In the Rev. George Whitefield’s sermon entitled: “Abraham’s Offering Up His Son Isaac” he says this towards the end of his message:
“This, this is the gospel; this is the only way of finding acceptance with God: good works have nothing to do with our justification in His sight. We are justified by faith alone, as saith the article of our church; agreeable to which the apostle Paul says, “By grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” Notwithstanding, good works have their proper place: they justify our faith, though not our persons; they follow it, and evidence our justification in the sight of men. Hence it is that the apostle James asks, was not Abraham justified by works?”
Great point Rev. Whitefield! Yes the Bible says many times we are justified, declared righteous by God, by faith in Him and His work: Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 3:28, 5:1; Galatians 2:16, 3:8, 3:24; Ephesians 2:8.
But here, using Rev. Whitefield’s line, is the excellent point that our faith is justified by our works. Our souls are justified by faith in Jesus Christ but our faith is justified or perhaps verified by our works.
As Rev. Whitefield points out the Book of James makes this point. James 2:14 – 26:
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
[Here James gives an example of works]
15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
[Thus is a Christian has no works to go with his faith what does James say?]
17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
[Dead faith is no faith]
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
[Here’s another illustration to help you examine your perspective]
19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
[What do the demons not do? Works. Though they believe the truth they have no works]
20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
[In other words James writes the following]
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.
[Since all Christians are descendants of Abraham then Abraham would be the person to study to see how works were included in his life]
24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
[Thus in verse 24 James writes as if he has made his point]
25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
[Verse 25 one more illustration from a critical moment in the life of Israel]
26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
[Again, James concludes Chapter 2 with a resounding conclusion to his point].
Rev. Whitefield took this point and made it plain in his sermon and demonstrates an excellent means of doing so for all preachers.