The words religion and Christianity do not have the same meaning. Certainly we do not deny that Christianity is a religion, but we deny that all that is done in the name of religion is Christianity. In fact, many religions are altogether contrary to the Christian religion. A casual study of the New Testament reveals that many of the rituals, practices and teachings which are done in the name of Christ are not Christianity.
The apostle Paul’s former religion was wrong. His former religion as a Jew, was a false religion. That religion he honestly claimed as “our religion” was a religion that the Jews had developed to suit their own inclinations. It was a religion of sectarian ambitions (Acts 26:5). The apostle spoke of his religion as the Jews’ religion and a religion he zealously followed (Gal. 1:13- 14). Therefore, before Saul could become a Christian, he had to give up, renounce, the false religion of the Pharisees.
The Athenians were religious, but wrong. When Paul, now a Christian, came to Athens, he saw religious people—so religious that they endeavored to honor all gods. Lest they should slight any, they raised an image to an unknown god. Paul refuted their vain religion and set before them the true and living God. Some would turn from the false religion to the true and living God (Acts 17:16-34).
The Hebrew people were religious, but wrong. They were zealous of their religion. Paul did not rebuke them for their religion. Paul did not rebuke them for their much zeal nor for the fact that they were religious, but because their religion was not according to the knowledge of truth. Their religion was according to their own established laws of righteousness (Rom. 10:1-3).
James 1:26 speaks of vain religion: “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.” A man may be religious, but his religion may not count with God. Is your religion vain? Religion based on the doctrine and commandments of men is a religion that will not please God. This religion will draw near to Christ in word, giving lip service to Him, but it is a heartless religion based on the teachings of man and not God (Mat. 15:8-9)
There is a do-nothing religion. It also is wrong. James 1:27 speaks of a “pure religion and undefiled before God…” as a religion of doing. God only approves the religion of one who…” worketh righteousness…” (Acts 10:34-35). God will never approve of a religion that will not do as He commands.
A conscience religion is not a safe guide. Many people say, “Let your conscience be your guide.” If that is so, then much time and sacrifice has been wasted by God in giving His will to man so that man might know and do the will of God. Paul, in his former religion said, “I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). Paul also stated, “…I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1).
The only religion that will save your soul is the one that follows Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The way of truth leads you to live in Christ.
Man must examine his religion in the light of truth (John 17:17). Is it possible that one could be religiously wrong, deceived by false religions? The only true religion is the one that obeys the commandments of God as revealed in the holy Scriptures. A religion of conscience and feelings is not an indication that God has accepted you as His child.