"You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!"
There are two verses referenced by this one verse. The first is the Shema Israel in Deuteronomy 6, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart." And the second is Philippians 2:10-11 "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
It think that at least in part James is addressing a divisionist view of the Trinity. "You show me your works and I'll show you my faith" is sort of like saying "I have the Father (faith in what is unseen) and you have the Son (the works of God through Christ)." And he is quick to put the lie to that sort of talk. God IS ONE. Any Jew of the first century knew his meaning immediately. And isn't there more than just a touch of sarcasm in his next phrase, "even the demons believe and tremble." It is like telling his audience just how stupid their assertion is that God can be divided. "You're all Jews. You believe that 'God is One' (and recite it daily, by the way). That's pretty smart. But then you talk about faith apart from works? Dur. Even a demon in hell knows you can't take God apart that way. At least THEY aren't trying to be philosopical about it."
The statement in James 2:18 really does sound like William F. Buckley might have said it with his best mummy-and-daddy-sent-me-to-Yale accent. "There is faith, and you can have your faith in the Father. And there are works, and I'll have my faith in the Son. You see? There are many ways to God." James just blasts that kind of intellectualism right out of the water.
We need to apprehend the whole of the Trinity in our faith. We need to know the God who is unseen and yet made visible in the works of Creation, who is untouched and yet known in the lives of his people, who is unfelt and yet experienced daily as his Spirit moves people from the heart.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.