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Luke 4:40-41 ESV
Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
After Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law, everyone and their little brother came to Jesus for healing. He laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. They all trusted in His healing power, and had no problem receiving their healing. They did not ask God if it was His will to heal; they assumed it on the basis of the Scriptures and the testimony of Jesus’s healing ministry.
Even the demons recognized Jesus, and cried out, You are the Son of God! Jesus rebuked them and commanded them not to speak. Why? Because they knew that he was the Christ.
Isn’t it odd that the Nazarene synagogue failed to recognize their Savior, but demons hailed Him as the Messiah?
He told them to shut up. After all, despite the fact that He wanted the people to recognize Him as Lord and Savior, demons were simply bad PR. In fact, this surely contributed to later rumors that He cast out demons by the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24, Luke 11:15) and that He was possessed (Mark 3:22, John 10:20).
These demons believed that Jesus was the Christ, but they did not believe in Jesus. They were forced to submit to His power and authority, but they were anything but submissive servants of God. If they had recognized Him as Lord, they would not have been possessing and oppressing human beings. These demons were rebel angels, who had revolted with Lucifer and were cast out of heaven.
The Lord’s brother, James, put it this way: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder (James 2:19, ESV)! In other words, belief is not enough. Biblical faith also requires trust, which affects what we do.
Although we are saved by faith apart from works, if we truly have faith in Jesus we will act accordingly. Where there is the fire of faith, there is the smoke of obedience. Faith is directly linked to love and Lordship. If we trust Jesus, we will also love Him and serve Him as Lord by obeying His commandments. This is the greater context of James 2:19. The entire passage says:
James 2:14-26 ESV
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
When salvation by grace through faith is preached apart from obedience to the Lord, a different, false gospel is being preached. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9, ESV).
As long as we are following the gospel of “easy-believe-ism” we are still every bit as damned as the demons, who believe that Jesus is Lord, but don’t believe in Jesus as Lord. This is confirmed in the teachings of Jesus, who said, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you (Luke 6:46, ESV)?, and If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15, ESV).
We cannot pick and choose which commandments to obey either. The Apostle Paul wrote, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV). All 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are no more, and no less, God-breathed than the quoted teachings of Jesus.
If the Apostle Peter wrote, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV). This is just as much the Lord’s command as the Sermon on the Mount. Holiness has nothing to do with tattoos, piercings, hair length, facial hair, or dressing like a the cast of Little House on the Prairie, but it does mean we need to be morally upright. Our standard is from God. It is based and rooted in His nature and it sets us apart from the world. In fact, it is often in conflict with the standards of the world.
Jesus once said to the Pharisees, …You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15, ESV). God’s Word tells us explicitly which behaviors are sinful and offensive to God. These are often behaviors that the world promotes.
Paul warned, Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV).
Are you shacking up with your girlfriend or boyfriend? Don’t expect to inherit the kingdom.
Are you an idolater; in other words, do you put worldly things before God? Don’t expect to enter the pearly gates.
Are you an adulterer? Expect to be cast into the lake of fire.
Do you practice homosexuality? Don’t think that God will let you off the hook. Whoever tells you otherwise is deceived.
Are you a thief? You cannot get into the Lord’s sheep pen unless you go through the Door (see John 10:1-5).
Are you greedy? You cannot take anything with you when you die. You won’t have anything but torment in hell.
Are you a drunkard? If you want to drink with Jesus in the Father’s kingdom (Matthew 26:29) control yourself. If you cannot drink moderately, then do not drink at all.
Are you a reviler? Don’t feel stupid, I had to look it up too. A reviler is a quarrelsome, abusive person. See Proverbs 25:24; 26:21; 27:15. Don’t pick fights with everyone if you want your name in the Lamb’s book of life.
Are you a swindler? You cannot trick God into saving your soul.
If you want to enter the kingdom, you must repent of such things. Paul adds, And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11, ESV).
Some churches preach morality, but forget Jesus’s teachings about social justice and caring for the poor. In fact, many of the churches that have fuzzy doctrines on immorality preach the social gospel. The truth is we need both.
Don’t get all “Glenn Beck” on me and say that social justice is just a code-word for communism.
Here’s a tip for you: If you are a Christian, do not get your theology from a Mormon!
Are there some politicized Christians who preach left-wing politics more than the gospel? Absolutely! The answer is not to politicize your Christianity and preach right-wing politics more than the gospel. The answer is to be governed by God’s Word and not political factions.
There is a long tradition in Scripture of caring for the poor and speaking for those who have no voice. The Mosaic Law commanded, And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 23:22, ESV). Proverbs says, Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him (Proverbs 14:31, ESV).
The Scriptures also cry out for justice and equality. Open your mouth for the dumb [those unable to speak for themselves], for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless (Proverbs 31:8, AMP).
The prophets in particular called for justice in the land.
Amos 5:21-24 ESV
I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Jesus, the Prophet, was no different. Consider the parable of The Sheep and the Goats.
Matthew 25:31-46 ESV
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Those who ignore the cries of the poor and helpless will be no less damned than the homosexual.
We are saved by grace through faith, but faith is more than “easy-believe-ism.” The result of biblical faith is that we recognize Christ as Lord and obey His commandments. God is calling us to live holy and upright, and to take care of the needy. If we fail to obey the Lord, we are no better than the demons awaiting God’s judgment.
We can say, You are the Son of God!, all we want, but unless we submit to His Lordship, our “faith” is dead and useless to save.