THE DEVILS BELIEVE AND TREMBLE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
New Year's Eve, December 31, 2003


"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).


This is a good text for those who think they are saved because they believe what the Bible says, or think they are saved by believing what Jesus can do, or who He is. The demons believe what the Bible says about God. By this the Apostle James means the Christian God. The Apostle himself was a Christian, and he was speaking to people who professed to be Christians. So, when he says, "Thou believest…one God," he is speaking of the Holy Trinity of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Gill points out that this does not merely mean that a man is against polytheism. And it does not mean that he merely believes in the God of Israel. It means, says, Dr. Gill, that he believes in "God the Father…so to Christ, as God…and to the Holy Spirit" (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 3, p. 507).

The persons the Apostle James spoke to believed in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but this belief was not enough to save them from sin and Hell. It was no better than the faith and belief of devils (i.e. demons).

Then James tells us

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well…"
     (James 2:19).

It is right and good that you should believe in the existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - the great triune God. But that is not enough to save you, for James continues by saying, "the devils also believe, and tremble." No demon is saved, because they cannot be saved. They have already been given up by God. Their sentence has already been passed. They await the day of their eternal consignment to the fire of Hell,

"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).

The person who believes in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit "does well." It is good to believe those things about God - but it is not enough to save you. Why? Because it is only belief in facts, doctrines, and Bible verses.

A person may say, "I believe that Jesus died to save me." Well and good. But believing that fact, though it is good, will not save you. It is merely mental belief in some Scripture teachings. No one was ever saved by believing Scripture texts. It is only doctrinal belief - belief in the Bible. It is not saving faith in Christ, Himself.

Now let us go through the text point by point and show you where you have gone wrong. Then I will show you what you must do to go beyond mental belief in Bible verses and Bible doctrine - to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

I. First, you believe in one God.

It is good that you believe in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "Thou doest well." It is a good thing to believe in the Holy Trinity of God. But it is not enough to save your soul.

Millions of people believe what the Bible says about God. Only a small percentage of people are atheists.

"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1).

Only a very small number of people are foolish enough to be outright atheists. The vast majority of people have at least a hazy belief in a Supreme Being.

And most people believe what the Bible says about Jesus Christ. A recent poll indicates that 74% of the American people claim to be evangelical Christians. Virtually all of these millions of people believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for their sins. About 225 million Americans believe the basic facts of the gospel. And virtually all of them think they are saved because they believe those facts.

But something is missing. Pollster George Barna discovered that 84% of these people are "ignorant of the faith" (George Barna, "Born Again Christians Ignorant of Faith," Baptist Bible Tribune, April 15, 1996, p. 28). According to Barna, the belief in Christ that these people have does not "translate into a personal faith consistent with Biblical teaching" (ibid.).

It is good that they believe in God. It is good that they believe in Jesus. "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well…" (James 2:19). But something is drastically wrong. Something is missing! They believe in the basic facts of the Bible. They will tell you they believe that Jesus died to pay for their sins. They believe that He can save them. Most of them will tell you that He has saved them. After all, they have trusted Him "to" save them. Take a careful look at that phrase, "I trusted Him to save me." What does it mean? The word "to" there is very important. It means that the person believes that Christ can save him, and he trusts Christ to do it. This is a deadly error. It is the error of "doctrinal belief." Trusting Christ to save me means that I trust something that the Bible says about Christ (i.e. that He can save me) rather than trusting Christ Himself. C. H. Spurgeon said, "The mere knowledge of these facts will not, however, save us…" (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Warrant of Faith," Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1979, volume 9, p. 530). The moment we learn that someone has trusted Christ "to save me" we know that he is still lost - for he has not trusted Christ Himself. He has only trusted something Christ can do. He has believed in something Christ can do, rather than believing in Christ, Himself. This is the deadly error of "doctrinal belief."

Please turn to John 3:16. Let us stand together and read this verse aloud,

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

You may be seated.

You say, "I know that verse." But think again. The verse does not say to believe "that He can save you." It does not say to believe Him "to save you." No! No! It says, "whosoever believeth in him ." What could be clearer? What could be plainer? And yet that is the last thing that a human being will do.

Please turn to Isaiah 53:3. Let us stand together and read this verse aloud.

"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3).

You may be seated.

"We hid as it were our faces from him." "He is despised and rejected of men." You believe things about Him. You trust Him to do something for you. But Jesus said,

"Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40).

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well…"
     (James 2:19).

But this is not enough to save you. Jesus said,

"Ye will not come to me" (John 5:40).

II. Second, the demons also believe and tremble.

Let's go back to James 2:19. Please stand and read it aloud.

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

You may be seated.

The word "devils" in the KJV means "demons." The Bible teaches that there is only one Devil, but there are many demons.

Now turn to Mark 1:23-26.

"And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace [be quiet], and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him" (Mark 1:23-26).

Look again at the end of verse twenty-four. One of the demons said,

"I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24).

This shows that demons know who Jesus is and believe in Him, the same way you do. The demons believe that He is "the Holy One of God" - and so do you. The demons are not saved, and neither are you - if your faith goes no farther than this.

Now turn to Matthew 8:28-29.

"And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8:28-29).

These demons knew that Jesus is the Son of God. They also knew about the Last Judgment and Hell. The demons believed in Hell and the Last Judgment. The demons believed that Jesus is the Son of God - and so do you. The demons are not saved, and neither are you - if your faith goes no farther than theirs.

Now turn to Acts 16:16-18. Let us stand and read these three verses aloud.

"And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel [young girl] possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same [girl] followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit [in the girl], I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he [the demon] came out the same hour" (Acts 16:16-18).

The demon spoke through the mouth of this girl. The demon said loudly, "These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days" (Acts 16:17-18). This shows that the demon believed that Paul and Silas were the servants of God. It also shows that the demon believed the preaching of salvation done by Paul and Silas, "which shew unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17).

Like that demon, you can believe that the preacher is a servant of God. You can also believe what the pastor preaches is "the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). You can believe the preaching, and you can believe the men who preach the gospel - and still be lost - just as the demon was, for no demon is ever saved. They have been given up by God, and are incapable of being saved.

Furthermore, we should think about what the demons said to the seven sons of Sceva. These men were non-Christian Jewish exorcists. They commanded the demons "by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." But the demons did not obey the sons of Sceva. Please turn to Acts 19:15 and sixteen. Instead the demon said these words. Read these two verses out loud.

"And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15).

"And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (Acts 19:16).

These verses clearly show that the demon knew who Jesus was. So, you can know who Jesus is and not be any more saved than that demon. Knowing about Jesus will not save you any more than it saved the demon.

Our text says,

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

The demons in the New Testament had a great deal of knowledge about Christ and salvation, but they were not saved. They knew He was Jesus of Nazareth. They knew He had the power to cast them into Hell. They knew He was the Holy One of God. They believed who He was and what He could do. Furthermore, the demons knew that He was the Son of God, and said so. They knew He had the power to cast them into Hell. They also knew that the apostolic preachers were the servants of the most high God. And they knew that Paul was preaching the truth of the gospel. The demons also said, "Jesus I know." In some sense they actually knew Him.

Now, I ask you, were these demons saved? Tell me, yes or no. Say it. No? Of course you are right. Jesus said that the everlasting fire of Hell was "prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).

You can have all the knowledge the demons had about Christ and the gospel and still be lost - just as they were. So, when we read our text again, think it over carefully.

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well [as well as a demon does]: the devils also believe, and tremble"
     (James 2:19).

III. Third, there is something missing in your belief -
that makes your faith no better than that of a demon.

In fact, your belief is actually worse than that of a demon - in one way. Our text tells us that "the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19b). We see from the accounts we read in Scripture, that the demons often trembled when they were confronted with Jesus Christ.

The demons "trembled." Dr. Albert Barnes points out that the Greek word translated "trembled" means "…with bristling hair; to bristle, to stand on end, as the hair does in a fright; and then to shudder and quake with fear. Here the meaning is, that there was much more in the case referred to than mere speculative faith [faith in mere doctrines about who Christ is and what He can do]. There was faith [in these demons] that produced some effect, and an effect of a very [strong nature]" (Dr. Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, Hebrews to Jude, Baker Book House, 1983 reprint, p. 46).

The trembling of demons when confronted with Christ actually shows that they had more faith than you do, my lost friend. Their trembling shows that they had more understanding of the awfulness of sin and damnation than you do. Dr. Gill says that the demons tremble.

At the wrath of God, which they now feel, and at the thought of future torments [in Hell], which they expect… and which is more than some men do (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New  Testament,  The  Baptist  Standard  Bearer,  1989  reprint,  p. 307).

That is the very thing that is missing in your faith. You have a cold, mechanical belief in who Christ is, and what He can do. You simply believe "that He can save me" or "trust Him to do it." But there is no union with Christ. And there is no emotion in your faith. There is no fear of Hell, or terror of eternal punishment for your sins. You do not tremble with fear when you think of these aweful truths of Scripture. You are not troubled by your many sins enough to make your hair bristle or your heart pound faster with fear and dread.

So, I say that your beliefs are inferior, not as good, as those of the demons! How do you ever expect to experience real conversion if you have faith that produces no fear? How do you ever expect to be saved without at least some inner confusion and turmoil - at least as much as a demon has when he comes face to face with the Son of God?

The Philippian jailer came to the Apostle Paul "trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:29) in the throes of conviction of his sins. How do you expect to ever have a real conversion to Christ unless you first feel some of the terror and fear of judgment that this man felt? I would go so far as to say that if you feel no fear and trembling over your sin and the coming judgment, that you will probably never experience a real conversion to Christ.

In the great revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many thousands of people trembled, and were in such great fear of their souls being damned to Hell for their sin, that they sometimes screamed out loud, and some fell writhing and groaning on the floor.

When I was preaching a very strong sermon on this subject at Dr. John Waldrip's church a few months ago, a young man stood bold upright, during my preaching, and screamed, "I am lost!" I believe that sort of outburst during sermons should be as common today as they were in the great revivals of the past. He felt lost in sin. The feeling of his conviction of sin so overwhelmed him that he could not control himself. He stood up and shouted, while I was preaching, "I am lost!" Needless to say he came to Christ and was saved a few minutes later in Pastor Waldrip's office.

How about you? Hell is terrible, beyond any words of description I could give you. Your sins are horrible, and nothing you do to get rid of them will help. You are trapped in your sins, with no way out. This should make the blood drain from your face, and bring terror to your heart. Only then will you see the need to flee to Jesus Christ for refuge and salvation through His Blood. Only then will you see the truth of that old song,

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the Blood of Jesus!
    ("Nothing But the Blood" by Robert Lowry, 1826-1899).

Think deeply about your many sins. Think deeply about the Last Judgment, when God will read out your sins one by one from His books, His records of your sins. Think deeply about the horrors of Hell - where you are going because of your sins. Think deeply about your cold, emotionless dead heart. Think deeply about the fact that you have no hope! No hope! No hope! Pray for God to fill you with fear and trembling. Pray for God to rattle your mind and stir your emotions until you are frightened, scared, and confused when you go to bed tonight, for fear that you will die - and sink down into the fire that never shall be quenched, where "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Luke 13:28).

Unless the terror of Hell and the anger of God trouble you tonight - and unless these horrid thoughts go with you through the next several days, you will never be converted. You will go on until God leaves you alone - and you are doomed forever in the pit of flames.

See, oh sinner, that the "faith" you have now is not good enough to save you. It is not even as good as that of the demons! For

"the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 16:19-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Have You Counted the Cost?" (by A. J. Hodge, 1923).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE DEVILS BELIEVE AND TREMBLE!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19).

(Matthew 25:41)

I.   You believe in one God, Psalm 14:1; James 2:19a; John 3:16;
Isaiah 53:3; John 5:40.

II.  The demons also believe and tremble, James 2:19b;
Mark 1:23-26; Matthew 8:28-29; Acts 16:16-18; 19:15-16;
Matthew 25:41.

III. There is something missing in your belief - that makes your
faith no better than that of a demon, James 2:19b;
Acts 16:29; Luke 13:28.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."