Here are some study notes and questions for discussion in your Connect groups this week. We pray they will be beneficial to you.
- What are some of the church needs you’re aware of?
- Who in the church needs your intercession?
- What are you and your loved ones praying for at the moment?
- What wider situations can you pray into?
The title for our series in James is “Well Done is Better than Well Said,” and this week we looked at James 2:14-19. What a powerful text we must wrestle with! And we should wrestle with it: this is evidence we are alive to God.
I’ve outlined below some of the key points this week, with some verses to review and questions to ponder. Ensure you leave time to share and pray into these topics. God’s committed Himself to work in our hearts and change us. So ask Him to do what He’s promised!
Faith & Works
We spent some time talking about how this text stands in sharp contrast to Paul in verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9. Paul says in Galatians 2:16 that “… we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ … because by works of the law no one will be justified.” But James says in 2:24 “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” No wonder theologians have wrestled for centuries! Who is right?
As you will recall, and as you would expect as the Bible is the very Word of God, James and Paul are both speaking the same truth, but emphasising two different aspects.
It’s important to ensure we understand this to the greatest extent we can, because as Christians there are various traps we can fall in. Consider:
- Have you ever tried to “make amends” when feeling the conviction of sin by “doing good”, reading your Bible or some such thing?
- Have you felt that God’s love for you must be greater when you’ve done something good, and less when you’ve sinned?
- Have you talked yourself out of good works because you know they aren’t “necessary for salvation?”
Read Romans 4:1-8
- What was the basis of Abraham’s righteousness?
- Compare this to James 2:21-23, which we’ll cover in detail next week.
Read 1 John 2:3-6
- What does John put forward as the evidence we know Jesus Christ?
- What does John put forward as the evidence we’re IN Jesus Christ?
Hopefully, where you’ll end up is to see that:
- Paul is denying the efficacy of dead works to save. Merely trying to “do good” will never allow us access to God, and doing good does nothing to increase our favour with God, compel Him to answer our prayers, or any such thing. We have only done our duty (Luke 17:10)
- James is denying the validity of dead faith. Claiming to have believed in the Gospel and be “saved” is invalid if life-transformation is not apparent. Good works are not optional for believers.
The Life of God
The key point we’re making is that good works are a naturally occurring phenomenon for a Christian.
Read Ezekiel 36:26-27
This is written to Israel but clearly referring to spiritual salvation here.
- What is removed? What is replaced?
- What causes us to carry out God’s will?
Read Philippians 2:13
- Again, what causes our will to be God’s good pleasure?
Read 1 Timothy 6:18-19
- How will Timothy’s charges “take hold of that which is truly life?”
Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life is to know God, and Jesus Christ. It’s God’s will and purpose that we abide in Him now, which is the pinnacle of joy and results in good works.
- Can you testify to the joy of walking with God in obedience? Any specific examples to share?
- What other things vie for your attention, claiming to bring joy? Can you see how they fall short? What support do you need from your brothers/sisters?
Keep Each Other Accountable
Remember, your Connect Group is meant to be a place you can safely share your struggles and know your brothers/sisters who love you will pray for you.
Galatians 6:1–2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Pray for One Another
Share your prayer needs and requests. Commit to pray for one another, not just now but throughout the week.