Summary: To establish that “pure religion” is not a feeling, but a faithful service to others by those who live daily to remain pure and unspotted from the world. Pure religion has it origin from the Word of God; not from the words of men!
1. Perceived Religions
2. Pure Religion
3. Practices of Religion
1. James speaks of “pure religion” that which is undefiled, what it is not; what it is; and what are it practices. He writes: “If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, (he) deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, (that he) visits the fatherless and widows in their afflictions and (he) keeps (himself) unspotted from the world.” The writer is discussing believers in these verses. The word pure (katharos) means: clean, clear, in a natural sense; unmixed, undefiled; or something that is free from soil or stain. 100% pure!
2. First, he speaks of perceived religions. Of those who seems to be religious. This speaks to many believers in God today. These are worldly religions. They bridleth not their tongues; they deceiveth their own hearts, they are vain (empty). Perceived religions claim their own righteousness and favor before God; they are not declared so by the Father. These religions are made up of men and women of unbelievable faith. I might add: James speaks about the church of the Lord in these verses. That is clear from Chapter 2, the first ten verses (James 2:1-10). Many of our assemblies are only perceived religions. Their practices stand as testimonies against their purity in the faith. These religions are also vain and void of the “grace of Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit,” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
3. Second, he speaks to that of the pure religion: “that is undefiled before God and the Father.” The purity of the faith is outlined in the remaining parts of the verse. Pure religion is active and not passive. He speaks of that in Chapter 2, regarding Abraham’s faith. There is pure religion in the world! In light of all the confusion and divisions, God has planted pure religion amidst all of the darkness of this world. And one can know it; and be a part of it. There is guidance provided by the Lord’s brother on how we can identify “pure religion.” “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein…,” verse 25.
4. Finally, he speaks to the practices of religion. “Pure religion” is not a feeling, but a practice of faithful service to God and man kind. James states: “It visits the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keeps itself unspotted from the world.” Pure religion is one that cares for and helps others; and abstains from the things of the world that would defile it. “Pure religion” is not like worldly religions. Believers might have to be in the world, but does not allow the world to be in them. The world does not define what the “pure religion” is to the believer; but the believer defines what the world should be – before God and men. “Pure religion” is not entirely ceremonial formalities, but involves genuine acts of mercy, love and brotherly kindness! Let us consider our first point: “perceived religions.”
BODY OF LESSON
I PERCEIVED RELIGIONS
A. First, James speaks to “perceived religions.” As I mentioned earlier, “religion” is not a feeling but a practice of faithful service to God and mankind. These perceived religions consider themselves to be righteous by their own standards and not those outlined by God. A perceived religion can make up their rules of behavior and righteousness. Now I want to be clear, because we are not talking about the sincerity of any person in these “perceived religions.” Many have unbelievable faith and devotion to God. I am not speaking to this; but rather ask of all, “are these religions ordained and sanction by God the Father?” The answer to this question is “no!”
B. James mentions that these so called believers “bridleth not their own tongues.” He speaks more to this later in the book. But for now; let’s make it clear that James speaks of the believers in these verses. Believers – Christians that do not have their tongue under control are in danger of hell's fire, (James 3:6).
1. The mention here “not bridling the tongue” is meant of not abstaining from the evils of the tongue, James 1:26. Bridleth – means to “hold in check; restrain. Keep under control.”
2. Offend not in words. James says: “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in words, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body,” James 3:2. Illustrate: Horse and ship, James 3:3-4.
3. Let’s be careful to “putting away lying, and speak every man the truth with his neighbor…and let no corrupt communications proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” (Ephesians 4:25, 29).