The early church was made up mostly of Jewish believers who had grown up believing they needed to fully obey God to be accepted. Grace was a new concept for them, and many struggled with understanding how grace and obedience fit together. Some made the mistake of thinking that once they had acceptance in Jesus, obedience didn’t matter after all.
This greatly concerned James—Jesus’ half-brother and a leader in the church at Jerusalem— so he wrote a letter to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. James wanted these Christians to understand that grace and obedience do not work against each other; they work with each other.
James wrote, “Be doers of the word. If you hear the word but don’t do it, you fool yourselves. Anyone who is a hearer but not a doer is like someone who looks at himself in a mirror, goes away and forgets right away what he looked like.”
James wanted Christians to realize that true faith in Jesus—a faith that comes by grace—will always lead to action. True faith is an active faith.
James gave an example: When we look into a mirror and see something is not right—our hair is out of place or food is stuck in our teeth—we don’t just walk away; we fix it. The gospel is like that mirror. It shows us what is true about ourselves, and when we see we are not living out our true identity, we should want to address it.
Help your kids understand that true faith in Jesus always leads to living differently. When we trust in Jesus, God changes our hearts so that we will want to live a life pleasing to Him. We aren’t accepted by God because of our obedience; we obey God out of gratitude because we are accepted by Him through Jesus.
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (John 14:23). James reminded believers to be doers of the word. Jesus rescues us from sin and frees us to live a life that honors God. By doing what is good and right, people who trust Jesus can show that they really believe in Him.
FAMILY STARTING POINTS
- Babies and Toddlers
- People are saved by faith in Jesus.
- The Bible tells us how to obey God.
- Believers show the world that Jesus has changed us.
- Our love for Jesus helps us do what is right.
- The church serves God.
- James reminded believers to do what Jesus said.
- What is the church? The church is all Christians everywhere.
- James said that faith without works is useless.
- What is the church? The church is all Christians everywhere, who gather together in their communities to worship and serve God.
UNIT KEY PASSAGE
- Romans 12:5
- “Philip and the Ethiopian” (Acts 8)