FAITH WITHOUT WORKS BEING OF NO PROFIT
Verse 14 says, "What is the profit, my brothers, if anyone says he has faith, but does not have works?" Notice that James does not say that this man has faith in God. Do not add into this verse what James does not say. James does not say whether this man is a believer or not. He only says that this man says that he has faith. Regardless of whether he has works or not, this man himself should not say that he has faith. If you actually have faith before God, there is no need to talk about it. Paul says that he who believes is justified. He never says that he who says that he has faith is justified. Certainly one is not justified just by saying so. I do not know what the man mentioned here is like. I do not know if he has faith or not. James does not say that he actually has faith. What we do see, however, is a boastful man. He may or may not have something within him. But whether or not he has something, he likes to make a show before others. He likes to print faith on his name card and show others that he has faith. Hence, James says, "My brothers, if anyone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?" If you saw a man who is not concerned about his behavior at all, who is free to do anything, but says that he believes in Jesus, you would say the same thing as James does. You also would ask what profit it is if anyone says he has faith but does not have works. Perhaps he was fighting or arguing with someone outside a minute ago, and now he says that he has faith. If such a one had not said anything about having faith, James would not have said anything to him. The reason James says anything at all is that some do not have the works but still brag. Have you ever met such people? Such ones like to boast. They like to be exalted and glorified. Not only did James have to subdue this kind of person; we also have to subdue this kind of person.
Hence, James is not talking about having faith or not having faith. Nor is he talking about works for those who have faith. James is specifically talking about works for those who say that they have faith. He is not dealing with the works of Christians, but with the works of those who say that they are Christians. He is dealing with the works of nominal church members and nominal Christians who say that they have faith. James 2 says "if anyone." It does not say "if any Christian."
Verse 14 goes on to say, "Can that faith save him?" What is "that faith"? If faith cannot save him, then what can? James refers to "that faith," not simply "faith." If faith cannot save us, we do not need to preach anymore. But James refers to "that faith," that is, the faith that some have on their lips. Do not change around what James is saying. He is not talking about faith saving this man. He is talking about that kind of faith saving him, that is, the kind of faith that one has on his lips only. I do not know if you have ever met such people. I have met such people. They say that they are Christians, that they believe in this and that, and that their faith is this and that. Can this faith save them?
(Gospel of God, The (2 volume set), Chapter 10, by Watchman Nee)