrase φίλος Θεοῦ, therefore, while in the first instance probably general in its application, became restricted, so that finally, as among the Arabs, “the friend of God,” Khalil Allah, or simply El Khalil, became synonymous with Abraham. Irenæus, iv. 16, iv. 34, 4, refers to Abraham as “the friend of God,” but he does not mention our Epistle; if a reference to this was intended it is the earliest trace of an acquaintance with it. See, further, an interesting note of Nestle’s in the Expository Times, xv. pp. 46 f.; cf. Genesis 18:17 where the Septuagint reads, οὐ μὴ κρύψω ἀπὸ Ἀβραὰμ τοῦ παιδός μου ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ, which is quoted by Philo with τοῦ φίλου μου instead of τοῦ π. μου. In the MS., 69 φίλος in the verse before us is rendered δοῦλος (see critical note above).

23. And the scripture was fulfilled …] The use of the words commonly applied to the fulfilment of prophetic utterances implies that St James saw in the statement of Genesis 15:6 that which, though true at the time, was yet also an anticipation of what was afterwards to be realised more fully. Of that prophecy, as of others, there were, to use Bacon’s phrase, “springing and germinant accomplishments.” What was then reckoned as righteousness continued to be reckoned, as with an ever-increasing value, which reached its maximum in the sacrifice of the son who was the heir of the promise.

and he was called the Friend of God] The words seem to refer, in the English version of the Bible, to 2 Chronicles 20:7 and Isaiah 41:8, where the term “my friend” is applied to Abraham by Jehovah. Singularly enough, however, the term is not found in the Hebrew, nor in the LXX. version, with which St James, writing in Greek, must have been familiar, and which gives, in the first of the two passages, “Abraham thy beloved,” and in the second, “whom I loved.” The distinctive title first appears in Philo’s citation of Genesis 18:1 (De resipisc. Noë, c. 11), and, after St James, in Clement of Rome (Epist. ad Cor. I. 10). It was probably the current phrase in the Jewish schools, and has descended to the Arabs, with whom the name of El Khalil Allah (the friend of God), or more briefly El Khalil, has practically superseded that of Abraham. Even Hebron, as the city of Abraham, and so identified with him, has become El Khalil, “the friend.”

Jam 2:23. Ἐπληρώθη ἡ γραφὴ, the Scripture was fulfilled) The sense is here anticipated by Prolepsis,[28] for it was fulfilled before it was written: but at what part of Abraham’s time was it fulfilled? When he first believed, or afterwards, when he offered his son? At both times: but James especially refers to the time of the offering, since he is speaking of the state of Abraham after his justification: and to this the expression, he was called the friend of God, has reference; but from this he proves justification by works; from the former expression, justification by faith.—δὲ) I have found this particle in two Latin MSS. I mention this circumstance, lest other versions should increase the doubt respecting the genuine reading of the word.—καὶ φίλος Θεοῦ ἐκλήθη, and he was called the friend of God) This is the second part of the whole verse; for it has no reference in its connection to the verb was fulfilled. Abraham had already been the friend of God, before his death; and after his death he was so called by his posterity, 2 Chronicles 20:7; and by God Himself, Isaiah 41:8. He was the friend, in an active sense, the lover of God, which has a reference to works; and in a passive sense, loved by God, which has a reference to justification by works. Both these senses, united together by the force of the relatives, are found also in John 15:14. In Hebrew it is אהב, which, in the passages cited, has an active sound, but a passive signification. At least the parallel words in Isaiah are, servant, elect, and friend; and in the Septuagint, ὃ ἠγάπησα, whom I loved, as in the passage quoted from 2 Chron. it is Τῷ ἨΓΑΠΗΜΈΝῼ ΣΟΥ, beloved by Thee. On which place also the Halle reviewers[29] remark, that Abraham is called by the Arabs as it were by a proper name, Alchalil, that is, the friend of God. So also Jdt 8:22, Abraham amicus Dei effectus est, though these words are not found in the Greek text.

[28] See, under the title AMPLIATIO, Append.

[29] Halle reviewers. The reference is to the “Memoirs of a Library at Halle,” a periodical publication under the superintendence of Baumgarten, printed in the years 1748–1751. It contains valuable information on the various editions of the New Testament. See Michaelis’ Introduction by Bp. Marsh.—T.

Verse 23. - And he was called the Friend of God. The expression comes from Isaiah 41:8; 2 Chronicles 20:7 (in the Hebrew, א; LXX., ὅν ἠγάπησα τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ σου). The same title, φίλος Θεοῦ, is given to Abraham by Clement of Rome ('Ad Corinthians,' 10; 17.), and was evidently a standing one among the Jews. Philo actually in one instance quotas Genesis 18:17 as Ἀβραὰμ τοῦ φίλου μου instead of ποῦ παιδός μου. Illustrations from later rabbinical writers may be found in Wetstein, and cf. Bishop Lightfoot on 'Clement of Rome,' p. 61. To this day it is said that Abraham is known among the Arabs as El Khalil, equivalent to "the Friend." James 2:23Was fulfilled (ἐπληρώθη)

Not was confirmed, which the word does not mean either in New-Testament or in classical usage, but was actually and fully realized. James here uses the formula which in the Old Testament is employed of the realizing of a former utterance. See 1 Kings 2:27; 2 Chronicles 36:22 (Sept.).

Imputed (ἐλογίσθη)

Lit., as Rev., reckoned.

He was called the friend of God

The term, however, does not occur either in the Hebrew or Septuagint, though it is found in the A. V. and retained in Rev. Old Testament. In 2 Chronicles 20:7 (Sept.), thy friend is τῷ ἠγαπημένῳ, thy beloved. In Isaiah 41:8 (Sept.), my friend is ὃν ἠγάπησα, whom I loved. "The friend of God" is still the favorite title of Abraham among the Jews and Mohammedans.

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