frgavin on September 12th, 2010

by Phil Johnson

othing is more offensive to God than false religion. The first two of the Ten Commandments underscore that truth. The order of the Commandments is significant. By ruling out false religion before forbidding murder, adultery, or stealing, Moses’ Law made clear that that false religion is the vilest of sins.

We have a tendency to regard all religion as inherently noble and honorable. We tend to think that a non-Christian who is devout in his or her religion is somehow morally superior to the wanton sinner who openly traffics in drugs or pornography or some other notorious sin.

But let’s be honest: that is not a proper biblical perspective. False religion is gross sin. The person who worships a false god is as abhorrent to the true God as a publican or a prostitute. And the person who worships YHWH in a false or hypocritical way is engaging in wanton sin just as surely as the thief or murderer. Pharisees always think they are morally superior to publicans and sinners, but the ministry of Christ gave ample proof that they are not.

So you can be a religious person and devote your whole life to a broadly inclusive style of gentle piety and altruistic good works in a way that will gain you the respect of all society, but if you worship the wrong god—or even if you worship the true God in a wrong way—you might be worse off, and your life might be even more of an offense to God, than the lowest criminal or most degenerate social outcast. That is the very truth Christ stressed again and again with the Pharisees.

No sinner is more lost than the religious sinner. If you have ever done much personal evangelism, or if you have unbelieving family members who are in bondage to some religious tradition, you know what I am talking about. There is no salvation for the person who thinks his religion can earn him a righteous standing before God. Jesus said in Mark 2:17, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” False religion lures people into a sense of self-righteousness where they see no need for salvation. That’s why it is so wicked.

We need to view false religion from a more biblical perspective. The reality is, of all the gross wickedness that runs rampant in this fallen world, nothing is quite as evil as religion that departs from the truth.

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