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James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

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      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.

JFB.


Questions Related to this Verse

Where In Scripture Does It Talk About Faith?

Where In Scripture Does It Talk About Hypocrisy?

Where in scripture does it mention the fruits of Righteousness?

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James Images and Notes

The Book of James

James 1:22-25 - But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein], he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 4:17 - Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.

James in The New Testament - A Brief Overview

Icon of St. James the Just
Icon of St. James the Just

Introduction to The Book of James

Brief Summary. The epistle of James has a clear focus on the necessity of Christian works, and this is in contrast but not in conflict with the doctrine of justification by faith set forth by the apostle Paul. The heart of the book of James takes one back to the time of Abraham, who believed first before any works, and he was justified before God. This is because God knew his heart and saw him through his omniscient eyes. Since man cannot see into of other men's hearts, he can only see the true faith of an individual by his works. To James Christian works do not make a man saved, but is the true test that a genuine Christian has already received salvation. Some of the points that James brings up is hearing the word of God and not doing the word of God, loving worldly possessions more than giving, not restraining the tongue, not trusting in God's providence, partiality toward the rich and contempt for the poor, and other attitudes and actions which would not be in harmony with a "pure and undefiled religion."

Summary of The Book of James

Author. The author of this epistle identifies himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." Most scholars agree that the book of James was written by James the Just, brother of our Lord (Matt. 13:55; Gal. 1:9), and leader of the mother Church at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:9). He is the same James to whom Jesus appeared, according to the words of Paul, and who made the speech at the Jerusalem council admitting Gentiles into the Church. James acted as president of the conference on circumcision (Acts 15:18; Acts 12:17; 21:18). Paul called him one of the "pillars of the Church." Josephus spoke of James as a man of "preeminent justice."

Date. There is no doubt that the book of James was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but there is no way to be certain exactly when the book of James was written. The Epistle was written from Jerusalem, probably about 61 AD.

Audience. James addresses his book, "to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," which indicates that he was writing from Jerusalem to the Jews of the "dispersion" and  "my brethren," indicates that these were Jewish Christians living away from Jerusalem.

Outline of the Book of James

Faith Tested by Trials - Chapter 1
Faith Shown by Works - Chapter 2
Faith Proven by Conduct - Chapters 3-4
With Faith Comes Persecution - Chapter 5

 

Jesus written in Hebrew
The Name Jesus In Ancient Hebrew Text
"Yeshua" in First Century Hebrew Text. This is how the name "Jesus" would have been written in ancient Hebrew documents. The four letters or consonants from right to left are Yod, Shin, Vav, Ayin (Y, SH, OO, A). Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua or Y'shua which means "The LORD or Yahweh is Salvation".

James Maps and Resources

Map of the Roman Empire (14 A.D.) - This map reveals the Roman Empire during the time shortly after the birth of Jesus, in 14 AD at the time of the death of Augustus. The order which prevailed in this extensive empire, the good military roads, and the use of Koine Greek as the general language of culture throughout the area were among the factors which multiplied the rapid spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's First Missionary Journey (48 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia Minor where Paul visited in his first missionary journey. Around 48 AD, in the springtime, Paul and his companions Barnabas and Mark were sent on a mission from the church in Antioch. This would be the first of Paul's Missionary Journey's. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's Second Missionary Journey (51 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia and Greece where Paul visited in his second missionary journey. Paul re-visits a couple cities in Asia, one of which was Lystra where he was stoned and left for dead a few years earlier. He later has a vision that leads him over to Greece and Paul and his companions travel and minister in various cities in Greece (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. Later Paul returns to Ephesus and finally to Caesarea and Antioch. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's Third Missionary Journey (54 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia and Greece where Paul visited in his third missionary journey. On Paul's third missionary journey he returned to the cities he had first visited on his first missionary journey. During this time he decided to remain in Ephesus for about 3 years, and this city was the main focus of his activities and an important Christian community (Acts 19). (Color Map)

Map of the New Testament World - This map reveals the "Nations" within the ancient world during the first century A.D., the time of the New Testament. The map includes the areas of Israel, Asia, Greece, and Italy. (Color Map)

Map of New Testament Greece This map reveals the cities within Greece in the ancient world during the first century A.D.,The map includes the principal cities of Greece like: Athens, Corinth, and Thessalonica, and provinces like Macedonia and Achaia. (Color Map)

Map of New Testament Asia - This map shows the cities within Asia Minor during the first century A.D., the time of the New Testament. The map includes the principal cities of Asia including Tarsus, Ephesus, and Colossae, and provinces like Galatia and Pamphilia. (Color Map)