Four Types of Faith: James 2:14-26

James Bible Study  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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MAIN POINT: We evaluate our faith by evaluating our fruit.
Imagine you are going to purchase a new car: How would you evaluate all your options?
What type of information and assurance would you expect to hear from the sales person?
What about something much deeper and more personal, like your faith?
How can you evaluate or test the genuineness of your faith? Explain.
Car buying is a serious undertaking since so many of us depend on our cars to get us where we need to go. Everyone has different priorities for their car, and the car buying process is shaped by those priorities. We take into account factors like price, size, fuel economy, and the brand and look of the vehicle. Based on the evidence in front of us, we make a choice.
But what about something like faith? Can faith be evaluated? James says that it can. The last half of James 2 introduces four different types of faith. What James wrote here informs the rest of the letter moving forward.
James’s words help us evaluate our own faith in light of biblical truth and consider what we might change.


Four kinds of faith described.

Dead Faith

James 2:14–18 ESV
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
What speaks louder—a person’s actions or words? Explain your answer.
What, according to James, are some actions that coincide with genuine faith?
Read 1 John 2:6. What is the surest measurement of faith?
Why is measuring our faith by a lesser standard ultimately pointless?
Matthew 7:15–20 ESV
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
According to Jesus, what is “fruit”?
How does this help us distinguish living faith?
The first type of faith we will discuss tonight is dead faith. Our salvation should be evident in the way we live our lives. This doesn’t mean our faith is dependent upon works, but rather the hidden reality of faith is made visible through good works, which the Bible calls “fruit.” Just as a living tree produces good fruit, a living faith produces good works. Jesus is the yard stick we use to measure our faith. The word “Christian” literally means “little Christ.” So when we are looking at our faith, increasingly it should look like Jesus’. Do we trust as He trusted, serve as He served, and love as He loved? The list could go on. More and more, we should desire to be conformed to the image of Christ. As this happens over time, the genuineness of our faith is made evident.

Demon Faith

James 2:19 ESV
19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
The second kind of faith we look at tonight is “demon faith.” Have you ever thought about demons having faith?
What characteristics describe their faith?
Romans 3:9–12 ESV
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Revelation 20:10 ESV
10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
What two lies must we believe to embrace demon faith?
Why is a faith that is purely emotional or intellectual insufficient to save?
What, by contrast, does real faith look like? How might you describe it?
Demons believe that God exists and they know the Bible forwards and backwards, likely much better than you do. When Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11, he quoted Scripture. But ultimately this “faith” has rejected the salvation of the Lord and His rule and authority. Being able to ace Bible trivia does not make you a Christian. Purely intellectual faith misses the mark. Likewise, emotional faith that would have you believe you are a good person and God would not punish evil also leads to the same place. In contrast, we need biblical faith that has captured both the intellect and emotions and is producing action in our lives as our hearts are transformed. True faith is not about knowledge acquisition or behavior modification. It is about total transformation into the image of Jesus.
In what is your faith anchored?
How can you tell if it is purely in your mind or fully in your emotions?
Why are both needed elements (see
Romans 12:1–2 ESV
1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Hebrews 10:22 ESV
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Lukewarm Faith

James 2:20 ESV
20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
Revelation 3:15–22 ESV
15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
“Lukewarm” is a word used a lot in church.
What does it mean to be lukewarm? What did Jesus want the church at Laodicea to realize about their faith?
What does this kind of faith look like lived out?
Faith without deeds is “useless,” according to James, literally meaning, “good for nothing.” This is the force of Jesus’ message in Revelation. Water that is not cool and refreshing or hot and cleansing serves no purpose. Such a metaphor illustrates Jesus’ larger point. If we do not embody a living faith, we are not useful for His Kingdom. This should be a sobering thought for us. What happened to the church in Laodicea can happen to our church and to your faith. What we don’t want to happen is work to overcome a weak faith; we want our faith to be built up to the place that it produces faith. Fruit trees do not produce edible fruit immediately. They must be nurtured, watered, and matured before fruit grows. Likewise, our faith needs time and attention to grow.
What are some things you can do to nurture your faith and ensure it grows?
What are you doing now?
How do we keep this pursuit rooted in grace from God instead of in performance before God?

Living Faith

James 2:21–26 ESV
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James used the example of Abraham to justify his argument. What point did he make?
How does this compare with the similar argument Paul made in:
Romans 4:18–25 ESV
18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Were Paul and James saying different things? Explain.
Reformed theologian Martin Luther had a lot of trouble with James, one time wishing that he could “throw Jimmy in the fire.” Yet when Luther read James, he didn’t see the distinction James was making. James was not arguing that works produce salvation; rather, faith that is alive works. This is the same argument Paul made, with a different nuance. The Bible never contradicts itself. Faith is the only element necessary for salvation, but true salvation shows itself in works that glorify the Father.
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
If we do all the good works in the world, why are these in and of themselves not enough to prove our faith?
How do you know when you are working for salvation instead of from it?
When we consider such an important topic like living faith, which is very much the central focus of James’s letter, we need to make sure we have a good foundation beneath us. No amount of works can save, just as no amount of emotion or intellect can save. True faith involves all working in tandem to glorify and serve Jesus. Faith that works means the grace that has changed you is working itself out in your life through love and good works.
Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives.
Are you tired of playing church and ready to give yourself wholeheartedly to Jesus?
Why do our best works come after we have given up all the control in our lives to Jesus Christ?
What fruit have you noticed in your life?
How does hearing about God and processing His truth with others help grow and nurture your faith?
Praise God for making you alive in Jesus Christ. Pray that His life would be evident in you through faith and fruit and is in keeping with repentance.
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