What is it that separates Christianity from all the world’s religions? What sets the truth apart from all the lies?
While most religions differ greatly in their detail, there is a consistent theme that runs through all of them: human achievement. It doesn’t matter what the religion is, there is a code of conduct that is tied to eternal life – that’s what makes it a religion – and that’s why Christianity is NOT a religion. Even in religions where salvation isn’t guaranteed, the only possible way to achieve it is through diligent effort and personal performance.
The truth of Scripture stands in sharp contrast to that. Our inherited sin nature has left us helplessly sinful and totally incapable of changing that. While man-made religions deny our inherent wretchedness, God has made it clear – mankind, left to ourselves, is utterly without hope.
One of the dominant features of universal human fallenness is the sinner’s deception about his true condition. Motivated by pride, the depraved mind thinks itself much better than it really is. But God’s Word cuts through that deception like a sharp sword, diagnosing sinful men and women as incurably sick, rebellious by nature, and completely incapable of any spiritual good.
As slaves to sin, all unbelievers are hostile toward God and unable to please Him in any respect. Their total inability is underscored by the fact that they are not just bound to sin; they are also blinded by sin and dead in sin. They are “darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18) and cannot comprehend spiritual truth because “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Furthermore, unbelievers are “dead in their trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), “dead in their transgressions” (Colossians 2:13), “dead even while they live” (1 Timothy 5:6). In the same way that a blind man cannot give himself sight or a dead man raise himself to life, so the sinner is totally unable to impart to himself either spiritual understanding or eternal life. Like Lazarus lying motionless in the tomb, the unredeemed soul remains lifeless until the voice of God commands, “Come forth!”
The good news of the gospel is that we are not left to rot and decay in the ruin of our sin. God, through the gracious sacrifice of His Son, intervenes on our behalf, rescuing and reviving us from our spiritual death. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul vividly depicts God’s intervention on our behalf: