“Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19, AV)
The great American hero, GI Joe’s famous statement is, “Knowing is half the battle.” This statement came as a public service announcement that ended each one of the 1980 GI Joe cartoons. There would be a warning given to the children viewing about some kind of dangerous actions that they might take unintentionally and then the statement was “Know you know. And knowing is half the battle.” This is exactly the point. Knowing is only half the battle.
Here James is speaking of the issue of intellectual assent. He stated that just as the Jews believed that God is one, the demons also believed the same thing. Yet, this knowledge was doing the demons no good. Why? It is because the demons are still demons serving Satan in his evil work. In some ways, the demons actually know better than we do. They exist in an unseen realm that we can only read about in the Bible. They understand the truth about God, the coming judgment, and their destiny. How do we know this? It is because they believe there is one God and they tremble. The word tremble is perhaps too weak a word. The demons must be terrified.
You see, one can know about Jesus without having true faith in Jesus. One can know all the facts of the gospel, but unless they experience true saving faith, they are lost. I witnessed to a girl one time, going through the entire gospel, speaking about sin and judgment, and the death of Christ to pay the penalty of sin. I also explained that a person was saved by grace through faith alone. When I asked her if she wanted to receive Christ for her salvation, she stated, “I have always known all of that.” This is exactly the problem. She had already known all of that. However, knowing is only half the battle. Saving faith is the other half.
So, what is true saving faith? This is the point that James has been dealing with here. For one to have faith in Jesus there are three essential aspects. One is knowledge; we must know the facts. Second is assent; we must agree to the validity of that knowledge. The third aspect is essential, it is the will of man; one must act in accordance with what he or she or she believes. This involves a change in the will of man and it is characterized by repentance, which is a change in mind towards God and our actions in response to God. Without this transformation of the will of man, which is a work of regeneration that is simultaneous with true saving faith, there is no salvation. Knowing is only half the battle.