In this message we will cover the vanity of religion shown in the condemnation on the religious (2:17—3:8) and the totality of hopelessness shown in the condemnation of all the world (3:9-20). As we have pointed out, Paul deals with condemnation in four aspects: on mankind in general, on the self-righteous in particular, on the religious specifically, and on all the world totally. This is very meaningful. From these aspects of God’s condemnation we can see four things: the source of wickedness, the way of restriction, the vanity of religion, and the totality of hopelessness.
Let us first consider the vanity of religion. Human culture is the best human invention, and within this culture the foremost item is religion. Religion is the apex of man’s culture. Human culture needs religion, for without it culture is wild. If religion were eliminated from human culture, culture would remain crude. Therefore, most people respect religion.
Among the human race the two best religions are Judaism and Christianity. These are the typical religions. They are genuine, sound, and fundamental religions. Both proceeded out of the same source, the divine revelation in the Bible. Along with these two religions, we have Islam, a counterfeit of Judaism. Judaism was the source of Islam. The Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, is actually an imitation of the Old Testament, although its contents have been changed in order to propagate lies. The Koran even speaks about Christ, saying that He is greater than Mohammed. According to the Koran, Christ was never crucified. As the people attempted to nail Him to the cross, angels descended and took Him away into heaven. The Koran even tells us that this Jesus will return. It is evident, therefore, that Islam and its sacred book, the Koran, are counterfeits.
Strictly speaking, besides Judaism, Christianity, and the counterfeit religion of Islam, there are no other religions. Buddhism is not a religion; it is nonsense. A religion teaches people to worship God, but in Buddhism there is no God at all. You may ask about Confucianism. The teachings of Confucius are nonreligious; they are altogether ethical teachings, having nothing to do with God. In his classical writings, Confucius probably mentioned God only once or twice, calling Him “the Heavens.” We should not consider Confucianism as a religion. On this earth there are just three religions—the genuine religions of Judaism and Christianity and the counterfeit religion of Islam.
Even with the two genuine religions there is still nothing but vanity. We do not need religion. We need a living Person. We do not need something related to God; we need God Himself. We do not need a way to worship God; we need the living Person of God to come into us. When God gave us the Bible, He had no intention of giving us a religion. God’s intention was to reveal Himself into us through the Holy Word, not to have a religious form. However, the ancient Jews formed a religion out of the Old Testament. Then Christianity made a stronger religion because it has 27 books more than the Jews. The Jews had only 39 books to use in establishing a religion; Christianity has 66. Thus, Christianity has formed an even stronger religion. Nevertheless, the stronger a religion is, the more vanity it contains.
I realize that I may offend some people in speaking this way. The word Christianity is sweet and precious to the ears of many Christians, and it is offensive to them for a man to say that Christianity is vanity. If you are offended by this, it proves that you are exceedingly religious. I do not say that Christ is vanity and I do not say that Christians are vanity, but I assert strongly that Christianity is vanity. Any “anity” is vanity, including “churchanity.” The church is precious, but if you add “anity” to the church it becomes vanity. We want Christ, Christians, and the church, but we do not want any “anity.” This is not my teaching. If we return to the pure Word in the New Testament, we find the term Christ and the term Christians (Acts 11:26). However, the terms Christianity or Christmas are not in the Bible. A kind of “anity” or “mas” has been added to Christ. Christmas is vanity. When people hang lamps on a little tree, that is “anity” and “mas.” That is vanity. We must beware of religion: religion is vanity.
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