James and Jude
In Word and Deed
Imagine this: Sounds of hammering, sawing and sanding come from the back shed on Joseph and Mary’s property in Nazareth. Young James and Jude are working furiously to finish their wood go-cart for the annual “Sands of Galilee Derby.” The race is just three days away and there’s still a lot to do with fine-tuning, balancing, test-driving, and carving their names on the sides.
Joseph calls from the yard where he is hurrying to complete a new railing for the synagogue. “Boys, could you please run this order over to Jacob the Lamp-maker? He’s expecting these new cabinets.” Amid hammering he hears James’ voice, “Yes sir. We’ll get right on it.” Jude’s voice echoes, “No problem, Dad.”
Later a servant from the lamp-maker’s shop comes to Joseph’s door, inquiring as to the status of the cabinetry. Joseph assures the servant that his master will have the order very soon. He calls again. “Boys, I need you to get these cabinets over to Jacob’s shop as soon as possible! Let’s get going!” The swish-swish of the sander accompanies the answer, “Oh, yes sir, right away,” from James and a faint echo from inside the go-cart, “No problem, Dad.”
Finally, when the servant again runs up late in the day, Joseph calls to Jesus. “Son, could you please get these cabinets over to Jacob’s shop right away?” The sound of hammering stops as Jesus sets aside his own project. “Yes, sir.” Jesus immediately loads the cart, hitches up the donkey and heads to town.
This scenario is completely fictitious, based on an old, proverbial story. But, James and Jude—and any child or parent—could probably relate to it. Here’s the question: which boy loved his dad the most? It’s a question James explores in this week’s lesson.
I. DAY ONE
A. When giving a speech or teaching a lesson, one rule of thumb for outlining the presentation is the old adage, “tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.” Repetition leaves no doubt as to the crux of the lesson. And, for those of us with hard heads, repetition helps us remember. James has been setting the stage for this moment for the past one and a half chapters and now it’s time to say his peace.
1. Read James 2:14-26. In verse 14 he poses a question about faith. What two conclusions does he suggest in regards to having faith with no works?
2. In this passage, how many different ways does James rephrase the idea that works need to go hand-in-hand with faith?
B. Jesus also talked about faith. Read Matthew 8:5-13, 9:2, 20-22; Luke 18:35-43.
1. The Greek word for faith used in all these passages and throughout the New Testament has a definition that includes ideas like “conviction or belief regarding man’s relationship to God,” “trust in Christ,” “the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ” and “fidelity or the character of one who can be relied upon.”1
2. What actions did each story depict that Jesus lauded as coming from faith in Him?
C. For a beautiful comparison of the Father’s actions stemming from His own faithfulness and truth, read Psalm 146:5-10. The Hebrew word for “faith” (King James uses “truth”) in verse 6 can be found in numerous Old Testament passages meaning “sureness, reliability, stability.”
1. Which works of God does the psalmist list in this passage that shows the Father’s everlasting faithfulness?
II. DAY TWO
A. There are two categories of sin: commission and omission. The first type of sin we actually do. The second concerns things we conveniently don’t do but know we should.
1. Read James 2:14-17. What is the sin of omission being talked about here?
2. Read Mark 5:25-34 where Jesus also uses the phrase from James 2:16 “Go in peace.” What difference is there between Jesus’ use of the phrase and the person who says it to a brother or sister in need?
3. Is there something you should be doing for a fellow believer that you are ignoring?
B. Read Luke 10:25-37 for another example of a person in need. In this passage, Jesus gives us a picture of the different ways people respond to those in need—ways which might even be found in our own assemblies today.
1. Before Jesus gets to His story, what response does He give to the lawyer (or scribe) in verse 28?
2. Which character do you most identify with in this passage?
3. How can you better care for those at your work, ministry or in your home?
III. DAY THREE
A. In verse 18 of chapter 2, James has a little tongue-in-cheek dialogue about the reality of faith and works.
1. What word does James use in this dialogue that implies the need for action?
2. So what does Jesus think about works? Read John 9:4, 10:25, 37-38, 14:10-12. What are some of the reasons Jesus said we should look at the works He did?
3. In Matthew 11:1-6, the imprisoned John the Baptist asks if Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah, if he had been right to proclaim Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What was Jesus’ encouraging response to John?
B. Vernon McGee gives an illustration in his commentary about how the devil met with his minions in order to devise a tactic to make humans disbelieve the existence of God. One suggested they put doubt into hearts as to whether or not Jesus’ ever lived. Another felt they should persuade people that death is the end so why worry about eternity. But the idea they finally agreed upon was to tell everyone that God indeed exists, that Jesus is real and that believing in Him saves them, but that once humans professed belief in Christ they could just go on living in sin as they had been.2
1. James 2:19-20 emphasize that simply believing that God exists only puts us in the same category as Satan. What does the author call people unwilling to see the necessity of works stemming from faith?
2. Read Matthew 5:16 and John 3:21. What will our belief shown in good works do for others?
IV. DAY FOUR
A. Abraham is one of the Old Testament figures James uses to give us a picture of faith and works. Abraham’s life was filled with times when God required him to trust implicitly. In fact, the first time we read about Abraham in Scripture, God asks him to leave home—without knowing where he was going (Genesis 12). James 2:21-24 focuses on another time God asked Abraham to do something extremely hard in order to illustrate the idea of justification coming through faith with works.
1. Read Genesis 22:1-14 for the complete story of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar. What does God say about Abraham in verse 12?
2. How does Abraham’s obedience encourage you today?
B. Sometimes God gives us different viewpoints on the same idea in order to see a bigger picture. Read Romans 4:1-5, Galatians 3:1-9 and Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-10, 17-19 along with our verses today from James.
1. Knowing that all Scripture is inspired by God (II Timothy 3:16), what conclusions do you come to about faith from these combined passages?
2. What does the last part of James 2:23 say about Abraham? Why do you think Abraham had such an amazing title?
3. In what specific ways can you live out your faith this week in order for that title to be yours, as well?
V. DAY FIVE
A. Rounding out his examples about faith and works being vital to one another, James tells us about Rahab.
1. Read James 2:25, Joshua 2 and 6. List all the ways Rahab showed her faith in God.
2. Notice how grace was a key element in this story. Rahab was a Gentile resident of Jericho who had a highly sinful means of employment and protected Joshua’s spies by lying. Yet, God takes her small beginning faith, changes her life, and then commends her, even listing her name among the faithful in Hebrews 11:31 and allowing her to be part of the lineage of Christ (Matthew 1:5).
3. How helpful would it have been to the spies if she simply said she believed in their God and was on their side? Would Rahab’s family have been saved from destruction when Jericho’s walls collapsed if she hadn’t actually placed the scarlet cord in the window? How important were her actions?
4. What hard thing is God asking you to do today to activate your faith?
B. The final example James uses is two inseparable parts of a unified whole: the body and the spirit.
1. What would each of the parts be if they were on their own? How would they function?
2. What other examples can you think of that illustrate “faith without works is dead”?
I read something about faith and works that seems a fitting way to conclude this week’s lesson. The writer reminded his readers that “Jesus did not say, ‘If you love me you will obey me when you feel called or good about doing so…’ If we love, then we obey. Period. This sort of matter-of-fact obedience is part of what it means to live a life of faith.”3
Obedience is what faith and works is all about. When we say we love God, we show it by doing what He asks us to do—no matter how strange, uncomfortable, untimely or frustrating it feels. When we say we love God and don’t do what He says, do we really love Him?
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. “Dictionary and Word Search for pistis (Strong’s 4102)” Blue Letter Bible, 22 May 2010.
2. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible With J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5 (Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1983), 649.
3. Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God (David C. Cook: Colorado Springs, CO, 2008), 169.
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