30 Days in the Bible, Day 12: James 2:14-26
What does it mean to believe in God? Many people would respond that belief means knowing the facts about God and assenting to them. Having this correct theological understanding of God is certainly a part of genuine belief, since believing the wrong facts about God means we actually believe in a different God than the one revealed in the Bible. In theological terms, correct belief is called “orthodoxy,” from the Greek for “right opinion/belief.”
Yet the Bible is also clear that orthodoxy by itself is not sufficient. A knowledge of the facts about God doesn’t indicate a changed life, the kind of change that is called for in Scripture. There are many who know the facts about God; James reminds us later in his epistle that the demons have a very true knowledge of who God is! (James 2:19) It is when this understanding of the truth gets from our head into our hearts and hands that we start to find out what genuine, Biblical faith is.
For James, faith has to reveal itself in the way a person lives. Whether or not our theology is correct can’t be known by others, since we can misrepresent or even outright lie about what we believe. But when that faith is put into practice, the evidence is there for all to see. A living faith will be shown in the way we act and serve.
The theological term for this right living is “orthopraxy,” from the Greek for “right action.” Our way of life should reflect an understanding not only of who God is, but of how He wants us to live. The truths of Scripture need to be lived out, not just mulled over in our minds. If we claim we believe in God and in the truths of His Word, it ought to make a visible difference in our practice, one that is evident to the world.
Now orthopraxy can also go too far, saying that it doesn’t matter what we believe as long as we live the right way. We need to keep both of these in balance. Orthodoxy doesn’t show a real change of heart without being shown in action, while orthopraxy can’t be practiced without knowing just what the Lord says about the way we should live.
As we seek to honor Jesus, we must both believe the truth and live it out. One without the other creates problems that will affect our walk with the Lord and our testimony to others. We are to be people who hold the truths of God’s Word firmly, and who live out those truths consistently before a watching world.