Which Religion Saves

Philippians 3:1-9

     Down through the years of my ministry I have know several cussing, drinking, fighting, wild-living men get converted, --and a few women. When their life really changed it was not uncommon for their old crowd to say, "He got religion".

     Numerous times I have asked people about their relationship with God, and they answer, "I'm satisfied with my religion". I have also noted that when someone dies who has been faithful in church attendance, lived a good life and had done good things for others, that a common expression has been, "If anybody makes it to heaven He (or she) will."

     What these statements imply is that if someone has a religion and lives a good life that his will surely satisfy God and He will accept them into Heaven. The fact is, not one statement in scripture teaches we an be saved and go to heaven by religion. The word religion does not even appear in the Old Testament. The sum total that religion/religious appears in the New Testament is six times. Three times the apostle Paul speaks of how faithfully he observed the Jews religion before he trusted Christ as Savior (Acts 26:5; Galatians 1:13, 14). The word religious is applied to Gentile proselytes to Judaism (Acts 13:43). James makes a distinction between those whose religion is vain and those whose religion is real. James 1:26-27

Religion Is Powerless

     The Apostle Paul discovered that religion is powerless to give salvation. In Philippians 3:4-6, He refers to the religion he zealously practiced for most of his life: "Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any one else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.´" In the first nine verses of Philippians 3 Paul reveals the uselessness of religion to give salvation and take a person to heaven.

Religious Rites Will Not Get You Into Heaven 

     Paul speaks here of those who trusted in the rite of circumcision as necessary for salvation. He describes them as vicious agitators and evil workers. We can be sure that if he desired, he could have given many illustrations from personal experience. Many are given in the book of Acts. According to Romans 4:9-11, circumcision was given to Abraham as a seal of the righteousness of faith which Abraham had before he was circumcised. (See Genesis 15:6 AND 17:9-11)

     In the same way many have made rites out of the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The observance of these ordinances do not save us. They point to the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins which made our salvation possible.

Religious Orthodoxy Will Not Get You Into Heaven (Verses 4-5)

.      He was born into the tribe of Benjamin. This was the tribe that continued to worship Jehovah, along with Judah, when ten tribes split away. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This was a term to describe those who were "the cream of the crop". Paul was a Pharisee. He described them as being "the straightest sect of our religion" in Acts 26:5. During Paul’s days as a Pharisee he was undoubtedly counting on this religious orthodoxy to gain him much favor with God. On the Damascus Road he was jolted with the realization that it didn’t gain him any favor at all.

Religious Works Will Not Get You Into Heaven (Verse 6)

     In other scriptures Paul made such statements as "I…was zealous toward God, as you all are this day." Acts 22:3 "And profited in the Jews religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers." Galatians 1:14 (KJV). An honest and objective appraisal of Paul’s works in his Jewish religion was that he was "Off the charts" when compared to anyone else.

     Yet, Paul came to realize that all of his zeal in performing religious works gained him absolutely no merit with God. He came to realize that the law was a "tutor to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith." Galatians 3:24.

You Get To Heaven Only Through Faith in Christ

To Know Christ Jesus as Lord

     "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet, indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith." Philippians 3:7-9.

     Paul is referring to that time on the Damascus Road when he had an experience that caused him to throw his religious rites, his religious orthodoxy and his religious works on the garbage dump as far as giving any home of salvation is concerned.

     What is it that Paul said will bring salvation to the seekers heart and get you to Heaven? "… the knowledge of Christ Jesus as Lord", "… And be found in Him", "…not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ." Paul is testifying, "When I reached out in faith to Jesus Christ that day on the Damascus Road it resulted in me coming to know Him as my personal Savior. I have come to realize that God placed me in Christ and no longer sees me in my self-righteousness. That is what saves me and makes me acceptable to God.

Good Deeds and Clean Living Are Results of Christ in Me

     As far as my Christian life, I have discovered that my works are no longer what I am doing for God to help save me, but they are the result of what God is doing in me that makes me want to live pleasing to Him and serve Him." Ephesians 2:8-10.

Apostle Paul speaks In Jewish Synagogue

     A sample of what Paul preached is found in his sermon in the Jewish synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. "Be it known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins: And by him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." Acts 13:38-39.

Personal Experience of Apostle Paul

… The Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31, 32.
    Paul’s Damascus Road experience Acts 9:1-6.

     Hopefully, you are trusting Christ alone for your salvation. If you are still trusting religion, the words of Christ in Matthew 7:22, 23, give a powerful warning "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 will I declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! that work iniquity.

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scripture quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted