Many people have the wrong idea about Christianity. People speak of Christianity as if it is a religion similar to Islam or Catholicism. However, true Christianity is much different than any religion. The foundation on which Christianity is based sets it apart from other religions. This article is an overview of the difference between Christianity and religion. Unfortunately, there are many, even those who attend church services regularly, do not know the difference between Christianity and religion. Many people subscribe to religion thinking they are Christians and are therefore deceived..
Matthew 7:13–14 (NASB95) — 13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
There are many who are on the broad road that leads to destruction. There are a few who are on the narrow road that leads to life. This is the difference between true Christians and those who are deceived. We will infestigate this in this article.
The word religion derives from a Latin word (religio) that means piety, conscientiousness, scrupulousness, from religare, to bind back: re-, and ligare, to bind, to bind together. Religion, therefore, implies some type of binding between you and something else. It is defined as
- A belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
- A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
- The life or condition of a person in a religious order
- A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader
- A cause, a principle, or an activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion
So we see that religion refers not to Christianity in particular, rather it refers to a belief that comes from a set of rules that identify the religion. In this respect, Christianity may be thought of as a religion because there are very definite boundaries that are present for the Christian. So you see that if your life is governed by religion then your life is bound to a system of belief and not necessarily Christ. Why is this so important to consider? It is important because your fulfillment in Christianity can only come by living the Christian life. Living the Christian life is realized when we know what that life is and do it. If our life is based on the doctrines of a church or a religious system of a church or individual then we cannot realize the fulfillment that comes by living as a Christian.
How often in the church community do you hear Christianity defined according to the teachings of Jesus Christ? How often do you hear the teachings of Jesus Christ in churches anyway? Typically, in my experiences, there is a lot of teaching on prosperity, speaking in tongues, believe you receive, faith, and all of the other stuff that you may be familiar with in the Charismatic and word of faith movements. It was surprising to me how little “press” was given to such topics as…
- Jesus Christ
- The teachings of Christ
- The Gospel
- The Christian life according to the scripture
The word Christianity is usually defined as being Christ-like. However, many people don’t know what Christ is like and therefore have no idea what Christianity really is. You may get many strange answers if you ask the average “Christian” who is Jesus Christ. Of course, there is the textbook answer—”He is the Son of God”
Here is how the Holman Bible dictionary defines “Christian.”
CHRISTIAN (khrihs’ tyan) The Greek Christianos originally applied to the slaves belonging to a great household. It came to denote the adherents of an individual or party. A Christian is an adherent of Christ; one committed to Christ; a follower of Christ. The word is used three times in the New Testament. 1. Believers “were called Christians first in Antioch” because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ (Acts 11:26). A Christian is one who becomes an adherent of Christ (bound to the way of Christ), whose daily life and behavior facing adversity is like Christ.
The Eastman’s Bible Dictionary defines Christianity as follows.
The name was given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus. It was first used at Antioch. The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were “brethren,” “the faithful,” “elect,” “saints,” “believers.” But as distinguishing them from the multitude without, the name “Christian” came into use, and was universally accepted. This name occurs but three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).
Christianity is a way, not a religion. It is a way of life. Christians are really identified by their daily activity as being the same as Christ. However, so many people don’t know Christ such that they don’t know what a true Christian is. Christians in the early church acted a certain way and the non-Christians recognized their activity as being one of Christ. Today what we call Christian was simply known as “The Way.” Consider that Jesus Christ is the way (John 14:6). We also said that Christians were recognized by their way of life. The church in Antioch is the first place that the people who followed the Way were first called Christians because they were identified with their leader—Christ.
Who or what are you identified with? Will someone (Christian or non-Christian) get a glimpse of Christ or your Churchianity? Will others see you and see Christ or will they see all of the rules and regulations associated with your religion or denomination? How will people recognize Christ if we don’t reveal him? Christianity is more than church! It is the Way—of Christ. Jesus told us…
Matt. 11:28-30 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Who has the last word in your personal belief system? Does the word of God dictate what you believe pertaining to the Way or does your pastor, evangelist, or minister? Do you learn from Christ or from people? The only thing that people can do is reveal to you what God said. The only thing that I can do is tell you what I have learned. However, it is up to you to know the truth for yourself. How are you going to discern what is right (according to God’s word) if you don’t know what God said? Consider the following scripture.
1 John 2:27 (NKJV) But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
This puts an emphasis on the activity of the Holy Spirit who will help us to discern the truth from all else. Consider the following scripture.
John 14:26 (NKJV) But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
The difference between religion and true Christianity is the respective foundations. Religion is founded on a system, which typically is composed of rules and regulations. Christianity is based on Jesus Christ and what he did. Religion is based on what you have to do whereas Christianity is based on what Jesus has already done. In a religious system, one has to perform in order to receive favors from a deity. However, in Christianity, we rely on the performance of Jesus Christ to enter into a relationship with God the Father.
Another big difference between Christianity and religion is a relationship. Religions are not based on and do not promote a relationship with their respective deities. In religions you simply have to perform by following the rules, abiding by the traditions, and living by its teachings (dogma). Christianity is all about entering into right relations with God. God knows that we cannot save ourselves and therefore sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins so that we would be able to enter into right relationship with Him.
Ephesians 2:8–9 (NASB95) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Here is a summary of the difference between Christianity and Religion
Based on what Jesus Christ has already done: died for our sins and rose from the dead defeating death.
The focus is on Jesus
The objective is a relationship with the Father
Faith in Jesus for salvation is fundamental
Salvation is a gift from God that we cannot earn and do not deserve
Based on what we have to
The focus is on self
The objective is to appease a deity or people by works
Performance is fundamental
Salvation is something that we have to earn