Can Religion Save?
Religion does not save us. Christ does. Christians are to obtain the righteousness “which is through the faith of Christ” (Philippians 3:9). The religion of the scribes and Pharisees consisted in external adherence to the letter of the law. But Jesus invited people to have a relationship with the Father and yield to the principles of His law.
Like some modern religionists, the religious leaders of Israel at Jesus’ time made place for the sinful human nature, this they did by belittling the awfulness of sin. They preached that a man is to be judged by a majority of his deeds; that is, if his “good” deeds exceed his wicked acts, God will judge him righteous (Mishnah Aboth 3. 16, Soncino ed. of the Talmud, pp. 38, 39).
And to compensate for wicked acts, they made a system of works-righteousness, by these works a person might gain enough credit to outweigh the evil balance in his record. The Pharisees thought their system of works-righteousness is a certain pass to heaven (Mark 7:3; Luke 11:39).
Jesus saw their system of religion as not right to qualify people so much as to enter within the kingdom (Matthew 5:20). He preached that works to attain righteousness through superficial acts or supposedly good deeds are without merit in God’s eyes (Romans 9:31–33).
Religion can’t save us. Faith in Jesus saves us. The righteousness of Christ brings justification. But the justified soul will continue to grow in grace and victory over sin. Through the power of the indwelling Christ he conforms his life to the requirements of the moral law as set forth by Christ’s own precept and example. This is imparted righteousness or sanctification. Christians get “saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13
Paul explains that the perfect life of Jesus has made it possible for “the just requirement of the law” to “be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). Religion can’t save us only love can. God can and will save anyone who comes to Him by faith. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The apostle John teaches that the decisive factor lies with the believers themselves—“as many” as receive and believe become sons of God (John 1:12).
In His service,