Suggest to people that salvation is by faith alone and you’re likely to hear disagreements. Many would say, “Faith is not enough. It must be accompanied by works or it’s not real. So, the person of dead faith remains an unbeliever.” James 2 is a chapter filled with controversy. Today we’ll wade into these volatile waters and look for answers and fresh insights. One thing is for sure: God wants our faith to be alive!

Why does it seem that people have a difficult time accepting that salvation is free apart from works? Why is it impossible to have the assurance of your salvation if that assurance is based on your works?

Read James 2:17. Since James wrote this epistle to Christians, what might James mean by a faith that is “dead?”

James builds his epistle around the concept of the “saving of the soul” (best translated the “preserving of life”). Read James 1:21 and 5:19-20. James is likely drawing from wisdom literature in suggesting we can preserve the physical life through obedience (compare Proverbs 10:27, 11:19, 12:28, 13:14 and 19:16).

Read James 2:14. The verse says that “faith can’t save.” How do you reconcile what appears to be a contradiction with the rest of Scripture that clearly says faith is enough for salvation (justification)? (See Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-6)

James 2 ends with what might be considered an unexpected conclusion about faith and works in verse 26. Works help our faith come alive. Can you think of examples where your good works helped bring life to your faith?