The following is a quote taken from Now, That’s a Good Question! – What Is Faith? by R.C Sproul
“According to James, even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon. The demons recognize Jesus, and the devil himself knows the truth of Christ, but he doesn’t have saving faith.”
If you have spent any amount of time discussing the gospel and how to best deliver it, then perhaps you may have heard something along the lines of, “faith is not a mental assent.” I disagree with this statement. Faith is simply agreeing that certain propositions are true. Assenting is agreeing. This mental agreement will express itself in the person’s actions depending upon the nature of the propositions being believed. To illustrate: If a doctor told you that you had 24 hours to live, there are 2 ways you can handle the proposition. 1) You can believe it. In this case you will most likely make a list of what you want to do before you die, and try to accomplish these things within 24 hours. 2) You won’t believe it. In this case you will ignore the news. There is nothing mystical about this. There are not different degrees of belief. Either you do, or you don’t.
But, what Dr. Sproul has stated above is what I have heard from many people: It is that faith is not enough, and that it is not simply a mental assent, therefore the gospel requires obedience. They will also quote the book of James, as Sproul has done, and tie simple faith into an easy believism demonic faith. James is saying that works are not separate from faith. Your belief will show itself in your actions, just like the example of the doctor given above.
Let’s look at the Scripture Sproul is quoting:
“You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” James 2:19
He makes two errors here:
1) Where in this Scripture does it say, “You believe in the gospel. You do well….”?
That is not the point James is stating. It is “You believe that God is one.” We are being told that the object of our faith is important, that is, the proposition in which we place our faith. To simply be monotheistic will not save, but rather the gospel. So, for Sproul to say, “even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon” is to insert something into the text that is completely not there.
2) It is always a little humorous to me when James 2:19 is used this way, because the assertion (whether they know it or not) is that demons can be saved. Did Christ come in the flesh of a demon, die as a demon, and resurrect as a demon? Of course not. He died on behalf of the sins of men. Salvation is not something that is open to demons/angels.
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