But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20)
So often, many Christians and non-Christians alike want to defend their bad behavior with the argument that we cannot see the true condition of a person’s heart.
However the Bible doesn’t agree with this philosophy. The Bible specifically tells us if anyone is in Christ Jesus, they are a new creation. The old has passed away and replaced by the new.
Moreover the Bible tells us that because of our salvation and the process of sanctification God produces the fruits of true faith within us. This includes love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of which naturally produce works pleasing to God. In addition, they cannot exist within us without any outward evidence of the change that has taken place in our hearts as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification. James then goes on to mention the Jewish Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This is the declaration that God is one and we are to love the Lord and place His commandments in our hearts. Commandments, which Jesus says are written on our hearts as a result of our salvation.
And by mentioning the Shema James is bringing the discussion full circle with the knowledge that with our salvation God writes His commandments on our hearts, thereby giving us the Royal Law of Love and the Law of Liberty.
In addition James brings up a very important point for us to consider. Which is: even the demons believe the word of God and tremble. They shudder because they know that God’s word is true and therefore they know the final fate which awaits them.
James by using the hypothetical argument shows that the claim of good works without faith is empty and pointless. The Greek word James uses for “foolish” is the word “kenos” which means empty, vain and defective.
Therefore James is implying that such a situation of works without faith is defective and nothing more than a false pretense, meant to make a show among men and bring about a temporary feeling of good will within. And that a dead faith is incapable of salvation, and brings only damnation in the end to those who practice it.