“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!”
James continues his diatribe against a dead faith that has no dynamic to make a difference in one’s life.
You believe that there is one God.
Simple belief in monotheism (one God) is not enough for a dynamic faith. Even demons hold to the orthodox view that God is a unity. Even demons believe that much!
You do well.
The phrase “You do well” may carry sarcasm, “So far, so good.” The idea may simply be that those who believe in one God have done well up to that point, but that point is not far enough.
Even the demons believe—and tremble!
Demons actively attack people as agents of Satan. Demons tremble at God’s judgment. They are very cognizant of their looming doom, so they shutter at the thought, indicating extreme fear. Even demons are not atheists! Although they believe they remain lost.
Mt 8:28-29, “When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. 29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’”
Demons not only believe in God, but they tremble at Him, yet they do not obey Him! Fear does not make a difference to them. They remain lost.
The context of James two is not eternal salvation, but how we treat fellow Christians. It takes more than belief in monotheism to become a Christian. The oneness of God is the foundation of that belief, but we need to go beyond that belief. Orthodoxy, in itself, is no assurance of a dynamic faith.
Knowledge of true doctrine is of no avail to those who do not put their knowledge into practice by faith.
We live in a day when the majority of North Americans believe in the existence of God. This does not mean much because basic belief in one God (the unity of God) does not save a soul eternally nor deliver a Christian in time. Dead orthodoxy does not provide a dynamic faith either initially or progressively. Academic acceptance of one God does not make someone a Christian, nor does it facilitate the Christian life.
There is no hint in James that a genuine Christian will always produce ongoing, consistent good works. However, this does not deny that a genuine Christian will produce some good works, for good works will inevitably arise out of genuine faith. Works are a by-product of salvation.
However, it is another issue to argue that living consistently after salvation is inevitable. Not every Christian will surrender their will to God consistently after salvation. It is possible to have a faith minus full commitment and still be a genuine believer.
The biblical ideal is that a Christian should have a genuine, dynamic faith that applies the principles of the Word of God to his life. That will produce divine consequences.