Since demons believe in God, why aren't they saved? (Jas. 2:19)


James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder.

Scripture states: "Believe in the Lord Jesus" (Acts 16:31); "Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16); "He who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47 NKJV); "To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5). Therefore, some ask why demons can't be saved since they believe in God.

First, James 2:19, Acts 16:31, John 3:16, and Romans 4:5 all speak concerning humanity and not fallen angels or demons who are not human beings. Jesus became the second and last man Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47). He became incarnate, that is, human (Matt. 1:23), to save elect humanity (John 12:44). Hebrews 2:16 tells us, "For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants." So, there is no Redeemer for angels. Their fallen leader seeks "only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). Satan's plan was never to save anything. He cannot even save himself (Matt. 25:41).

Second, James refuses to accept a division between faith and works. True faith cannot exist apart from good works of the Spirit, and works acceptable in the sight of God cannot be performed without true faith. In Titus 2:14, Paul agrees saying, "[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Thus, we are not saved "by" good works, but we are saved "unto" them (Eph. 2:8-10). The Reformed formula as stated first by Martin Luther is, "We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone."

So, saving faith, which is by "faith alone," is a gift of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8; Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Jas. 1:16-18) that enables an individual to believe in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-5, et. al.). But because of this God-given faith, that person also has a new life, purpose, and desire to do the works of the who called him, Jesus, and he desires and is enabled to be like Jesus (John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29; Eph. 5:1).

Comparatively, "faith that is alone" lacks the work(s) of the Spirit of God. In the case of demons, though they believe (have a knowledge of God), they continue to operate in rebellion (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6; Rev. 12:4) and do not produce good works acceptable to God. Rather, their faith (which lacks assent to the truth and full belief) produces the fear of their present and future judgment (no wonder atheists spend so much time trying to deny the existence of God and suppressing his truth - Rom. 1:18f). We hear this from the legion of demons in the man of Gadara: "'What do you want with us, Son of God?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?'" (Matt. 8:29). Indeed, the demons knew Christ (God), but lived in fear.

Consider how a police officer is viewed differently by a thief as compared to an honest man. While they both have knowledge that the police officer exists, the thief lives in constant fear of detection and punishment, whereas the honest man is thankful for the officer and always looking forward to seeing him. Reader, do you live in constant fear of God's punishment, or do you have peace? (Heb. 10:26-31; Rom. 5:1-2).

I referred to the three elements of faith above; (1) knowledge, (2) assent, and (3) belief. Please see: You believe that there is one God - James 2:19.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).