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James 2:14-26 Discussion Guide


Note—As you work through the discussion guide, remember that you do not have to answer every question; pick and choose which questions work best for your group discussion.

Activity: Talk about a time when you clearly knew better but, for some reason, “did” or “said” something anyway?

Introduction: Today, we are in James 2:14-26. This is the heart of the book in terms of his primary principle. As we read, look for the main theme to be repeated three times: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (v. 17), “faith without deeds is useless” (v. 20), “faith without deeds is dead” (v. 26)

Read: James 2:14-25 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Explain: But Paul was working against an overemphasis on human effort. James was working against an underemphasis on human effort.

Question 1: What does James mean when he asks, “Can that kind of faith save him?”

Question 2: Do demons have correct theology? (Do they have accurate knowledge of God?)

Question 3: Why is good theology important, and why is it not enough all by itself?

Read: Romans 4:1-5 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Genesis 22:1-12 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

Question 4: What does it mean that “Paul is addressing timing and James is addressing outcome?”

Explain: In James 2:24, he writes that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. He is not saying a person is justified by works, but rather faith, all by itself, is a faulty faith.

Question 5: Of all the many examples he could have given to demonstrate that “faith works,” why do you think he chose Abraham and Rahab?

Question 6: Does your failure or lack of consistent obedience ever cause you to doubt whether God has saved you and whether you really do love God? Why or why not?

Question 7: What do you think it means, “The realm of God’s will for your life is the realm of God’s power in your life?”

Question 8: How have you lived inside or outside the realm of his will for your life this past week? Where are you right now?

Read 2 Cor. 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Explain: Godly sorrow:

  1. Specific (it names the sin)
  2. Condemns the sin
  3. Relents when we confess

Worldly sorrow:

  1. Vague, leaves you feeling unworthy
  2. Condemns the sinner
  3. Is unrelenting, even with confession

Conclude: Spend time confessing sin, breathing forgiveness, and recommitting to live in obedience by the power of God.

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