“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:19
James reminds us that the demons believe in the existence of God. His point is that just believing in the existence of God is not enough to save us – we have to acknowledge the Lordship and authority of God and live surrendered to Him. For that is where the demons get it wrong. They believe in God’s existence but not in God’s lordship. The devil was cast out of heaven for rebelling, for refusing to submit to God’s authority.
It is not enough for us to just believe in our heads a number of facts about God – we must know Jesus as our personal Saviour. We must acknowledge our need of Him. We must surrender to His lead rather than trying to go our own way. Our belief must impact how we live.
I can have a strong belief in the health benefits of a low-fat, freshly cooked diet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I am not going to get a Big Mac when I drive past McDonalds… That’s how it is for the demons. They believe God exists, but they haven’t let that transform the choices they make and the actions they take.
What James is saying is that it is one thing to believe general facts (fast food is bad, God is one), but an altogether different thing to live out those facts that we believe, and it it the living it out that is important. Because God has not called us to be encyclopedias, full of all the facts about God; He has called us to know Him intimately, as sons and daughters.
As sons and daughters we live out our faith, and that is what shows it to be genuine saving faith. Obviously we need to strive to make sure our theology is accurate and in line with what the Bible teaches (ie that we are orthodox in our beliefs), but sometimes people can get so bogged down in fine details of theology that makes absolutely no difference to how we live out our life and only serves to distract us and waste time that could be put to much more productive Kingdom use. And it is when we find ourselves in that field of thought that we need to remember James’ warning that just because the demons have the right orthodox answers to the doctrinal questions about the existence of God it isn’t enough to save them because they do not have a love for God and a desire to serve Him, and so maybe we should spend less time debating the finest minutia of theology and more time letting our faith be evident by our works.