Introduction: Our study of James has been a bit unusual, right? You
heard from me things you rarely hear. James is part of the Bible, yet
I would challenge what he wrote, and suggest that what he meant was
something different than what it appeared that he said. The reason
for this is that James writes things that seem inconsistent with the
rest of Bible, especially inconsistent with the writings of Paul. The
main concern is what James writes about grace. His statement in
James 2:24, that we are justified by our works and not faith alone,
and his statement in James 2:21 that Abraham was considered righteous
when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, take some explaining. Let’s end
our study of James by jumping into a review of what the entire Bible
teaches about the means of our salvation!

  1. Sacrificial System

    1. Read Leviticus 1:3-4. You know about the Old Testament
      system of sacrifices, right? The sinner took an animal
      (commonly a sheep, goat or bull) and offered it as a
      sacrifice. What does this text say is the purpose of the
      sacrifice? (“It will be accepted on his behalf to make
      atonement for him.”)

      1. Atonement for what? (That person’s sins.)

    2. Read Psalms 40:6-8 and John 1:29. How do you understand
      the text in Psalms? (It is a prophecy about Jesus coming.
      John the Baptist understood this, for his statement says
      that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” and He “takes away the sin
      of the world.”)

      1. How did Jesus take away the sin of the world? (He was
        the atonement for our sins. Romans 3:22-26. Just like
        the sacrificial system took away the sins of the
        person through the death of an animal, so the death
        of Jesus on our behalf takes away our sins.)

    3. Read Hebrews 7:22-27. What is the “better covenant”
      mentioned here? Is it a new system? (It is a “better”
      system. The general idea of the system is not new at all.
      It is the same idea: sin is taken away by the death of
      another. Sin is not overcome by our good works. The better
      idea is that Jesus offered Himself once as the sacrifice
      for our sins, and in that way He is infinitely better than
      the death of millions of animals. Jesus is also our High
      Priest in heaven interceding on our behalf based on His

    4. As you consider the Old Testament sacrificial system, did
      God ever operate a sin-dispensing system based on works?
      (No! God’s followers were never told to perform some work,
      or to try harder until they got it right, if they wanted
      their sins forgiven. It has always been a system of
      atonement by the death of a substitute. In the general
      design of the system, there is no change. It has simply
      become ( Hebrews 7:22) “better!”)

      1. Look again at James 2:24. Do you see how this
        statement by James, if understood to mean that we are
        justified by our works, is contrary to the entire
        scheme of the Bible, Old Testament and New? (What
        James must mean is that a measure of the genuine
        nature of faith is that it produces a change in us.)

    5. Read Ezekiel 37:26-28. What kind of covenant does God
      enter into with us? (An “everlasting covenant.” A covenant
      that involves the sanctuary system and the concept that
      God makes us holy, we don’t make ourselves holy by our
      works. Salvation by grace is the backbone of the entire
      Bible, and this basic idea never changed, it just got
      infinitely better when it was fulfilled by Jesus.)

  2. Kingdom Parable

    1. Read Matthew 22:1-2. What does Jesus say is the real topic
      of this story? (The Kingdom of Heaven.)

    2. Read Matthew 22:3-5. According to this story, how would
      you enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Respond to the

      1. Why didn’t these people enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
        (They were too busy with life to pay attention to
        either invitation.)

    3. Read Matthew 22:6-7. What is different about this invited
      group? (They were hostile to God and His invitation.)

      1. What do you think about the King’s reaction?

    4. Read Matthew 22:8. Jesus suggests that we have to
      “deserve” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That sounds like
      we need to merit heaven. What “merit” is Jesus describing
      here? (Accepting the invitation. Ignoring it because you
      are too busy or too angry keeps you out of the Kingdom.)

    5. Read Matthew 22:9-10. What is the key to entering the
      Kingdom of Heaven? (Accepting the invitation.)

      1. Jesus makes a point about an irrelevancy: what is
        irrelevant to coming to the wedding? (Whether you
        were good or bad. What made the difference was
        accepting the invitation.)

    6. Read Matthew 22:11-12. What is the obvious answer to the
      King’s question? (I was picking up a gallon of milk at the
      neighborhood grocery store when I got invited. I had no
      idea I was going to visit you, the King, today – much less
      show up at your wedding feast!)

      1. What does the fact that the man was “speechless,” as
        opposed to giving the speech I just suggested, tell
        you about a missing fact? (The King obviously
        supplied the wedding garments. None of this group of
        invitees were prepared to come to the King’s

    7. Read Matthew 22:13-14. “Many are invited, but few are
      chosen.” Consider Jesus’ story and tell me how we are
      “chosen” to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (Accepting the
      invitation, and accepting the wedding garment.)

      1. We started out looking at the sanctuary system for
        dealing with sin. How is this wedding story like the
        sanctuary system? (You had to accept the offer. You
        had to pay attention. You came to the temple, you
        brought a lamb (an animal) to take your place, and
        you accepted that the death of the animal substituted
        for your own death for your sins.)

    8. This seems too easy, right? Let’s dig a little deeper. Why
      did the business and field people ( Matthew 22:5) not come?
      (Their work was their priority.)

      1. Is work your priority?

      2. Is the Kingdom of God your priority in all of your

      3. Another group, those who mistreated God’s servants
        ( Matthew 22:6), did not come. Why? (They were
        hostile. They gave their allegiance to another king
        or to themselves.)

        1. Are you hostile to the work of God?

    9. Look again at Matthew 22:11-13. The fellow who accepted
      the invitation, but who did not put on the wedding
      garment, is an interesting case. Why would he not put on a
      free garment from the King? (I can think of two reasons.
      He liked his own clothes better. Or, he thought it was
      improper to accept the gift from the King, he would show
      his worth by putting together his own great costume.)

      1. Are you a friend of the work of God, but determined
        to make your own robe of righteousness?

  3. Kingdom Judgment

    1. Read Revelation 14:6-7. This end-time message refers to
      the “eternal gospel.” What is that gospel? (Worship God
      the Creator, fear and glorify God because a judgment is

      1. How would we “fear” and “glorify” God? (If we believe
        God’s view of life is correct, if we desire to draw
        others to God through our life, that means we live in
        a certain way. I think this is what James means when
        he says, “faith without deeds is useless” (James

    2. Read Revelation 14:8. What is the “adultery” issue? (A
      foolish (like being drunk) failure to be faithful to God.
      You are too busy with work. You are hostile to the

    3. Read Revelation 14:9-10. Who loses in the judgment? Who is
      like the fellow tossed out of the wedding banquet?(Those
      who reject God’s invitation, and instead accept the
      invitation of Satan. This is reflected in their thoughts
      and their actions (“his mark on the forehead or on the

    4. Friend, will you accept the invitation of God today? Don’t
      be too busy. Don’t be hostile. God offers a free gift.
      Don’t be deceived into believing that you must work for
      salvation, because your own robe will not be sufficient.
      Instead, as James tells us, accepting grace by faith
      results in a people who fear and glorify the One who saved
      them by His infinite sacrifice.

  4. Next week: we begin our study of the book of Proverbs.