The Apostle James clarified some misunderstanding among the Saints about what true faith is. He also taught about the relationship between faith and works.
Invite students to suppose that a young man has recognized that he has sinned. He believes in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and in the Savior’s ability to save him. He says that all he has to do is believe and the Lord will forgive him, with no other effort on his part.
Ask students to consider whether this young man’s belief alone is sufficient for him to be forgiven for his sins.
Invite a student to read James 2:14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what James asked the Saints about faith.
What did James ask the Saints about faith?
What type of works do you think James was referring to?
Remind students that as they studied the lesson on James 2 they learned that the Apostle James was correcting a false idea about faith. Some people had misunderstood faith to be simply a verbal expression of belief. In the context of James 2:14, James used the term works differently than the Apostle Paul had used it. When Paul used the word works, he referred to the works of the law of Moses. When James used the word works, he referred to acts of devotion or works of righteousness.
Explain that James used an analogy to illustrate the answer to his question in verse 14.
Invite two students to come to the front of the class. Ask one of the students to act as a beggar who is pleading for the food, clothing, and shelter he or she needs to survive. Invite the other student to act as someone who can help the beggar. Invite a third student to read James 2:15–16 aloud while the two other students act out what is described in these verses.
What is wrong with the response that was given to the begging student?
Would the other student’s response be enough to help a beggar?
What do you think the phrase “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (verse 17) means?
How does James’s analogy of the beggar help us understand what this phrase means?
According to verse 17, what truth did James teach about true faith in Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words but should identify a truth similar to the following: True faith in Jesus Christ is made manifest by our righteous works. Write this truth on the board.)
Invite a student to read James 2:19–20 aloud. Make sure the student also reads the Joseph Smith Translation of James 2:19 (in James 2:19, footnote a) aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the example James used to show that believing in God does not necessarily include having faith in God.
What example did James use to show that believing in God does not necessarily include having faith in God?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action. … Action alone is not faith in the Savior, but acting in accordance with correct principles is a central component of faith. Thus, ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:20)” (“Ask in Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 95).
According to Elder Bednar, what is “a central component of faith”?
Why is it important to understand that faith in Jesus Christ means both believing in Him and acting according to correct principles?
Remind students of the young man in the scenario at the beginning of the lesson.
How might understanding that faith includes both belief and action help someone who seeks forgiveness for his or her sins?
Summarize James 2:21–26 by explaining that James referred to Abraham and Rahab as two examples of people whose faith in Jesus Christ was made manifest by their works. (The account of the courageous woman Rahab is found in Joshua 2:1–22.)
Invite students to use their class notebooks or scripture study journals to write about a time when they demonstrated faith in Jesus Christ through their works and how they were blessed for doing so. Encourage students to include their testimonies of the Savior and how they will demonstrate that belief through their actions. Ask a few students to share what they wrote with the class.
Invite students to prayerfully consider how they can more fully exercise faith in Jesus Christ by obeying Him. Encourage them to follow any promptings they receive.
Ask students why they think people choose to sin even though they know it is wrong. Invite them to look for truths, as they study 2 Peter through Jude during the next week, that can help them answer the following questions: How can we avoid being deceived by false doctrine? What did John say will cast out fear? How should we express our love for God? What godly attributes must we develop to inherit eternal life? What warning was given about those we choose to associate with?