It is evident that many, if not most, of those who make up our society believe that if one is religious he or she is surely saved from sin and will go to heaven when this life has ended. A majority of funerals we attend (of those who are not Christians by God’s standard), as well as the general conversation wherein life, death, and the future state of departed souls is discussed, verifies that this is so. However, if we believe that God is, and that the New Testament contains His final and complete revelation to man, should we not study it to learn what He has said about salvation?
One of the things we learn from the New Test. Is that all power or authority in heaven and earth was given to Jesus Christ by God the Father (Matt. 28:18). He is the one we are to hear in all things (Acts 3:22). The writer of Hebrews, speaking of Christ, said, “He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9). And it was the Christ who said that the gate is small and the way narrow that leads to life and few that find it (Matt. 7:13,14). It was He who also said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Therefore, being only religious will not guarantee salvation!
There are many examples in the Bible if folks who were religious but unsaved. We shall now give some attention to some of these.
1. Saul of Tarsus was a devout, well educated, zealous Jew before he became a Christian (Acts 22:1-3). Yet he was not saved at this point. He persecuted Christians even casting his vote against some resulting in their death (Acts 26:10). While on his way to Demascus to secure letters from the high priest granting him permission to take any disciples of the Lord to Jerusalem, a light shined about him and Jesus spoke to him. Saul asked, “Lord, what will you have me to do? (Acts 9:2-6)” That was indeed a strange question if this religious man was already saved, as some claim. However, we know from the remainder of the story that he was not yet saved even though he was very religious, saw a vision, prayed, etc. because it was after these events that Ananias was sent to him and encouraged him to be baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:12-16).
2. There was probably not a more religious group of non-Christians than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Josephus, a contemporary Jewish historian, aptly describes them as “a body of Jews who professed to be more religious than the rest, and to explain the laws more precisely.” (Zonder-van’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary, pg. 647) They were indeed the religious leaders of Jesus’ day!
The Pharisees professed great respect for God’s Word but placed their tradition above it. Jesus said of them in Mark 7:7, 9 (ASV) 7 But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.9 And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. He said later13 making void the word of God by your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things ye do. They were also religious hypocrites for which they were severely condemned by Jesus Christ (see Matt. 23:1-33). Their religion alone would not save them! They were in need of making a change!
3. Another example of a religious man who made a change, such as did Saul of Tarsus, is the one whom Philip met after he had been instructed to go to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. Acts 8:27 says this27 And he arose and went: and behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was over all her treasure, who had come to Jerusalem to worship. Note that this man was from Ethiopia and had gone to Jerusalem to worship. This was an exceedingly long distance, estimated by some to have been between 1,000 and 1,500 miles. The distance travelled shows his devotion to God, in addition to his reading from the scriptures and raising questions about the text (vs.28-34). Upon being told about Jesus from this text, the eunuch wanted to know what prevented his being baptized which brought this response from Philip and action of both he and the eunuch37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 8 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both P3hilip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
This man was not saved because he was religious. He had been taught about Jesus and about the need to be baptized, which baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) or as Ananias told Saul, “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16).
This story is repeated over and over again in the New Test. My friend, if you are religious, that’s great, but being religious is not enough. You must be right religiously! This might involve you making a change, as did these in the examples cited, and of course as did many of US.