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DEVILS' BELIEF VERSUS PERFECT FAITH

"The devils also believe and tremble." - James 2:19

I HAVE tried to write for many hours, weeks and months in vain. I have become so exhausted and nervous in the many attempts, that I am thoroughly convinced that I am just as dependent upon the direct operation of God's Holy Spirit to write as I am to preach the gospel of the blessed Son of God. I am making the attempt again with fear and trembling, trusting that God will be pleased to lead my mind into a fruitful field of thought, and give me the words to comfort, console and edify God's little children.

I am now reminded of a request made by P. L. Kenly of Roanoke, Virginia, to write upon James 2:19 especially the last part, to wit: "The devils also believe and tremble."

James did not say that the devils had faith. No place in the Scriptures do we find any statement that would intimate that the devils trusted in God or were in possession of faith. We are forced to admit that the devils gave assent to the fact that there is but one God, even to the acknowledging of Jesus - the Holy One of God - as we shall find when we consider certain Scriptures. We would like to compare and contrast belief and faith to further clarify that expression of Scripture.

Belief is the mental assent to a statement, proposition, or existing condition of things. Belief is simply an act of the understanding, but trust and faith are active moving principles of the mind. Belief does not extend beyond the assent of the mind, but trust and faith compel to action. Belief is speculative while faith and trust are operative. Belief is common to all religions, trust and faith are peculiar to those who believe in divine revelation and salvation by the grace of God. Theorists substitute belief for faith. I trust that the reader will be blessed to keep this in mind as we farther meditate upon this expression of Scripture.

Yes, the devils believe there is one God. They do not choose to believe this just because it is pleasing to them, but because that God exercises power over them. No man or devil can believe anything without evidence. God sets the bounds of the devil's maneuvers and they can go no farther. This is proved in the case of Job when the devil had to secure permission from God each time he chose to hurt Job. Each time the devil was told how far he could go and where he must stop. The devil was forced to believe that he was absolutely controlled by Almighty God. It could not be said of the devil that some people proclaim that he believes in God because their devil has free-will sailing and is so powerful that even though God is trying to save everybody, the devil will be victorious in getting the largest number. A devil with that kind of power could not believe in God. Remember that James says, "The devils also believe and tremble."

I want to call your attention to the eighth chapter of the gospel according to Matthew 29, "And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" The devils were forced to recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They cried out unto Him fully aware of His power over them. Let us consider their question, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God." They had nothing indeed to do with Him. They had no interest in his grace, blood or righteousness. He was no Savior and Redeemer for them. But contrary to this they realized that He had to do with them. They trembled at His presence and knew they would have to obey His all commanding voice, though terribly against their wills. They knew He had power to cast them out, "so the devils besought Him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine." Jesus bade them go and they went into the herd of swine. Even Jesus exercised power over the devils to the extent that His word returned not unto Him void, but accomplished that which He pleased, and it prospered in the thing whereunto He sent it. It was astonishing to the observers to see a character who exercised such power and authority that He could command the unclean spirits to come out of men and they would come out.

Let us now notice Acts 19:15, "and the evil spirit an­swered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" Paul had been disputing daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years. During this long time both Jews and Greeks were privileged to hear the word of the Lord. God wrought special miracles by the hand of Paul in healing diseases and casting out evil spirits. This became so well known that even exorcists attempted to imitate. Some vagabond Jews, who were exorcists, attempted to imitate Paul and Jesus in casting out evil spirits. They would say to the evil spirits, "We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." These evil spirits recognized this false claim of power as evidenced in their statement and question. "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?" They knew that Jesus had the power to cast them out because He had done so in many instances. It was an intimate knowledge because they had heard His command and had been forced to obey Him. They had come in direct contact with Him in the demonstration of His power over them. They had also come in direct contact with Paul and He had commanded them to depart from individuals and they were forced to obey His command. They knew Paul to be a servant of the Lord because He was given power over them. The question, "Who are Ye?" suggests that they did not believe that these vagabond Jews were given this power over them. The evil spirits proved that their surmise was true when they that were possessed of the evil spirits pounced upon these Jews, overcame them, and were victorious over them so that these exorcists had to flee wounded and naked.

I am of the opinion that those who are possessed of these evil spirits today may and do fight among themselves, but they are made to tremble when they come into contact with the true servants of the all powerful God. The devil is as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is made to know that some he cannot devour. Those who resist the devil are empowered to do so by Almighty God, and the consequence is that the devils flee from them (James 4:7). It is indeed comforting and consoling to me to think that the devils are subject to the power of God and can do no more than what my Father pleases. They must bow to Him and tremble.

May we now consider the subject under discussion by James when he made this statement, "The devils also believe and tremble." He was treating upon the subject of the perfect faith. He was exposing the folly of those who boast of faith without works. He was insisting that true faith was made perfect by works. He makes the statement in James 2:17, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." Not only are works without faith dead works, but it is just as true also, that faith without works is a dead faith. The faith that is a gift of God is a living faith it is not that works are the life of faith, but that good works are the second act necessarily flowing from the life of faith. It is not that we exercise faith by our works, but that faith exercises us into the performing of good works. It is a vain boaster who boasts of his faith in God and by his works denies him. The faith that God gives is not dead, but produces good works. Faith is to works as cause is to effect.

James uses two characters to prove that works accom­pany faith. He cited the works of Abraham and of Rahab, the harlot; and asks if they were not justified by works. As you recall, Paul used these same two characters in his treatise on faith in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. He is contending that faith prompted them to do these things. Paul says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This substance and evidence comes only from God as a gift to His children.

There are no contradictions in the writings of James and Paul concerning the subject of faith and works. We would like to examine Eph. 2:8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

Salvation, both for time and in eternity, is the gift of God. Through His mercy, goodness and gifts we are saved here in time. This is proved by the tense of the verb used in the expression, "By grace are ye saved." We are saved through faith, and not of ourselves. This faith is not to be obtained through our merits. It is not as a result of any good works of ours, but it is the gift of God. It is not an offer or proposition conditional upon any acts of man, but it is the gift of God. "Not of works lest any man should boast." Boasting is excluded. No man can rightly glory in himself nor boast of his goodness. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." God is the workman, we are His workmanship; God is the creator, we are the creatures. "Unto good works - not by good works. It is not that good works beget faith, but faith begets good works." It is by the grace of God that we are enabled to walk godly in the present world. "Which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." God said through one of His prophets, "As I have thought, so shall it come to pass; as I have purposed, so shall it stand." If this be true, surely, if He ordains something it will be just that way. We find the word "ordained" as being rendered "prepared" when we consult the marginal reference. I believe God prepares His people to walk in good works by working in them. He works in them "both to will and to do of his good pleasure." The good works are just as certain as is the faith, and is as much the gift of God as is the faith. "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Your walk and conversation will be godly in this world. We conclude that James and Paul contended that faith and good works were characteristic of God's little children.

A child of God need not boast of his faith and love for these are made manifest in his deeds. He feels little, insignificant and unworthy, and much of the time wonders whether or not he be in possession of this faith and love. If you watch his walk and listen to his conversation, you will find him doing good deeds for his fellowman, and preferring others above himself. There is a change wrought upon one in which it has pleased God to implant this faith and love. It affects his actions and stimulates his conversation. His desires are to obey the commands of Jesus Christ, do the will of God and to praise Him from whence all blessings come. Because of the infirmities of the flesh - the thorns that buffet him about lest he be exalted above measure - he is not able to do the things that he would. This forces him to be constantly in prayer to Almighty God to be merciful unto his unrighteousness and to forgive him of his sins. This character boasts not of his faith nor of his works. Paul exposed the vanity of those who boasted of their works. James called those who boasted of their faith, "vain men." We see then that boasting either of faith or works would be erroneous, and does not characterize God's little children.

May God grant us this living faith and enable us by His grace to walk worthy in good works. May He bless us to give Him the praise for it all. May we look forward and press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus when we shall be called from this low ground of sin and sorrow up into that heavenly realm where and when we shall perfectly praise Him in that endless eternity. May He add His blessings to this writing as edifying to the household of faith. Amen.

Elder E. J. Lambert
May, 1950
"Tried in the Furnace" Pgs 127 - 133