Theme: Profession without Practice
This week’s lessons stress the necessity of obedience if one is truly a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Luke 6:46-49
Jesus spoke about obedience toward the end of Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. He had been followed by people who made verbal profession of discipleship. They called him “Lord,” which meant that they were calling Him their master and were putting themselves forward as His servants. But they were disregarding His teaching. Jesus showed the impossibility of this intrinsic contradiction by asking pointedly: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say” (v. 46)? In other words, Jesus cannot be our Lord without obedience; and if He is not our Lord, we do not belong to Him. We are like the man whose house would be swept away by a flood.
What a great problem this is—profession without practice! And what a disaster! It has been a problem all through biblical history. On the day before the prophet Ezekiel learned of the fall of the city of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the Lord appeared to him to explain why this happened, and the explanation was in terms of the people’s empty profession. God told Ezekiel, “Your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the LORD.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice” (Ezek. 33:30-32). Ezekiel taught that Jerusalem was destroyed because the people were merely entertained by God’s words and did not obey the instruction.
Isaiah said the same thing in words Jesus later quoted to his disciples: “The LORD says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’” (Isa. 29:13).
The problem of profession without practice was present in the early Christian community, as proved by the Epistle of James. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25).
There is nothing so obvious as the truth that in religion, words without practice are worthless, even contemptible. Yet few things are so common. One commentator writes: “Open sin, and avowed unbelief, no doubt slay their thousands. But profession without practice slays its tens of thousands.”1 It is what Jesus had in mind when He said that those who call Him “Lord, Lord,” but do not obey Him will be carried away by life’s torrents.
From the lesson, what are some biblical examples of profession without practice? How are such people described?
Dr. Boice said that in religion, words without practice are worthless and contemptible, and yet it is so common. Why do think that is?
Reflection: Can you recall any recent instances where your practice did not match your profession? What was the motivation for it? What biblical truths were brought to your attention to show you your sin? How did you proceed to deal with the situation?
1John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Luke, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: James Clark & Co., 1976), p. 195.