A gracEmail subscriber in Australia suggests that believing in Jesus might not be sufficient since James 2:19 says the demons also believe and tremble. This subscriber suggests that a life of obedience is also necessary to please God.
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We might be using “believe” in different senses (it has more than one, you know), and therefore be talking past each other. When James says that the devils “believe,” he explains that they accept the academic proposition that there is one God. He does not mean that the demons put their trust in God or entrust themselves to God as their Savior. Those are what Scripture means by “believing” in Christ or by the “faith” that receives salvation.
Unfortunately some people today think that because they agree to certain doctrinal truth that they have saving faith. But saving faith is far more personal than that, and it involves the heart as much or more than it does the head. This is James’ larger point in his epistle. Saving faith does not mean having head knowledge, or merely talking about having faith, or claiming to be a believer. It involves more than intellectual content and it goes deeper than verbal claims. We receive salvation only by trusting God for it (the true meaning of “faith alone”), but the trust that receives salvation never remains alone.
Those who truly trust Christ as Savior and entrust themselves to him in that capacity will seek to be obedient to him in whom they trust. Nothing they do is any part of the saving work, however, but rather is a response to that work. The work that set sinners right with God was performed by Jesus Christ as our substitute on our behalf. The gospel tells us that Jesus has reconciled sinners to God. We respond to God’s saving work by our own trust. And we demonstrate that trust to others around us by the obedience that living faith always prompts.