Walk This Way
Week 5: James 2:14-26
Imagine talking to a neighbor who claims to have a great wood fire going in his fireplace. The only problem is that you can see the chimney and there is no smoke coming out. Is this fire for real? In the same way that smoke gives external evidence of an internal reality, James presses us to see good works as the external evidence of an internal reality – an active, living, saving faith. His message is pretty blunt. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26). Jesus pointed to the same truth when he asked those around him “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) In another place he said, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me” (John 10:25b). Jesus did not become the Son of God by doing a lot of good works. The works simply testified to who he already was. Does your life testify to who you are in Christ?
Can you think of other examples like the smoke and fireplace where an external evidence provides confirmation of an internal or invisible reality?
Getting into the Text:
1. (James 2:14-17) How do you think James would answer the three questions he poses here? What is the difference between a living faith and a dead faith? Compare these verses in James to 1 John 3:16-18. What similarities do you see?
2. (James 2:18-19) What is missing in the kind of belief shown by demons? How might good works or deeds give a visible testimony of someone’s true acceptance of what Jesus has done for them? Is it possible to have a genuine faith in Christ and not have it show up in the way a person lives?
3. (James 2:20-23) Abraham’s profession of faith occurs at the end of Genesis 15:1-6. How did Abraham’s actions (described fully in Genesis 22:1-18) “fulfill” or “complete” his faith? See also Hebrews 11:17-19 for more on how Abraham’s actions demonstrated his faith.
4. (James 2:24) How should we reconcile this verse with others like Romans 3:28 that seem to say the opposite? Using Ephesians 2:8-10 as a helpful guide, describe the relationship between grace, faith, and good works. Why are all three essential for Christians?
5. (James 2:25-26) Why did Rahab need to have faith in order to do what she did? (The full story is in Joshua 2.) How does her example of putting faith into action support James’ overall point?
Why do you think James included verses 2:14-26 in his letter? What dangers or problems do you think he was concerned about? Are these still relevant today for the church or for you personally? What next step do you feel that God is calling you to take in light of these verses?