18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
There are millions upon millions of people who believe they are going to heaven. They believe this based upon two things – they believe that God exists and they believe that they are relatively good people. Their faith is not in God but rather in themselves. They believe that they are good enough for heaven, that they are worthy. Even though they believe in the existence of God, they know absolutely nothing about Him other than some generic beliefs like that He is loving.
The truth is, as James reveals, demons have a greater belief in God than millions of people who believe that they are going to heaven. The difference is that the demons know the truth and that their belief in God is not the kind of faith that is a saving faith. While many people foolish believe that they are good enough for heaven because they believe in God, the demons shudder because of their knowledge of the existence of God. The demons’ belief in God does no more to save them than any other human who simply believes that God exists.
This is another tripping point in the matter of salvation. What does “faith” mean? We hear it all the time – have faith in Jesus and you will be saved. This isn’t the message that we are told to preach however. Most people “believe in Jesus”, that He was a real person, that his life is chronicled in the gospels. There are a few who argue that He is no more than a myth but most of even the most liberal scholars acknowledge that Jesus existed.
But that isn’t what it means to believe in Jesus. It is more than believing that He existed. Romans 10:9-10 says 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
This is what it means to “believe in Jesus” to believe in the forgiveness found in His death and resurrection. As was discussed in the previous section, deeds are added onto faith as a proof of faith but there is no power in them alone. In the same way, if a person believes in Jesus, this should make some sort of significant impact in the way that they live their life.