"Someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.' You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:18-20).
Even demonic faith is better than dead faith!
In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of professing Christians who believe that there's no necessary relationship between what they believe and what they do. They say you can't judge a person's spiritual condition by what he or she does because salvation is a matter of faith alone—as if requiring works violates the principle of faith.
It was that kind of reasoning that prompted James to issue this challenge: "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). The Greek word translated "show" means "to exhibit," "demonstrate," or "put on display." His point is simple: it's impossible to verify true faith apart from holy living because doctrine and deed are inseparable.
Can you know if someone is a Christian by watching his behavior? According to James, that's the only way to know! In verse 19 he says, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." In other words, affirming orthodox doctrine isn't necessarily proof of saving faith. Demons believe in the oneness of God, and its implications fill them with fear, but they aren't saved. The phrase "you do well" is intentionally sarcastic. The implication is that demonic faith is better than non-responsive faith because at least the demons shudder, which is better than no response at all.
You can't be a Christian in creed only—you must be one in conduct as well! James makes that very clear. Don't be confused or deceived by those who teach otherwise. Continually aim your life at bringing glory to God through obedient application of biblical truth.
Suggestions for Prayer
Reaffirm to the Lord your commitment to abide by His Word.
For Further Study
Read John 8:12-47. Make a list of doctrines and deeds that characterize dead faith and a corresponding list of those that characterize true faith.
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.