Problem

How was Abraham saved justified or made righteous?

Romans 4:1 - What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
James 2:21 - Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

Romans and Genesis say it was by faith he was made righteous.
James says it was through works.

I've heard the argument of the prior being justified in the eyes of God while the latter being in the eyes of men. That would solve things, but can we get any verses to back that notion up?


Solution

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The fact of the matter is that people were not saved the same way then as they are now. During those days there was no new birth, no spiritual circumcision (this is why he had to take a knife and commit the act physically) and the soul did not go to Heaven at death. In Genesis 15:6, God imputed righteousness to Abraham. That was the beggining of his justification. The only thing that Abraham had in common with our salvation was that Abraham believed God about a promised son (Isaac), we believe God about a promised son (JESUS) also. James 2:23 shows that works were needed to complete Abraham's justification. Genesis 15:6 began Abraham's justification, the sacrifice of Isaac fulfilled it. The works that were needed to complete my justification were done at Calvary by Jesus Christ. Therefore all I have to do is believe.

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Answering the question about back up verse that this one in James is Justification in the sight of men can be quoted in Rom 4:
Ro 4:1 ¶ What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
Ro 4:2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.
Its obvious that he has to glory that in the sight of men and not before God according to verse 2. Then you can use other verses to support that it is being Justified in the sight of God that man can attain Justification, such as Rom 5:1, Rom 5:9, Rom 3:24.. and a lot more

As far as i know, James has the proper dispensation also in where it should be applied. Its addressed to the twelve tribes in the very context for the tribulation period and we are still in the grace period. This includes lot of study and you may want to read Ruckman's books regarding these. Hope it helps.

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Books on Apparent Contradictions