Demons—in spite of their relentless hostility to God—are essentially sound in key aspects of Christian theology. Scripture reveals a demonic horde well-versed in Christology, eschatology (Matthew 8:29), and ecclesiastical authority (Acts 19:15). James exclaims, “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19, NKJV).
When James points out that reality, he is warning his readers not to embrace the same kind of doomed demonic orthodoxy—faith that bears no righteous fruit. He makes that point explicit in the following verse, declaring that “faith without works is useless” (James 2:20).
This is a subject that concerns John MacArthur deeply—as it should all of us—because of the many false professions of faith he has witnessed first-hand during five decades of ministry.
That’s a very frightening thing, because you have to ask yourself the question, how many more people do I know like that, and how many more people are there who will ultimately demonstrate in this life the deadness of their faith? And beyond that, how many people are there who will never know their faith is dead until they face their Maker, only to find out in horror that that which they assume to be saving faith is nothing more than damning faith.
I’m not into the “hit and count heads” kind of evangelism. When you’re in the church for a long period of time, you don’t just have people parade through, make an indication of salvation, write them down on your list, and then leave town. You stick around long enough to find out whether the faith is real. And the way you know the faith is real is by what you see in their life.
John MacArthur’s sermon “Living Faith” focuses on James 2:21–26 to explain the biblical distinction between true saving faith and the dead faith described in James 2:19–20. He also takes great care to reconcile how saving faith is “not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:9, ESV) and yet never apart from works.
“Living Faith” may be a message that is more than thirty years old, but it speaks timelessly to the epidemic of easy-believism still rampant in churches today. Moreover, John’s sermon speaks personally to the authenticity of our own belief in Christ—that it might be examined and found to be true living faith.
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