Talking About Practice

Mike Focht 5/17/2024

Practice ebbs before profession. It’s an essential fact that discerning Christians must acknowledge. Before a religious person abandons their public profession of faith, their personal sin will express itself in some outward practice inconsistent with their profession. That is why I say practice ebbs before profession. 

   In our day and age this principle is more apparent than ever. The issues of gay marriage, gay or lesbian clergy, and human sexuality in general are dividing the church. The PCA and PCUSA have split over it. The Methodists have split over it. The Mennonites have split over it. The RCA has split over it. The Anglican church is divided, and there are even stirrings in the Catholic church. I am not currently addressing whether the issue is one we should split over—which it clearly is. I point at these scenarios as an example of my previous statement—practice ebbs before profession. May I also add that we should pray for our faithful brothers and sisters in each of these denominations who are battling to keep the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. 

   Each of these denominations held to a traditional and Biblical profession of marriage and human sexuality. Yet, despite their profession, each denomination began to allow or accept practices divergent from their profession. Eventually, with practice unchecked, those who embraced a different practice attacked the profession. Once that happened, the traditional profession no longer mattered. The divisive and sinful element was there to stay, and the only path to practice that was once again logical with profession became separation. 

   Why does this matter to the ordinary saint? When looking at a church or a denomination, most of us ask about the profession first and think about practice last. That is why. If I want to know where a denomination or church is going, I must look at their practice despite their profession. What they do tells me where they are headed. Not what was once said on a piece of paper. 

   Again, both the Anglican church and the Catholic church claim a traditional profession of marriage and human sexuality. Still, both the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury have asked their followers to bless same-sex couplings. However they try to spin these statements, they make for a clear, illogical application of their professions. Where are these leaders leading? I think the answer is obvious. 

   If I profess that marriage is only between a man and woman but then bless something that is not between a man and woman as if it is marriage, my profession no longer matters. If I profess that only men are to be ordained as elders but place women into the role of an elder under the auspices of a different title, my profession no longer matters. If I profess to believe the gospel but never clearly preach the gospel to lost sinners, my profession no longer matters. Practice ebbs before profession. Always has. Always will. I will know what a man, a church, or a denomination believes by what they do, not by what they say. So, I would encourage all my brothers and sisters in Christ to look at and listen to professions from friends, churches, or denominations. That is fine. But after you have read the profession, watch and be alert for what they do. Practice always ebbs before profession. Of course, Jesus told us this long ago: Therefore by their fruits you will know them.