Christ vs. Religion
Paul’s argument in Colossians 2 is about valuation and comparison. It is also about living. The Christian life is not about religion. It is about Christ, and both Christ and religion would have you live in a certain way. Both religion and Christ claim to be the way to please God, but both cannot be what they claim.
Religion is common in the world. It is man’s attempt to deal with God. A religious man is one who has a sense of the separation caused by sin. Man has sinned and is separated from God, who is holy. The religionist may have a fear of the judgment and punishment of God because he knows in his heart that he is offensive to God because of sins. Another religionist may do religion like a good neighbor takes care of his yard. He thinks because he does this his neighbor likes and approves of him. The atheist disregards the whole notion of God. Both the religionist and the atheist think the other one is crazy; but together they loathe the Christian, who has forsaken religion in favor of Christ, only by His grace.
In the mix of all this religious activity is the devil, Satan, the deceiver. He is productive with his work toward the atheist and toward the religionist. If the devil can convince the atheist there is no God, then his deception is effective. If the devil can convince the religionist, his particular brand of religion is right and makes him right with God, then the devil’s deception is effective. Satan is an advocate of religion and irreligion.
Religion manufactures innumerable ways for a person to be spiritual in her own mind. In the potpourri of religion, almost anything goes. Religion loves symbols and employs them to send powerful messages into the minds of both friend and foe. Religion is also very defensive of its practice of rites and rituals.
If religion creates a way for a person to become more spiritual, then it will defend its ways and even attack critics of the new way. New ways add to the old ways, which adds complexity and confusion to religion. Confusion keeps adherents unsure; and leaders, who claim to know the right way of their religion, retain power through complexity and confusion. Religion is very much the way of the world (Gen 11). It is a power-play by Satan to control people, using controlling people.
Religion also has a spiritual philosophy behind it. There are a set of beliefs in every religion. These beliefs are what make the religion unique, and again, because religion is man-made there is no end to the creative ideas to join the creative symbols religion has manufactured. The essence of religion’s ideology is working one’s way to one’s god by doing good works to please and appease the deity in view. Sometimes nations, or even corporations, are so adept at these things that they actually become religions (ie. “the IBM way”).
Religion likes money, too, and makes a way for the religionist to earn favor with deity by financial giving. Thus, religion is an industry. It grows by numbers of adherents and financial status. Religion thus produces a powerful god who throws his weight around with the infidels (non-adherents to the religion). People like to be part of mega-anything, so the bigger the religion, the more satisfied the adherents are with the religion, “Our religion is bigger and richer, so our god is bigger and richer than your god.”
Christ came and disarmed the rulers and authorities behind religion (Col 2:15). The spiritual deception by Satan and his demons has filled the world with endless religion. Clearly, not all religions can possibly be true because they are all so different in their promises, doctrines, rites, rituals, and observances. The plea for coexistence among religions is a religion itself. It has an ideology, a symbol-laden key word, and rituals for adherents to follow. It even has a preferred car: Toyota Prius.
Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44); and religion, all religion is a lie, including atheism. The only thing that can save the religionist is the truth. Because all religion fails to attain right standing with God, and because we are all born religionists of some make or model, we are all doomed. What we need is what the Colossians had received (Col 2:6), Christ Jesus the Lord. Christ is the anti-religion. He is the antidote for religion.
First, Jesus Christ is not religion. Religion is man-made; and adherents attempt to work their way to heaven on religion’s own man-made terms. As we have noted, it is funded and fueled by the god of this world, Satan. It fails to attain right standing with God, but Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God (1 Cor 1:30). God is well-pleased with Jesus Christ (Mt 3:17), not religion (Gen 11).
So, Jesus Christ stands in opposition to all religions. He is the truth (Jn 14:6), but they are lies. He is the light (Jn 8:12), but they are darkness. His works were finished from before the foundation of the world (Heb 4:3), but religion presses on in vain.
Second, Jesus Christ accomplishes what no religion can for its adherents. Another way of speaking about right-standing or righteousness with God is salvation. Salvation removes the separation of man from God, and it provides right standing for the adherent. There is no other name under heaven, given among men, where a man must be saved, other than the name Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
Salvation belongs to God (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1), and it comes from God in the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 13:47; Titus 2:11). In other words, God has thwarted man-made attempts at salvation, and at the same time, He has accomplished salvation. That accomplishment is Jesus Christ, in whom all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Col 2:9). God is the Savior (Hos 13:4; Lk 1:47), and Jesus Christ is the Savior (Titus 3:6); therefore, Jesus Christ is God (Titus 2:13), enfleshed (Jn 1:14), and now glorified (Jn 12:21, 35; 13:31–32; 1 Pet 4:11).
Third, Jesus Christ has the name above every other name in religion (Phil 2:9). Islam has no name for their god. They just refer to him as god. Hinduism, like the Greeks and Romans, gives names for its gods but note the plurality. Israel has one God, whose name is “Yahweh.” Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves.” The name “Jesus” or “Joshua” carries the name “Yahweh” within it. So, there is only one God who saves, and His name tells us His identity and His most glorious function regarding humanity.
Jesus was in the Father (Jn 14:11), and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). Jesus Christ is the head over all rule and authority (Col 2:10). There is none beside Him (Is 45:5). Jesus Christ is at the center of the throne of God (Rev 7:17) at the right hand of majesty (Heb 1:3), having been given all authority in heaven and earth (Mt 28:18). So, Jesus is God who reigns (Rev 11:15), and judges the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5).
Fourth, Jesus gives assurance of salvation that religion cannot give to adherents. The doctrine of predestination and election informs us of the nature of God’s salvation of His people. Before God created the physical universe, He wrote the names of His people in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev 13:8; 17:8). God chose His people in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).
Therefore, those who were elect in Christ (Eph 1:4; 2 Tim 2:10), and subsequently baptized into Christ (Rom 6), share in the promises of Christ, which include the assurance of salvation (Jn 10:28–29; Rom 8:35–39; Heb 13:5). Paul stated it succinctly, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified (Rom 8:30).”
Religion always has its adherents working. There is no rest for the religionist. She is working for her salvation and then working to keep her pseudo-salvation, which invariably requires a set of rules to comply with until death. Even at death, there is no assurance. In contrast with religion, Jesus said, “Come unto Me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28).” God has also said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you (Heb 13:5).”
The promise also sounds like this, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38).” Jesus spoke to the people about the assurance He gives to His people, “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand (Jn 10:28).” Those in Christ have Christ in them as a token of eternal communion (Rom 8:9, 11; 2 Cor 5:5; Gal 2:20).
Sixth, Jesus Christ is and has the power of God, which religion does not have (1 Cor 1:24). The kingdom of God displays the power of God (1 Cor 4:20). God displays His redemptive power in Christ, especially in His resurrection (Rom 1:4). He then demonstrates His power in displaying His salvation (Rom 1:16). The Gospel of salvation is preached in a demonstration of power by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:4).
The Word of the Cross is foolishness to those who do not receive the Spirit (1 Cor 1:18), but for those who receive the Holy Spirit and the Word (Jn 6:63), it is the power of God unto salvation for them (Rom 1:16–17). The kingdom of God is not just words, but the Word of God inculcated powerfully by the Spirit of God (Jas 1:21), to transfer the sinner and transform him (1 Cor 4:20; Col 1:13). This is the good Word of God and the power of the age to come (Heb 6:5), working mightily to save and to sanctify (Jn 17:17). This is something religion cannot do.
Religion has the power to control adherents and make them religionists; but it has no power to make men holy as God is holy (1 Pet 1:16). If God is holy and men are unholy, then religion puts the burden on men to become holy.
Jesus Christ comes to the ungodly and makes them willing on the day of His power (Ps 110:3). That is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2) for those appointed to believe (Acts 13:48) by His eternal election. These chosen people received the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, and were saved by His election, His redemption, and His appropriation of a faith given to them by grace (Eph 2:8–9).
For the nonce, consider your position regarding Christ vs. religion. Have you experienced the powerful conversion of God by His Spirit indwelling you or not? Do you have assurance of salvation or not? Do you think with your mind, love in your heart, and trust with your eternal soul, this reigning Christ or not? Do you know Jesus Christ as you do your best friend in the world or not?
Religionists are blind captives to their religions. Christ has opened the eyes of His people and set the captives free. To know Him is to know the power and wisdom of God’s salvation. The one who knows he has been saved by God, and who is complete in Christ (Col 2:10), gladly embraces His privileged duty to, “Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day (Ps 96:2).” The religionist does not. Who are you?
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 14, 2021