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Now this may come as a shock, but Christianity is NOT a religion! It absolutely is NOT!!
This is our starting point for this second part of three parts– ‘What Separates Christianity from ALL other Religions.’ Well, if Christianity is NOT a religion (and it’s NOT), then what is it? That’s a great question. To answer this, let’s find out what a religion is. Then, where did the word Christian come from and its derivative–Christianity, originate? Finally, what this thing most people refer to as Christianity is, is like the polar opposite or the exact opposite of religion? We have our work cut out for us. Let us begin.
From the Greek there are two words we will look at— “religious” and “religion”.
Greek θρησκός thréskos translated “religious” it occurs only one time in the New Testament
“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.”
James 1:26 KJV
Hmmm, a religious person has an unbridled tongue, deceives themselves. That’s what the Word said.
The word translated religion is the Greek word θρησκεία thréskeia (s). It’s meaning is. ritual worship, religion, (underlying sense: reverence or worship of the gods), worship as expressed in ritual acts, religion. This word only appears 4 times in the Greek New Testament: Acts 26.5, Colossians 2:18, James 1:26 and James 1:27. Lets look at them in order.
#1“Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”
Acts 26:5 KJV
This is the Apostle Paul that used to be called Saul. He was, prior to his becoming a (follower of the Way), a Christian, he was a deeply religious man, that followed his religion strictly. According to what we read earlier, Saul had an unbridled tongue and deceived himself. Was he sincere? Yes he was, but sincerity is no guarantee for truth.
#2“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,”
Colossians 2:18 KJV
The word “worshipping” is the Greek word thréskeia (religion). Religion involved the worship of the gods in ancient Greek and Roman times. The word angels is tranlated as “messengers.”
#3 “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.”
James 1:26 KJV
So, in addition to a religious person having an unbridled tongue and deceiving themselves, worshipping gods, angels and messengers, their religion is vain. Again, that’s what the Word says.
#4 “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 1:27 KJV
What a contrast, comparing religion with “pure religion”! To walk undefiled before God, and to visit the fatherless and widows (caring for those that cannot care for themselves), in their affliction and to keep themselves unspotted (uncontaminated), from the world. Whatever this is, it is the opposite of religion and religion is all, in vain.
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Matthew 15: 9 KJV
“Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
II Timothy 3:5 KJV
We will look at this word “godliness” later, but pay attention to the words, “having a form of godliness”. Religion is the doctrines and commandments of men (all-inclusive noun – includes women). It is an unbridled tongue (says whatever it feels), and deceives itself, thus deceptive to anyone that heeds them. All of religion is, every religion is, vain or in vain. There is no profit in it whatsoever, but it could sure look like the real thing or have a “form of godliness”.
Religion deals with works and these works are outward, believing that these will lead toward God or to inner peace, nirvana, enlightenment, and etc. But these works are without profit. Whatever the opposite of religion is, it starts inside and then leads outward to others. So what is this opposite of religion profitable for?
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
II Timothy 3:16 KJV
The words “given by inspiration” is the Greek word theopneustos θεόπνευστος: “God-breathed” It’s profit is for “doctrine” (how to believe rightly). And “reproof” (corrects practical error to turn back to the doctrine – how to believe rightly). And “correction” corrects the doctrinal error (after practicing error for a while it becomes like a doctrine), and to turn back to the “doctrine”, how to believe rightly. The word “for” should be translated according to usage, “which is”. The profit of the God-breathed word is, “doctrine, “reproof and correction”, these three as one “which is, instruction in righteousness.”
From one verse of scripture we just read the profit of the Word. Now in one verse we will read what its purpose is.
“ That the man [all-inclusive noun – includes women] of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
II Timothy 3:17 KJV
Origin of Christianity
“And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”
Isaiah 35:8 KJV
The Old Testament is full of prophecies of signs of the messiah who was to come. And full of signs that he would be the one. He would show the way of holiness so plainly and so simply, not even a fool or child could miss it, make a mistake, “err therein”. In the gospel of John, Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples about this very thing.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”
John 14:1-4 KJV
People for the most part do not want to told, they need to be shown. To use a perhaps familiar quote to you, the mission of a certain newspaper/magazine, “inquiring minds want to know!” After the verses above, one of Jesus Christ disciples, Thomas asked the following question.
“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
John 14:5 KJV
“ Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
John 14:6 KJV
Before the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christian, they were first called, followers of the way.
“And Saul [Jewish name and his Greek name is Paul], yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”
Acts 9:1, 2 KJV
“But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.”
Acts 19:22 KJV
“And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
Acts 19:23 KJV
“And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.”
Acts 22:4 KJV
Yes, this is the apostle Paul speaking and he the same man once known as Saul that had followers of “the way” killed and delivered men and women to prison (s), plural.
“But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:”
Acts 22:14 KJV
WOW, Paul the same Saul once was so religious and he had such knowledge of the law and the prophets, he had a form of godliness, but was himself, deceived and his religion was vain, without profit or godly purpose.
“And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.”
Even non-believers, non-followers were familiar with The Way, “that way,” followers of The Way.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Romans 12:1 KJV
The word “reasonable” is the Greek word λογικos (logikos). It is only used here and in I Peter 2:2. The word logic is derived from this word. As opposed to religion which requires sacrifice, God requires a living sacrifice. A living sacrifice is the logical or reasonable or if you will, the only acceptable religious service to God.
All religions teach, demand and require some type of sacrifice, self-sacrifice or some other sacrifice. Even the nation of Israel was motivated to sacrifice, in order to obtain a better resurrection (the resurrection of the Just). They were works-oriented. But Jesus Christ had to come to deliver all, because of the imperfection innate in all of humanity. It is therefore impossible, by works to please God! Jesus Christ fulfilled the law and bridged the gap, between God and humankind. Instead of a dead sacrifice, God requires a living sacrifice. How is one to do that?
“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
I Peter 2:1-2 KJV
The words, “of the word”, is our Greek word, logikos. If we are babies, we are not mature enough to eat adult food. This is comparing malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies, all evil speaking to religion and babies. Instead of doing those the contrast here is to desire the sincere milk of the Word that we can grow into adults. The logical, reasonable and if you will, the religious service is to be a living sacrifice, How is this possible?
“ And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:2 KJV
WOW, this is new stuff! This may be new to you and I. It may be new to the world. It was new, brand new the day it was first spoken and written in the book of Romans. Instead of religion and religious works, laws and commandments of men (and women), being deceived and all the other things we have looked at that religion is and does, a follower of “The Way” is NOT to be conformed (shaped, influenced, motivated, pressured, to think, to act and etc.), according to this world, but to be transformed. The word “transformed” from the Greek has been transliterated over into out present word, metamorphosis. This transforming is like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly! This renewed mind is to put on, think and do what the Word says. And by so doing, one proves to themselves, what is that good, acceptable and the perfect will of God. This is what “The Way” of holiness is and what it means to be a follower of “The Way, The Truth and The Life”!
So what about the name Christian? Compared to the many Biblical references to some form of “The Way” the word “Christian” only appears three times in the Bible. The word “Christian(s)” is only found in Acts 11:26, Acts 25:28, and I Peter 4:16. The first usage of a word used in the Bible is significant. It is important. It sets the tone and carries its meaning on to every usage. To save time here, we will look at only the first usage of the word “Christian(s)”.
“And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
In Acts chapter 11, many things were happening, signs miracles and wonders and even Gentiles were being added and multiplied to the Church daily. The “he” above refers to Barnabas, who had been working much in the area we are looking at here. The word “him” refers to the apostle Paul. Barnabas went to find Paul to bring him to this area. News of all the incredible things happening in the area, had already been heard about in Jerusalem (the then center of outreach in the first century church.
WOW, this is incredible seeing that Antioch was about approximately 300 miles away. Barnabas leaving was incredible and that the news got there before he did, even though travel was slow in comparison to our time. Travel would have likely been on foot. It would take nearly 2 weeks to walk this distance with breaks, stopping for meals and rest!
This is incredible because Barnabas was a leader in the area, but he believed what was happening in Antioch was so incredible that he was willing to leave and go inform the apostle Paul and bring him back. Nothing short of him personally making the trip to Jerusalem would do. This was so incredible that Barnabas likely traveled by foot and it took him almost two weeks to get to Jerusalem. To avoid the heat of the day, he likely traveled by night and slept during the day. What about the weather? What about bandits or wild animals? Who leaves their work when so much is happening? Barnabas left because of and in spite of all of that because, it was so important! This is incredible because, when he got to Jerusalem they already knew what was going on in Antioch and the apostle Paul, also already knew knew.
Now Jerusalem was the hub, the epicenter of outreach in the first century church. It is where Paul was and needed to be; most likely where he wanted to be. But what he had heard in Jerusalem before Barnabas arrived was so incredible and what Barnabas must have told him so incredibly incredible that both men traveled about 300 miles in around two weeks and stayed in Antioch for a year! Who does this and why?
One important thing to remember is that many gentiles were becoming followers of “The Way” in Antioch. Although not an entirely new thing, it was happening more and more on a regular basis. This was a precursor to the beginning of multiples of disciples, leaders, centers of references (other centers besides just Jerusalem), and to the longer view that in the space of about 2 years and three months, all of Asia Minor heard the Word of God! It began to permeate the culture and the word in Acts 17:20 says, “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” INCREDIBLE indeed!!!
Yes, Barnabas and Paul stayed there a whole year. And many (“much”), people were taught. And the disciples (followers of “The Way”), were first called “Christians” in Antioch. Who called them this? I do not know and the Word does not say. Was it the followers of “The Way” that called themselves “Christians”? I do not know. Was it the rest of the city (non-believers, non-followers of “The Way’, the non-Christians that said this? I do not know. But I do understand and it is pretty easy to know why.
In the city of Antioch there were many signs, miracles and wonders happening. How do I know? It says so in Acts chapter 11 and signs, miracles and wonders always follow, the teaching of The Word of God, “The Way, The Truth and The Life”!
Men and women saw men and women doing the works like Jesus Christ did and “greater works.” They saw Jesus Christ in them or Christ-in them and called them, Christ-ins or simply, Christians!
So, if you are a believer or call yourself a follower of “The Way” or if you call yourself a “Christian”, just because the label is changed on the jar of peanut butter, does not change what is inside the jar. Just because you do not know that peanut butter is inside, does not mean it is not. And even if you know what is inside, does not mean you will open the jar and share what is inside. My suggestions are to know what it is, get it, open up your jar and share– “The Way, The Truth and the Life”, the Christ-in you (your Christianity), “the hope of glory”, with everyone you meet, including that person you see in your mirror likely every day! To me, the most beautiful thing I have ever read are these words – “Christ in you the hope of glory”!!! I will reserve another post at another time, for this incredible richness of the glory of this mystery.
Now we have seen what religion is and what being religious looks like. We have seen that to be a follower of “The Way” or to be a ”Christian” looks nothing like religion or being religious. As a matter of truth, they are completely opposite! To close this second part of three parts, then what is it? In one word, it is godliness.
There are many verses in the Bible about godliness and its association with holiness and righteousness and “The Way”. Remember from Isaiah 35:8 there shall be (speaking then of the future which is now), a “way” and it was called “the way of holiness”? Remember Jesus Christ in John 14:6 clarified and specified that he is, “The Way, The Truth, and The Life”? He is the also, “The Way” to holiness, to righteousness and godliness (among many other things), according to the Word. But lets look at the opposite of religion. Let’s look at the word “godliness.”
The Greek word is εὐσέβεια eusébeia. It is a noun. Its literal meaning is “godly heart-response”, reverence, respect. In the Bible everywhere, it is piety toward God. It is translated as “godliness”. There are many occurrences of our word eusébeia “godliness”, but for now, at the nearing end to this post, I will share just one verse. And I will do so with little, but necessary explanation and commentary as possible.
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
I Timothy 3:16 KJV
Most of this wonderful verse is clear and easy to understand. There was no controversy when this verse was written, about its subject, “the mystery of godliness [eusébeia]. It is a mystery or it was a mystery. But once it has been revealed, it is no longer a mystery. The next word “God” has been added and it does not appear in the original texts. Don’t take my word for it, look it up for yourself! Try E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible and look at the notes and appendices that accompany this verse.
Excerpt from E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible, page 1803, I Timothy 3:16
Excerpt from E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible, page 1803, I Timothy 3:16
I do not apologize if this has upset your theology, but this is, the accuracy and integrity of God’s Word. So let us read this verse again with the word
God omitted and the word “which” properly being the original translation, of the Greek word ho (which).
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: which was manifest [in manifestation, seen, in evidence, and etc.] in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
I Timothy 3:16 KJV
What is this verse talking about? Who is this verse talking about? What is this “mystery of godliness”? First, it is something that God does! Next, how was this manifest “in the flesh”? It became evident (was seen), in the miracle birth and life (the works that he did), of Jesus Christ. It was justified in the spirit that Jesus Christ had upon him, the spirit of God. And this spirit of God enabled him to do the works that he did. He was seen of angels when he arose from the dead, ascended into and through the heavens and sat down on the right hand of God. Jesus Christ, “The Way”, The Truth and The Life, the way of holiness, the righteousness of God is, “godliness”! He was publicly preached (declared) to the gentiles. This, “The Way” was and is, still believed on in the world. He, Jesus Christ was, received up into glory as will all who will be in the resurrection of the just and those that are born again of the spirit of holiness, the righteousness of God—”godliness”, the very nature of God!
What is this “mystery of godliness”?? Godliness is, a vital spiritual and personal relationship with God the creator, God the Father! There is no religion on the face of the earth, never has been, cannot now be nor ever shall be, able to do that!!!
So, we could stop right here. “The Way” is not; Christianity is NOT, a religion! It is a personal and intimate relationship between The Father and His Children!
But I said there would be three parts to this post. Next time we will look at several differences between “The Way” – Christianity and religion. Not that we need to because, there is no comparison between two diametrically opposed (total and complete opposites). But just for fun and OK, information, we will do it anyway. 🙂
Now if you want to dispute any of this. Go for it, but I did not write the Bible. I am just…
Next time: What Separates Christianity from All other Religions (Part 3 of 3)- FINAL