7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together. 9 When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered.
19 You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear. 20 But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
Notes and References
"... What shocks the post-Reformation reader of James 2:21 is 'by works.' James says Abraham was justified — brought into a saving relationship with God or declared righteous by God — on the basis of his works. And James tells us exactly which work (singular) of Abraham's it was that justified him: 'when he offered his son Isaac on the altar.' We need to understand the 'binding' of Isaac in order to understand why James says Abraham was justified 'by works.' 'The extraordinary prominence of the story of the binding of Isaac in Genesis 22:1-19 in rabbinic Judaism,' Jon Levenson observes, 'stands in stark contrast to the utter absence of direct references to it anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible.' James fits somewhere along the line from the rather clear unimportance of the Aqedah to the obvious major significance of the Aqedah in later Judaism. To see where James fits, we need to sketch some of this evidence. It begins with Genesis 22:1-19, known for the haunting question of Isaac, 'Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' and father Abraham's believing response, 'God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.' Attached to this scene is the angelic commentary on Abraham's faith fulness: 'Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you ... because you have obeyed my voice' (22:16-18). The theme of the faithfulness of Abraham is found in Nehemiah 9:8 ('you found his heart faithful before you') but even more completely in Sirach 44:19-20 ..."
McKnight, Scot The Letter of James (p. 248) William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011