What is this?
These Sabbath School lesson outlines aid Sabbath School teachers & members in their weekly study
& preparation for Sabbath School classes.
Join the Discussion
Use the form at the bottom of the page to share with other readers your thoughts about this lesson.
Sabbath School Lessons on James
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
What about Ellen White?
to learn why I generally do not cite Ellen G. White in the lessons.
Looking for old Sabbath School lessons?
Sabbath School lesson study outlines from previous quarters are saved in the Sabbath School lesson archive
Got questions or comments?
Go to our contact form
and drop us a note.
SabbathSchoolLessons.com operates like grace: it is free, but not without cost.
We're counting on your ongoing financial support to help us continue providing these
lessons to Sabbath School teachers and members around the world. You may cancel your monthly contribution at any time.
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:
Subscribe in a reader
Lesson 6: Faith that Works *
Introduction: "Faith versus Works" is the everlasting theological
debate. How about rephrasing the discussion by saying "Faith that
Works?" Does that help? Or, is that just a different way to say
that works are a key ingredient to salvation? Perhaps we need a
better understanding of what "faith" means. Let's dive into the old
debate by looking at what James and Paul write and see if we can
learn something new from the Bible!
- Understanding Faith
- Read James 2:14. How would you answer James' question?
- Read Romans 3:28. Now, how would you answer James'
- Can you begin to see that the debate about faith and
works has been going on for a very long time?
- Can you think of a way to reconcile James 2:14 and
Romans 3:28? (Paul and James seem to be saying
slightly different things. Paul says that we are
justified without reference to the law ("apart from
observing the law.") James' question suggests (and he
gets clearer later) that someone who has faith also
- Read James 2:15-16. James asks "What good is it?" What is
"it?" (I think he means "faith.")
- If "it" means faith, is there some good in faith
alone? (Surely if we are justified "by faith apart
from observing the law" ( Romans 3:28), there is some
good in faith alone.)
- Read Matthew 22:37-40. What is the essence of the law? (To
love God and our fellow humans.)
- What is the problem with a faith that lets a fellow
Christian go without food and clothes? (It certainly
violates the law. But, Paul tells us in Romans 3:28
that we are justified by faith "apart from observing
- Read Galatians 5:6. What does Paul say about faith here?
(That faith "expresses" itself. That means that faith has
something to say and do. One thing it does is to love.)
- Go back to James 2:16. Is this love? (No. If the
expression of faith is love, then James points out
that something is wrong with this kind of faith.)
- Read James 2:17. If you know someone who neither says nor
does anything, is that person alive? (They could be alive,
but something would be terribly wrong. James is arguing
that if we have a live faith, it bears fruit. Otherwise
something is terribly wrong.)
- Read Matthew 7:17-20. What does Jesus say is the
relationship between what you are and what you do? (The
fruit of the tree reflects the nature of the tree. I think
that is James' point about faith. The results of the faith
reflect the nature of the faith.)
- Demon Faith
- Read James 2:18-19. Do you think that Satan and his fallen
angels believe in God? (Read Revelation 12:7-9 and
Revelation 12:4. I understand this to mean that Satan
recruited a third of the angels and made war in heaven.
God won, and Satan and his followers were cast to earth.
Clearly, this group believes in God.)
- Let's think about this a moment. Do Satan and his
angels have works? (Read Revelation 12:17. Of course
Satan has works. When James says that they "believe
... and shudder," that doesn't begin to describe
- If James says that faith and works must go together,
then Satan has perfect faith and works. What is the
problem with this logic? (The question of faith for a
Christian is not whether you believe in God, the
question is what, exactly, do you believe about God?
Satan believes that God and His followers should be
destroyed. God loves humans in a self-sacrificing
way. A human who believes in that kind of God will
also love others in a self-sacrificing way.)
- Abraham's Works
- Read James 2:20-21. I think James intended this to be a
rhetorical question to prove his point about deeds, but I
think we should answer it. What do you think? (I think the
answer is "No, he was considered righteous before this
- Read James 2:22. What action of Abraham proved his faith?
(James says that Abraham's faith "was made complete" by
his willingness to sacrifice his son.)
- What do you think James means by "complete?" Did
Abraham have an "incomplete" faith before that? What
Abraham's faith defective in some way?
- Read Romans 4:2-3 and James 2:23. Both James and Paul
point to this statement about Abraham as proof for their
position. Let's focus on the James' version for a minute.
How was the statement about Abraham's faith "fulfilled"
when he offered his son to God?
- Now let's focus on Romans 4:2-3. What does Paul say about
Abraham's works (such as offering his son) and his
righteousness? (That Abraham was not justified by his
- Let's read Romans 4:9-11 to be sure we understand
what Paul is writing. What action of Abraham proved
his faith? (Belief. Paul goes out of his way to say
that even a little work (compare circumcision to
sacrificing your son) was not a part of the reason
for Abraham's righteousness.)
- Read Genesis 15:6. Both James and Paul are citing this
same section of Genesis. Let's add some context. Read
Genesis 15:5-6. Who is most correctly citing Genesis 15:6?
(I vote for Paul. The original statement in Genesis cannot
possibly apply to Abraham sacrificing his son for his son
was not even born at the point the Genesis statement was
- This brings us to a very important point. I believe
the entire Bible is inspired by God, but James not
only seems to directly contradict Paul, he cites the
original Genesis statement out of context. Look again
at James 2:21-23. Is there any way to justify his
- Let's look at the actual story to which James refers. Read
Genesis 22:9-12. What does the angel speaking for God mean
by "now I know that you fear [Me]?" (God says this is
proof of faith. When James says ( James 2:23) "the
scripture was fulfilled" he must mean that Abraham's faith
- What is the lesson for you and me? Must we have works to
be justified? (Paul unambiguously says ( Romans 4:9-10 that
Jesus' righteousness is credited to us by faith BEFORE
works. It does not depend upon our works. But, James
tells us that true faith results in works. As we saw,
Satan believes in God and he is working very hard to harm
God. If we truly believe in God, it should make a
difference in our life. Abraham showed that his faith had
taken him to a point where he reflected God's own
willingness to sacrifice Himself for us.)
- Read James 2:24. Just when we were doing so well, James
makes this statement. How should this be understood? (True
faith is reflected in our life. It might be nothing at
first (as Paul demonstrates), but it should grow, and
Abraham is our example for that.)
- The Faithful Prostitute
- Read James 2:25. For context, you should read Joshua
chapter 2. What kind of a person is Rahab? (A prostitute
and a liar.)
- Does this put a very different spin on James' "works"
- Read Joshua 2:8-9 and Hebrews 11:31. We know about Rahab's
bad works, what are her good works that James wants us to
consider? (She believed that God's people would prevail,
and she acted in accord with that. James can hardly be
arguing for salvation by works, because Rahab had some
serious works issues.)
- Read James 2:26. Why are works like our spirit? (If we
really believe something, we act on it. Ideas come alive
- Friend, can you see the big picture? James is saying
something very simple. He is not arguing for righteousness
by works. Rather, Abraham, Satan and Rahab have something
very important in common. Their belief in the power of God
animates their lives. If you truly believe in God it will
be reflected in your life. Consider your life right now?
What beliefs do your actions reflect?
- Next week: Taming the Tongue.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.