|Volume 24 Number 2 February 2022
Webster’s College Dictionary offers one of the definitions for “practice” as “to follow or observe habitually or customarily: to practice one’s religion.” The question is not, “Does anyone sin?” All accountable people sin. Jesus Christ was the only One Who was sinless. The question is, “Do you practice righteousness or sin?”
How is righteousness practiced? The apostle John wrote in 1 John 3:7-8, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (NKJV). In his book, Words of Wisdom for Everyday Christian Living, Dr. James E. Thompson, DD states, “Righteousness (right doing) enhances all embracers. One cannot go wrong embracing what’s right. When ‘doing right’ is absent in our lives, sin or evil is in control. ‘All unrighteousness is sin’ (1 Jn 5:17)” (51).
How is evil practiced? We must go back to virtually the beginning of human existence. Genesis 6:5 reads, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In Fortify Your Faith, Wayne Jackson wrote about “The Wrath of God.” The starkness of sacred wrath, in part, is “the intense and sustained disposition of God towards evil and those who abandon themselves to it.”
The Bible is the standard for defining what is right and what is wrong. Whatever God declares to be right, we embrace. Whatever God declares to be sin, we avoid. Romans 1:18-32 is one of the lengthier passages in which God declared what is right and what is wrong. In verses 28-32, the life of unrighteousness is spelled out.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul continued declaring God’s righteous judgment in Romans 2:1-3. “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Practicing sin is utterly repulsive and despicable considering the holiness, purity and righteousness of God! God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
Matthew 13 records the parables of Jesus in which He spoke to the multitudes concerning the kingdom of Heaven. In one of these parables, Jesus talked about the good seed and the tares sown in a field. Verse 36 reads, “Then Jesus sent the multitudes away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares in the field.’” In Verses 37-39, Jesus told them that the one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Jesus delivered God’s judgment on all those who practice unrighteousness in verses 40-43, which says, “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Jesus spoke of those who practice lawlessness. What is lawlessness? Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines it. “In 1 John 3:4, the RV adheres to the real meaning of the word, ‘everyone that doeth sin (a practice, not the committal of an act) doeth also lawlessness: and sin is lawlessness.’ This definition of sin sets forth its essential character as the rejection of the law, or will, of God and the substitution of the will of self.”
Romans 13:1-7 commands subjection to the governing authorities. Verses 1-3 state there is no authority except from God; therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Paul then wrote that rulers are not a terror to good works but to evil. There is no cause to be afraid of authority if one does what is good; you will have praise from them. In verse 4 Paul left no doubt as to why there is governing authority. “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.”
Galatians 5:19-21 is an explicit listing of lifestyles and behaviors that are practices in lawlessness and evil. The apostle Paul addressed being led by the Spirit or being led by flesh. “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past that those who practice such things, will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Then, Paul declared what is acceptable to God in the transformed mind of the one who is led by the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:22-24).
Revelation 22:14-15 reveals the last declaration between the practice of righteousness and the practice of sin. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Psalm 11:7 proclaims mightily, “For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.” God loves the righteous – those who practice righteousness.
Jackson, Wayne. Fortify Your Faith. Stockton, CA: Christian Courier P., 1974.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th Edition. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2020.
Thompson, James E. Words of Wisdom for Everyday Christian Living. Atlanta: Litfire P., 2019.
Vine, W.E. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Nashville: Nelson, 1996.