Rhetorical Questions About Faith Without Deeds (2:14)

The two rhetorical questions about faith without deeds are (1) "What good is it?" (answer: none) and (2) "Can it save?" (answer: no). The first question implies a general lack of any usefulness for a faith without actions. The second question specifies a particular use that is lacking—salvation itself. The combined impact is to declare a thorough uselessness of faith without deeds and, to make it absolutely clear, also to declare its particular uselessness in regard to salvation, which would be the primary point of having faith in the first place. "In a Christian context such as this, . . . the `use' takes on serious consequences, for it is salvation which is at stake" (Davids 1982:120). In the subsequent example in 2:15-16, there is no "good" for the needy person who receives no help. Here in 2:14, however, it is explicit that the good lacking is for the person who claims to have faith. James asks not if such faith can save "anyone else" but if such faith can save him.

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