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THE GENERAL EPISTLE OF JAMES - Chapter 2 - Verse 14

Verse 14. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith? The apostle here returns to the subject adverted to in Jas 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 opinion, speculative 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 Barnes on "Jas 2:1, the analysis of this chapter; and See Barnes on "Jas 5:1, the Introduction to chapter 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.

{a} "What doth it profit" Mt 7:26 {*} "faith" or, "this faith"

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