James 2:14
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
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(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.



Jam 2:14-23.

JAMES thrice reiterates his point in this passage, and each repetition closes a branch of his argument. In verse 17 he draws the inference from his illustration of a worthy sympathy which does nothing; in verse 20 he deduces the same conclusion from the speech put into the mouth of an imaginary speaker; in verse 24 he draws it from the life of Abraham. We shall best get hold of the scope of these verse, by taking them three parts separately.

I. Now, most misconceptions of a writer’s meaning are due to imperfect definition of terms.

James was no metaphysician, and he does not stop to put precisely what he means by’ faith.’ Clearly he meant by it the full evangelical meaning of trust when he used it in the earlier part of the letter {Jam 1:3; Jam 1:6; Jam 2:1-5}. As clearly he here means a mere intellectual belief of religious truth, a barren orthodoxy. If that undeniable explanation of his terminology is kept steadily in view, much of the difficulty which has been found in bringing his teaching into harmony with Paul’s melts away at once. There is a distinct difference of tone and point of view between the two, but they entirely agree in the worthlessness of such a ‘faith,’ if faith it can be called. Probably Paul would not have called it so, but James accepts the ‘saying’ of the man whom he is confuting, and consents to call his purely intellectual-belief faith. And then he crushes it to atoms as hollow and worthless, in which process Paul would gladly have lent a hand.

We may observe that verse 14 begins with supposing the case of a mere lip ‘faith,’ while verse 17 widens its conclusion to include not only that, but any ‘faith,’ however real, which does not lead to works. The logic of the passage would, perhaps, hang better together if verse 14 had run ‘if a man have faith’; but there is keen irony as well as truth in the suggestion that a faith which has no deeds often has abundant talk. The people who least live their creeds are not seldom the people who shout loudest about them. The parslysis which affects the arms does not, in these cases, interfere with the tongue. James had seen plenty of that kind of faith, both among Pharisees and Jewish Christians, and he had a holy horror of loose tongues {Jam 3:2-12}. That kind of faith is not extinct yet, and we need to urge James’s question quite as much as he did: ‘Can that faith save?’ Observe the emphasis on ‘ that’ which the Revised Version rightly gives.

The homely illustration of the very tender sympathy which gushes inwards, and does nothing to clothe naked backs or fill empty stomachs, perhaps has a sting in it, Possibly the very orthodox Jewish Christians with whom James is contending were less willing to help poor brethren than were the Gentile Christians.

But, in any case, there is no denying the force of the parallel. Sympathy, like every other emotion, is meant to influence action. If it does not, what is the use of it? What is the good of getting up fire in the furnace, and making a mighty roaring of steam, if it all escapes at the waste-pipe, and drives no wheels? And what is the good of a ‘faith’ which only rushes out at the escape-pipe of talk? It is ‘dead in itself.’ Romans 2:17-29 shows Paul’s way of putting the same truth. Emotion and beliefs which do not shape conduct are worthless Faith, if it have not works, is dead.

II. The same conclusion is arrived at by another road in verses 18-20.

James introduces an imaginary speaker, who replies to the man who says that he has faith. This new interlocutor ‘says’ his say too. But he is not objecting, as has been sometimes thought, to James, but to the first speaker, and he is expressing James’s own thought, which the Apostle does not utter in his own person, perhaps because he would avoid the appearance of boasting of his own deeds. To take this speaker as opposing James brings hopeless confusion, What does the new speaker say? He takes up the first one’s assertion of having ‘faith’; he will not say that he himself has it, but he challenges the other man to show his, if he can, by any other way than by exhibiting the fruits of faith, while he himself is prepared and content to be tested by the same test. That is to say, talk does not prove the possession of faith; the only possible demonstration that one has it is deeds, which are its fruits. If a man has {true} faith, it will mould his conduct. If he has nothing to produce but his bare assertion, then he cannot show it at all; and if no evidence of its existence is forthcoming, it does not exist.

Motion is the test of life. A ‘faith’ which does nothing, which moves no limb, is a corpse. On the other hand, if grapes grow ruddy and sweet in their clusters, there must be a vine on which they grow, though its stem and root may be unseen. ‘What is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.’ True faith will be fruitful. Is not this Paul’s doctrine too? Does not he speak of ‘faith that worketh by love?’ Is it not his principle, too, that faith is the source of conduct, the active principle of the Christian life, and that if there are no results of it in the life, there is none of it in the heart?

But the second speaker has a sharp dart of irony in his quiver {verse 13}. ‘You plume yourself on your monotheistic creed, do you, and you think that that is enough to make you a child of God’s? Well, that is good, as far as it goes, but it does not go very far. You have companions in it, for the demons believe it still more thoroughly than you do; and, what is more, it produces more effect on them than on you. You do nothing in consequence of your belief; they shudder, at any rate - a grim result, but one showing that their belief goes deeper than yours. The arrow gains in point and keenness if we observe that James quotes the very words which are contained in the great profession of monotheism which was recited morning and evening by every Jew {Deuteronomy 6:4, etc.}. James seems, in verse 20, to speak again in his own name, and to reassert his main thought as enforced by this second argument.

III. He has been arguing from the very nature of faith, and the relation between it and conduct.

Now he turns to history and appeals to Abraham’s case. In these verses he goes over the same ground as Paul does in Romans 5., and there is a distinct verbal contradiction between verse 24 here and Romans 3:28; but it is only verbal. Are the two apostles writing in ignorance of each other’s words, or does the one refer to the other, and, if so, which is the earlier? These are interesting questions, to deal with which satisfactorily would more than exhaust our space.

No doubt the case of Abraham was a commonplace in rabbinical teaching, and both Paul and James had been accustomed to hear his history commented upon and tortured in all sorts of connections. The mere reference to the patriarch is no proof of either writer having known of the other; but the manner of it raises a presumption in that direction, and if either is referring to the other, it is easier to understand Paul if he is alluding to James, than James as alluding to Paul.

Their apparent disagreement is only apparent. For what are the’ works’ to which James ascribes justifying power? Verse 22 distinctly answers the question. They are acts which spring from faith, and which in turn, as being its fruits, ‘perfect’ it, as a tree is perfect when it has manifested its maturity by bearing. Surely Paul’s doctrine is absolutely identical with this He too held that, on the one hand, faith creates work, and on the other, works perfect faith. The works which Paul declares are valueless, and which he calls ‘the works of the law,’ are not those which James asserts ‘justify.’ The faith which James brands as worthless is not that which Paul proclaims as the condition of justifying; the one is a mere assent to a creed, the other is a living trust in a living Person.

James points to the sacrifice of Isaac as ‘justifying’ Abraham, and has in mind the divine eulogium, ‘Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from Me,’ but he distinctly traces that transcendent act of an unquestioning devotion to the ‘faith’ which wrought with it, and was perfected by it. He quotes the earlier divine declaration {Genesis 15:6} as ‘fulfilled’ at that later time, By which very expression is implied, not only that the root of the sacrifice was faith, but that the words were true in a yet higher sense and completer degree, when that sacrifice had ‘perfected’ the patriarch’s faith.

The ultimate conclusion in verse 24 has to be read in the light of these considerations, and then it appears plainly that there is no contradiction in fact between the two apostles. ‘The argument.., has no bearing on St. Paul’s doctrine, its purport being, in the words of John Bunyan, to insist that "at the day of doom men shall be judged according to their fruit." It will not be said then, Did you believe? but, Were you doers or talkers only?’ {Mayor, Epistle of St.. James, LXXXVIII}.

No doubt, the two men look at the truth from a somewhat different standpoint. The one is intensely practical, the other goes deeper. The one fixes his eye on the fruits, the other digs down to the root. To the one the flow of the river is the more prominent; to the other, the fountain from which it rises, But they supplement, and do not contradict, each other. A shrewd old Scotsman once criticised an elaborate ‘Harmony’ of the Gospels, by the remark that the author had ‘spent a heap of pains in making four men agree that had never cast [fallen] out.’ We may say the same of many laborious reconciliations of James, the urgent preacher of Christian righteousness, and Paul, the earnest proclaimer that ‘a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.’

James 2:14-17. What doth it profit — From James 1:22, the apostle has been enforcing Christian practice; he now applies to those who neglected this under the pretence of faith. St. Paul had taught, that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law. This some began already to wrest to their own destruction. Wherefore St. James, purposely repeating (James 2:21-25) the same phrases, testimonies, and examples, which St. Paul had used, (Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:17-31,) refutes, not the doctrine of St. Paul, but the error of those who abused it. There is, therefore, no contradiction between the apostles: they both delivered the truth of God, but in a different manner, as having to do with different kinds of men. On another occasion St. James himself pleaded the cause of faith, Acts 15:13-21. And St. Paul himself strenuously pleads for works, particularly in his latter epistles. This verse is a summary of what follows. What doth it profit — Of what advantage is it to him, though, or if, a man say he hath faith — It is not if he have faith, but if he say he hath it. Here, therefore, true, living faith is meant. But in other parts of the argument the apostle speaks of a dead imaginary faith. He does not therefore teach that true faith can, but that it cannot subsist without works. Nor does he oppose faith to works, but an empty name or profession of faith to real faith working by love. Can that faith, which is without works, save him? Surely not. It can no more save him than it can profit his neighbour. For if a brother or sister be naked, &c. — Destitute of food and clothing; and one of you — Who calls himself a Christian, say to them, We sincerely pity your case, and feel the tender emotions of that love which our relation to each other requires; depart therefore, in peace — Whithersoever ye are going; be ye warmed and filled — Be clothed and fed by some humane person: but notwithstanding all these kind speeches, ye give them not — Either food or raiment, or any money to purchase the things necessary for the body; what doth it profit? — What is the advantage of being addressed with such hypocritical professions of love? Will such speeches feed and clothe the poor and destitute? Will they not rather seem a cruel mockery than a real kindness? Even so faith — A belief of the gospel, and of the great truths contained in it, how zealously soever it may be professed, and how orthodox soever those articles are to which an assent is given; if it have not works — If it do not produce love to God and all mankind, and obedience to his will, yea, the various fruits of righteousness; if it do not work by love, it is but a dead, empty notion, of no more profit to him that has it than bidding the naked be clothed is to him. It can neither convey spiritual life to the soul here, (which all true faith does,) nor entitle any one to eternal life hereafter.

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.What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith? - The apostle here returns to the subject adverted to in James 1:22-27, the importance of a practical attention to the duties of religion, and the assurance that men cannot be saved by a mere speculative opinion, or merely by holding correct sentiments. He doubtless had in his eye those who abused the doctrine of justification by faith, by holding that good works are unnecessary to salvation, provided they maintain an orthodox belief. As this abuse probably existed in the time of the apostles, and as the Holy Ghost saw that there would be danger that in later times the great and glorious doctrine of justification by faith would be thus abused, it was important that the error should be rebuked, and that the doctrine should be distinctly laid down that good works are necessary to salvation. The apostle, therefore, in the question before us, implicitly asserts that faith would not "profit" at all unless accompanied with a holy life, and this doctrine he proceeds to illustrate in the following verses, See the analysis of this chapter; and Introduction, Section 5, (2). In order to a proper interpretation of this passage, it should be observed that the stand-point from which the apostle views this subject is not before a man is converted, inquiring in what way he may be justified before God, or on what ground his sins may be forgiven; but it is after a man is converted, showing that that faith can have no value which is not followed by good works; that is, that it is not real faith, and that good works are necessary if a man would have evidence that he is justified. Thus understood, all that James says is in entire accordance with what is taught elsewhere in the New Testament.

Can faith save him? - It is implied in this question that faith cannot save him, for very often the most emphatic way of making an affirmation is by asking a question. The meaning here is, that that faith which does not produce good works, or which would not produce holy living if fairly acted out, will save no man, for it is not genuine faith.

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.

What doth it profit; viz. as to his eternal salvation? Wherein are the ends of religion promoted by it? The apostle had just before declared, that they who are unmerciful to men shall find God severe to themselves, and have judgment without mercy: but hypocritical professors boasted of their faith as sufficient to secure them against that judgment, though they neglected the practice of holiness and righteousness. Hence he seems to take occasion for the following discourse, to beat down their vain boasting of an empty, unfruitful faith, and possibly, lest they should abuse or misunderstand what he had said about the law of liberty, as if that inferred a licence of sinning, and living as they pleased.

Though a man say; whether boastingly with his mouth to others, or flatteringly in his heart to himself. The apostle doth not say, that a man’s having faith simply is unprofitable, but either that faith he pretends to without works, or his boasting he hath faith, when the contrary is evident by his not having works.

He hath faith; such as he pretends to be good, and sound, and saving, but is really empty and dead, Jam 2:26, and unfruitful.

And have not works; i.e. good works, such as are not only acts of charity, to which the papists would restrain it, but all the fruits of righteousness and holiness proceeding from faith, and appearing both in heart and life.

Can faith save him? The interrogation is a vehement negation; q.d. It cannot save him, viz. such a faith as a man may have (as well as boast he hath) without works. This James calls faith only by way of concession for the present, though it be but equivocally called faith, and no more really so, than the carcass of a man is a man.

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.

{8} What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

(8) The fifth place which follows very well with the former treatise, concerning a true and living faith. The proposition of the place is this: Faith which does not bring forth works is not that faith by means of which we are justified, but an false image of that faith, or else this: they who do not show the effects of faith are not justified by faith.

Jam 2:14. After James, proceeding from the exhortation to receive the word (τὸνλόγον τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχάς) in meekness, had enforced the necessity not only to be hearers but also doers of the same, and with reference to the respect of persons practised by the readers had designated the exercise of compassionate love as true θρησκεία, he now, in close connection with the preceding, opposes the opinion that πίστις which has no works (χωρὶς ἔργων) can save (σῶσαι). The section from Jam 2:14 to Jam 2:26 treats of this; for the correct understanding of which it is to be held fast that James considers πίστις as the necessary ground of σωτηρία, which is evident from chap. Jam 1:18-21, but of course that πίστις which is not without works. In combating the above delusion, James adopts his characteristic mode of first stating in clear and well-defined language the fundamental thought on which all the rest depends, and he does so by the introduction of brief interrogative sentences which reject that false opinion. He commences with the words τί τὸ ὄφελος.; see Jam 2:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:32. The article is not superfluous: What is the use which arises from it, if, etc.; without the article (according to B and C) it means: What kind of use is it = what use is it? thus frequently with the classics. With regard to the construction with ἐάν, see Matthew 16:26; 1 Corinthians 13:3. The following words: ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τις ἔχειν, show that James had in view one who trusts for σωτηρία, because he has faith, although works are wanting to him. Many expositors place the emphasis on λέγῃ, as if it was thereby indicated that this assertion was a mere pretext, the person introduced as speaking not in reality possessing faith. Gataker: emphasis hic est in voce dicendi; intelligit istos fidem quidem jactare, non tamen habere; similarly Vorstius, Piscator, Wolf, Baumgarten, Pott, Gebser, Hottinger, Kern, Wiesinger, Stier, Lange, Philippi (Glaubensl. I. p. 298 ff.); also de Wette translates λέγῃ by “pretends.” This is incorrect, for the sequel does not give the lie to this λέγειν, but, on the contrary, it is granted that the man may have faith without having works. Besides, it is self-evident that James did not require to say that a faith, which one has not, cannot save him. That it is not simply said ἐὰν πίστιν τις ἔχη, is explained from James’ lively mode of representation, by which he introduces his opponent as appealing to his πίστις.[131] It is also incorrect to emphasize the want of the article before ΠΊΣΤΙΝ (Schneckenburger: recte articulo caret = to have faith, quum revera non habeat ΤῊΝ ΠΊΣΤΙΝ, Jam 2:1; ita omissio articuli jam quodammodo scriptoris judicium est). The article is here wanting, as is often the case in the N. T. where the word expresses something definite in itself (thus Brückner), particularly when it is to be brought forward according to its quality. Also ΠΊΣΤΙΝ must not be precisely explained as = nuda notitia, nor hardly = nuda professio; for those whom James combats could not possibly think that they by their faith possessed only the so-called theoretical faith, but rather they considered it the whole and complete faith. Also this faith was not defective in point of confidence, which Lange should not have denied, for they thought to be saved thereby; although this was not true confidence, but an empty reliance on Christ;[132] they indeed believed, but they did not receive Christ in themselves as a principle of a new life; the object of their faith remained to them purely external, and thus they wanted those works which spring from living faith.[133]

ἜΡΓΑ ΔῈ ΜῊ ἜΧῌ] ἜΡΓΑ is here indeed entirely general, but according to the context those works are meant which are proofs of living faith, by which the νόμος ἐλευθερίας is fulfilled on the ground of ΠΊΣΤΙς.

After ἜΧῌ a simple comma (Gebser) is not to be put, but a note of interrogation; the verse contains two questions, the second interrogative sentence ΜῊ ΔΎΝΑΤΑΙ Κ.Τ.Λ. confirming the judgment contained in the first, that it profits nothing to have faith without works. Some expositors incorrectly put a special emphasis on the article before ΠΊΣΤΙς (Bede: fides illa, quam vos habere dicitis; or, that faith which has no works; so also Lange). The article here has not vim pronominis demonstrativi, but is used because there is a resumption of the previous idea (πίστις); see chap. Jam 1:3 and Jam 4:15. It is also incorrect to supply out of what goes before the more precise definition of faith: quae non habetur revera sed dicitur tantummodo et jactatur (Theile), or to supply ΜΌΝΗ (Pott), or to understand by ΠΊΣΤΙς here bare notitia. Recourse has been had to these explanations, because it was thought that James otherwise denied to faith its saving-power, which is not to be assumed. But the force of ΑὐΤΌΝ has been overlooked. If this pronoun be taken into consideration, it is evident that James does not affirm generally that faith cannot save, but that it cannot save him whose faith, on which he trusts, is destitute of works; for αὐτόν refers back to the subject ΤΙς, that is, to the person whom James has introduced as speaking

ΣῶΣΑΙ] as in Jam 1:21, is used here of the attainment of future salvation; the expression is explained from the fact that eternal condemnation belongs to sinful man as such, and thus requires a deliverance in order to be saved. The idea σωτηρία generally signifies in the N. T. the future salvation; see besides other passages, particularly 1 Thessalonians 5:8, where σωτηρία is designated as the object of ἘΛΠΊς. Certainly the present state of salvation of Christians may also be called ΣΩΤΗΡΊΑ, but it is evident from the connection with what precedes that James has not that in view, but the complete salvation (against Lange).

[131] λέγῃ is the more appropriate, as a faith without works, as James indicates in ver. 18, is something which cannot be proved, of which he who possesses it can only give information by λέγειν.

[132] It was otherwise with them than with those Christians who indeed considered the teaching of the gospel as true, and did not doubt to be saved, but who rested their hopes not on Christ as the object of faith, but on their supposed righteousness, i.e. on their good works; for James entirely denies good works to them, and never indicates that they appealed to their supposed good conduct.

[133] For the view here rejected an appeal is incorrectly made to ver. 19, as those thought to have in their faith the guarantee of their σωτηρία, whilst their faith only produced φρίσσειν to the demons.

Jam 2:14-26. On this section see Introduction IV., § 2. There are a few points worth drawing attention to, in connection with the subject treated of in these verses, before we come to deal with the passage in detail: (1) πίστις here means nothing more than belief in the unity of God, cf. Jam 2:20 τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν …; this is a very restricted use of the word, both according to Hebrew and Greek usage. The Hebrew אמונה means primarily “faithfulness,” “steadfastness,” “reliability,” and is used in reference to God quite as much as in reference to men. This is also the force of the verb אמן; it is only in the Hiph‘al that the meaning “to believe in,” in the sense of “to trust,” arises. The use of πίστις in the Septuagint varies; mostly it corresponds to אמונה, but not infrequently this latter is rendered ἀληθεία, e.g., Psalms 88:34, 50, 97 ( (Psa. 89:34, 50, 97) Psalm 98:3, though in each of these cases Aquila and Quinta render πίστις. In Sir 41:16, πίστις is the rendering of the Hebrew אמת (“truth”), while in Sir 45:4, Sir 46:15 it corresponds to אמונה in the sense of “reliability”. In Sir 37:26 the Greek is obviously corrupt, πίστις stands there for the Hebrew כבוד (“glory”), which is clearly more correct. But the most interesting passage on the subject in Sir. from our present point of view is Sir 15:15 : ἐὰν θέλῃς, συντηρήσεις ἐντολάς, καὶ πίστιν ποίησαι εὐδοκίας; of which the Hebrew is: אם תחפץ תשׁמר מצוה ואמונה לעשׂות רצונו (“If it be thy will thou dost observe the commandment, and it is faithfulness to do His good pleasure”; the context shows that it is a question here of man’s free-will). Here πίστις is used in a distinctly higher sense than in the passage of our Epistle under consideration. In so far, therefore, as πίστις is used in the restricted sense, as something which demons as well as men possess, it is clear that the subject is different from that treated by St. Paul in Romans; and therefore the comparison so often made between the two Epistles on this point is not à propos. (2) That which gave the occasion for this section seems to have been the fact that, in the mind of the writer, some of the Jewish converts had gone from one extreme to another on the subject of works. Too much stress had been laid upon the efficacy of works in their Jewish belief; when they became Christians they were in danger of losing some of the excellences of their earlier faith by a mistaken supposition that works, not being efficacious per se (which so far was right) were therefore altogether unnecessary, and that the mere fact of believing in the unity of God was sufficient. Regarded from this point of view, there can, again, be no question of a conflict with Pauline teaching as such. The point of controversy was one which must have agitated every centre in which Jews and Jewish-Christians were found. In this connection it is important to remember that the “faith of Abraham” was a subject which was one of the commonplaces of theological discussion both in Rabbinical circles as well as in the Hellenistic School of Alexandria; regarding the former, see the interesting passage from the Midrashic work, Mechilta, quoted by Box in Hastings’ D.C.G., ii. 568b. The error of running from one extreme into another, in matters of doctrine, is one of those things too common to human nature for the similarity of language between this Epistle and St. Paul’s writings in dealing with the subject of faith and works to denote antagonism between the two writers. (3) The passage as a whole betrays a very strong Jewish standpoint; while it would be too much to say that it could not have been written by a Christian, it is certainly difficult to understand how, e.g., Jam 2:25 could have come from the pen of a Christian. (4) It is necessary to emphasise the fact that this passage cannot be properly understood without some idea of the subject of the Jewish doctrine of works which has always played a supremely important part in Judaism; for this, reference must be made to IV., § 2 of the Introduction, where various authorities are quoted.

14–26. Justification by Faith and Works

14. though a man say he hath faith] The section on which we now enter has been the battle-field of almost endless controversies. It led Luther in the boldness of a zeal not according to knowledge to speak of the whole Epistle with contempt. (Preface to German New Testament, 1522; but see J. C. Hare’s Vindication of Luther, p. 215.) To him it was an “Epistle of Straw,” (Epistola straminea,) to be classed with wood, hay, stubble, as compared with the teaching of St Paul, which it seemed to him to contradict. It led Bishop Bull to write his Harmonia Apostolica to prove the agreement of the two, by assuming, with many of the Fathers, that St James wrote to correct the false inferences which men had drawn from St Paul’s doctrine, in itself and as taught by him a true doctrine, as to Justification. In dealing with the problem presented by a comparison of the teaching of the two writers, it is obviously necessary to start with what to the reader is an assumption, though to the writer it may be the conclusion of an inquiry, as to the aim and leading idea of the writer with whom we have to deal; and the notes that follow will accordingly be based on the hypothesis that the teaching of St James was not meant, as men have supposed who exaggerate the diversities of thought in the Apostolic age, to be antagonistic to that of St Paul, nor even to correct mistaken inferences from it, but was altogether independent, and probably prior in time, moving in its own groove, and taking its own line of thought. If this view, as a theory, solves all the phænomena, and throws light upon what would otherwise be obscure, it will be its own best vindication. At the close it may be well to take a brief survey of other modes of interpretation.

We must remember then, to start with, that St James is writing primarily to the Jews of the “dispersion.” The disciples in Jerusalem and Judæa were under his personal guidance, and therefore were not in need of an Epistle. The faults which he reproves are pre-eminently the faults of the race. Men dwelling, as those Jews dwelt, in the midst of a heathen population, were tempted to trust for their salvation to their descent from Abraham (comp. Matthew 3:9) and to their maintaining the unity of the Godhead as against the Polytheism and idolatry of the nations. They repeated their Creed (known, from its first Hebrew word, as the Shemà), “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It entered, as our Creed does, into the Morning and Evening Services of the Synagogue. It was uttered by the dying as a passport to the gates of Paradise. It was to this that they referred the words of Habakkuk that the just should live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). St James saw, as the Baptist had seen before him, how destructive all this was of the reality of the spiritual life, and accordingly takes this as the next topic of his letter.

No emphasis is to be laid on “though a man say.” The argument of St James assumes that the man has the faith which he professes. His contention is that faith is not enough by itself, that unless it pass into “works” it gives proof that it is ipso facto dead; and the “works” of which he speaks are, as the next verse shews, emphatically, not ceremonial, nor ascetic, but those of an active benevolence.

can faith save him?] The pronoun, and, in the Greek, the article prefixed to faith, are emphatic. “Can his faith save him, being such as he is?” There is no slight cast upon faith generally, though the kind of faith in the particular case is declared to be worthless.

Jam 2:14. Τί, what) From ch. Jam 1:22, the apostle has been using exhortation to practice: now he meets the case of those who seek to avoid practice, by sheltering themselves under the pretence of faith. Moreover, St Paul taught to this effect:—Righteousness and salvation are of faith, and not of works. But even then pretended Christians had abused this doctrine, as the perversity of man is accustomed to abuse every thing, and had employed the words of St Paul in a sense opposite to that intended by St Paul. Wherefore James (repeating in this place [Jam 2:23; Jam 2:21; Jam 2:25] the same phrases, testimonies, and examples, which St Paul used, Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:31) refutes, in Jam 2:24; Jam 2:14, not the doctrine of St Paul, but the error of those who abuse that doctrine,—an error which endeavours to escape notice by sheltering itself behind the words of St Paul. Sometimes the use of expressions which are good in themselves is checked, while many abuse them: comp. Jeremiah 23:33 with Habakkuk 1:1 and Malachi 1:1. The character of St Paul, as every one will admit, was very different to that of St James; and some traces of this difference may be perceived in this very chapter: comp. note on Galatians 2:9. It must not, however, be supposed that they are at variance with each other, as any one might suppose, who should attach himself either to St Paul or St James, apart from the other. We ought rather to receive, with the greatest reverence and simplicity, without any reserve or wresting of words, the doctrine of each as apostolical, and as proceeding from Christ and His Spirit. They both wrote the truth, and in a suitable manner, but in different ways, as those who had to deal with different kinds of men. Moreover, James himself had maintained the cause of faith on another stage, Acts 15:13-21; and subsequently, Paul himself strenuously urged works, especially in the Epistles written at the close of his life, when men were now abusing the doctrine of faith. But now in this instance they both use the same words, though not altogether in the same sense, as we shall presently see. Moreover this short verse is a summary of three divisions. Jam 2:15-17 have reference to What doth it profit? Jam 2:18-19 reply to If any man say. Can faith save him? is explained in Jam 2:20-26. Faith is introduced three times, as being dead without works, viz. at the end of the first part, just before the end of the second, and at the end of the third, in Jam 2:17; Jam 2:20; Jam 2:26.—ἐὰν πίστιν λέγῃ τὶς ἔχειν, if any man say that he hath faith) He does not say, if any man has, but, if any thinks and gives out that he has. St James, therefore, here speaks of faith in the same sense in which St Paul so frequently does, in the sense of a true and living faith; and thus also in Jam 2:22; Jam 2:18 at the end, where he treats of the good man who is under its influence; but afterwards, in this verse, and in the rest of the argument, under the name of faith, in the way of Mimesis[21] [imitation of his supposed opponent’s words], through his love of conciseness, and speaking after the manner of men, he means the faith of the hypocrite, which rests on a fallacy (self-deceit): ch. Jam 1:22. He does not teach, that faith can exist without works, but rather, that faith cannot exist without works. He does not oppose faith and works; but he opposes the empty name of boasted faith, and the faith which is true and firm in itself, and which produces abundant fruit.—ἡ πίστις, that faith) The article has the force of a pronoun,—that which you speak of, and pretend to, that which is called faith: in the same manner, that which liars boast of is called wisdom, ch. Jam 3:15.—αὐτὸν, himself) Such a faith neither confers any advantage on another, nor saves the man himself.

[21] Mimesis is used when we bring forward or allude to the words of another, for the sake of expressing our disapprobation, or for their refutation.

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. James 2:14What doth it profit? (τί τὸ ὄφελος)

Lit., what is the profit? Ὄφελος, profit, only here, James 2:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:32.

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