by Mike Ratliff
21 Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι· κύριε κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 22 πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ· κύριε κύριε, οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν; 23 καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς· ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν. 24 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτούς, ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν· 25 καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν, τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν. 26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ μὴ ποιῶν αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον· 27 καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέκοψαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἔπεσεν καὶ ἦν ἡ πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη. (Matthew 7:21-27 NA27)
21 “Not all the ones saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and perform many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from me you who work lawlessness.” 24 “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and does them will be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain came down and the rivers came and the winds blew and beat against that house and it did not fall for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone hearing these my words and does not do them will be compared to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain came down and the rivers came and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell and the fall of it was great.” (Matthew 7:21-27 a personal translation from the NA27 Greek text)
What is Christian Orthodoxy? There really isn’t enough space here to succinctly define that for you. However this section from the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms does quite a good job.
- The Bible, having been inspired by God, is entirely trustworthy and without error. Therefore, we are to believe and obey its teachings. The Bible is the only source of special revelation for the church today.
- The one true God is personal, yet beyond our comprehension. He is an invisible spirit, completely self-sufficient and unbounded by space or time, perfectly holy and just, and loving and merciful. In the unity of the Godhead there are three “persons”: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- God created the heavens and the earth, and all they contain. He upholds and governs them in accordance with his eternal will. God is sovereign—in complete control—yet this does not diminish human responsibility.
- Because of the sin of the first man, Adam, all mankind is corrupt by nature, dead in sin, and subject to the wrath of God. But God determined, by a covenant of grace, that sinners may receive forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ has always been the only way of salvation, in both Old Testament and New Testament times.
- The Son of God took upon himself a human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary, so that in her son Jesus the divine and human natures were united in one person. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and died on a cross, bearing the sins of, and receiving God’s wrath for, all those who trust in him for salvation (his chosen ones). He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, where he sits as Lord and rules over his kingdom (the church). He will return to judge the living and the dead, bringing his people (with glorious, resurrected bodies) into eternal life, and consigning the wicked to eternal punishment.
- Those whom God has predestined unto life are effectually drawn to Christ by the inner working of the Spirit as they hear the gospel. When they believe in Christ, God declares them righteous (justifies them), pardoning their sins and accepting them as righteous, not because of any righteousness of their own, but by imputing Christ’s merits to them. They are adopted as the children of God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies them, enabling them increasingly to stop sinning and act righteously. They repent of their sins (both at their conversion and thereafter), produce good works as the fruit of their faith, and persevere to the end in communion with Christ, with assurance of their salvation.
- Believers strive to keep God’s moral law, which is summarized in the Ten Commandments, not to earn salvation, but because they love their Savior and want to obey him. God is the Lord of the conscience, so that men are not required to believe or do anything contrary to, or in addition to, the Word of God in matters of faith or worship.
- Christ has established his church, and particular churches, to gather and perfect his people, by means of the ministry of the Word, the sacraments of baptism (which is to be administered to the children of believers, as well as believers) and the Lord’s Supper (in which the body and blood of Christ are spiritually present to the faith of believers), and the disciplining of members found delinquent in doctrine or life. Christians assemble on the Lord’s Day to worship God by praying, hearing the Word of God read and preached, singing psalms and hymns, and receiving the sacraments.
We Reformed folks say that if one’s theology is “right” because it is according to what I just listed above then he or she is our brother or sister in Christ. Look at the next to last bullet point. It speaks of true believers striving to keep God’s moral law, not to earn salvation, but because they love their Savior and want to obey him. What is described here is what I would call Christian Orthodoxy according to Reformed Theology, which is what I hold to. What then is Orthopraxy?
Genuine Christians need orthopraxy, or proper practice of the faith, which means more than just proper, outward, Christian-looking conduct, or just performing certain rituals. We need a balance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy is a hollow faith, a superficial faith, a mere intellectual faith, religious intellectualism, religious rationalism, or such. This being so, what then is legalism? Orthopraxy without orthodoxy becomes legalism or going through the motions. I have also seen some pretty ugly attacks from those all bound up in man-made “orthopraxy” demanding adherence to their standards in order to be held as an “Orthodox brother.” Again, this is legalism.
Orthodoxy without proper Orthopraxy is just as out of balance as self-made Orthopraxy based on a lack of proper Orthodoxy. We have to get this right. We have seen what genuine Orthodoxy looks like so what is true Biblical Orthopraxy?
Believe it or not it is not that hard to dig out of God’s Word. The first thing we must have and openly live our lives so that it is obvious who we really are is to have and live our Confession of faith, our faith in Christ and of proper belief, which the Westminster laid out for us very well above. It starts with our profession of faith, confessing Christ publically as Saviour and Lord as stated in Sacred Scripture. This is way more than mere intellectual assent, no, this is making one’s life identified to all as one who is a Christian.
Works follow from grace, are a necessary result of salvation, and as the Westminster Confession clearly stated, they do not save us, but we do them because we love our Saviour. We are able to do them only if Christ is with us and it is by God’s grace (John 15). If we ever start to take credit for our works or our standing in the Church then our orthopraxy will start to turn to legalism. We must never forget that proper works or practice can only come from grace. Only grace can be the basis of proper works and practice in our daily lives. When we are accused or our motives are questioned or we are unfairly attacked, et cetera, we must not respond as the world does, but go to God and seek to always be in the center of his will trusting that all the circumstances around us are under his control.
Take the sacraments. New believers must be baptized and we should take communion as a local body of believers whenever possible. This is commanded in Scripture.
I could go on forever, but I think Romans 12:3-21 gives us a great summary of Christian Orthopraxy.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.. (Romans 12:3-21 NASB)
I am sure that many of you can come up with much more, but I assure you that genuine Christian Orthopraxy will not in any way contain the rules of man-made religiosity nor will it elevate some while putting others in bondage.
God works with each of us in different ways. The visible church right now is in a dark time. God has his genuine believers, the True Church and it is everywhere, yes, this is Biblical. Some of the leaders in the darkness look pretty good to those driven by the flesh, that is, legalism disguised as Orthopraxy and they don’t like it when their words are held up in comparison to what the Word of God says is truth. When the darkness in certain areas get so bad that it is impossible to find one Bible believing church in entire city it is fallacious to command believers to submit themselves under the authority of elders who are apostate. Paul withstood people like this to their face, as did Christ and the other Apostles. We are commanded to do as well. However, this is costly and can make one not welcome in any “church” that likes things they way they are. Just remember that before pointing your finger at someone who has a problem finding a church home because he won’t compromise the truth.
Soli Deo Gloria!