Mono-theism is the belief in ONE god. Poly-theism, is the belief in MANY gods. Human-theism (Humanism) is the belief that man is his OWN god.
Here’s one definition of the word religion.. “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”. So, for the philanthropist, his/her religion could be an attempt to relieve all pain and suffering from the world. That would be a very noble pursuit of interest, or a very noble “religion”.
But on the other hand, one’s supreme pursuit in life could be the elimination of everyone, who holds beliefs different from theirs. That wouldn’t be such a noble religion, would it? But both of those concepts of “religion” are really just “humanism”. They both put one’s self as the highest level.
Here’s another definition of religion though, and this is the one I want to talk about..
“The belief in, and the worship of, a superhuman controlling power, especially a god, or gods”.
Here’s another way of saying the same thing..
“Belief in, or worship of, or obedience to; a supernatural power or powers, considered to be divine, or to have control of human destiny”. We are not the highest level, are we?
It’s written in James 1:27, “This is religion, pure and undefiled, in the presence of the God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world”.
Notice two things here. “In the presence of the God and Father”, is sometimes translated, “Before our God and Father”. Some versions say, “in the sight of our God and Father”. Here’s what it really means. It means.. “from”, or “with” the God and Father, “stressing closeness and nearness”. And it implies “intimate participation”.
So listen please.. “This is religion, pure and undefiled, with intimate participation of the God and Father..” This is the religion that emanates from God, it’s “a part of his nature and character and His very judgment!” That’s what Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says.. This is GOD!
Now here’s the second thing I want you to notice. Some bible versions say, “..before OUR God and Father”. Other’s say, “before God THE Father”.
But what’s 100% correct, is this.. “before THE God and Father”. What’s the difference? Well, the word “the”, is a DEFINITE article. When the Greek language puts the word “the” before something, it means it’s THE only one! The DEFINITE one! There’s no doubt as to which one it means, it’s THE one, the only one. If there was no other verse in the bible, that told us that our God is the ONLY God, the use of this little word “the”, would still tell us, that our God is THE God, He is the ONLY God. That’s how DEFINITE that little Geek word is.
If you were to say, “Our God”, that might mean one god among many. But THE God, means only ONE!
“I am the Lord, and there is NO other! Besides Me, there is NO God!” Isaiah 45:5
The word “religion” in that verse means.. “reverence or worship of the gods”, and it means.. “worship as expressed in ritual acts”.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines it as.. Internally (in other words, how we “feel” in our spirit) as “fear and reverence of gods”, and Externally (in other words, how we act, our behavior) as “that which consists in ceremonies”, also, “discipline”.
When we talk about religious ceremonies, and disciplines, don’t you typically think about what’s specifically done in the official ASSEMBLY? When we ALL come together to worship?
But look at James 1, verse 27; That verse doesn’t say anything about coming together in a group worship assembly does it? It simply says that “pure” religion, in other words; innocent, clean, guiltless, free from corruptness; and “undefiled” religion, another word that means.. clean, untainted, free of contamination; that’s how we conduct our self, in the world. Not just in the worship assembly.
So, “pure and undefiled religion, is to VISIT orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep one’s self, unspotted, (or unstained) from the world”.
Pure religion means to ‘visit”. Quite literally, that word means.. “to look upon, to inspect, to examine with the eyes”. But in this verse, it goes beyond that literal meaning. Do you remember the term, “Hebraistically”? Hebraistic, or Hebraistically, means having to do with the Hebrew nation and culture. James, who wrote this verse, was a Hebrew. He was the half-brother of Jesus. They had the same mother.
And so to a Hebrew like James, and therefore “Hebraistically” this word “visit” means.. “to look upon in order to help or to benefit”. “To look after, to care for, to provide for”. “To furnish the things necessary”.
That’s what religion is to God, to furnish the things necessary, for “orphans and widows in their AFFLICTION”.
Affliction means distress, it means to be under a burden, it means to be in tribulation from circumstances that are putting a “squeeze” on you. Circumstances from which there doesn’t seem to be a way out. It means pressure and anxiety. It means all those things.
Why do you think orphans and widows are specified in this verse? Isn’t it because orphans and widows are typically two classes of people, who have lost the ones who would ordinarily be taking care of them, and providing for their needs?
Is pure and undefiled religion, based upon whether or not we provide for ALL women who have been widowed? How about providing for ALL people who have ever been orphaned? Is that what this verse is teaching? Do you know what the key is, to this part of the verse?
“In their affliction”. That’s the key! Orphans and widows are simply used as examples of two classes of people, who may not have any other means to take care of themselves. And as a result, they’re “in affliction”. They’re in distress, and they’re burdened, and they’re suffering from the anxiety that goes along with it.
Does the bible tell us to care for anyone who’s NOT an orphan or a widow?
How about the parable of the good Samaritan, in Luke 10:30-37 ? Was the man who was beaten and robbed, a widow, or even a widower? Was he an orphan? I guess he could have been an orphan, but Jesus doesn’t say he was. You know what Jesus does say? Jesus says, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho..”
“A certain man”. Some people think that means, “a specific man”, and a “particular man”, a “definite one”. In English, that’s what the word “certain” means. But that’s not what the original Greek word means. The word “certain” is a very incorrect translation in this verse.
As a matter of fact, the original word, means exactly the opposite of a certain, specific, definite man.
It means.. “some man”, or “ANY man”! Anyone who would fit the description of being a man.
The word is what they call, “an indefinite” pronoun. That’s how we know this is a parable, a story, not an actual occurrence, because of the INDEFINITE pronoun used. If Jesus were telling a real story, about a real event that happened, He wouldn’t have used an indefinite pronoun. He would have used a word that MEANT a specific man.
But He didn’t, He said “an indefinite man”.
So, here’s the point of all that. Pure and undefiled religion, is NOT only taking care of some specific man, who travel from Jerusalem to Jericho. And it’s NOT only about taking care of a woman who has lost her husband. And it’s NOT, only about taking care of a person who has lost his or her parents. “Pure religion, and undefiled before God”, is “visiting”, or in other words, providing for the needs of ANYONE who is suffering affliction! Pure religion is being a “neighbor” to anyone who needs a neighbor. Isn’t that what Jesus was teaching with the parable of the good Samaritan?
Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, PROVED to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robber’s hands?” Luke 10:36.
The one who provided for him, that’s who!
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself!” Mathew 19:19, Mathew 22:39, Mark 12:31.
That’s a part of “pure religion”, isn’t it?
Is “pure religion” the supporting of someone who is able bodied, and of sound mind, and who’s perfectly capable of supporting themselves, but simply won’t? We’ve got a society full of people like that. That has nothing to do with religion, does it?
“If a man won’t work, neither should he eat”. 2 Thess 3:10. But when a person CAN’T provide for themselves, then “pure religion” demands that we provide for their needs.
“Let him who steals, steal no more, but rather, let him LABOR, with his OWN hands, doing what is GOOD, in order that he may SHARE with him who has need.” Ephesians 4:28
Pure religion is loving your neighbor as yourself, but it’s also “keeping yourself unspotted from the world”.
Remember the definition of religion? “Religion is the fear and reverence of God, in our spirit; and it’s that which consists in ritual acts and ceremonies, and in discipline”. The ritual acts and ceremonies CAN refer to our worship assembly, but it can refer to more. And our discipline, refers to how we conduct our self, everywhere, everyday!
Do you have a kind of a “ritual” you go through every day when you get up and get ready to go out somewhere? Don’t we “discipline” ourselves to do “certain” things, almost every day? I think we do.
Well, isn’t that what “keeping yourself unspotted from the world” would be? Disciplining yourself to do certain things, and to NOT do other things. It’s kind of like a “ritual”. What happens if you go out every day, and never do what you know is “good, and right” to do? You SIN, that’s what happens!
James 4:17 says, “Therefore, to him who knows what is good to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
So then we better make it a “ritual” to do “good things” every day, don’t you think? And we better make it a “ritual” to NOT do, what we know, we shouldn’t do! “To keep yourself unspotted from the world”. The world is a dirty place isn’t it?
It’s full of “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life”. 1 John 2:16.
That’s why we’re NOT supposed to “love the world, nor the things in the world.” V-15.
And that’s why we’re supposed to “NOT be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2.
And that’s why we’re supposed to “present our bodies, a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service to God.” V-1. To present our bodies a living sacrifice, is to present our “disciplined actions”, that are performed through our bodies. In other words, we DO, what we know to be “right” to do. Isn’t that exactly what James wrote? “To him who KNOWS to do good..”
“Pure religion, and undefiled before God”.. Is the discipline to DO, what we know to be good; worshipping God, and providing for the needs of others. And the discipline to NOT do what God has told us not to do, what we know, would be sinful. That’s religion!
What do you think is the oldest religion?
The most common answer that I’ve found to that question, is Hinduism. Many people believe Hinduism is about 5,000 years old, and so they place it as older than Judaism which can be traced back about 4,000 years, if you go back to Abraham. But Abraham didn’t live under the Law of Moses, which is Judaism, however he was indeed the “Father” of the Hebrew nation called Israel.
Abraham, who’s original name was Abram, is spoken of in Genesis 14:13, as “Abram the Hebrew”.
God had made the promise to Abram, back in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you a great nation, and bless you, and make your name great. And so you shall be a blessing.”
And God said in V-3, “And in YOU, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So you might say that the religion of Judaism, “evolved” from Abraham’s religion. Of course, it didn’t “evolve” because of man, it “evolved” because God “evolved it”. He gave a new law to Moses, for all of Abraham’s offspring to follow. And so, this new law, was Israel’s religion, wasn’t it? People today call it Judaism. But wasn’t it really simply the religion of God? God gave the religious law to Israel, so it was the religion of God!
What about Abraham, or Abram? What was Abram’s religion? It really didn’t have a name did it? However, GOD, and everything that God said, was Abram’s religion. What about Noah, who was born almost a thousand years before Abram? Noah’s religion was the same as Abram’s religion. Their religion was GOD. What about Adam and Eve, who were the first people to ever exist, and their sons Abel and Seth? (you notice I didn’t include Cain there) The “name” of those people’s religion, was GOD. Actually, the name of all of these people’s religion was, “Obedience to God”. That was their religion, “Obedience to God”. And they “lived it” in their everyday lives. But their religion wasn’t just a “name”, it was their “life”.
Aside from specific rituals directed specifically toward God.. and by that I mean, aside from the sacrifices that they all offered to God, what did their religion consist of? Don’t you think that part of their religion was to keep themselves unspotted by the world. That’s the reason God gave them laws to live by. So that they could obey those laws, and remain unspotted by the world.
As a matter of fact, God specifically stated, that was the reason He gave the Law of Moses, was to keep the people “unspotted”.
Paul wrote in Galatians 3:19, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions.” The people were sinning, so God gave them a law, so that when they obeyed it, they wouldn’t sin. Doesn’t that make perfect sense?
God gives us a law, so that we can KNOW right from wrong, so that we can DO what’s right, so that we can KEEP ourselves unspotted by the world.
Don’t you think God did the same thing for Adam and Eve, and for Noah and his wife, and for Shem and Ham and Japheth and their wives, and for Abraham and Sarah, and for Isaac and Rebecca, and for Jacob and Rachel, and Leah. Didn’t He give them “rules” to follow, so they could remain unspotted?
Remember Enoch? We know that God gave Enoch laws, because “Enoch walked with God”, according to those laws. Genesis 5:22. You can’t “Walk with God” unless God tells you HOW to walk with Him.
All those people lived in exactly the same kind of world we do. A world full of BAD things, full of SIN! Isn’t that the kind if world we live in today? And we’re supposed to keep ourselves “unspotted from it”. And so were they.
So then, besides the specific sacrifices they made to God, and besides keeping themselves unspotted by the world, what else do you think their religion consisted of?
I can’t give you a specific scripture for this, but here’s my opinion. I think part of their religion was to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction”. And I think a part of their religion was to “be a neighbor” to anyone who needed a neighbor. That’s what I think.
You know, God has many attributes, and one of them is, that He is consistent. God has always been consistent. We’re told in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I do not change!”
Isn’t that what the bible says about Christ? “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and to the ages.” Hebrews 13:8.
You might typically think that we are of the “Christian religion”. But you know, really, we’re simply of the religion of GOD. Just like Adam was, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and king David, and Jesus, and the apostles, and everyone who has ever followed God’s word. We’re all of the one religion of God. One body of believers, and “obeyers”.
Is that a word.. “obeyer”? I don’t know, but that’s what you’ve got to be, if you’re gonna be a part of God’s religion. You’ve got to be one of the people who obeys His laws. That’s what religion IS! It’s not just a concept in your mind. It’s a way of living your life.
You’ve got to “hear” the religion of God, which is His laws, and “believe” those laws, and “obey” those laws. Romans 10:17, John 8:24, Hebrews 5:9
You’ve got to “repent” of your sins and “confess” your faith in His name to save you. Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30, Romans 10:10
You’ve got to be “buried in baptism” for the forgiveness of your sins. Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21. That’s His law, that’s His religion.
And you’ve got to remain “faithful unto death”, so that you can receive a “crown” of eternal life. Rev 2:10, Mathew 24:13
And you’ve got to “Be a neighbor” and you’ve got to “visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted by the world”. Luke 10:36, James 1:27
And if you will do those things; God will add you to His body of “believers”, and “obeyers”, and then one day, He’ll give you an eternal home in heaven.
May God bless you in the study of His word, and in the obedience to His religion. It’s the oldest religion in heaven and on earth.
Please leave your comments or questions below.