What the Bible Says About Justification by Faith and Works
Abraham had the faith to believe God (faith), and he obeyed him (a work).
Sacred Scripture says that Phinehas was justified by works, just as Abraham was (James 2:21-22 below):
Psalms 106:30-31 (RSV) Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and the plague was stayed. And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
This refers back to his executing two sinners (of course, a work, and not just faith):
Numbers 25:7-8 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation, and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the inner room, and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through her body. Thus the plague was stayed from the people of Israel.
As a result, God made a covenant with him and his descendants (just as he had with Abraham), of perpetual priesthood:
Numbers 25:10-13 And the LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace; and it shall be to him, and to his descendants after him, the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God, and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”
So we see that both faith and works can bring about justification, especially by an analogical comparison of the biblical use of this term “reckoning” (and both applied to one person in the case of Abraham; and both types of justification are applied to him in one chapter of one book, the second chapter of James).
Genesis 15:6 And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness.
1 Maccabees 2:52 Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?
Romans 4:3, 5, 9, 11 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” ... And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness. ... We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. ... The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them.
Romans 4:22-24 That is why his faith was “reckoned to him as righteousness.” But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
Galatians 3:6 Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
James 2:23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” ...
Psalms 106:30-31 Then Phinehas stood up and interposed, and the plague was stayed. And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
James 2:21-22, 24-25 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? ... You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works ... You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. ... And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
Faith and Works
Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. [arguably, other examples in this chapter as well]
The Catholic position is that justification is ongoing, and can be by faith or by faith plus works (where works are mentioned as the cause, while assuming the presence of faith also). Abraham was justified in Genesis 12, again in Genesis 15, and in Genesis 22, “by works.” Genesis 12 describes a justification by faith and works together. God told Abraham to leave his home and trust him for the future, and he did so (a work): “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him” (12:4). Then he built two altars to the Lord — good works again (12:7-8).
Hebrews describes this as “by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (11:8), so it was faith and works. Abraham had the faith to believe God (faith), and he obeyed him (a work). Genesis 15 describes justification by faith, and Genesis 22, justification by works. Both/and.
Abraham’s good works flowed from, and were intrinsic to, his faith. This is a huge problem for the Protestant view, since it only accepts justification by faith and not by works, and because these three incidents in Abraham’s life reveal three instances of justification, by both faith and works (rather than a one-time event).
Some might deny that Genesis 12 described justification. But then it would have to be explained how Hebrews 11:8 describes it as Abraham exercising faith. This must be justification in the Reformed Protestant sense because unregenerated men cannot have or exercise true faith. Abraham was justified at least three times (Genesis 12, 15, 22).