Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
An Exegetical Paper of James 2:18-26
Submitted to Professor Dr. Steve Waechter
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Course
“Greek Language Tools” – NGRK505
Steven B. Darden
March 8, 2015
Analysis of Text
James 2:18-19: Objections to False Faith
James 2:20-24: Examples of Faith
Verses 2:25-26: Rahab
Appendix A: Block Diagram of James 2:18-26 Using the ESV Bible
Throughout the history of the Bible, few words have had more controversy than the words, faith, works, and justification. James’ uses a powerful interrogative to pose the rhetorical question about helping those in need. However, James’ apparent statement concerning these acts has led many to argue that “good works” equals “faith”. Paul expounds on the belief that justification is produced solely by faith in Jesus Christ. James makes a statement in 2:16-26 that many people believe rationalizes faith as equal with good deeds. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the context and to provide a thorough exegesis of the passage of scripture located in James 2:16-26.
James’s use a type of koine Greek that indicates an educated writer with a greater than average familiarity with the language of that era’s culture.1 While doubtful a scholar, the writer of James, none the less, describes a faith that is exemplified by the desire, or perhaps even the need, to do good works as a projection of an inward drive to validate one’s love of God. This scripture is divided into three outline sections: 1. Faith that is not activated is dead (2:16-17)
2. Fake faith comes in two forms (2:18-19)
a. a faith that is lacking works
b. a faith that is nothing more an academic exercise
3. Two illustrations of genuine faith (2:20-26)
James is a book that began its battle for canonicity with considerable controversy. Even early church writers contested the validity of what Luther referred to as an “epistle of straw”, even denigrating it as a leftover from Judaic writers.2 Even recent commentary writer Sophie Laws referred to “the epistle of James is an oddity. It lacks almost all of what might be thought to be the distinctive marks of Christian faith and practice.”3 The Luther casts further doubt on the authenticity of this epistle. The target audience for the book of James is the early practitioners of Christianity or the early church, in particular, those persecuted for their faith and scattered in the Diaspora are of particular importance in James. Non-believers are not addressed in this passage. James forcefully corrects what he perceives to be a misunderstanding concerning the cooperative relationship between faith and works. The Gospels and other epistles are directed at informing those who have not yet heard the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9).” Commentator Kent Hughes helpfully points out that “Paul’s teaching about faith and works focuses on the time before conversion, and James’s focus is after conversion”4 Some critics believe that there is a conflict between Paul’s views in justification through faith and James views on faith and works. However, there also many who dismiss this “conflict” as nothing more than two perspectives on the same theological issues. In Romans 3 and 4 Paul explains that all men are sinners and that they are justified by their faith. James, however, offers that we are not saved by works but instead, our faith is proved by our good works.5 The writer of the letter simply identifies himself as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). There...
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