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James 2:19

ESV You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder!
NIV You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
NASB You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
CSB You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.
NLT You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
KJV Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
NKJV You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

What does James 2:19 mean?

James continues making his point that genuine saving faith in Christ results in doing good works. This includes loving other believers, and obeying our Father. It is not enough to simply agree to certain facts about God. It is not enough to claim to be a believer. Saving, living faith is a trust in God which naturally results in certain actions. It means living out the truth with our everyday choices.

This verse is perhaps the strongest statement in Scripture on the difference between "knowing about" God and "trusting in" God. This is key to the concept of saving faith. The question James asks in verse 14 goes hand-in-hand with his statement here. Knowledge is not the same as trust, or obedience, or saving faith. After all, James argues, even demons believe that "God is one"—and they shudder in fear of Him. It's not enough to agree that the thing is true. Real faith in God personally responds to that truth with trust and obedience.

The statement that "God is one" may have been a reference to one of the central ideas of Judaism. Known as the Shema, it is found in Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." Every one of James's Jewish readers would have grown up agreeing with that truth.

James's point is that it is not enough to just agree. That puts those who talk about God, but fail to act in ways consistent with that belief, in the same category as demons. It means knowing, but not trusting. It means "dead faith," rather than "saving faith." The danger of this condition is that a self-assured "religious" person can spend their entire lives in simple agreement without ever crossing over into true and living faith.
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