“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder! ~ James 2:19
Explanation of the Text: It is not simply a belief that God exists that saves a person. James sarcastically responds saying that if a person believes in the one God, they do well. The verse is a reference to the Jewish Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, in which the Jewish believers to whom Jesus is writing to would have a clear understanding of. It calls belief to the only one God in verse 4 and then calls for obedience to God in verse 5. The same point James has been trying to make throughout the epistle. He takes it further though and compares that type of ‘faith’ to that of the demons, drawing the connection that without the obedience of Deuteronomy 6:5, the point of 6:4 is not worthwhile and is actually the same type of belief that the demons possess.
Indeed, even the demons believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, yet it can be certain that they will not find themselves spending eternity in heaven. These demons have belief in God, in His son, and an understanding of eschatology, and yet they still willingly choose to oppose God (Mathew 8:29-31; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:41; Acts 19:15). In fact, they even have enough sense to shudder!
φρίσσω (phríssō) which is the word found in the Greek text, literally means to tremble in fear. Even the demons have a fear of God, so much so, it causes them to shake or tremble. Obviously this fear is different than the that commanded in Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalm 2:11) which refers to having a reverence for God. However, to have the fear that the demons have still requires an acceptance and understanding that He is indeed God, who will judge the world and carry out His will, and thus they will receive God’s judgment. John MacArthur rightly brings this point into perspective when he says, “In that regard, they are much more realistic and sensible than those with false faith who think they will escape God’s judgment by their shallow and superficial faith.”
Examination & Application of the Text: Examine your faith today. Do you have a fear of the Lord? Is it a fear like the demons do, or is it a reverent fear that is found in Proverbs and Psalms. As one who follows Jesus Christ, it is not simply a belief that He exists that saves you, bur a healthy, reverent fear that says, “I worship you Lord. You are my God.” As you seek Him more today, trust in Him, examine yourself and ask, “Do I reverently fear the Lord?”
 John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 131.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), Entry #5425
 John F. MacArthur Jr., James, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), 132.