Paul cites Abraham’s faith as the reason he was counted as righteous (Rom 4:22). James cites Abraham’s work in offering up Isaac as the reason he was justified (James 2:21). Reviewing Genesis 22 reveals that both are right. When the Lord told Abraham to offer up Isaac, he didn’t hesitate. He got up early in the morning and took Isaac. It took them three days to get to the place of the sacrifice. That was works. During that time, Abraham didn’t tell Isaac what was going to happen. When he left his servants behind, he told them both he and Isaac would return. That’s faith. When Isaac asked about the sacrificial lamb, Abraham didn’t say Isaac was it, but said God would provide. That’s faith. Abraham bound and put Isaac on the wood. That’s works. He raised the knife to slit Isaac’s throat. That’s works. All the works were done in obedience.
That is a supreme demonstration faith and the work of obedience. He didn’t flinch and question God. He didn’t plan on doing something else. Yet, he firmly believed that even if he had to sacrifice his son, they would both continue to live (Heb 11:19). That’s faith. It showed that he firmly believed the promise that God would bless him with heirs through Isaac.
Jesus calls us to the same level of obedience in Matthew 7:21-23. He makes it clear that we can’t offer lip service to him. When the Lord says something, we need to obey as a demonstration of our faith. We can’t tell him, “No.” That is not lordship, that is rebellion. We can’t look at his Word and say, “I don’t like that, so I won’t do it.” We need to be like Abraham and believe God and be submissive to his commands, even when it isn’t easy. Jesus says that he doesn’t know us if we don’t live the way he has commanded doing the will of the Father. Obviously, salvation is proven by our works because faith without obedience is only rhetoric (James 2:22-24).