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Midweek Study 5 - 6th June

Wednesday 6th of June
Wisdom from James

This Bible study is based on the Letter of James and is intended for group discussion after an initial talk by the minister. The questions set out in each session of the study are intended to stimulate discussion and need not be kept to rigidly but all the questions arise from what is written in this Letter.

Session 5
Is My Faith Living or Dead?
Passage for Study: James 2: 14-26

Outline of Talk:
• Faith without works is of no value. James illustrates what faith without works looks like in verses 15-16. The illustration shows that our words are empty when they are not combined with relevant action. Similarly, with our words we might say we have faith but without works as evidence James says our faith is dead, it cannot save.
• In verse 18 we see the importance of works as an evidence of our faith. Boasting of faith when there are no works as evidence is meaningless. The way for us to see faith is by seeing the works that flow from it. God alone sees the heart, we see the works. We should not think that “works” of faith always mean great feats done for God. You will need to discuss which “ordinary” works provide evidence of faith.
• A faith that does not go further than empty words is compared to the faith of the devils. They believe and yet they shudder. James talks of two kinds of belief here. One goes no further than believing in God’s existence while the other is shown in the following two examples of Abraham and Rahab.
• A faith that works – Abraham: A prime example of faith, used as an illustration by both James and Paul (Romans 3:28) but for very different reasons. Is there a contradiction between Paul and James? They are dealing with two extreme points of view with respect to the importance of works in relation to the gospel.
• A faith that works - Rahab: A very different example. Abraham had a mature faith, Rahab’s faith is less mature yet both have works. The works of both Rahab and Abraham are self-denying works. Rahab believed the report of God’s powerful presence with Israel but we see her faith in how she acts. She put her life in danger in her act of faith.

Questions for Discussion Session:
1. Someone who knows you are a Christian asks you, “of what use is your faith? What do you do with it?” How would you answer?

2. Today’s study looks at two contrasting kinds of “faith.” Examine and discuss how the faith described in verses 14-17 relates to love as in 1 John 3 v 17-18.

3. Think of the following five things you believe about God. How does your believing these five things differ from the way the demons believe them?
(a) God is loving and kind;
(b) God is beautiful in holiness;
(c) God has dealt with my sin in Christ’s death;
(d) God is the Judge of all (including demons);
(e) God alone is worthy of worship.

4. Which two great blessings did Abraham receive through his faith (verse 23)? In what ways do you think these might show themselves in your “works”?

5. Read Galatians 2:16. When James says in verse 24 that a person is “justified by works and not by faith alone”, is he not contradicting what Paul’s insists on here? Why does James lay so much emphasis on works in relation to being justified?

6. Read Joshua 2:1-11. What did Rahab believe about God? How did her actions reveal what she believed?

7. How do you think this this passage will be helpful to you in:
(a) your personal relationship with God;
(b) your place of work;
(c) your immediate neighbourhood;
(d) your interaction with people of other “faiths” or none.