Spiritual, But Not Religious?
By: Gary L. Hutchens
Many people claim to be spiritual but not religious. What they really mean is they don’t believe they have to be involved with a church, and they don’t have to be in church services in order to live a spiritual life. This seems to be a growing trend. Is it possible to be truly spiritual without also being religious?
Now, there are obviously many people who are religious but not truly spiritual. They have their name on a church roll, they attend church services periodically, they take part in some religious practices, but they certainly do not live a truly spiritual life. Outside the church building they live a worldly lifestyle.
Can a person be truly spiritual without also being religious? Let’s see… Shortly before going to the cross Jesus emphatically stated that He would establish His church, and even His physical death would not prevent it from being established (Matt. 16:18). If the church is inconsequential, why did Jesus put such emphasis on its being established?
Shortly after the church was established, on Pentecost following Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension back to Heaven, the text states, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47). How can one who believes being a part of the church is not necessary reconcile that belief with the clear statement that the Lord adds to the church those who come to salvation?
Members of the church are identified as the church of God” and as “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Cor. 1:2). To be “sanctified” is to be set apart from the world unto holiness (2 Cor. 6:16-18). Those who are “in Christ” are the saved (2 Tim. 2:10), they have been delivered from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Since all of these descriptions refer to those who are in the church, how could being in the church not matter?
The church is repeatedly identified as the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18, 24). It is also identified as “the house of God, …the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15). In light of such lofty identities, how could being a part of the church not be important?
The Hebrews writer specifically instructed Christians to not forsake assembling together with the church (Heb. 10:25). The scriptures teach that the church is to come together on the first day of the week to worship in partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Act 20:7). In that act of worship Christians remember the death of Christ on the cross and remind the world that He’s coming back (1 Cor. 11:26). Gathered together on the first day of the week they also worship through giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2) and through singing songs of praise to God that additionally serve to teach and encourage one another (Eph. 5:19). How, then, can it be said that being a part of and worshipping with the church is unimportant?
The scriptures undeniably describe faithful followers of Christ as being religious people. Indeed, their faithful religious practices are a central feature of their spirituality. It is impossible to be truly spiritual without being in the Lord’s church. It is impossible to be truly spiritual without also being religious. Being truly spiritual and faithfully religious go hand in hand…
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Gary L. Hutchens