The world has many atheists in it, but the devil isn’t one of them.
He actually believes quite strongly, having come close to God at some points in history.
James even uses his belief to describe the kind of faith that some believers have.
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer no one suggest that my faith is devil-like.
But it’s possible.
He’s arguing with a hypothetical Christian; here’s that person’s argument, followed by James’ response:
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! (James 2:18-19)
It seems that the person is saying something like this: “Well, the way it works in our church is that some people have faith by itself—they don’t really do much, but they encourage the ones who do. And then there are some people in our fellowship who get the work done. Some have faith and some have works. It actually works quite well.”
James thinks the idea is ludicrous. “It’s impossible,” he says, “for a person to have genuine, saving faith without that faith being followed by works.”
True faith expresses itself in obedience; if it doesn’t, it’s nothing more than a demonic faith.
It’s scary, but the same thing could happen today.
A Christian might say, “No, I don’t actually do much evangelism myself, but we do have a minister who spreads the gospel.”
Another might say, “Well, I don’t really help the poor, but I give money every Sunday to the church, and our deacon over benevolence serves people in the community.”
Do you see the reasoning?
Does it sound familiar?
It’s faulty, of course.
Please get this point—it’s impossible for anyone to obey on my behalf, or yours.
It just won’t work.
Faith is personal and individual, and so is obedience. My faith, your faith, if it’s genuine, will express itself in obeying Jesus.
James is as clear as he could possibly be.
Faith that speaks but doesn’t act isn’t real faith. It’s not even as strong as the demons’ faith—not exactly something we want to be said about us.