By faith alone you can be saved. That is a statement you often hear and it is even Biblical (Romans 3:28). But what is this faith? Do we just have to believe that God exists? Or that Jesus died on a cross? And how do we actually know that we believe?
A lot of books are written on these questions. I just want to give a short, partial answer I found in a Bible verse this morning. I hope it challenges you to make a study of it yourself.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19)
The devils also believe
The devils (evil spirits or demons) know God very well. They have lived closer to God than any human ever has. They also know the Bible much better than most of us. Their ruler even tries to tempt Jesus with Bible texts (Luke 4:10) and later they cry out to Him, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24).” So the devils believe that God exists and that He is one. They even tremble before Him. Obviously, the faith of these devils is not the faith we need to be saved.
This morning I was thinking about the faith of the devils and asked God to clarify it to me. I got John 14:6 in mind. Jesus Christ says of Himself that He is the Way, and that no one can come to the Father except through Him.
The Treasure and the Way
Imagine a precious treasure. It is well hidden somewhere. You hear people talking about it. They are sure the treasure exists. One day you even get to see an old drawing of the treasure. But there is one big problem: no one is able to walk the road to the treasure. There is some kind of treasure map, but the obstacles you encounter along the way are too great. One day you meet someone who claims to come from the treasure and he is willing to take you there. He can’t just show you the way, since he alone can face the obstacles. Without him you will never get there and if you did, you would not be able to open the treasure. Only he has the key. He therefore rightly says that he not only knows the way, but that he is the way.
The Treasure is God and His Kingdom. In the Old Testament you find no man who was able to approach Him and stay in His Kingdom. People hear about Him, they fear Him and worship Him. He even lets the people know how He wants them to live. Yet, no one got to see His face (Exodus 33:20). In fact, the writer of Ecclesiastes wonders who knows whether the spirit of man goes upwards (Ecclesiastes 3:21). He knows that it does, but the proof, the certainty is lacking.
Only in the New Testament do you read about God’s Kingdom, the eternal life and about God’s children who inherit or enter the Kingdom. In the New Testament, the One who knows the way has come. The one who claims to be the Way: Jesus Christ. He came from the Treasure and emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7). Once in the form of God, he became like us to face the obstacles and take us with Him. He is the Way, the Key, the Door, the Shepherd, the Truth, the Life and, above all, He is God Himself. He is God making a way for people to come to Him.
A road must be walked
A strong believe in the existence of a treasure is not enough to find it. Hanging a picture of it above your bed and kneeling in front of it every day neither. Even telling other people about the beauty of the treasure won’t take you there. Only faith in the way will take you there. And true faith is faith that results in action.
Surely, you still won’t find the treasure if you meet the one who knows the way, listen to him, believe he is telling the truth, but do not follow him in the end. That is why Jesus keeps saying, “Follow me.” And that is why James says, right after the verse we started with, “Do you want to know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead (James 2:20)?” And that’s exactly where the devils go astray. They know about the Treasure and the Way, but they refuse to walk on it. They don’t want to submit to Him an do as He says.
The Treasure is real. The Treasure itself can only be reached by the Way. Believing that the Way exists is not enough. Believing that the Way is one with the Treasure neither. You must submit to the Way and turn from all other ways. Then you will receive from Him the strength to follow Him. That’s a true belief; a faith that results in walking with Him.
Whoever says he abides in Him (in Christ Jesus) ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:6)