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God’s Word for You

James 2:19 Shuddering demons

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, July 25, 2020

19 You believe that God is one. You do well! Even the demons believe that—and shudder!

In this verse James describes what faith is not. Faith is not just a knowledge of history about what God has done. That kind of knowledge, even a good knowledge of the text of his word, without any trust or application of that knowledge to the heart, is useless. That kind of ‘historical knowledge’ of God’s works is what the devil and the demons have, but it isn’t to their benefit.

We can see this especially in the two parts of repentance, the conversion of the wicked. Our Lord Jesus Christ proclaims the two parts openly and simply when he says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Being weary of our sins and burdened by them means having contrition, sorrow, anxiety, and having the terrors of sin and death. It means admitting, “We have sinned, we have been ungodly, we have done wrong.”  But then, to come to Christ as he invites is to believe that for his sake my sins are forgiven. When we believe, the Holy Spirit brings our hearts to new life through the words of Christ, and there we have contrition on the one hand and faith on the other. Contrition is sorrow over my sin, and faith is trust in Jesus. Our Confession explains: “For to believe in the Gospel is not to have the general faith that even the demons have (James 2:19), but, in the true sense, to believe that for Christ’s sake the forgiveness of sins has been granted to us; this is revealed in the Gospel” (Apology XII:45). We trust in the promise of Jesus: “I will give you rest,” which is something the devil and his demons will never have. It is their goal in their fury to deny this to everyone else, but we listen to Jesus’ promises and not the devil’s lies, and the promise is ours for Jesus’ sake, “for he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power of death.”

Look again at James’ words. He quotes the “Shema,” the Old Testament creed, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). It is called the “Shema” because that is the first word of the verse in Hebrew, “Hear!” If you examine the verse carefully, you may even notice that it reflects the doctrine of the trinity. There are three references to God (“The LORD… God…The LORD”) and the numeric sum total of God: “One.” Also, we can take the passage to declare the divinity of the Second Person of the trinity, for the second and central title or name given is “God.” If anyone were to object and claim that we can’t say for certain which name applies to which person of the trinity, that is perfectly fine. The other two titles or names are identical: “The LORD.” And this is the title given to Jesus throughout the New Testament (“The Lord Jesus Christ,” Philemon 1:3; “Christ Jesus our Lord,” 2 Timothy 1:2, etc.). In the Old Testament, these were often combined: “The LORD God of Israel” (Malachi 2:16), “the LORD their God” (Haggai 1:12); “The LORD, the God of heaven” (Jonah 1:9), and so on.

Yet, James warns, to believe the basic truth about God, the One God, the God of the Bible, is a good thing. But knowing that God is the One God and trusting in him for forgiveness are not the same thing. The demons know all about their Creator, and they are only frightened of him, shivering in their invisible lairs, quaking in their ancient boots, terrified of their inevitable doom which advances closer and closer every day and every hour. One demon screamed when he saw Jesus: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34). But the Christian who trusts in Jesus has a very different reaction, “Look! Here he comes, leaping across the mountains, bounding over the hills!” (Song of Solomon 1:8). The Christian is thrilled by the approach of Jesus. The demons shudder with horror.

If you are troubled, if you are afraid, think of Jesus’ words again: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” His words are loving words. There is nothing deceptive behind them. He is not inviting you to come close so that he can suddenly expose your sins for everyone to see. He is inviting you close to cover your sins, all of them, forever, so that no one will ever, ever see them. In Jesus, they are gone and paid for. Come to Jesus, rest in Jesus, and live for Jesus.

  O God, forsake me not!
  Take not your Spirit from me;
  Do not permit the might
  Of sin to overcome me
  Increase my feeble faith,
  Which you alone have wrought.
  Oh, be my strength and pow’r—
  O God, forsake me not.

  O God, forsake me not!
  Lord, I am yours forever.
  Oh, keep me strong in faith
  That I may leave you never.
  Grant me a blessed end
  When my good fight is fought;
  Help me in life and death—
  O God, forsake me not! (Christian Worship 424:2,4)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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