James 2:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

James 2:23, NIV: And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend.

James 2:23, ESV: and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

James 2:23, KJV: 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.

James 2:23, NASB: and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,' and he was called a friend of God.

James 2:23, NLT: And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: 'Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.' He was even called the friend of God.

James 2:23, CSB: and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God's friend.

What does James 2:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

James cites the example of Abraham, making his case that genuine saving faith in God always leads to participating in good works. Specifically, James points to the moment when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. In obedience, Abraham set out to do exactly that, right up until the moment God told him to stop (Genesis 22).

Some see a contradiction here between James and Paul. Paul's writings are renowned for emphasizing that we are saved by grace, through faith, and without any contribution from our good deeds. James does not dispute this; rather, this entire passage is James's discussion of what kind of faith is "saving faith." James's point is that faith alone saves, but the faith which saves is the kind which leads to good works. Paul emphasizes our eternal salvation in God, James highlights how our actions prove the nature of our faith.

The fact that these two men are in agreement is shown in other similarities. For example, both Paul and James quote Genesis 15:6. Paul quotes it in Romans 4:3 as part of his teaching that salvation is available only through faith. James quotes it here in support of his teaching that genuine faith always leads to good works. James and Paul present arguments which do not contradict, but rather complement each other.

One must be counted by God as "righteous" in order to be in relationship with Him. Paul and the rest of the New Testament writers are clear that our only hope of being found righteous by God is to trust in Christ. That is "saving faith"—a submissive, repentant trust in Jesus Christ. When we express that faith, God forgives our sin and gives us credit for the righteous life Jesus lived while on earth. No good deeds can earn this, and none are required to keep this.

Here in this extended passage, James reminds us that those made righteous by faith in Christ will proceed to do good works. James also adds that Abraham was called a friend of God. Jesus, too, called His disciples friends (John 15:15). It's hard to imagine being God's friend, but that is available to those who trust in Christ and, in faith, obey the Father who loves us.