James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
1) What good is it: What benefit or advantage is it.
2) my brothers: professing believers to whom James wrote.
3) if someone: The someone that James is speaking about here could be anyone anywhere and is not limited to this audience he called brothers. The whole world would be covered by James use of the term someone.
4) if someone says he has faith: James is speaking of a professed claim of faith. He did not say if anyone has faith, but if anyone SAYS he has faith. If he were speaking of a genuine faith he would not have a reason to have added the word “says”.
5) but does not have works?: The description is complete as James is talking about someone who claims to have faith but does not have works. The question is complete. James is asking about someone who claims to have faith, but gives no indication that he has been born again with the attributes that genuine true believers have when they are made into a new creation by the hand of God the Holy Spirit.
6) Can that faith save him?: The “that faith” James is referring to is not a genuine faith but a claimed false faith. This is a rhetorical question with the obvious answer of no. James is not contradicting justification by faith alone. He is making a distinction between how a born again spirit indwelled believer responds to grace and how a hypocrite who claims to have faith responds to a dead worthless false faith.
The obvious answer to the rhetorical question James poses is that such a claimed faith is no good because it is not genuine and does not save. However, genuine faith is wrought by the power of God in regeneration and saves completely. This leads to sanctification by a believer who has a new nature with new desires and a new attitude. All genuine believers are not only changed by regeneration, they are also led by the indwelling Spirit (Romans 8:14). As a result genuine believers will have attributes that are distinguishable from those who have a false dead faith.