Summary: Religion can point one to God and provide expression for faith, but only the Person of Christ can bring slavation.
The Gospel Vs. Religion
A recent article in the religion section of our local newspaper, dealt with the question, “Is it better to be religious or spiritual?” Opinions were garnered from five local pastors, representing Unity, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, and Bahai. As one can imagine, the positions held, varied considerably.
The pastor of the Disciples of Christ Church was succinct, yet seemed to capture the true distinction, when he opined as follows:
Religion: Bone, skeleton, structure, form; by itself, dry, brittle, dead
Spirituality: Marrow, meat, vibrant, life; by itself, moist, sticky, self-
Spirit: LIFE, energy, God-breathed, Christ-given; by itself, creative,
Perhaps a better question to be answered is, “What is the difference between Religion and the Gospel? Which is more to be desired, or are they the same thing?
Illus.: “India Has Enough Religions”
A missionary to India tells a story regarding a time after he had finished speaking. A man approached him and said, “I can’t understand you missionaries. You speak of Indian as the home of many religions, and yet you want to introduce still another one which only adds to the confusion. Surely India has enough religion without Christianity. The missionary answered, “Friend, I’m not interested in religion, but I’m deeply interested in the Gospel. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t walk across the street for religion, but I’m willing to go around the world for the sake of the Gospel. There is a great difference between the two.”
Religion is man-made; the Gospel is God-given.
Religion is what man does for God; the Gospel is what God does for man.
Religion is man’s search for God; the Gospel is God’s search for man .
Religion is man trying to climb the ladder of good works; the Gospel is God coming down through Christ to save us.
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Heaven: You can’t…
Buy your way in
Work your way in
Pray your way in
Worship your way in
Or even get in because you are a very good person
Religion is good views; the Gospel is good news.
Religion is good advice; the Gospel is a glorious announcement.
Religion ends in outer reformation; the Gospel ends in an inner transformation.
Religion whitewashes; the Gospel washes white.
Religion satisfies man’s mind; the Gospel satisfies man’s soul.
Illus.: “Jesus Was Talking With Us”
Years ago, a missionary employed two Chinese scholars to translate the Gospels into the Chinese language. In time the work was complete. When they gave the translation to the missionary, they said, “We are converts to Christianity! The more we studied the sacred writings of the Chinese the more obscure they became. The longer we read the Gospels the more simple and intelligible they became until at last it seemed as if Jesus was talking with us!”
Let’s take a careful look at the fundamental differences between religion and the Gospel of Christ. I believe that there are three primary differences.
1. Religion places the prime emphasis upon DOING, whereas the Gospel places the prime emphasis upon BEING.
Religion says, “Do good, keep on doing good and eventually you will become good.” The Gospel says, “First of all, you must be good; you must become good by the grace of God and the blood of Christ. If you become good, then you will do good!”
Religion says, “Tell the truth, keep on telling the truth, and you will become honest.” The Gospel says, “First of all, be honest in heart and then you will tell the truth.”
Religion says, “Think good thoughts, keep on thinking good thoughts, and you will become pure in mind.” The Gospel says, “Become pure in mind and then you will think good thoughts.”
Religion says, “Go out and help people and you will learn to love them.” The Gospel says, “Receive the love of God into your hearts and then you will begin to love people and want to serve them.”
Thus, while Religion places the primary emphasis on OUTER CONDUCT, the Gospel places it on INNER CHARACTER.
Now, this doesn’t mean that Christianity has no place for good works. Jesus himself was a man of action, a man of good works. Its just a question of PRIORITY. Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Well, that’s easy to answer: God created chickens, not eggs on the 6th day of Creation.
When it comes to works and faith we need to ask, “Which comes first?” Which is the cause and which is the effect? Which is the root and which is the fruit?