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“You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)

As I was sitting in church this Sunday attempting to listen to the pastor’s sermon, I was having trouble paying attention. As I tried to captivate my thoughts on the sermon at hand, my mind kept being drawn to the consideration of James 2:19 and the distinction between genuine faith and demonic faith. I have been greatly excited by the fact that our church, Omaha Bible Church, is currently going through the book of James in our care groups. This last week we did an overview of James with regard to how James distinguishes between genuine faith and demonic faith.

As I have continued to think on this verse in connection with the rest of the book of James and the Old Testament that would have been the foundation of James understanding of the gospel. I have begun to see more and more the point that James is driving at in James 2:19-24 is not just the works that are being done, but the motive behind them. I realize I am about to make an argument from silence, but I think if you will bear with me for a moment you will realize that there is a connection. I would like to assert that when James proposes that faith works, he is referring to a faith that acts out of a love for God and that James is in no way asserting any form of legalistic justification.

First, James makes reference to the demons faith with regards to the nature of God. They believe “that God is one,” and James tells his readers that those who agree with this fact have “done well”. Given the fact that He is writing to a Jewish audience I cannot help but think that James is here applauding them for their recognition of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” This makes sense in light of the fact that James has just argued that you must be a doer of the law and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25) and that Deuteronomy 6:3 says, “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it.”

Second, if indeed James is drawing from Deuteronomy 6 here in James 2 it would makes sense to conclude that what the demons lack is what Israel was called to do in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It seems clear that the demons have no genuine love for God, but rather hate and despise him. And so the natural man also in Romans 1:30 are referred to as “haters of God.” Therefore it seems likely to assume that what James expects to see from those who have been justified is a love that flows out in obedience to God and His word.

Finally, James uses Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (James 1:21) as the example of how Abraham was justified through His works. Clearly James cannot be speaking of the initial justification by which Abraham was credited as righteous because of His faith (Genesis 15:5), because the sacrifice of Isaac doesn’t take place until Genesis 22 when Isaac was a young lad (at least old enough to carry a load of wood for the sacrifice). The question the must be asked what was God trying to assess in the the testing of Abraham. We are told in Genesis 22:12 that as a result of Abraham’s obedience God knew that Abraham feared Him. In addition, I would add to that the fact that God now knew who had the preeminence when it came to Abraham’s affections, because in Genesis 22:2 Abraham was told, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” The issue was not ultimately just Abraham do you believe that Isaac is the one through whom you will be blessed as I said, but do you love Me enough to sacrifice your son whom you love.

You see faith is not just about believing and acting…the Pharisees believed the law otherwise they would not have went to such great lacks to keep the law (at least in outward appearance. The problem was that they hated the Law Giver, which is why when He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and asserted things like He did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Things like if you are angry in your heart your a murder and if you lust in your heart you are an adulterer, they could not handle it. So the did the one thing that every one of us wants to do, they attempted to kill God! And they thought they had succeeded until Christ rose again on the third day and demonstrated for all that not only had He satisfied the wrath of God, but it is impossible to kill God. In the struggle between God and the rebellion of His creation, God demonstrated that not even His rebellious creation could over come Him.

Ultimately, what distinguishes false faith from true faith is a love for God that overflows into a love for others, and so fulfills the two greatest commandments.