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Catchy One-liners Can be Dangerous

“We only believe as much of the Bible as we practice.”
This statement on a local church sign speaks a spiritually dangerous half-truth.

The implication that everything the Bible teaches is to be preached and taught is, of course, correct. In His Great Commission the Savior says, “…teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28). And since “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), all its teachings (“the whole counsel of God”, Acts 20:27) are entrusted to Christ’s disciples to be proclaimed, taught, and “practiced.”

But the sad fact is that much of nominal Christendom today is indicted by the statement. Rather than “believing” what the Bible says—and “practicing” those beliefs by preaching, confessing, and defending them—the pull of non-judgmental relativism and political correctness rules even in organized religion. If, as has been said, “practice is doctrine in action,” much of visible Christendom stands indicted as compromising and/or betraying Bible doctrine.

Put another way, though calling themselves Christian, churches and church members which allow a decadent society to dictate their public stance—calling good “evil” and evil “good” (see Isaiah 5:20)—cannot claim to “believe” the Bible, for they do not “practice” it.

Denied and/or compromised in many would-be Christian churches today are such Bible teachings as: God’s Word is true in all things; faith in Jesus Christ is the only Way to eternal salvation; Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead; God created the world in six normal, ordinary days; man the sinner is unable to cooperate in his conversion; the homosexual lifestyle is condemned; the male headship principle in home and church is to be upheld. And the list goes on.

As the church sign implies, Christians indeed are to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). The apostle says that “thus also faith, by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17).

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount says, “By their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven….” The Lord proceeds to call that one “wise” who hears God’s Word and “does” it, even as He calls one a “fool” who hears the Word but “does not do”
it (cf. Matthew 7:21-28).

So Where Is the Danger?

On the other hand, the same sign-saying comes dangerously close to misrepresenting the heart of Bible teaching—the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If what the sign announces is so, what is to be made of the apostle Paul’s remark, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do….For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:15,19)?

Does the apostle admit to not believing the Bible because he admits to not practicing it? Hardly. He is saying that when it comes to the law of God and what that holy law says to each one of us, the fact is that all people alike fail to “practice” God’s holy law (“For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”,
Romans 3:23f)!

In other words, that very failure puts all alike in desperate need of a Savior. Recognizing that fact, God the Father sent His only-begotten Son to redeem law-breaking sinners. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ “practiced” the law of God perfectly in thought, word, and deed—something mere humans can never do—and then offered His holy life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

As Christians recognize and confess their inability to “practice” the law perfectly in thought, word, and deed, they exclaim with St. Paul: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Yet in the midst of their wretchedness the penitent find peace of heart and mind where the apostle did, as he exclaimed: “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24f)

Catchy one-liners can be spiritually dangerous. For one thing, if the purpose of God’s holy law is muddled (“By the law is the knowledge of sin”, Romans 3:20), passers-by can be deprived/robbed of the comfort of the full and free forgiveness of all sins through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ (“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”, 1 John 1:7).