Question #7 – “Religion does not matter, relation does,” is often heard from some people giving the idea that religion is not needed in our spiritual journey. Is this saying correct?
Answer: It depends on what is the definition of religion an individual or group would adopt.
When correctly defined, religion includes knowledge about God, faith in the merit of Christ’s sacrificial death, as well as loving obedience to Christ who saves. But if religion means the religious structure or the name of one’s group, then religion does not save. That group may be called a “Fellowship” or it could be a formally organized international group (church) with a well defined organizational structure with officers and some beliefs based on the feelings of their leaders. Or maybe local congregations with universal distribution seeking to follow just what the Holy Bible dictates. Christ is the Redeemer and He left several directives including these: “If you love me, keep My commandments,” (John 14:15) and “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
Those who deny the importance of religion should tell us which view of religion do they consider useless and show us proofs from the Bible why religion should be disregarded.
Definition of religion
a. Etymologically, the word religion comes from two terms: RE means ‘again’, and RELIGIO from the Latin root verb LIG which means ‘to bind.’ In the context of Christianity, religion means to again bind God and mankind who have been separated by sin since the time of Adam. Those who claim that religion is not important means that they do not like to reclaim the bond of God with mankind as it did exist before the fall of Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden.
b. According to the Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary, page 1064, Volume 2, another meaning of the word RELIGION: “A system of faith and worship including reverence and reliance on a divine being, firm adherence to divine truth of religious doctrines with godly living.” Those who deny the importance of religion would then have no system of faith and worship, no reverence and reliance on a divine being, no religious doctrines and godly living. Their group would then just be a social club and entertainment.
c. True Christianity has a set of rules, a set of doctrines, a set of teachings or a set of instructions contained in the Holy Bible, the book that reveals God’s will for mankind. As evidence of this view to make you feel the presence of a system in the Christian religion, you combine the contexts of Jude 3-4 with its “faith once for all delivered to the saints”, Acts 2:42 which says, “. . . they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrines and fellowship in the breaking of bread, and in prayers”, 1Tim. 4:16, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you”, and 2Cor. 4:13-14, “But since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believe and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.” You see, there is a codified system of faith and practice in religion.
Clearly, there is a system followed by the Christian religion that sets the measure of acceptable relationship with God the Creator and Judge of all mankind. A disregard for this Christian system will get this judgment verdict of Christ at the last day: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:21—23, NKJV)
d. McDowell & Stewart in their book Understanding Non-Christian Religions define religion this way: “that aspect of one’s experience in which he attempts to live harmoniously with the power or powers he believes are controlling the world.” Those who deny the importance of religion would then do away with a system of relating to the divine being that controls the universe. If these people have no religion, then they make themselves their own God and their own ideas as the basis of relationship with the God they adore.
Christianity is Our Religion
Our Lord Jesus Christ says this in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” And in John 14:6, Christ declares: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 20:30-31 reads, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” In sum, the Christian religion is embodied in Christ Jesus. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Aside from being the sacrifice for sins, Christ is also our Mediator interceding in our behalf for our salvation.
Religion and Relation Are Intertwined
Since religion is a system of belief and practices, religion, therefore, is the measure of the right relationship one has with the divine being he worships. Without religion, an individual makes his own feelings and his own ideas as the bases of his relationship with whoever that God he thinks rules the universe and beyond. But with the Bible as the revelation of God’s will for mankind, we have a revealed religion as the measure of our relationship with the Creator God whom we worship. It is not religion OR relation. It is true religion AND correct relation. Both are equally important. Religion based on the proper interpretation of the Bible sets the proper relation with the God we worship, love and obey from the heart.