James 2:19

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19

The word “you” is singular and it is in the emphatic position, and so James – writing to a Jewish audience – implies that the individual is self-deceived if he claims to have faith and yet has no works. The structure of the first part of this verse varies a bit between manuscripts –

You believe that One is the God.

You believe that the God One is.

Either way, God is the formal object, and it is speaking of the oneness of God, not so much the fact that there is one God – although that is to be understood. This then is in line with the proclamation of Moses which is recorded in Deuteronomy 6:4 –

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”

James uses this statement of faith in order to highlight the belief in the monotheistic God who is also Triune in nature – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In emphatically stating to each person in his audience that they believe God is One, he is preparing them for his next words to show how little that actually means all by itself, even though it is a good thing. As he says, “You do well.”

Jews believed this all along, ever since Moses proclaimed it to the people. James says that this is commendable. It demonstrates faith in the words of Moses concerning God’s nature. However, that is only good to a certain point. He shows this by saying, “Even the demons believe.”

The Oneness of God is understood by the demons, just as it is to those humans who accept the premise. Both accept the same truth. However, James continues. They believe “and tremble!”

The word James uses is found only here in Scripture, phrissó. It originally meant “to be rough on the surface,” and thus “to bristle.” From this one gets the sense of hair standing on its end from terror. It is more than to tremble, but to shudder. It carries the sense of horror at the knowledge. This is what James is referring to, and it is something that is intended to point to the Oneness of God, despite speaking of faith in Jesus. In other words, He is indicating that faith in Jesus is faith in God. This is confirmed by the accounts of demons being faced with the presence of Jesus as recorded in the gospels, such as –

“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?’” Matthew 8:28, 29

These demons had a knowledge of Jesus, including that He is fully God. As James says, “God is One.” But these are demons. James is saying to his audience that just because someone knows God is One, it doesn’t mean that their knowledge is backed up by anything of further value. If the demons believed this and backed it up with action, they would not be demons set for destruction, but angels who would forever stand before God praising Him. James’ point is, “Where do you stand? On belief alone, or belief plus acting on your belief.”

Life application: Most rational people will believe there is one God, regardless of how they exercise that faith, so James is saying that this is nothing special. In fact, even the demons believe this, but they shudder at that knowledge. Why? Because they believe in God from first-hand knowledge! Their belief is more than general faith, and that knowledge tells them they will receive their sentence in due time.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I believe in God,” and then you watch them live lives of ungodliness? This is irrational because someone who believes in God and lives that way hasn’t thought the whole thing through. However, the demons have. They know that judgment awaits, and yet they continue on their reckless path. This is what James is talking about.

Misdirected faith is wasted faith. If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon, etc., then you obviously believe in God. However, your faith is misdirected and it is therefore useless. God isn’t contradictory and His word is not to be manipulated. Rather, it is to be believed as written. You believe that God is One. Good! Don’t waste your faith in Him then. Exercise it appropriately unto salvation and proper action. Call on Jesus, who is God.

O God, we believe in You, and we believe that Your word is true. Give us wisdom in understanding it more each day. Grant us to know Your ways, faith that isn’t dead, and the desire to accomplish deeds that will be pleasing to You. May our lives be as examples to others of faithful Christians who honor You in all ways. Amen.

8 thoughts on “James 2:19

  • Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 at 9:13 am

    “Misdirected faith is ‘wasted faith’. How true! I have relatives who believe in “One God’. But their faith is backed up by the theology that they must ‘blow up and destroy’ non-believers as we are called, and this will give them an exalted place in heaven. Demons also believe. Big deal!

    These demons would have been in the presence of God in eternity past and so would have had intellectual “first hand” knowledge about God- that He exists, that Jesus is divine, etc. but as the LA says ‘they continue on their reckless path’. Yet I believe that they do better than some people who claim to be ‘good people’. If demons believe, then it means that in this entire universe you will not find one demon who is an atheist.

    Many people believe intellectually. It is an academic thing no emotion involved. Yet demons ‘tremble’. As the LA says today, ‘it is more that to tremble, but to shudder, carrying the sense of horror’. So if the demons believe all this, and are still lost, where does man stand with his academic belief.
    This is a very sobering verse for me today, because everybody in my country believes in God, yet few are saved.
    One question Pastor Charlie-
    The account in Matt. speaks of 2 demon possessed men, yet the one in Luke 8 records one man who was possessed with demons. What’s with this apparent inconsistency?
    Thank you.

    • Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 at 5:11 pm


      It is a good question. This is similar to Matthew 20:30 where there were two blind men, whereas Luke says there was one. Likewise, at the tomb Matthew mentions one (Angel of the Lord), whereas Luke mentions two. The same is true with the donkey or donkeys on Palm Sunday.

      These and other instances don’t contradict. Where there are two, there is always one. No account says “only one,” nor is the notion excluded. Rather, the focus of the writer on one or another is usually explained by the words used. In the demon-possessed, Luke focuses on “a certain man from the city.” It is apparent that he was distinguished at one time, possibly weathy and known. Luke, as a doctor, focuses on him. At the tomb, Matthew focuses on one in authority and who bears the designation; Luke does not make the distinction. Just remember, when two there is always one. We just need to think on why the focus is on one or the other.

  • Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 at 11:28 am

    BLESS GOD PRAISE JESUS! Two different events Ruth , one came from the city in luke and two from the tombs in Matthew . Anyway think that’s right. Two different witnesses about two similar timed similar yet different events. Good question Ruth .

    • Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      I do believe they are the same account. I gave an explanation above. GBU!

  • Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    OMG you had me laughing out loud Ruth! What an awesome observation Demons are not Atheist that is or should be so obvious to us and yet how many times we read “even the demons believe”and we don’t put it together with atheist! So we can say demons are smarter than Atheist? Lol That is definitely going into my whitnesing tool box!!

    That totally made my day. Thanks Ruth

    We ARE another day closer to home
    Grace mercy and peace on you and yours
    God bless my friends we fly soon

  • Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    God bless you all! Have a super evening.


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