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James 2:14-26

Talks for Growing Christians

Faith without Works is Dead

James 2:14-26

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Lesson Number 4

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Faith without works is dead.
  2. Abraham and Rahab did works of faith.

Practical Application

  1. Do you believe more than the demons?

Questions

  1. Down through the centuries of church history, Christians have discussed and debated the meaning of this passage of Scripture. Why?
  2. Which of the reformers referred to James as the epistle of straw? Why did he refer to James this way?
  3. Refer to Romans 4:5; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; and Titus 3:5. What are these passages setting forth?
  4. Can James’ statement that “faith without works is dead” be harmonized with the other clear statements that we are saved by faith alone?

Answers

  1. These verses seem to be saying that salvation is not by faith alone, but there must also be good works, for faith without works is dead.
  2. Martin Luther. To Luther, it seemed that James was contradicting the apostle Paul, who clearly wrote that salvation is by faith alone.
  3. That salvation is by faith alone.
  4. Yes, they must be harmonized because the Bible does not contradict itself. The Bible is God’s Word, and God does not contradict Himself.

Discuss/Consider

  1. Refer to James 2:17, 26. In these verses, James is clearly teaching the faith without works is dead, but he has in mind the good works of helping people who are in need. James is speaking not about salvation, but he is describing a faith that works, showing evidence of faith. Good works are not the root of salvation, but the fruit of salvation. How does your life show evidence of your salvation?
  2. Review James 2:21-26 and Genesis 15:6. “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.” Paul quotes this verse in Romans 4 :3 to show that Abraham was saved by faith and not by works. James is not contradicting Paul in James 2:21. They key is in James 2:23. Review the history, noting that God had declared Abraham righteous based on his faith in Genesis 15, thirty years before the offering of Isaac on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), but the offering of Isaac proved that Abraham had saving faith. His works proved that Abraham had the right kind of faith. How would God refer to your faith?

Challenge

  1. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble.” James 2:19. James’ point here is that saving faith is more than head knowledge. Do you have saving faith, or only head knowledge? Be sure that you have more than mental assent to Biblical truths. Saving faith needs evidence and is proved by good works. Do you believe more than the demons?

Key Verses

  • “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James 2:14
  • ‘You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble!” James 2:19
  • “Abraham was justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar…do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 2:21-22
  • “The Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” James 2:23 (Romans 4:3)

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