Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)
I do not run into many Christians these days except at church or at the Christian ministry where I work. Oh, I am certain that they are out there, and it is possible that I encounter them everywhere I go; I just cannot tell them apart from non-Christians. A recent Barna study on the state of the Church in America revealed that while 75% of Americans pray to God, 35% attend a church service, 34% read the Bible, 19% volunteer at a non-profit, 18% volunteer at church, 17% attend adult Sunday school and 16% attend small group.
Judging from those statistics, it seems that at least ¾ of Americans acknowledge God. The 35% and 34% that attend church and read their Bible are pretty much the same group of people, so if we subtract them from the 75% who say they pray to God, that leaves 40% who acknowledge God, but there it ends. Just knowing about God or tacitly acknowledging Him gains no one entry into heaven.
James was brutally direct when he says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Imagine that! The devils believe, and yet their destiny is sealed. To those who think that “knowing” God and “being good” should be sufficient, “Then shall he [Jesus] say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41, emphasis mine). “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, emphasis mine).
The devil knows God better than any of us here on earth. The Book of Job records that Satan has direct access to God. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them” (Job 1:6, emphasis mine). The devil is an eyewitness to God’s creative power. In responding to Job’s questions, God replies, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7, emphasis mine). The “morning stars” are the “sons of God” (bene elohim), and they are the whole host of created angelic beings including Satan and all of his angels (demons). They witnessed God’s power in creation. As humans, we benefit from all that God has created, and we marvel at the incredible design in all that He has made; but no one saw Him do it – not even Adam and Eve. However, Satan and all of his demons were eye witnesses to God’s awesome power.
The devils believe, and they “tremble” before God. The Greek word translated “tremble” is phrissō, and it means to “bristle”, to “chill”, or to “shudder.” In other words, in the presence of God, they get goose bumps, their hair stands on end, and they shiver in fear. Jesus illustrated this fact when He confronted a “Legion” of them who had taken possession of a man. “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29, emphasis mine). They know Him, and they know His power. They also know what awaits them in the end. However, no matter how intimately they “know” God, their knowledge does not alter their status. They are doomed to hell.
Reader, do you know God? Do you believe that He exists? Do you even toss a prayer up to Him now and then? Perhaps you even “say grace” before you eat: “God is good. God is great. Let us thank Him for this food. Amen.” Maybe you even visit church from time to time – especially on Christmas and Easter. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). If that is all you have, you are in the same company with the devils, and their destiny is your destiny. However, while their destiny is fixed, you have a way out. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine). “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, emphasis mine).
“Believing in Him” means more than simply “knowing” about Him. Knowing God will not help the devils, because, while they acknowledge God as God, they do not “submit” to Him as Lord. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:15, 21, emphasis mine). The context within which James exposes the “belief” of the devils, he discusses how “true faith” (belief) is expressed. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works … But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18, 20, emphasis mine). True faith is demonstrated in a tangible ways, not for show nor under duress, nor as a sense of obligation, but out of a sincere love for the Savior, Jesus. Remember, the devils believe, but they are still bound for hell.