Perhaps the definition that we have heard of “religion” and “Christianity” are too general. The student of the Word of God desires something more specific, more comprehensive, more satisfactory. For a clearer definition of the terms we should appeal to the Bible rather than to the dictionary. In searching the Scriptures for these definitions, it will perhaps be less difficult to find “religion” clearly defined; than “Christianity”. In fact, unless we diligently and prayerfully search the Scriptures, from the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus to Paul’s farewell to earth in II Timothy 4:5 to 8, we may say that pure Christianity and pure religion are identical. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:26 and 27.
The Greek word translated “religious” is “THRESKOS”; “religion” is “THRESKEIA”, (this Greek word suggests the use of speech and the senses in worship). James was a religious man and wrote to a religious nation. James 1:1 and 2. Acts 21:18 to 25.
In Acts 26:5 Paul speaks of the particular sect of religion to which, as the devout Saul, he had belonged. He used the same Greek word, but qualified the religion, as “our religion”, meaning Israel’s religion.
Israel’s religion was “IOUDAISMOS”; that is, “Judaism”. This Greek word is used in Galatians 1:13 and 14. For have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ RELIGION, how beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ RELIGION above many my equals in mine own Nation, being more zealous of the traditions of my fathers.”
In the verses quoted we have all the scriptures using the word “religion”. The “religious” proselytes of Acts 13:43 were devout worshippers.
Paul found some very religious Gentiles at Athens. He said to them, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious.” Acts 17:22. This word “superstitious” in the Greek is “DEISDAIMONESTEROS”, and means literally “fearful of demons.” The heathen rulers used the same Greek word in referring to the religion of Israel and Paul. Acts 25:19. That particular “superstition”. was that “one Jesus, which was dead, Paul affirmed to be alive”. The heathen in Paul’s day were very religious. There are many religious sects in this country who use the Bible in propagating their religious doctrines and practices, but yet they are anti-Christian.
The only people to whom the true and living God ever gave religion was Israel. “Meats and drinks, carnal ordinances and divers baptisms were imposed upon them until the time of reformation”. Hebrews 9:10. For more than fifteen centuries Israel was under Divine orders to carry on that God-given religion, It was given to Moses at Mount Sinai about 1492 B.C. Israel was God’s religious nation. “The Jews’ religion.”
Jesus Christ was born under that reign of religion. He was made under the law; circumcised when eight days old; attended the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath and worshipped as a religious Jew. He observed the feasts of Jehovah and taught Israel to obey the Levitical law of rites and ceremonies, He respected the seat of Moses. Galatians 4:4. Luke 4:16. Matthew 8:4. While on earth the Son of God Was Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God by signs; to Israel. Acts 2:22. He was Jehovah’s servant to Israel to confirm promises made centuries before. Romans 15:8. Matthew 15:24.
Pure Christianity was not promised by Israel’s prophets and confirmed by Jesus of Nazareth. Pure Christianity was given by Christ to the Apostle Paul some years after Christ’s earthly ministry had come to an end. While on earth Christ did not preach the unmixed message of grace to Gentiles, although He taught Divine truth that was carried over into the dispensation of grace, which he afterwards committed to the Apostle Paul. Ephesians 3:1 to 11. There was grace the Old Testament message and the kingdom message, but religion was mixed with grace.
Neither did Christ instruct the Twelve Apostles to indoctrinate Gentiles in the pure grace gospel, nor propagate pure Christianity, as He gave it to Paul to proclaim. Some of the teachings of Christ on earth could apply only before His death or to His Kingdom reign over the house of Jacob on the throne of David.
Even during the “Acts” period there was a carrying-over of a mixed program and message of grace, law and religion. Acts 10:28. Acts 21:18 to 20. Acts 16:3. During that period Paul became a Jew to the Jews, as one under the law to those under the law.” I Corinthians 9:20.
But with the close of that “Acts” period Paul declared himself through with religion and clearly stated that Israel’s religion had been nailed to the cross of Christ and completely taken out of the way: “took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.” Colossians 2:14. Believers were no longer to be judged by religion. Colossians 2:15 to 18. Believers were complete in Christ. Colossians 2:10. A new law, the death and resurrection of Christ, the putting away of sin, the abolition of death, had supplanted the old law that worked wrath. Romans 8:1. II Timothy 1:9 and 10. Romans 4:15. Paul was the minister of this new message of Divine grace and special Divine favor upon the Gentiles, justified without the law; without religion or without a cause. In his last epistles there is nothing of religion, no signs, no ceremonies. “Now abideth faith, hope and love.” I Corinthians 13:13.
Paul was crucified with Christ to the law; Christ lived in him. Galatians 2:20. “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. Paul rehearses his religious past in Philippians 3:4 to 6. Then adds: “what things were gain to me those I counted loss for Christ.” He counted his past religion as “dung”. He had Christ. Christ is the believer’s life, the believer’s hope, the believer’s peace, the believer’s righteousness, the believer’s redemption and the believer’s all. Christianity is Christ and eternal life. The believer is accepted in Christ, complete in Christ, blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, identified with Christ in death, burial and, resurrection, seated with Him in the heavenlies and waiting to appear with Him in glory. He is not under the law. He is saved by faith in the redemption work of the Lord Jesus Christ, by grace, and grace alone.
Pure, unmixed Christianity is founded in Paul’s epistles, perhaps more clearly set forth in Romans, Galatians and those epistles written after Israel was judged with the close of Acts. Christianity is Christ, Christianity is life, love and glory. Christ is the believer’s all sufficient One. It is all Christ.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.