James 2:14
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

New Living Translation
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

English Standard Version
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?

Berean Study Bible
What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

Berean Literal Bible
What is the profit, my brothers, if anyone says to have faith, but has no works? Is the faith able to save him?

New American Standard Bible
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

King James Bible
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

Holman Christian Standard Bible
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?

International Standard Version
What good does it do, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not prove it with actions? This kind of faith cannot save him, can it?

NET Bible
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him?

New Heart English Bible
What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him?

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
What good is it my brethren, if a man says, 'I have faith', and he does not have deeds? Can his faith save him?

GOD'S WORD® Translation
My brothers and sisters, what good does it do if someone claims to have faith but doesn't do any good things? Can this kind of faith save him?

New American Standard 1977
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

Jubilee Bible 2000
My brethren, What shall it profit though someone says that they have faith and do not have works? Shall this type of faith be able to save them?

King James 2000 Bible
What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works? can faith save him?

American King James Version
What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

American Standard Version
What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?

Douay-Rheims Bible
What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?

Darby Bible Translation
What [is] the profit, my brethren, if any one say he have faith, but have not works? can faith save him?

English Revised Version
What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?

Webster's Bible Translation
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man sayeth he hath faith, and hath not works? can faith save him?

Weymouth New Testament
What good is it, my brethren, if a man professes to have faith, and yet his actions do not correspond? Can such faith save him?

World English Bible
What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him?

Young's Literal Translation
What is the profit, my brethren, if faith, any one may speak of having, and works he may not have? is that faith able to save him?
Study Bible
Faith and Works
13For judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.…
Cross References
Luke 3:11
John replied, "Whoever has two tunics should share with him who has none, and whoever has food should do the same."

James 1:16
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

James 1:22
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves.
Treasury of Scripture

What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

What.

James 2:16 And one of you say to them, Depart in peace, be you warmed and filled…

Jeremiah 7:8 Behold, you trust in lying words, that cannot profit.

Romans 2:25 For circumcision truly profits, if you keep the law: but if you be …

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give …

1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to …

Hebrews 13:9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is …

though.

James 2:18,26 Yes, a man may say, You have faith, and I have works: show me your …

James 1:22-25 But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves…

Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the …

Matthew 7:21-23,26,27 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom …

Luke 6:49 But he that hears, and does not, is like a man that without a foundation …

Acts 8:13,21 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued …

Acts 15:9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

1 Corinthians 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, …

1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.

Galatians 5:6,13 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails any thing, nor uncircumcision; …

1 Thessalonians 1:3 Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, …

1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and …

Titus 1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being …

Titus 3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly…

Hebrews 11:7,8,17 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved …

2 Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; …

1 John 5:4,5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the …

can.

1 Corinthians 15:2 By which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached …

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: …

(14-26) FAITH AND WORKS.--We now enter on the most debatable ground of the Epistle; a battle-field strewn with the bones and weapons of countless adversaries. It is an easy thing to shoot "arrows, even bitter words"; and without doubt, for what seemed to be the vindication of the right, many a hard blow has been dealt on either side--so many, indeed, that quiet Christian folk have no desire to hear of more. The plain assertions of holy Scripture on this matter are enough for them; and they experience of themselves no difficulty in their interpretation.

The old story of the Knights who smote each other to the death upon the question of the gold and silver shield, each looking at it only from his own point of view, may well apply to combatants who cried so lustily for "Paul" or "James." But, now the dust of conflict has somewhat blown aside, it would be hard to prove that the Apostles themselves were ever at variance, or needed such doughty champions at all.

Truth is, they regarded the same object with a different motive, and aimed at a dissimilar result: just as in medicine, very opposite treatments are required by various sicknesses, and in the several stages of disease. The besetting error of the Jewish Christians to whom St. James appealed was that which we have traced (see Introduction, p. 353) to a foreign source; and, as it wandered but slowly from the furthest East, it had not yet reached the churches of Europe, at least sufficiently to constitute a danger in the mind of St. Paul. No better tonic for the enervating effect of this perverted doctrine of Faith could be found than a consideration of the nobler life of Abraham; and what example could be upheld more likely to win back the hearts of his proud descendants? And, if to point his lesson, the Apostle urged a great and stainless name, even that of the Friend of God, so with it would he join the lowly and, perhaps, aforetime dishonoured one of Rahab, that he might, as it were, plead well with all men of every degree or kind.

Dean Alford, quoting with entire approbation the opinion of the German commentator De Wette, found it "impossible to say" that the ideas of Faith, Works, and Justification in the two Apostles were the same. The summary of his remarks is fairly this:--According to St. James, Faith was moral conviction, trust, and truth; and yet such a theoretical belief only that it might be held by devils. Works are not those of the Law, but an active life of practical morality and well-doing; Justification is used in a proper or moral sense, but not the higher or "forensic," as we now call it. On the other hand, St. Paul's idea of Faith presupposes self-abasement, and "consists in trust on the grace of God, revealed in the atoning death of Christ"; Works with him referred chiefly to a dependence on legal observances; Justification assumed a far wider significance, especially in his view "of the inadequacy of a good conscience to give peace and blessedness to men" (1Corinthians 4:4), such being only to be found by faith in God, who justifies of His free grace, and looks on the accepted penitent as if he were righteous. But even this divergence, small as it is compared with that discerned by some divines, is really overstrained; for in the present Epistle the Church of every age is warned "against the delusive notion that it is enough for men to have religious emotions, to talk religious language, to have religious knowledge, and to profess religious belief, without the habitual practice of religious duties and the daily devotion of a religious life": while the letters of St. Paul do not, in this way, combat hypocrisy so much as heterodoxy. There is always the double danger, dwelt upon by Augustine somewhat after this manner:--One man will say, "I believe in God, and it will be counted to me for righteousness, therefore I will live as I like." St. James answers him by showing that "Abraham was justified by Works" (James 2:21). Another says, "I will lead a good life, and keep the commandments; how can it matter precisely what I believe!" St. Paul replies that "Abraham was justified by faith" (Romans 4). But, if the Apostle of the Gentiles be inquired of further, he will say that, although works go not before faith, they certainly come after. (Witness his discourse on Charity, 1 Corinthians 13) And, therefore, concludes Bishop Wordsworth, "the faith described by St. Paul is not any sort of faith by which we believe in God; but it is that healthful evangelical faith whose works spring from love."

Thus the divine lesson stands forth, clearly written; and he who runs may read. Faith must be embodied in acts: "faith, without acts of faith, is but a dream." "The two cannot be separated, for they are given in one by God to man, and from him go back in one to God. As by faith we behold the greatness of God, and of His eternal grace, His ineffable holiness, majesty, glory, goodness, love; so we shall know and feel the nothingness of all in ourselves--whether faith or works--save as they are the gift of God. As we probe ourselves, we learn the depth of our own evil; but, as we confess our own evil and God's good, He will take away from us the evil, and crown us with His goodness: as we own ourselves to be, of ourselves, unprofitable servants, He, owning us in His works, will say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord'" (Matthew 25:21).

A deeply learned and interesting excursus on Faith, in its active and passive meanings, and on its Hebrew, Greek, and Latin synonyms, may be read in Bishop Lightfoot's Notes on the Galatians, pp. 152-162. Admitting that "so long as our range of view is confined to the apostolic writings, it seems scarcely possible to resist the impression that St. James is attacking the teaching, if not of St. Paul himself, at least of those who exaggerated and perverted it," our profoundest theologian assures us that the passage in Genesis (Genesis 15:6) was a common thesis in the Rabbinical schools, the meaning of faith being variously explained by the disputants, and diverse lessons drawn from it. The supremacy of faith, as the means of salvation, might be maintained by Gentile Apostle and Pharisaic Rabbi: but faith with the former was a very different thing from faith with the latter. With one its prominent idea was a spiritual life, with the other an orthodox creed; with the one the guiding principle was the individual conscience, with the other an external rule of ordinances; with the one faith was allied to liberty, with the other to bondage. "Thus," he says in conclusion, "it becomes a question whether St. James's protest against reliance on faith alone has any reference, direct or indirect, to St. Paul's language and teaching; whether, in fact, it is not aimed against an entirely different type of religious feeling, against the Pharisaic spirit which rested satisfied with a barren orthodoxy, fruitless in works of charity."

(14) What doth it (or, is the) profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?--Some allusion here is made most probably to the Shema, the Jewish creed, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:4). It was the daily protest of the devout Israelite in the midst of idolaters, and the words of his morning and evening of life, as well as of the ordinary day. A similar utterance of faith is held to be the test of the true believer in Islam, when the two inquiring angels put their awful questions to the departed soul. But the idea is much more ancient, for a similar confession was required of the just before Osiris, the Lord of the Egyptian Heaven.

Can faith save him?--The stern inquiry comes like a prophecy of woe upon the wretched man--saved, as he fancied, by covenant with God, and holding a bare assent and not a loving faith in Him.

Verses 14-26. - WARNING AGAINST RESTING CONTENT WITH A MERE BARREN ORTHODOXY. Preliminary note: This is the famous passage which led to Luther's depreciation of the whole Epistle, which he termed a "right strawy" one. At first sight it appears, indeed, diametrically opposed to the teaching of St. Paul; for:

(1) St. Paul says (Romans 3:28)," We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from (χωρίς) works of Law," whereas St. James asserts (ver. 26) that "faith without (χωρίς) works is dead," and that man is "justified by works and not by faith only" (ver. 24).

(2) St. Paul speaks of Abraham as justified by faith (Romans 4; cf. Galatians 3:6, etc.); St. James says that he was justified by works (ver. 21).

(3) St. Paul, or the Pauline author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, appeals to the case of Rahab as an instance of faith (Hebrews 11:31); St. James refers to her as an example of justification by works (ver. 25). The opposition, however, is only apparent; for:

(1) The two apostles use the word ἔργα different senses. In St. Paul it always has a depreciatory sense, unless qualified by the adjective καλὰ or ἄγαθα. The works which he denies to have any share in justification are "legal works," not those which he elsewhere denominates the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22), which are the "works" of which St. James speaks.

(2) The word πίστις is also used in different senses. In St. Paul it is πίστις δἰ ἀγαπῆς ἐνεργουμένη (Galatians 5:6); in St. James it is simply an orthodox creed, "Even the devils πιστεύουσι (ver. 19): it may, therefore, be barren of works of charity.

(3) The apostles are writing against different errors and tendencies: St. Paul against that of those who would impose the Jewish Law and the rite of circumcision upon Gentile believers; St. James against "the self-complacent orthodoxy of the Pharisaic Christian, who, satisfied with the possession of a pure monotheism and vaunting his descent from Abraham, needed to be reminded not to neglect the still weightier matters of a self-denying love" (Lightfoot on 'Galatians,' p. 370). [The tendency of the Jews to rely on their claim as "Abraham's children" is rebuked by the Baptist (Matthew 3:9) and by our Lord (John 8:39). So Justin Martyr speaks of the Jews of his day: Οἱ λέγουσιν ὅτι κα}ν ἁμαρτωλοὶ ῶσι θεὸν δέ γινώσκωσιν οὐ μὴ λογίσηται αὐτοῖς ἁμαρτίαν ('Dial.,' § 141).]

(4) The apostles regarded the new dispensation from different standpoints. With St. Paul' it is the negation of law: "Ye are not under Law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14). With St. James it is the perfection of Law. But, as Bishop Lightfoot has pointed out, "the ideas underlying these contradictory forms of expression need not be essentially different." The mere ritual has no value for St. James. Apart from anything higher it is sternly denounced by him (James 1:20, etc.). The gospel is in his view a Law, but it is no mere system of rules, "Touch not, taste not, handle not;" it is no hard bondage, for it is a law of liberty, which is in exact accordance with the teaching of St. Paul, that "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17). But:

(5) The question now arises. Granting that St. James does not contradict the doctrine of St. Paul, is he not opposing Antinomian perversions of it, and writing with conscious reference to the teaching of the apostle of the Gentiles, and the misuse which some had made of it? To this question different answers have been returned. "So long as our range of view is confined to the apostolic writings, it seems scarcely possible to resist the impression that St. James is attacking the teaching, if not of St. Paul himself, at least of those who exaggerated and perverted it. But when we realize the fact that the passage in Genesis was a common thesis in the schools of the day, that the meaning of faith was variously explained by the disputants, that diverse lessons were drawn from it - then the case is altered. The Gentile apostle and the Pharisaic rabbi might both maintain the supremacy of faith as the means of salvation; but faith with St. Paul was a very different thing kern faith with Maimonides, for instance. With the one its prominent idea is a spiritual life, with the other an orthodox creed; with the one the guiding principle is the individual conscience, with the other an external rule of ordinances; with the one faith is allied to liberty, with the other to bondage. Thus it becomes a question whether St. James's protest against reliance on faith alone has any reference direct or indirect to St. Paul's language and teaching. Whether, in fact, it is not aimed against an entirely different type of religious feeling, against the Pharisaic spirit which rested satisfied with a barren orthodoxy fruitless in works of charity" (Lightfoot on 'Galatians,' p. 164; the whole essay should be carefully studied). In favor of this view of the entire independence of the two writers, to which he inclines, Bishop Lightfoot urges:

(a) That the object of the much-vaunted faith of those against whom St. James writes is "the fundamental maxim of the Law," "Thou believest that God is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4); not "the fundamental fact of the gospel," "Thou believest that God raised Christ from the dead" (Romans 10:9).

(b) That the whole tone of the Epistle recalls our Lord's denunciations of the scribes and Pharisees, and seems directed against a kindred spirit. To these we may add:

(c) That the teaching of St. Paul and St. James is combined by St. Clement of Rome ('Ep. ad Corinthians,' c. 12.) in a manner which is conclusive as to the fact that he was unaware of any divergence of view between them, whether real or apparent. We conclude, then, that the teaching of St. James has no direct relation to that of St. Paul, and may well have been anterior in time to his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. (For the opposite view, see Farrar's 'Early Days of Christianity,' vol. 2. p. 79, where an able discussion of the subject may be found.) Verses 14-17. -

(1) First point: Faith without works is equivalent to profession without practice, and is therefore dead. Verse 14. - Omit the article (with B, C1), and read τί ὀφελος: so also in ver. 16. Can faith save him! rather, with R.V., that faith (ἡ πίστις); the faith in question. What doth it profit, my brethren,.... The apostle having finished his discourse on respect of persons, and the arguments he used to dissuade from it, by an easy transition passes to treat upon faith and works, showing that faith without works, particularly without works of mercy, is of no profit and advantage:

though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? it is clear that the apostle is not speaking of true faith, for that, in persons capable of performing them, is not without works; it is an operative grace; it works by love and kindness, both to Christ, and to his members; but of a profession of faith, a mere historical one, by which a man, at most, assents to the truth of things, as even devils do, James 2:19 and only says he has faith, but has it not; as Simon Magus, who said he believed, but did not.

Can faith save him? such a faith as this, a faith without works, an historical one, a mere profession of faith, which lies only in words, and has no deeds, to show the truth and genuineness of it. True faith indeed has no causal influence on salvation, or has any virtue and efficacy in itself to save; Christ, object of faith, is the only cause and author of salvation; faith is only that grace which receives a justifying righteousness, the pardon of sin, adoption, and a right to the heavenly inheritance; but it does not justify, nor pardon, nor adopt, nor give the right to the inheritance, but lays hold on, and claims these, by virtue of the gift of grace; and it has spiritual and eternal salvation inseparably connected with it; but as for the other faith, a man may have it, and be in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity; he may have all faith in that sense, and be nothing; it is no other than the devils themselves have; and so he may have it, and be damned. 14. James here, passing from the particular case of "mercy" or "love" violated by "respect of persons," notwithstanding profession of the "faith of our Lord Jesus" (Jas 2:1), combats the Jewish tendency (transplanted into their Christianity) to substitute a lifeless, inoperative acquaintance with the letter of the law, for change of heart to practical holiness, as if justification could be thereby attained (Ro 2:3, 13, 23). It seems hardly likely but that James had seen Paul's Epistles, considering that he uses the same phrases and examples (compare Jas 2:21, 23, 25, with Ro 4:3; Heb 11:17, 31; and Jas 2:14, 24, with Ro 3:28; Ga 2:16). Whether James individually designed it or not, the Holy Spirit by him combats not Paul, but those who abuse Paul's doctrine. The teaching of both alike is inspired, and is therefore to be received without wresting of words; but each has a different class to deal with; Paul, self-justiciaries; James, Antinomian advocates of a mere notional faith. Paul urged as strongly as James the need of works as evidences of faith, especially in the later Epistles, when many were abusing the doctrine of faith (Tit 2:14; 3:8). "Believing and doing are blood relatives" [Rutherford].

What doth it profit—literally, "What is the profit?"

though a man say—James' expression is not, "If a man have faith," but "if a man say he hath faith"; referring to a mere profession of faith, such as was usually made at baptism. Simon Magus so "believed and was baptized," and yet had "neither part nor lot in this matter," for his "heart," as his words and works evinced, was not right in the sight of God. Alford wrongly denies that "say" is emphatic. The illustration, Jas 2:16, proves it is: "If one of you say" to a naked brother, "Be ye warmed, notwithstanding ye give not those things needful." The inoperative profession of sympathy answering to the inoperative profession of faith.

can faith save him—rather, "can such a faith (literally, 'the faith') save him?"—the faith you pretend to: the empty name of boasted faith, contrasted with true fruit-producing faith. So that which self-deceivers claim is called "wisdom," though not true wisdom, Jas 3:15. The "him" also in the Greek is emphatic; the particular man who professes faith without having the works which evidence its vitality.2:14-26 Those are wrong who put a mere notional belief of the gospel for the whole of evangelical religion, as many now do. No doubt, true faith alone, whereby men have part in Christ's righteousness, atonement, and grace, saves their souls; but it produces holy fruits, and is shown to be real by its effect on their works; while mere assent to any form of doctrine, or mere historical belief of any facts, wholly differs from this saving faith. A bare profession may gain the good opinion of pious people; and it may procure, in some cases, worldly good things; but what profit will it be, for any to gain the whole world, and to lose their souls? Can this faith save him? All things should be accounted profitable or unprofitable to us, as they tend to forward or hinder the salvation of our souls. This place of Scripture plainly shows that an opinion, or assent to the gospel, without works, is not faith. There is no way to show we really believe in Christ, but by being diligent in good works, from gospel motives, and for gospel purposes. Men may boast to others, and be conceited of that which they really have not. There is not only to be assent in faith, but consent; not only an assent to the truth of the word, but a consent to take Christ. True believing is not an act of the understanding only, but a work of the whole heart. That a justifying faith cannot be without works, is shown from two examples, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Faith, producing such works, advanced him to peculiar favours. We see then, ver. 24, how that by works a man is justified, not by a bare opinion or profession, or believing without obeying; but by having such faith as produces good works. And to have to deny his own reason, affections, and interests, is an action fit to try a believer. Observe here, the wonderful power of faith in changing sinners. Rahab's conduct proved her faith to be living, or having power; it showed that she believed with her heart, not merely by an assent of the understanding. Let us then take heed, for the best works, without faith, are dead; they want root and principle. By faith any thing we do is really good; as done in obedience to God, and aiming at his acceptance: the root is as though it were dead, when there is no fruit. Faith is the root, good works are the fruits; and we must see to it that we have both. This is the grace of God wherein we stand, and we should stand to it. There is no middle state. Every one must either live God's friend, or God's enemy. Living to God, as it is the consequence of faith, which justifies and will save, obliges us to do nothing against him, but every thing for him and to him.
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