Christ versus Religion, by Witness Lee

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In his letter to the Philippians Paul elaborates more on his religious background. He had high attainments in religion; yet what things were gain to him in religion, those he counted loss for Christ. He is even so bold to refer to those religious things as "dung." The Greek word for "dung" means "dog food"; it was the dirty things used for feeding the dogs. To the Apostle Paul, not only all other things, but even all religious things were dog food. So he said in the same chapter, "Beware of the dogs" (3:2). Paul was saying in other words, "Beware of the Judaizers, the religious people."

He also said, "Beware of the concision" (3:2). "Concision" is a contemptuous term for circumcision, referring to what the Judaizers, the religious people practiced—the religious circumcision without reality. Paul was saying, "Do not care for religious things. If you do, you will miss Christ." Paul determined never to miss Christ. He said, "One thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (vv. 13, 14). We must realize that if we hold on to our experiences in the past, however good they may be, they will become today’s religion to us. Yesterday’s manna can never be today’s food; if we keep it, it will stink and breed worms. How pitiful to be continually referring to some experience of ours ten or twenty years ago. We need to experience Christ daily and even hourly in a new way. If we hold on to our past experiences, even those of yesterday, they will become our religion. While you were experiencing those things in the past, you were experiencing them in the presence of the Lord. The Lord, however, is going on today. Why stay there with the good things, the right things, but without His presence? All the good and right things will become your religion. You must press on, forgetting the things which are behind. The fulness of God in Christ is our goal. Paul says, "I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus" (v. 12). He said in other words, "Christ has gained me for fulness; yet I have not experienced all that fulness yet. I am pressing on to that goal." We do need the Lord’s mercy and grace that we may never become stuck in our experiences of the past. We must leave that, abandon that, forget about that, and go on.


Going on to Colossians we read, "Take heed lest there shall be anyone that maketh spoil of you..." (2:8). Beware; you will be captured, you will be distracted, you will be frustrated by philosophy, by the traditions of men, by the rudiments of the world, by many things besides Christ. For in Christ "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (v. 9). Forget about philosophy, forget about the traditions, forget about the rudiments of the world, forget about all things, regardless of how good they are, if they are not Christ. Forget about everything but Christ. Eventually Paul tells us that in the new man, in the church life, there is no Greek or Jew, no barbarian or Scythian. That means that there is no religious or unreligious, no cultured or uncultured. In the church life Christ is all and in all (3:11). In the church we have neither religion nor culture; we only have Christ.


Finally, Paul tells us in Hebrews 7:16 that Christ is a priest, "who hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." We do not have any regulations or rules, because Christ, the High Priest, ministers the things of God to us, not according to any commandment of letters, but according to the power of an endless life. In the church there is no more religion; there is only the living Christ.

Anything that is traditional, anything that is religious, anything, regardless of how good, "spiritual," scriptural, or fundamental it may be, if it lacks the presence of Christ, we should give it up. Let us abandon all these religious things including our past experiences and care only for the living Christ, the instant Christ, the up-to-date Christ. This is our destiny, and this should also be our destination, our goal. We are pressing forward that we may gain that for which we have been gained of Christ Jesus. We are pressing on that we may experience Christ in a full way.

(Christ versus Religion, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)