“In All Things You Are Very Religious”

When Paul went to Athens, he found a city “given over to idols” (Acts 17:16 NKJV). He saw all of their religious devotions—their temples, idols, and altars—and he said: “‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious’” (Acts 17:22). No one could doubt that they were a religious people; there was evidence of it everywhere Paul looked. What he saw was disturbing to him, though. Even though they were a religious people, their religion was not according to the truth. It was useless. There is one God (1 Tim 2:5; 1 Cor 8:4–6; Jas 2:19; Eph 4:6; Rom 3:30, etc.). The only way to Him is through Christ (Jn 14:6). So, the Bible says that when Paul came to Athens “his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there (Acts 17:16b–17).

I wonder what Paul would think if it were possible for him to visit the United States today as he did Athens then. He might pick up a dollar bill and read, stamped across the top of it, “In God we trust.” He could read our nation’s Declaration of Independence, which says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . . .” (emphasis added). Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has included “so help me God” at the end of his oath of office (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_help_me_God). Abraham Lincoln said, “The Bible is the best gift God has given men . . . But for it, we could not know right from wrong” (http://www.hooray2u.com/lincoln.html). Maybe as he did in Athens, Paul would pass through the streets of American and observe all the different church buildings along the sides of the roads and scattered throughout the countryside. He may see all the religious programming that can be found on the TV. He may turn on a radio and find the faith-based stations there. He may find mega churches with several thousand in attendance. Might he then say to the people of America, “I perceive that in all things you are very religious”? If he did, what would that mean?

Religion is of very little use unless it is according to the Truth of God’s Word—even if it goes on inside of a church building. It is so important that all we do and say (religiously) is by the authority of Jesus Christ (Col 3:17). Our worship must be according to Truth (Jn 4:24), the Truth which is found in God’s Word (Jn 17:17). Otherwise, one must wonder: “What good has my religion done me?” (cf. Matt 7:21; 1 Jn 2:3–6).

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