A while ago, while teaching the Word in a meeting, I said “Christianity is not a religion” supposing that was already a well known and understood expression but was amazed as a lady couldn’t help but responded immediately “then, what’s it?” That really got my attention because so many times we make certain assumptions that are detrimental. A lot of people, even Christians, have been thrown into confusion by that expression. I also grew up with the view that Christianity was a religion and even when I started hearing from certain ministers of the Gospel that it isn’t a religion I believed but didn’t really get it until I started studying the Word for myself. Today, there’s so much talk about how Christianity is not a religion and this has put a lot of people into confusion as to what then it really is. This ought to be properly explained.
According to the dictionary, the word ‘religion’ simply refers to the belief in the existence of a god who is in control of a thing or things. Based on this definition, the world sees every form of belief in a god, whoever he or it may be, as a kind of religion and so they say there are so many religions in the world and they go ahead to name them including Christianity. So in dealing with the world (e.g. filling a form or legal documents etc.), we can go by their definition of religion. But then, we must be careful about using the dictionary to define spiritual things. Dictionaries are written by men. However, when you study the Bible critically you see that there’s more to Christianity than just being one of the groups of people who believe in a ‘god’ just like every other groups believe in their own god. You see, religion actually came into existence after the fall. After the first man, Adam, fell, he lost his spiritual consciousness as a result of spiritual death and gradually men started searching for ways to satisfy their desire for the presence of God in their lives. But now man was being controlled by his senses instead of his spirit because he died in spirit (was separated from God. Death means separation). Now man wanted to feel, see, touch and relate with God in a tangible way. And this is the same reason we still have idol worshippers of different kinds today. Now, it is impossible for those who are outside Christ to understand this but we who are in Christ, having been enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, can have an understanding on the matter.
The word ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ appear only 7 times in the entire Bible. 4 times used in relation to Judaism and 3 times to express God’s view on the subject. God’s definition of religion is found in James 1:26-27. It says “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.” Christianity is not a religion but there is a religion (devotion) that is practiced in Christianity. It would be wrong to use a part to define a whole. The fact that there is a religion we practice in Christianity doesn’t make Christianity a religion any more than having a baseball pitch in a school makes the whole school a baseball pitch. Now, if there is a pure religion then there are impure religions. If there is an undefiled religion then there are defiled religions. We equally see the definition of impure and defiled religion in 2Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” False religion has two dimensions. The first is man’s effort to reach God when God has already reached out to man, that is, not accepting God’s solution – Jesus Christ. And so they have various methods, traditions, and figures (idols and other stuff) which they believe they could use as a medium in their efforts to reach that ‘unknown God’ somewhere. This is found among the unsaved people of the world. The second dimension of false religion is found among nominal Christians. They have the form of godliness but deny the power thereof. These can pray but never expect God to actually answer, they pray as a form of ritual. They go to Church just because they are ‘supposed’ to go to Church, they don’t really expect anything. They lack the influence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This dimension deals with stubborn ignorance. Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, describes this in Col. 2:20-23.
So then, what is Christianity if it is not a religion? Well, no-one can really understand why Christianity is not a religion until they first understand what Christianity really is. Christianity is Christ Himself, living and expressing Himself on earth through a surrendered man (or woman). Christianity is defined explicitly in Galatians 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” When you come to Christ you cease to exist, it is now Christ living and expressing Himself in and through you because God wants more Christ-like sons on the earth, Jesus Christ being the pattern-Son (See Romans 8:29). Whenever you think of Christianity, the question you must always ask yourself is why did Jesus come? For what purpose? Why was it important that He came? Jesus didn’t come and die for the world just to give the world another religion or a superior one – the world already had a lot of them. Jesus didn’t only bring reality as the answer to the endless search of man for God but He Himself was and is The Reality (John 1:17; John 14:6). The word ‘truth’ in those Scriptures actually means ‘reality’. If Jesus came as God’s answer to humanity’s search for the true and living God through religion, then He must have come with something superior to religion. That’s why whenever anyone gets born again the search ends – he’s found the reality. Understand that every man born into this world is naturally in search of reality. That’s the reason for philosophy, science, religion etc. These are man’s way of searching for reality. You can study for yourself to see how Apostle Paul handled the subject of religion in Acts 17:16-34.
Christianity is not a religion. It is not, has never been and would never be a religion. The Bible is not a religious book; it’s the Book of Reality. Christianity is not a religion; it’s a living relationship with the Living God – the sole Creator of Heaven and earth. Religion has never saved anyone! Religion has never imparted eternal life to any soul but Christ came to save the world and to give men eternal life. Praise God! According to the Bible, religion is what we do and not what we are. As we, Christians, practice the pure and undefiled religion we must always remember that our focus is Christ Himself!