You may know the word orthodoxy, meaning “correct doctrine.” However, it is likely that orthopraxy may not be a familiar word. Orthopraxy refers to “correct practice.”
Orthodoxy is not something we’ve produced or negotiated. As God inspired the prophets of old, we have the Old Testament. Through Jesus and His apostles, the New Testament came into existence later. As a result, the Bible is our complete resource and when we express our belief in the teachings of the Bible and share those teachings with others, we are exercising biblical orthodoxy.
However, there is a danger if we stop with orthodoxy. There must also be orthopraxy. This occurs when we implement the teachings of the Bible as a lifestyle on a daily basis. We cannot honor Christ or be effective disciples as long as there is an absence of orthopraxy. Teaching and practice, in combination, are required to live in obedience to God.
In any case, where orthodoxy and orthopraxy are not in wholehearted combination, there is false teaching or empty practice. During Jesus’ ministry, for example, the Pharisees were very orthodox but lacking orthopraxy. In a phrase, they were very harsh and legalistic.
Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees taught many good things. In fact, they taught God's law. But they overlooked the importance of obeying it. Jesus called the Pharisees ‘graves that men have painted white.’ They looked good and holy on the outside. In reality, however, their lives were selfish and greedy. MT 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
As well, some of the teachings they emphasized were not important. But the Pharisees said that these things were important. Unfortunately, they did not model and enforce how people behaved toward one another. They did not put much effort into being kind or fair to other people. In response, Jesus spoke out about the Pharisees and the Scribes very strongly. MT 23:33 "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
On the other hand, some are busy saving the world with good deeds but lack Biblical orthodoxy. It is wonderful to serve others and practice good deeds. We see people participating in “random acts of kindness” and even see reports in the news. These reports are truly heartwarming. However, when our orthopraxy lacks orthodoxy, we omit helping people with their greatest need. Their greatest need is the hope of the gospel. We must care for the spiritual needs of people with an eternal perspective.
James helps us put this into perspective, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves," and "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty,"(Jas. 1:22, 2:12).
A Work in Progress,