Passage: Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Journal: The term "justification" involves the child of God having been granted a right legal standing before God (that is, an imperfect sinner being able to remain in the presence of a perfect God; that is, God forgiving our sins and declaring a child of God as righteous in His sight). The protestant "reformation" a few centuries ago focused on "justification by faith alone," and was a departure from the teaching of the church that the quality of one's works brings justification before God. The clear teaching of Paul was that Abraham was justified before God by grace alone through faith alone.
So, is James contradicting Paul by maintaining that Abraham was "justified by works?" There appears to be no contradiction. First, James has already stated that salvation is ". . . a good and perfect gift from above" (James 1:17-18); second, James is quoting Genesis 15:6, which clearly sets forth that Abraham's righteousness is solely based on Abraham's faith (James 2:23); and, third, the event referenced by James (the sacrificial offering up of Isaac) occurred many years after Abraham had been declared righteous by God due to his faith.
So, what is the point that James is making? The reference to Abraham's obedience to God by being willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice represents the genuineness of Abraham's faith; that is, the reality of the work of Abraham points to the reality of the faith of Abraham. His work did not justify him but, rather, his work indicated he was indeed justified. Therefore, rather than contradicting the teaching of Paul, the letter from James complements the teaching of Paul. A child of God is justified by faith alone. A child of God will demonstrate that justification by his works; a body of works that give glory to God by enjoying him forever. ("Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?")