Practical Christianity -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 04:3 (Fall 2000)
Article: Practical Christianity
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner

Practical Christianity1

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is a professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary. Recently, he completed a commentary on Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentar y Series. Currently, he is working on a theology of the apostle Paul and is coauthoring a work on perseverance and assurance (both due from InterVarsity Press). He is also serving as the preaching pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

For some of us it is easy to talk about the Christian faith. We are interested in exegesis, theology, church history, evangelism, missions, Christian education, church music, and what is happening in the Church throughout the world. Perhaps we have studied some of these subjects deeply, so that we are a fount of information to those who have not had that privilege. Perhaps some of us know the joy of preaching and teaching God’s word, and have experienced the joy of being entrusted with holy things. Those of us who preach, teach, and write about the things of God could easily begin to imagine that our knowledge of God is deeper than it really is. Simply because we speak about these things often, we may deceive ourselves into thinking that our godliness matches everything we proclaim.

James brings us back to earth. He reminds us that not many of us should become teachers, since there is a stricter judgment for teachers (Jas 3:1). Our Christian maturity is not measured only by what we teach, preach, and write, but also by what we say in our homes, to our friends, and to those with whom we work (Jas 3:1–12). James reminds us that our everyday speech is a barometer of the heart, indicating whether we are truly praising God, or whether we are people who are easily irritated and provoked. We may be tempted to think that we are truly wise and discerning. True wisdom, James instructs us, is not determined by our intellectual ability (Jas 3:13–18). The wisdom of God is demonstrated by our godly behavior. If we are motivated by selfish ambition, and consumed by envy and jealousy, then we are not wise. If, on the other hand, we are full of humility, gentleness, love, mercy, and patience, then wisdom genuinely resides in our hearts.

Our religion—yes, even our preaching and teaching—can become a cloak for advancing our own reputations, so that our faith becomes a platform for idolatry. One test for all of us is how we treat the lowly people of the world (

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