Christianity vs. Religion
Teachers of the Kingdom message are aware of the wide difference in meaning of these two words. There is an urgent need that all who teach, and preach the Kingdom Gospel begin to insist that the two words of our title are not synonyms.
In books written a century ago, this difference is clearly shown. Long, years of misuse will make reform difficult but that should not discourage us from speaking in season and out of season in our attempt to show that Christianity is not a religion.
It has been said that Christianity is a way of life. It is now imperative that we teach it is the way of life. Ours is the only faith that provides a Divine Mediator between the Heavenly Father and Adamic man. We need to show the many points of difference which make Christianity so utterly different and so immeasurably higher than any religion.
In Acts 11:26 we have the first use of the word
Christian. We read that Saul and Barnabas spent a year teaching in Antioch and that the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
Interesting light on the words, of our title are found in a book written in 1851 by Richard Trench, B. D. The book is “The Study of Words,” and the material was first delivered as lectures to the Divinity class in King’s College, London. Writing of causes for expanding of languages Dr. Trench writes that it is only
When new truth directly from Yahweh has thus to fit itself to the lips of men, that such enlargements of speech follow. He shows that the advent of Christ added many new words to languages.
The words of Dr. Trench are so clear and impressive that it seems best to give the following lengthy excerpt:
“Our first example is a remarkable one, for it shows us the Holy Spirit himself, counting a name, and the rise of a name, of such importance as to make it a matter of special record in the Book of Life.
“The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. This might seem at first sight, to be a notice curious and interesting as all must possess interest for us which relates to the early days of the church but nothing more.
“And yet in truth, how much of history is enfolded in this name; what light it throws on the early history of Christianity to know when and where it was first imposed on the faithful, imposed I say, for it is clearly a name which they did not give to themselves, but received from their adversaries, however, afterward they may have learned to accept it as a title of honor, and to glory in it. For it is not said that...they called themselves but were called, Christians first at Antioch; nor do we find the name anywhere in Scripture except on the lips of those alien from, or opposed to, the Gospel.” (See Acts 26:28; and I Peter 4:16).
And as it was a name imposed by adversaries, so
among those adversaries it was plainly the heathen and not the Jews, that gave it; since the Jews would never have called the followers of Yahshua of Nazareth, Christians, or those of Christ, seeing that the very point of their opposition to him was, that He was not the Christ, but a false pretender to this name. Starting from this point that Christian was a name given to the early disciples by the heathen, let us see what we may learn from it.
Our next step in showing the word religion is not a synonym for Christian, leads us to examine the use of that word in the New Testament. Religion is used five times and the word religions twice.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance the word religion, as used in Acts 26:5 means ceremonial observance. As used in Galatians 1:14 its meaning is Judaism, or Jew’s religion.
The word used in James 1:26, 27 is also ceremonial observance, or ritual. In Acts 26:5 Paul speaks of his life from his youth and says that all the Jews who knew him, if they would testify, that after the most straightest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
We read Galatians 1: 13, 14 and Paul speaks of the Jews religion. James gives the only other reference
to that word. He writes:
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue...this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before Yahweh the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26, 27).
The editor of the Concordant Version of The Sacred Scripture uses the word ritual instead of religion, and his version makes the meaning quite clear: If anyone is seeming to be a ritualist, not bridling his tongue...the ritual of this one is vain, for clean ritual and undefiled with YAHWEH, the Father, is this...to be keeping oneself unspotted from the world.
If we believe in the Divine Inspiration for the Scripture, and we have accepted the idea of the name Christian as Divinely imposed, we must also accept the word religion as applying to the ceremonial observances or ritual of beliefs opposed to Christianity. We should protest its use as applying to our faith. Added light on the early use of the word is given by Dr. Trench.
In his discussion of the term Religion, he writes: Where a perversion of the moral sense has found place, words preserve often times a record of this perversion. We have a signal example of this, even as it is a notable evidence of the manner in which moral contagion, spread. from heart and manners, invade a popular language in the misuse of the word religion, during all the ages of papal domination in Europe.
Probably many of you are aware that in those times a religious person did not mean anyone who felt and allowed the bonds that bound him to Yahweh and to his fellowmen, but one who had taken peculiar vows upon him, a member of one of the monkish orders; a religious house did not mean, nor does it now mean in the church of Rome, a Christian household...but a house in which these persons were gathered together according to the rule of some man, Benedict or Dominic or some other.
A religion meant not a service of Yahweh, but an order of monkery: taking the monastic vows was termed going into a religion. Now what an awful light does this one word so used, throw on the entire state of mind and habits of thought in those ages.
Dr. Trench seems to think the word religion had been perverted. We do not agree with him but think he proves the word should never be used as applying to Christianity.
Some may argue that regardless of what the words religion and religious once meant, long and popular usage now sanctions its use as including Christianity. To show the fallacy of this argument, we need only to remind ourselves that for some centuries popular usage has made synonyms of Israel and Jew.
Now we are engaged in a mighty effort to correct that mistake. I use the word mistake to correct that mistake. I use the word with reservations. It was mistakenly used by many conscientious and uninformed persons but we believe the mistake was instituted by Satan.
It might help to clear our thinking to imagine the steps used to induce the world to consider Christianity as one of the religions. It is possible that after the heathen had given the first disciples the name of Christians, this new name soon lost its intended sense of ridicule.
As we would say today it back‑fired on its originators. The early believers came to consider it a signal honor to be Christians and martyrs gave their lives to further the cause of Christ. When one of Satan’s plans fails, he institutes another form of attack.
He could not stop the use of the word Christian so he may have decided to force a change in its usage, a change to thinking of Christianity as merely one of the many religions.
If any ask for proof of that charge, we believe the results are proof. Satanic plotting can be traced back to the Garden of Eden. We have the record of that momentous conference in the Garden, when Yahweh God talked with Adam and Eva and with the serpent. Yahweh pronounced the eventual defeat of Satan, so the Evil One would formulate plans for his attempt to defeat Yahweh. Satan knew of the plans to send the Messiah. All through Old Testament history we find the Satanic forces instituting various religions to win the Israelites from the faith of their fathers.
Many of these ancient religions, especially those of
Babylon, have been carried over into this age and they continue today under many names. It is reasonable to believe that Satan would organize a number of cults, with some variation of theory, to appeal to humans of various types of mind.
Each cult has a book or books as basis of their belief. Few claim these were given by inspiration, none can prove Divine Inspiration. None claim a Redeemer and a Savior. None urge readers to “search the Scripture, not even the three religions which claim to have been founded on our Scripture.
It is tragic that some true Christians are so uninformed as to help spread the enemy propaganda that there is some truth and good in all religions. They are all part of the plot to win people away from, or prevent them from coming to, Christianity. The most that can be said for the philosophical religions is that they advocate a fairly high code of ethics, in the printed material they give to their average membership. What these cults teach the few who are to be leaders, is quite a different thing.
We have said that Christianity is the way of life. Yahshua said I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me. (John 14:6). The great author of Hebrews gives the reason why there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore...the boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Yahshua, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
Again, let us see what light we find in Isaiah. In his
forty‑second chapter, he quotes the message of the Father to my servant, to the blind house of Israel. There seems to be a reference to this new way:
“And I will bring the blind (those who cannot see what is happening under their very noses) by a way they know not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them” (Isaiah 42:16).
Some writers have taken that to mean the unrecognized guidance Israel had in their long trek to the British Isles. Perhaps that was the secondary meaning and that the primary meaning was the guidance of the Christian way we were to receive.
You will recall that Moses feared the heathen round about Israel and prayed to the Father:
“Show me now thy way, that I may know thee... For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found. grace in thy sight? Is it not in that thou goest with us: so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth. And YAHWEH said unto Moses; I will do this thing so that thou has spoken.” (Exodus 33:13-17).
Here Yahweh promised to make Israel a separated people, different from all other peoples. There are many stages in the fulfillment of that promise. To this age came Yahshua to give us a unique way of life.
We must resist the satanic efforts to degrade our faith by our opposing the idea that Christianity is just one of the many world‑religions. There may not be time to effect a reform but at least we can create discussion and may open the eyes of some of the indifferent and the lukewarm to the wonderful way offered us by Yahweh. (Author Unknown, sent to me by Bob Jones)