top of page

James 2:14-26

This year at NVBC we have been talking a lot about "overflow" - how God fills us up to overflowing, so that the blessings He has given us can impact every aspect of our lives and the people around us.

  • Have you seen the overflow at work in your life this year? Share your experiences, and then take a moment to thank God for the way He is at work in us and through us.

Read James 2:14-19

  • What do you think James means by the word 'faith' here? [1]

    • What about 'faith by itself'? What do you think that describes?

  • What do you think he means by the word 'deeds' or 'works'?

Read Deuteronomy 6:4-5

James quotes the first part of this famous phrase in James 2:19.

  • What does it mean to believe, "The Lord our God, the Lord is one."

  • What does James mean when he says this phrase is believed even by the demons?

  • Why do we also need to 'believe' Deuteronomy 6:5?

Read James 2:20-24

The story of Abraham James is referring to is found in Genesis 22:1-19, and he also quotes Genesis 15:6 here. Take a moment to read the story now.

  • Why do you think Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac on the altar?

  • What does his willingness show about his faith in God?

  • How is it significant that Genesis 15:6 precedes Genesis 22?

  • What do you think James means by 2:24?

  • Compare this to Paul's words in Romans 4:1-5 & 4:18-25. How do we make sense of the seeming contradiction between James and Paul on this point? [2] [3]

Read James 2:25-26

  • What does James achieve by adding the reference to Rahab here on top of the reference to Abraham? How is she similar to Abraham, and how is she different? And how do these differences help us to distil James's point here (ie what is true of Abraham, Rahab, and the true Christian)?

  • How is the body without a spirit similar to faith without deeds?

Reflect on your own faith:

  • How active is your faith? Are there things do you think you believe, but you never or rarely act on them?

  • Ask God to show you areas where he wants to see your faith grow as you put it into practice - and then pray into those things that come to mind, that God would give you more faith to move into action.

  • Pray for one another about these things.

[1] N.T. Wright defines 'faith':

Faith in the New Testament covers a wide area of human trust and trustworthiness, merging into love at one end of the scale and loyalty at the other. Within Jewish and Christian thinking, faith in God also includes belief, accepting certain things as true about God, and what he has done in the world (e.g. bringing Israel out of Egypt; raising Jesus from the dead). For Jesus, ‘faith’ often seems to mean ‘recognizing that God is decisively at work to bring the kingdom through Jesus’. For Paul, ‘faith’ is both the specific belief that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10.9) and the response of grateful human love to sovereign divine love (Galatians 2.20). This faith is, for Paul, the solitary badge of membership in God’s people in Christ, marking them out in a way that Torah, and the works it prescribes, can never do.

N.T. Wright, Letters for Everyone, p. 11.

[2] Douglas J. Moo offers one possible solution to the seeming contradiction between Paul and James on this point:

If we understand James’ teaching in this way, he cannot be said to contradict the teaching of Paul. James asserts that Abraham did works and that these works were used as criteria in God’s ultimate judgment over Abraham’s life. He assumes that Abraham had faith and that this faith was basic to Abraham’s acceptance by God (vv. 22–23). But he stresses that the life of the one who has been so accepted by God must show the fruit of that relationship in good works. It was what precedes and enables these works that Paul concentrates on. Paul wants to make clear that one ‘gets into’ God’s kingdom only by faith; James insists that God requires works from those who are ‘in’.

Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale Commentary Vol 16: James, p. 114.

[3] Here is Martin Luther's summary on the link between faith and works. This quote is from his preface to Romans, yet very applicable to James 2 as well:

O it is a living, busy active mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good things incessantly. It does not ask whether good works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it has already done this, and is constantly doing them. Whoever does not do such works, however, is an unbeliever. He gropes and looks around for faith and good works, but knows neither what faith is nor what good works are. Yet he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.

cited in Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale Commentary Vol 16: James, p. 121.


bottom of page