I. Introduction
1. The Bible presents two prominent themes in its sixty-six books.
1. The way to God
2. The walk with God

2. The first theme is directed to the lost-those dead in their sins. It tells how they can be saved.

3. The second theme is aimed at the Believer, explaining how to live in a manner pleasing to God.
And Standing at the head of the class in the second category is the book of James. James is a short epistle, only five chapters in length, yet it has been the source of much debate. It is one of the saltiest and most misunderstood books of the Brit Chadasha (New Testament). It was written to believers…. And remember at that time the vast majority were Jewish. It is not a great doctrinal treatise. The author never mentions the execution stake (cross), the Resurrection, or the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and the name of Yahshua Ha Mashiach only appears twice. If these passages referring to the Messiah were eliminated this book would be as proper in the Old Testament Canon as in the New. James isn’t even a defense of the truth. It’s simply a practical book that assumes you already know the basics of faith. It can also be described as an interpretation of Old Testament Torah (law) and the Sermon on the Mount in light of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Its intention is to drive home the importance of living out the truth with emphasis on living our faith by practical grass-rooted advice.

. Along with Hebrews it is the most Jewish book in the New Testament. Written in the highest quality Greek… it directly quotes (4) Old Testament passages and refers (53) times to other OT references. There are only 108 total verses in James, which means there is an OT reference approximately every other verse.

I’d venture to say that most of you have never heard a sermon on James, because James has presented a serious problem for most believers, as a result most preachers avoid it like the plague. A number or scholars, basing their opinions on Sha’ul’s (Paul’s) writings in Romans 5 and Ephesians 2, state that James contradicts Paul. Scholars or not…it would be very difficult for James to contradict Paul… Because James wrote his letter at least (20) years before Paul penned his first. So he couldn’t contradict Paul, in fact the chances are that Paul wasn’t even saved then.

Martin Luther came to this conclusion, saying James disagreed with Paul and that the book of James could not be trusted calling it a “right strawy book,” meaning that it lacked solid biblical doctrine and should be assigned to the fire. To Luther, James was blatant heresy. But if we are to accept the New Testament Canon and believe that God’s Word is inerrant, this can’t be so.

In a nutshell: James seems to have pitted works against faith. But, the bottom line and the reason James wrote this book is to beg the question: If you say you believe, why do you act like you don’t?

We are going to examine James chapter 2, those passages most often quoted as contradictory and the source of so much consternation. We’ll see if Paul and James actually do contradict each other or rather complete or complement each other.

But first, we need to acquaint ourselves with some of the important background information before we begin our study.

Most conservative New Testament scholars agree that this James was Y’Shua’s half brother, born and raised in the same family. However, the first definite connection of James with this letter does not emerge until Origen, identified as a church father in the first half of the third century …ascribes the letter to James, Yahshua’s brother.

What was James’s history? For many centuries the erroneous idea existed that Mary and Joseph had no other children besides Y’shua, but according to Matthew 13:50-56, there were several.

And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their
Synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, “Where did this
man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers? Is not this the
carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James
and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?”

If this list of names is given in order of birth, James grew up having to follow the Sinless footsteps of his older brother Y’shua. Growing up in the shadow of perfection couldn’t have been easy. And things didn’t get any better in adulthood, when his controversial brother came home claiming to be the Messiah. How did James and other family members react? Mark 3:21 tells us.

And when His own people heard of this, they went
out to take custody of Him; for they were saying,
“He has lost His senses.”

The living Bible says, “He’s out of his mind.”
The Berkeley says: “He is deranged.”
Phillips New Testament Says: “He must be mad.”

The decided opinion of the family, apparently including James, was, “He’s a nut!” John 7:5 says, “For not even his brothers were believing in Him.”

As far as we know, James’ unbelief persisted even up to the time of Y’Shua’s death on the execution stake. But we read in 1 Cor. 15 that Y’shua appears to James during the first Resurrection day along with Peter and two disciples on the road to Amaeus. It was probably after that… that James was saved because from that moment on, James appears in the Scriptures as a different man. In fact, he became one of the early believer’s most significant leaders serving the Lord until he was martyred in 62 AD. He was the first rabbi of the Believer’s synagogue in Jerusalem and we can feel his influence in the Jerusalem Council… as documented in Acts 15. He wrote this epistle, which many believe is the first New Testament writing in 45 AD. James had a brother named Jude who wrote the Book of Jude, which is one of the latest, or the last book written in the Messianic Scriptures canon. Both James and Jude are half-brothers of Y’shua and full-brothers of each other. Tradition says that just before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD that James was summoned before Annas the Chief Priest and the Sanhedrian. He was commanded to renounce Y’Shua as the Messiah of Israel. He refused and was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, which was several hundred feet high. The fall didn’t kill him and he was stoned until he died. If this tradition is true… James was among the first martyrs of what was called at that time “The Way.” James has also been called “Old camel knees” because of his prayer life. It is said that he stayed so long on his knees in prayer that he developed calluses on his knees like a camel.

THE MAIN THEME OF JAMES can be summed up in these words. REAL FAITH PRODUCES GENUINE WORKS. If you say you’ve come to know the Lord Y’shua then it should be reflected in your life and the primary section is chapter 2:14-20. This is the book’s main thrust and the first verse of this passage is:

What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? CAN THAT FAITH SAVE HIM? (V14)


(V8).For it is by grace you have been saved, Through faith and not of yourselves,
it is the gift of God (V9) not by works, so that no one can boast.


Lets take a journey and explore this controversy regarding WORKS VS. FAITH, which seems to be opposing views as evidenced in the writings of James and Paul.

Turn with me to James chapter 2: starting with verse 10 and read with me through verse 26.
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James is saying in today’s vernacular, “You can’t have one without the other.” But that doesn’t adequately address the issue that needs clarifying does it? James says: “a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone and Paul in his great thesis in Romans chapters 3-5 says: “ a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” It was this issue that caused Martin Luther to label James “a right strawy book.” blatant heresy.

But is it really? First, we must understand that the emphasis of Paul’s and James writings are different. Paul stresses the root of salvation, which is trust in the Messiah plus nothing. James calls attention to the fruit after salvation. Jot down this references and read them during your private bible study: John 15:4-5 and you’ll see what I mean.

Second, we must look to their individual perspective. Both Paul and James look at it from YHVH ELOHIM’S PERSPECTIVE, but Sha’ul (Paul) sees the fire in the fireplace and James sees the smoke coming out of the chimney. In James mind he believes the world should be able to see the faith in hearts by the works coming out of believer’s lives.

The Third, and perhaps the most important difference between them is the difference in terms. Both Paul and James use the word JUSTIFIED but employ two different meanings. Paul means justification by an act of YHVH Elohim at the commencement of salvation where he declares the sinner righteous while still in a sinning state. James uses justification to mean to “validate or provide evidence” to prove our faith by our works.

NOW ITS POSSIBLE TO HAVE WORKS WITHOUT FAITH, BUT IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE FAITH WITHOUT WORKS? James is not saying that works effects salvation but that salvation effects works and we are fooling ourselves if we profess salvation and have no works. Essentially, he’s asking, “Can that kind of phony faith save?” The answer of course, is NO!

Intellectual assent we might have, but that is not genuine faith. In verse 19 James asks, “You believe God is One?” And a person’s defense against not having works is to hide behind his impressive knowledge of God’s Word. He has been socialized; he knows the bible, believer’s terminology, the prayers, liturgy, etc. His theology is impeccable.” I believe God is One”, he replies, just like it is written in Deut. 6:4. “The Word of God is inerrant,’’ he adds. James responds: “you do well; wonderful, join hands with the demons, they also believe and shudder. You see, demons have their religious facts straight, but they are still demons. In fact our modern religious example’s, dead faith doesn’t even shudder as the demons do. And the Greek work here for shudder implies “goose pimples” from fear.

Now James isn’t ridiculing having an intelligent faith; rather he mocking those religious intellectuals who love to debate religious truth, but have absolutely no plans to commit themselves to following Y’Shua in obedience. If you take away the element of applications of works you’re only left with intellectual assent and even HaSatan has that.

I’m going to take two examples; one that Paul also uses to justify faith to prove to you that genuine faith is evidenced by good works. Read with me verses 21-25 again and let’s examine the subjects of those verses: Abraham and Rehab.


21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

One… Abraham is called “the friend of God,” and the other a prostitute, a gentile, who was to become the future great grandmother of David, Rehab. There couldn’t have been two more different examples.

Rehab reminds me of what Alan Redpath wrote in his biography of David:

He said: The conversion of a soul is the miracle of a moment,
the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime.

That statement contains the key to the manufacturing of Abraham from a callow convert to a steadfast saint. That key is testing. Time and again YHVH Elohim put Abraham through the furnace of testing. YHVH did not put Abraham to the test to show if he was a believer, but to show the validity of his faith. James calls this in the ill conceived parlance of church doctrine “justification by works” which means that Abraham proved himself to be a man of faith by his works of obedience.

We all know the story of Abraham, but I’ll touch on some highlights to demonstrate how works prove faith. At age 75 Abraham was told to leave his home and all that he knew and loved, and go to an unknown land that HaShem would show him. Next he was compelled to separate from his nephew Lot whom he loved. The third crisis came when Abraham was told to abandon his plans for his cherished son, Ishmael whom he dearly loved. However, the greatest test came next. In Genesis 22:1 it reads “now it came about after these things that Adonai tested Abraham,” and YHVH calls to Abraham, and Abraham answers. “Here I am.” And YHVH says: “ Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” In Judaism this is called the Akeva.

The word in verse 1 is an intense form of the word in the original Hebrew. It is used only here in the entire book of Genesis. It is actually saying God intensely tested Abraham.

To fully appreciate the emotional impact of this scene, you must remember that, by this time, Abraham was well over a hundred years of age. This was the promised son, the covenant son of promise, which only came through Elohim’s blessing. How he must have reacted when God instructed him to sacrifice his beloved son, and as a burnt offering at that.

The Hebrew word used as offering, `olah, refers to a whole burnt offering which would have included an animal’s hooves, face, head, skin-everything. The entire animal would have been consumed in the fire, and this is what HaShem told Abraham to do with Isaac.
Verses 3-10 reveal four characteristics of Abraham’s response.
1. “He rose early in the morning.” Abraham’s obedience was immediate.
2. Abraham’s response was characterized by faith. In verses 4-5 we see that “On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with a donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder; and we will worship and return to you.”
That is a remarkable statement! With the mountain of sacrifice in his sight he was able to focus of worshipping the Lord and trusting that God would raise Isaac from the dead, if it came to that. The writer of Hebrews documents Abraham’s response in Heb. 11:19.
3. In verse 6-8 we see Abraham’s third characteristic revealed. When Isaac asked Abraham where the lamb for the burnt offering was, Abraham replied, “God would provide for Himself the lamb.” Abraham’s response was based on his unfailing belief that God would fulfill his promise that through Isaac, Abraham’s descendant would be named (12:12) and Abraham was staking his whole future on God’s unchangeable nature.
4. The fourth characteristic was that it was thorough and complete. He prepared thoroughly and did not shrink from obedience even as he stretched out his hand to strike Isaac with the knife. And God rewarded him for his unflinching faith.

So what does James say: read chapter 2:21-24 “ Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works.
23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God.
24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

So, here we have the same example Paul used in Romans for His argument, the same James used for his argument. This is the issue that caused Martin Luther, who by the way was a great anti-Semite, to label James a “right strawy book,” meaning that he felt it lacked solid, biblical doctrine. To Luther whose “battle cry” was “justification by faith alone’ the book of James was blatant heresy. He even tried to have it removed from the canon. But is it heresy, really? Let’s examine Rehab and come back to that question.

No two more different people could have been picked as James examples. Abraham was moral, admired, a Jewish patriarch and Rehab was a harlot, looked on with disdain, and considered insignificant.
When Rehab our second example responds to God as is recorded in Joshua 2:11 we must try to see her as YHVH must have seen her, she was justified by faith, and when she, at a potential cost of her life helps the Israelites she is justified by works. In other words neither faith nor works can be separated from the other. Had she not acted on her pronounced faith would it have been genuine?

In James 2: 25 we read: Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road?

To understand, it is important to know that the emphasis of James and Paul’s writings are different. Sha’ul stresses the root of salvation, which is trust in Y’Shua plus nothing. James calls attention to the fruit after salvation. Every believer rooted in Y’Shua by faith will bear fruit, like branches on a vine (see John 15:4-5). Paul talks about the root, and James talks about the fruit.

A second thing to consider is a difference in terms employed. Both James and Paul used the word justified, but with two different meanings. When Paul uses justification he means the act of God at the salvation process, whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous while still in a sinning state. James on the other hand uses it to mean “validation or evidence”. We justify or prove our faith, James says, by our works.

Why such learned men have had so much trouble with this book is beyond me.