1. What defines a hypocrite? (Hypocrisy is claiming to believe one thing but then acting in a way that is not consistent with those beliefs.)
2. When have you seen hypocritical behavior?
Christians are often called hypocrites by society. While we are unable to live perfectly, true Christians should strive to live humbly and consistently with their beliefs.
The second chapter of James deals with the relationship between faith and works. As we study this passage, we need to continually ask, “What is the difference between saving faith and tangible evidence of our faith?”
Dead Faith! Read James 2:14-17
1. What were James’ questions?
2. How might people try to answer these questions?
3. Why might a person claim to have faith without any resulting works?
4. What’s the significance of the phrase “claims to have faith” in verse 14?
At first glance, it may appear that James said faith alone is not enough, and we also need works or deeds for salvation. A closer reading, though, reveals that James was actually speaking out against a claim of faith that’s not demonstrated by works.
Last month, in the book of Galatians, we studied how strongly Paul taught against those who would say, “Faith plus works” saves a person. James is saying “our actions provide proof of a true faith.”
Works are not required for our salvation; they are the proof of our salvation. A transformed life produces fruit!
5. What is the relationship between what a person claims to believe, what a person truly believes, and how a person acts? (You can claim to believe something but not truly believe it. You can claim to believe something but not act on those beliefs. However, when people truly believe something, their actions will reflect those beliefs –though not always perfectly.)
Most of us have been to a funeral. We often say that the person in the casket “looks so natural,” or that they look like they are just sleeping. But we know that there is not life in that body. No matter how good a job the mortician did, no one can deny the person is dead!
6. If we were looking for evidence that the person described in verses 15-16 truly desired that the brother or sister be taken care of, then what would we expect to find?
7. What evidence might a person point to as proof that his or her faith is alive?
8. How do the works of a person reveal the genuineness of his or her faith?
James seemed to anticipate people would want to argue with him on this point. So in the next section, he dealt with the objections people would have.
Working Faith! Read James 2:18-19 and Deut. 6:4-5
James reminded his readers of the most important faith statement in the Old Testament—Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Notice that in the Old Testament Moses didn’t just tell the Israelites to listen to the truth that the Lord our God is one but also to love God. Recall that last week, we studied James’s command that we not merely listen to the Word but that we do what it says!
1. How does it impact you to know that demons believe the same thing about God that you do? (Intellectual ascent to a fact does not mean you place your faith in that fact.)
2. Why did James point out that they both believe and shudder? (The demons’ belief in God didn’t bring them peace with God but only multiplied their fear of Him.)
3. How should our belief in God be different from the demon’s belief?
4. How should our fear of God be different from the demon’s fear of God?
5. Why might someone recognize the truth of God’s existence but not follow Him? (The demons exemplify how head knowledge of God does not guarantee a heart that trusts God.)
The demons not only believe that God exists, but they understand His power and “shudder” in response. Nonetheless, they do not respond in faithful trust of God.
Saving Faith! Read James 2:20-26
1. How do Abraham and Rahab illustrate the relationship between faith and works? (Abraham was a well-respected Jewish male patriarch while Rahab was a poor Gentile female prostitute. Both believed in God and put their faith in Him. This was seen in their actions.)
2. Read Romans 3:28 and James 2:24. How do these verses give us a full view of salvation? (Paul was adamant that we are saved only by faith in Christ, not by works or good deeds. James appears to have said that faith is not enough and that we need works, too. However, as we have seen, James was actually saying that a faith that does not produce good works is not a true faith.)
Once again, we do not perform good deeds to be saved; we perform good deeds because we are saved! Good deeds have nothing to do with our salvation but they have everything to do with demonstrating to the world that our faith is genuine. Our faith is truly what it is said to be, or authenticated by our good deeds!
3. How does understanding that we are saved by faith alone spur us to good works? (A grateful heart will be devoted to following Christ in action.)
Summarize and Challenge!
True faith is more than intellectual adherence!
How do we explain that salvation is truly by faith alone in Christ alone but that the evidence for saving faith is action?
Pray, asking God to help us know how to put our faith in action!