The Danger of Profess-ianity
Words by Joshua M. Wallnofer
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19)
What is profess-ianity? Profess-ianity is an often well-intentioned but profoundly different view of salvation than what is described in the Bible as saving faith.
Profess-ianity says, “I know they are a Christian because I remember that at a particular day or time, they were saved by professing faith in Jesus as Savior.”
“I am going to heaven because I remember when I prayed a prayer to receive Jesus as my Savior, and as you know, once saved, always saved.”
There is a severe deficiency in this description of faith. The Epistle of James warns that simply professing belief is a demonic faith. If the profession goes no further than an acknowledgment, a verbal commitment (whether sincere or not), or a declaration, it is a flawed faith. Satan and his demons profess their belief in God and are not living atheists or skeptics. Their belief is so personal and serious that they “shudder” or “tremble.” When they think of God, in all his power and glory, they go into fight or flight mode; it is such an emotional experience that their hair stands on end.
Profess-ianity or Possession of Faith
Scripture does not describe Profess-ianity as a valid, saving faith. Instead, this is a simple profession of faith. James continues his argument in the following verses by explaining that the Christian faith is a gift that transforms one’s life with good works. As Calvin said, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone: just as it is the heat alone of the sun which warms the earth, and yet in the sun it is not alone, because it is constantly conjoined with light." *
James next uses the example of Abraham (James 2:21–24), who was regenerated by faith in Genesis 15:6, and later in chapter 22 of Genesis demonstrated his possession of faith by taking Isaac to the Altar. His works displayed that his faith was not demonic but a true saving faith. Paul states in harmony with this that the Gospel is possessed by the one who not only “confesses with their mouth” but also “believes in their heart” (Romans 10:9).
James is saying something very similar to what Jesus expounded in the Sermon on the Mount to his readers. Remember one of the closing arguments of Jesus’ great message:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23)
We see in this passage how Jesus warns of the danger of only trusting in the profession of Jesus as Lord. Many highly religious people believe they are on the road to heaven and are so confident that they don’t just say, “Lord,” but repeat the title emphatically. Yet Jesus says precisely the opposite of what we’d expect him to say about a professor. “Not everyone . . . will enter” who says, “Lord” to Jesus. The profession does not equal possession of salvation.
There is not a more stark reminder of this than the Gospel ending with Judas Iscariot and his betrayal of Jesus (Matthew 26:14–16). Judas not only had a very outwardly secure profession of faith in Jesus, but he also heard all of Jesus’s sermons and probably preached some messages himself while working signs in our Lord’s name! Yet he ended up betraying Christ.
We could say this another way. Why do some start as seeming followers of Jesus, boldly professing him, but end up like the ones in John 6:66?
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
The answer is in Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:23: “I never knew you.” Matthew Henry writes, “Let us take heed of resting in outward privileges and doings, lest we deceive ourselves, and perish eternally, as multitudes.” There was a leak in their profession of faith; there was rot in their religious experience. They did not possess salvation in their heart—only with words in their profession.
True Christianity is a heart religion one possesses, not simply a head faith one professes. When we tell people they are Christians simply because of a quick profession with no call to repentance and speak in place of Jesus declaring people saved who never show evidence of it; we have become followers of Profess-ianity instead of Christianity.
Just having the name of Jesus on our tongues without possessing him in our hearts by faith, even having his name in Christian baptism without having him give a new heart (Ezek. 36:25–27), will profit a person nothing on the day of judgment when they face God. There is no more substantial proof that one of God’s people can never lose their salvation and fall from his grace than this declaration, “I never knew you.” They only professed but never possessed.
St. Augustine once said, “For Christ to say, "I never knew you," is only another way of saying, "You never knew me."
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (I John 2:19)
* John Calvin, "Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote," accessed 9/22/22 at https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/calvin_trentantidote.html