Belief is an integral part of any person's life. Likewise, faith is a major component in our lives. Often times these two aspects of life are mistakenly combined as though they are synonymous. Hope is the foundation of faith, and that is why faith is beautiful, but belief is supported by facts that provide a concrete position in which a person relying on those beliefs will be able to stand firm. Belief then opens the gateway to faith. I write about these ideas because it is important to know the difference between the two. James shows us that belief in God is not what justifies a man, but it is his faith which leaves him justified (James 2:19). You see even the Demons believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that Christ died on a cross, that He is the Son of God, and that He rose on the third day. What separates men from Demons in this respect? A question such as this is why it is extremely important to know why belief and faith are different.
The Bible reveals that genuine faith produces good works, and though we cannot be justified before God by anything we accomplish (the Bible is clear we can do nothing of eternal value apart from Christ -- John 15:5), a person's attitude, actions, and deeds can help distinguish whether or not the persons spiritual fruit is consistent with someone who has received salvation by placing trust and faith in Christ. James was writing to a group of believers in his New Testament letter. This is key to understanding the context in which works and faith coalesce. James was not writing to men who were claiming they were Christians yet had no fruit; he was writing to men who knew Christ and had surrendered their lives to Him. His reason for recording this message was to inform the members of the body of believers that there are people who will claim to be in Christ but, in reality, are not. James was not presenting a lecture about working harder in order to maintain faith or salvation. This is impossible. Instead, He was providing an example of what genuine faith produces in a person. While it is wrong headed and heretical to claim that works play a part in salvation, for salvation is a transaction, it can be rightly said that a genuine saving faith will drive a man to accomplish good works for the kingdom of God -- and all the more as his relationship deepens with Christ.
The question that deals with the difference between a demon's belief and a man's belief is answered: to believe as demons do is simply to acknowledge the truth of God and His Word. In a similar fashion, men can accomplish this type of belief without ever truly knowing, trusting, and placing faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. Faith in Christ is not only a belief that accepts His existence, it is acknowledging His position as the Son of God, repenting and surrendering everything we have and placing our entire soul in His hands. It is trusting and believing that by His work on the cross, the sufficiency of his perfect grace, Christ has made a way for us to be made righteous in the sight of God.
In short, people who wish to know Christ cannot simply stop at believing He exists. Even Satan acknowledges Christ's existence and understands the fact of His deity. The type of belief and faith that bring a person to the point of salvation involves acceptance and surrender, which requires a volitional belief and faith. As John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." As the unified body of Christ, we should not be led astray by the teaching that belief that Christ is God is sufficient to bring about salvation. We must be sure the world understands that it is through humbly coming before God as people in desperate need to be cleansed of sin by the righteous blood of Christ, placing your full heartfelt belief and faith in the person of Christ, and accepting his gift of grace as the only sufficient Savior that we are saved.