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Martin Luther, the great Reformer, didn't much like the book of James. He referred to it as a "right strawy epistle"!! He didn't much care for Jude, Hebrews or Revelation either! They were what he called the "lesser" books. James appeared to challenge salvation by faith alone which was at the heart of Luther's teaching. Luther rejected James' emphasis upon works. Balance is what is needed if we are to reconcile James and Luther.

Session No. 5 FAITH'S FUNERAL OR FULFILMENT   James 2/14-26

We are not saved by works (Luther) but we are saved to do good works (James)Read Ephesians 2/9,10. James is insisting that true faith/belief must be active if it is to be authentic.

[1] INACTIVE FAITH (vs.14-17)

a. The contrast here is between claim and conduct - words and action. James wants his readers to know that you can't have one without the other. Faith without accompanying works is no faith at all. Works that do not emerge from faith are meaningless.

b. James asks two questions: (1) "What good is the claim to faith without matching conduct or actions?" (2)"Can such 'action-less faith' prove that they are saved?"

c. As in 2/2, James gives a practical example to show the folly of words without appropriate action. "Suppose someone comes into your meeting..... "(v.2) "Suppose you see a brother or sister in need..."(v.15)

d. v.16 - "If one of you says....."(the right words)".....but does nothing"  (the right actions). To simply voice one's concern without accompanying, appropriate actions is hollow and self-deceptive.

e. The inevitable conclusion is that faith without action/deeds is dead and useless. It is good only for a funeral. Read 1 John 3/18. John's emphasis is the same as James - love, like faith, rolls up its sleeves and issues in action.


a. James likes creating imaginary situations to argue his point. He now introduces an imaginary interjector who exclaims that not all have the same gifts. This interjector tries to separate faith and deeds. "You have faith, I have deeds; our gifts are different".

b. v.18 - James issues an impossible challenge - "Show me your faith without deeds".

c. "Agreement faith" or intellectual faith does nothing more than demons do. They believe in the existence of God. Their belief at least brings a measurable response - they shudder in terror! (v.19)

d. Intellectual or agreement faith requires no commitment or action. It exists only in the mind. Belief in God and believing God are two very different issues! One involves the head without action (belief in God), the other involves the heart and accompanying action (believingGod).

[3] ILLUSTRATED FAITH (vs.20-26)

a. James now confronts his readers with 2 powerful OT examples of faith in action. These examples are not suppositions; they are actual people to whom the readers could relate.

* ABRAHAM (a Jew)   Read Genesis 22/1-19. His faith went beyond thoughts and words. It issued in action. Obeying God was the proof of his faith. His faith became tangible in deeds. Faith + action = completion Read Hebrews 11/17-19 - "By faith Abraham offered..." - his faith did something. You could "see" his faith.

* RAHAB (a Gentile) - Read Joshua 2/1-24 - faith also became tangible in action - you could see her faith. Because she believed she hid the spies! She risked life and limb because of her faith.

b. Mere words cannot be identified with faith - it's a doing word! Hebrews 11 is often called the faith chapter. In every case or example of faith in that chapter the person does something i.e. their faith is authenticated by actions.

c. Take time to look at Hebrews chapter 11. Note the person used as an example and identify what it is that they did as an expression of their faith.

d. The punch line comes in v.26  "Just as the body is dead without a spirit, so also faith is dead without good deeds".


a. Can we bring this truth about faith and works into the arena of our reality? What is James saying to you and me in Century 21? What practical applications of these truths reach us where we are?

b. Read James 1/27 James' answer to these questions would include care for orphans, widows, socially marginalised - the many disadvantaged.

c. Show me your faith? Can it be seen? Is it tangible? If you or I were charged with being a Christian (a person of faith), would there be enough proof or evidence to convict us?

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