Religion and the Gospel

  • James 1:27 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.

As we discuss the Gospel, it is important to note both the differences and similarities of the Gospel and religion. First of all, it needs pointed out that man’s religion and Jesus’ gospel are not the same thing. Someone stated it this way:

  • Religion is man’s quest for God; the Gospel is the Savior God seeking lost men. Religion originates on earth; the Gospel originated in heaven. Religion is man-made; the Gospel is the gift of God. Religion is the story of what sinful man tries to do for a holy God; the Gospel is the story of what a holy God has done for sinful men. Religion is good views; the Gospel is good news.”

Most religion is opposed to the Gospel. Most religion trusts in man’s works to get to heaven instead of Christ’s finished work to get to heaven. Most religion is man-made rules and regulations instead of God’s already declared rules and regulations. Most religion is not “pure religion.” But notice from James 1:27 that there is true religion. Some go the opposite extreme of throwing out all religion. This is wrong and unbiblical.

“Pure religion” is supposed to be the natural response of the saved to the Gospel’s purifying work in us! For instance, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of Jesus leaving Heaven and visiting sinful man in our affliction. The natural pure outworking of religion then is revealed as visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction” in our text, James 1:27.

Notice carefully Jesus’ first sermon:

  • Luke 4:16 “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.
  • 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
  • 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
  • 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
  • 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
  • 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

Pure religion” simply follows in the steps of our Savior! We do what He did and does. True religion is not opposed to the Gospel, but rather practices the Gospel. Since Jesus came to seek and to save sinners, believers of the Gospel do likewise. This is “pure religion.”

“Pure religion” is also keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world.” “The Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 11:2) stated “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) In I Pet. 1:14-15 we read, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.” “Pure religion” compels all believers in all areas of our lives (“all manner of conversation”) to be holy since Jesus was/is holy. Two verses later, I Pet. 1:19 reemphasizes, “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” So, “pure religion” requires believers to be “unspotted from the world” just like the Lamb of God Who is “without spot.” “Pure religion” does not do all of this to be saved, but because we are saved by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.