THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RELIGION AND REVELATION
While preaching the gospel, if we speak about escaping the vanity of life, yet we ourselves have not had the experience of escaping the vanity of life, is this not also being religious?
Our Knowledge of Christ Starting with Religion
Remember that religion is still useful. What good is a chicken if it has only feathers but no flesh? What good is a clove of garlic if it has only the outer skin and no substance inside? If one has the Christian religion but does not have Christ, then he is finished. Chicken feathers can be found everywhere, but chicken meat is not as readily available. Garlic skins can be found in garbage cans everywhere, but the garlic itself has been eaten already. In the same way, if someone wants to receive God’s salvation, he must be in Christ. However, the amazing thing is that man still has to start with religion in order to know Christ.
In John 3 Nicodemus came to the Lord Jesus in the night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher” (v. 2). Yet the Lord Jesus said to him, “Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Nicodemus said in surprise, “How can a man be born when he is old?” (v. 4). The Lord Jesus said, “So must the Son of Man be lifted up” (v. 14). It is no wonder that on the day the Lord Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus came to the Lord while all the disciples fled. The cross was a stumbling block to Peter and John, yet it was a salvation to Nicodemus. Eventually, Christ entered into Nicodemus. Nevertheless, do not forget that Nicodemus’s coming to the Lord started with religion.
Religion Being Only a Process, a Staircase
The case of the Samaritan woman is similar. In effect, she said to the Lord Jesus, “You, the Jews, say that men must worship God in Jerusalem, but we, the Samaritans, worship God in this mountain.” The Lord Jesus answered that men should worship God neither in Jerusalem nor in any mountain but in spirit (4:20-24). Therefore, many times when we preach the gospel, we can get through only by using religion. The ones we preach to need to pass through religion and Christianity. These things are only a process. After they have gained Christ, they must break away from religion and even from Christianity. Religion, including Christianity, is only a process, a staircase.
We have had religious concepts from our birth. However, one day God brought us out of the world. We began to have a taste for God and entered into Christianity, and afterward we felt quite good and quite different. Then eventually we entered into Christ. Today many people have never touched Christ. Instead, they remain in Christianity. We have to come out of everything that is of Christianity and enter into the reality of Christ. In this process, what concerns us the most is that people who cannot touch the high thing—Christ—often ruin the lower things—religion. Please remember, even the lowest things have their usefulness. For instance, in our preaching of the gospel sometimes we have to tell people that they need peace and joy. Peace and joy are religious concepts, but in preaching the gospel we sometimes still need them.
People obtain peace and joy through the Lord Jesus. Gradually, however, we need to lead them to be freed from these things. We need to tell them that believing in Jesus is not for obtaining peace and joy or for going to heaven but simply for gaining Christ. Perhaps they may be puzzled, thinking that in saying this we mean that they should come to the meetings. After we lead them to salvation, we need to let them know that with the children of God all things will pass away except for Christ, who is everything and who will never pass away.
(Being Apt to Teach and Holding the Mystery of the Faith, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)