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Answering The Atheist
April 3, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 14

Was Abraham justified by faith or works? Romans 4:2 says he was not justified by works, but James 2:21 says he was. Is there a contradiction?

In Genesis 15:6, Moses says Abraham "...believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." Paul quotes this in Romans 4, stating that Abraham was not justified by works. Again, Paul uses the text in Galatians 3, saying the sons of Abraham are justified by faith, not works of the law (of Moses). The text is quoted a third time in James 2. There, James affirms that "...a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (2:24). Do the writers contradict? Not at all. James and Paul look at justification from different perspectives. James does not say "works only". Paul does not say "faith only". Paul focuses on Abraham's faith. James focuses on the works which accompanied and perfected Abraham's faith. Would Abraham have been justified had he not left Ur of the Chaldees, or not offered Isaac on the altar?

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible