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Meaning of “Religion” in James

By June 1, 1990July 16th, 2014No Comments


Why does James use the word “religion”? I thought religion was works—man doing something in vain to attain salvation or favor with God, and here is the New Testament writer using it in a good context.

You are right in the fact that we think of religion as works and man trying to please or to reach God, rather than God reaching down to man and the fact that He did it all—through His Son and His finished work on the cross.

We need to see that James used the word “religion” in James 1:26 and 27 somewhat differently from the common use we are accustomed to in Bible-believing circles. James used the word to contrast outward deeds with the inner heart condition and attitude. He wanted us to know that the outward expression (“religion”) reveals what is inward in a person’s life.

The word “religion” is not here used synonymously with “salvation.” Salvation is the inner faith in Jesus Christ as one’s personal Savior; expressing that faith outwardly was termed one’s “religion” by James.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (June 1990).
© 1990 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.

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