This Week: James 2:14-26 Date: February 14, 2016 Series: Shoe Leather Theology: Study of James

This Week’s Resources:

Overview of this Lesson

In this week’s lesson we get to what many commentators describe as the very heart of the Epistle of James. In verses 2:14-26 James puts his finger on a deadly condition that causes many to believe they have true saving faith, yet the fruit of their life shows a false faith. Repeatedly, James makes his point–“faith without works is dead.”

Many see this as contradictory to the Apostle Paul’s teaching that salvation is by faith alone, but as we will see in this week’s lesson, James and Paul are talking about two sides of the same coin, but one deals with the evidence of faith while the other is concerned about the root of faith.

As you prepare for this week’s lesson, may God grant you a heart of compassion and instruction as you teach a principle that can ultimately give your group members either great confidence in their salvation or evidence that will cause them to re-examine their faith and claim to salvation in light of the teaching of James.

Memory Verse for This Week

James 2:18 (ESV)–But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Core Doctrine: Salvation By Grace

Salvation by Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-25; 8:38-39): We believe a person has a right relationship with God only by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. This makes believers eternally secure in Jesus Christ.


  1. Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
  2. What is the difference between someone who talks about a problem and someone who does something about the problem?
This Week’s Take Home Truth “Good works are evidence of saving faith in Jesus.”

Read the Text (James 2:14-26)

Anyone familiar with James’ epistle knows the importance of the section before us. Chapter 2:14-26 is the most theologically disputed passage in the entire letter. In chapter 1 James challenged his readers to be ‘doers’ of the Word. In 2:1-13 he applied that general exhortation to the specific sin of prejudiced favoritism. Now, in masterful language and logic, he shows what true faith and wisdom are – they go beyond empty recitation of religious platitudes and express themselves in tangible acts of obedience.

Also, most readers are familiar with the supposed discrepancy between James’ argument here and Paul’s grand description of justification by faith alone (Rom. 3:24; 5:1; Gal. 2:16-18; 3:11). Failure to understand James’ reasoning in this section can lead to many an error. Even the great reformer Martin Luther termed James an ‘epistle of straw’ because he thought that James contradicted Paul’s great doctrine.

But James did nothing of the kind. Quite the contrary, he shows the interaction of true saving faith and resultant works. Ten times in this paragraph faith and works are mentioned together. Faith and works are not enemies of one another; rather, righteous works authenticate true saving faith. This truly is an important discussion, for to be wrong here affects our doctrine of salvation. Read James 2:14-26.

Digging Deeper

In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions.

  1. How would you describe saving faith in simple terms?

  1. Does Paul contradict James concerning the teaching of salvation by faith alone?
  1. Is it possible to have faith in God, but not be saved?
  1. Based on what you read in James 2:15-19, what are the signs of genuine faith?
  1. Examine Yourself. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.”
  • Was there a specific time you realized you were a sinner and admitted this to yourself and to God?
  • Was there a time that your heart was stirred to flee from the wrath (judgment) to come?
  • Do you truly understand that Christ died for your sins (in your place) and that you cannot save yourself?
  • Have you sincerely repented of your sins and turned from them? Do you hate sin and fear God?
  • Have you trusted Christ alone for your salvation? Do you enjoy a living relationship with Him through His Word and the Spirit?
  • Has there been a change in your life? Do you maintain good works or are they only occasional and weak?
  • Are you ready for His return? Or will you be ashamed when he comes for you?
  • Not every Christian has the same personal experience; there are degrees of sanctification. Take continual inventory and measure your growth.

Concluding Thoughts

These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.

  1. If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
  2. What counsel would you give to a friend who believes the teachings of Scripture but has no spiritual fruit?
  3. What counsel would you give to another believer who has evidence of genuine faith but who never feels like he or she measures up to God’s standard?

The sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than all the taverns in America.–Leonard Ravenhill