Identifying the Right Religion
THAT which is right must be in full harmony with a standard of truth. Most people who belong to a church of Christendom believe that their religion agrees with the Bible. This being the case, we can reasonably use the Bible as a basis for identifying the right religion.—John 17:17.
Why not get your copy of the Bible and consider some of the basic truths it contains. While the renderings of your translation may differ in wording, you will find that the meaning conveyed is the same as in the Bible translations quoted in this article.
THE TRUE GOD
The focal point of religion is the One to whom worship should be directed—God. What have you been taught about God? Has his name been brought to your attention? Have you been taught his view of images? Note what the Bible says at Psalm 83:18: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” And Isaiah 42:8 reads: “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.”
So, then, could religions that minimize the importance of using God’s name be right? Could the One who does not share his glory or praise with graven images approve religions that uphold bowing before and kissing images, claiming that such acts are merely relative worship?
GOD’S SON, JESUS CHRIST
Besides teaching the truth about God, the right religion should also be pointing out the proper manner in which to approach God in worship. Concerning this, Jesus Christ stated: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Accordingly, the right religion must be teaching the truth about Jesus Christ.
Surely no one was better qualified to explain his position to others than Jesus himself. To his disciples, he said: “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) After his resurrection from the dead, he told Mary Magdalene: “Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.”’—John 20:17.
Do these statements agree with the religious teaching that Jesus and God are equal? Do they not rather show that Jesus recognized his Father as his God?
Yet someone might object, Are there not scriptures that speak of Jesus as being equal with God?
One passage that is pointed to in proof of this is John 14:8, 9. According to the rendering of the Revised Standard Version, this text states: “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.”’
What did Jesus mean when he said this? The Bible itself explains. Earlier, Jesus had said: “I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. . . . I always do what is pleasing to him.” (John 8:28, 29, RS) So, Jesus faithfully represented his Father, speaking his Father’s words and doing his works. Yes, since Jesus reflected the personality of his Father perfectly, the disciples really came to know the Father through him.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Another basic teaching of the Bible relates to the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ and his apostles made this a prominent part of their message, and Jesus foretold that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:14) When was the last time you heard a minister of Christendom point to this kingdom as the remedy for the present world distress?
Many may find this question unusual. They believe that the Kingdom is a condition in one’s heart. Is this what you have heard? Compare this with what the Bible says at Daniel 2:44: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever.” (RS) What is this kingdom that will break in pieces all other kingdoms? Obviously it is a government, the heavenly government of God in the hands of Jesus Christ.
This gives real force to the petition of Jesus’ model prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10, RS) This is a request for God’s kingdom to come against its enemies, removing them and ushering in a time when God’s will will be done on “earth as it is in heaven.” What will that mean for the earth? With God’s kingdom in full control of earth’s affairs, no human, no, not even an animal will “do any harm or cause any ruin.” (Isa. 11:9) Also, “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) What a glorious prospect this is! No more doctors, no more drug stores, no more medicines, no more hospitals or mental institutions, no more undertakers, no more funerals, no more graves! Yes, and no more crime, no more policemen, no more prisons! Is that not “good news”? If you are a church member, is this the glorious hope to which your church is directing people’s attention?
THE RIGHT RELIGION’S PRINCIPLES OF CONDUCT
Adherence to the right religion is not only a matter of understanding and believing certain basic truths, but also a matter of acting on those beliefs and proving one’s faith by work. Should we not expect the right religion to make people better husbands, better fathers, better wives, better mothers, better children and better neighbors? Do you find that to be the case with church members you know? Do you feel confident that you will be dealt with honestly when you do business with a church member? Does the fact that he goes to church regularly give you reason to believe that he will not lie to you nor try to cheat you?
If he truly is one who adheres to the Bible, you should be able to have this confidence. God’s Word declares: “Now that you have put away falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor.” (Eph. 4:25) “Surely you know that the wicked will not receive God’s Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral, or worship idols, or are adulterers, or homosexual perverts, or who rob, or are greedy, or are drunkards, or who slander others, or are thieves—none of these will receive God’s Kingdom.”—1 Cor. 6:9, 10, Today’s English Version, Third Edition.
Of course, some may feel that the church to which they belong is trying to help people to live a good life but that many are just not responding properly. Yet what is done in the case of those who practice what the Bible condemns and have no desire to change? What if a minister openly condones sexual immorality? Consider what the Bible says should be done: “In the letter that I wrote you I told you not to associate with immoral people. What I meant was that you should not associate with a man who calls himself a brother but is immoral, or greedy, or worships idols, or is a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a thief. Don’t even sit down to eat with such a person. After all, it is none of my business to judge outsiders. God will judge them. But should you not judge the members of your own fellowship? As the scripture says, ‘Take the evil man out of your group.”’—1 Cor. 5:9, 11-13, TEV.
Do the churches with which you are acquainted expel lawless persons from their midst? In view of the clear Scriptural admonition, do you think God could approve of religions that fail to take action against practicers of sin? Should not the right religion be zealous for aiding people to conform to God’s lofty requirements rather than to adopt the thinking of those who have no regard for his Word?
Of course, true worship is not just a matter of refraining from doing what is wrong. It also involves doing positive good. In particular are Christians commanded to cultivate the fruitage of God’s holy spirit—“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) Of these qualities, the greatest is love, an unselfish, self-sacrificing concern for the welfare of others. (1 Cor. 13:13) This kind of love is the identifying mark of those who practice the right religion. Said Jesus Christ to his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—John 13:34, 35.
Is this the kind of love you see being manifested among those whom you know to be members of a church of Christendom? Do they keep free from the conflicts of the world and thus refrain from doing harm to fellow humans of another race or nationality? Are they willing to sacrifice of their time and energies to help others to gain an accurate knowledge of God’s purposes?
The right religion must not only be teaching the truth as found in the Bible, but those adhering to it must be living in harmony with it. Today there is a group of Christians scattered throughout the earth who are indeed practicing true worship. For you to hear the expressions of those who are now associating with this group because of having positively identified the true religion on the basis of God’s Word, we encourage you to read the next article.