Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jesus is Not a Religion - Part 3

"Christianity is one of the great religions of the world," or at least so say many well-meaning people. But no matter what anyone has previously thought about Jesus, or how they've previously understood Him, what I'm attempting to do in this series of posts is simply to point out that the scriptures, which tell about Jesus, do not point us to some religion called "Christianity," but they point us to the very Person Himself, Jesus. My hope as I lay out what the scriptures reveal about Jesus, is to show how they reveal a Person who is personally, intimately involved with us (individually and corporately), and to contrast this with the idea of "religion."

"Jesus is the way" was the subject of Part 2, and I'd like to carry that out just a little more. Specifically, I'd like to discuss why a "way" was needed in the first place (and why religion is not the way).

God did not create mankind for religion. When we read the creation account in Genesis, we don't see God creating Adam and Eve and telling them, "Ok, now, worship Me and follow a prescribed set of religious rituals and precepts. My goodness! We see Him creating them "in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Gen 1:27). We see Him setting them in a garden paradise and giving them free reign. In the next few verses we see God blessing them, telling them to "be fruitful and multiply." We see Him giving them dominion "over every living thing that moves on the earth." We see God giving, giving, giving to man, blessing him. No signs of religion. No signs of man working at trying to earn anything from God. Mankind was blessed and had a free and trusting relationship with God.

It wasn't God who created religion. It was man. Although what I'm about to say is obviously my opinion with no exact scriptural wording to back up my point, in the end the result is the same. In the beginning, Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God, but when presented with a different option, they chose religion instead. God gave them all things, and they were never meant to die, and they walked with God freely and openly. In the midst of the garden was the Tree of Life (to which they had free access) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which was the only thing forbidden to them). Note, it wasn't simply the "tree of the knowledge of evil." It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Well, they "saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise..." (Gen 3:6), and they took of its fruit and ate. And a dramatic change took place. Their eyes were "opened," and for the first time ever they knew that they were naked, and they covered themselves with fig leaves. Before eating from this tree, they had free and perfect fellowship with God. They had Life. They had no religion. Now suddenly they knew good and evil and also for the first time ever, they hid from God (Gen 3:8). God did not create man to hide from Him! His purpose for them was Himself and His creation - and Life. His purpose for them was not the religion tree (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), but we do see that by setting the forbidden tree there, He did give them a choice.

(Let me just point out that in the culmination of things, as revealed in the book of Revelation, we find the Tree of Life "in the midst of the Paradise of God" (Rev 2:7, 22:2, 22:14) but we find no tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

We see the result when they at from the forbidden tree. The curse began. (Gen 3:17-19). "Death reigned." (Rom 5:14). "Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." (Rom 5:12). Man became alienated from God (Col 1:21).

As I set out saying, my purpose in spending some time here talking about Adam and Eve is to set up the understanding of why a "way" was needed in the first place. Because of sin - which spread to all of mankind - man was cursed and had no chance of eternal life. Ever since that time, man has tried to find various ways to reach out to God and "find" Him. Many people, for various reasons, think they have found Him through various methods, religious practices, feelings, emotions, strivings to live right, law, rules, meditation, etc.

But the same scriptures that reveal the above problems (the "bad news" of sin, death, separation from God, etc) also reveal that the answer, or the antidote, or the "way" is never going to be found in man's attempts to find God or reach out to Him. "Doing good works" is not the way to God. A "feeling" of love or happiness is not the way to God. Religious activity - which can be defined in all kinds of ways - is not the way to God. Many of these things may feel good or seem right, but a person can do all of those things and still remain separated from God! The issue, as the scriptures tell us, isn't a matter of whether we're good or evil. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the problem! Through that tree came death, and mankind was separated from the Tree of LIFE. It doesn't matter how good your good is if you're still eating from that tree! The issue is that man needed LIFE.

God so loved the world that He gave Jesus. Through Jesus, all who believe are restored to Life.
"God... who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel..." (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
I'm sure we'll delve further into "Jesus is the Life" in the future, but for now I hope it's been made at least somewhat clear as to why a way was needed and why Jesus is the Way and why there is no other way.


  1. What stuck out to me in this post, Joel is that death came when man got knowledge of good and evil. Kind of insults the people who go to the Bible as a guide to live right, eh?

    So no life will be given to us no matter how dedicated to doing good we are. Life only comes through the free gift of God's Son.

  2. Excellent presentation of why we need a 'way'. The story of Adam and Eve always had fascinated me but never clicked to me until few years ago. It lays the foundation for our need for salvation. If we don't understand the account of Adam and Eve, we will not understand salvation; we will not understand why Jesus came to give us LIFE. It's amazing and I am so glad that you took time to go there and explain the obvious in a beautiful way. Many people whom I know overlook the book of Genesis and pay less attention to it as if it is a fairytale.

    If I don't realize that I am in need of LIFE, It would be very hard for me to understand the 40+ references of LIFE in the book of John. LIFE cannot be understood or received through religion because religion has no life. Jesus has LIFE and He came to give it to us. While the religion focuses on sins, Jesus focuses on LIFE, because from His perspective the sin issue have been resolved forever, now the issue is death and the only solution to that is LIFE and He is the only one who can offer it to us since He is the only one who overcame death. It's amazing!

  3. Matthew... yep, if people try to use the Bible's principles and precepts as a guide to living right, they will "succeed" or "fail" to various degrees, but they will never find life unless they see the scriptures pointing to Christ Himself as The Way, and not to any methods or principles or any following of what is right or wrong.

    Bino... Same here, I always thought Adam and Eve was a neat story of how man was created but I never connected the dots until more recently. They had the tree of life or they had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After eating from the second tree, they were removed from the garden paradise where the tree of life was. And the NT scriptures are filled with references to a restoration to life through Christ. Thanks for mentioning the references in John. I'm sure I'll be able to use that knowledge in the future.

  4. Excellent series Joel! It is kind of off topic, but I was going to share something that we discussed this past Sunday...It was getting long, so I decided to make it a post on my blog.

    It has been one of the blessings that God has given me in the last year or so; to see Jesus in the Bible in places where I have never seen Him before. Everything in the Bible truly does point to Jesus as the "Way to the Father", the "Truth about the Father," and the "Life of the Father."

    In Christ,

  5. Deep insight,beautifully presented!