Friday, January 13, 2012

Jesus Was Religious

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully
-- 1 Timothy 1:8

It's important not to push back on Jefferson Bethke and his video simply to be contrarian or to avoid liking something because everybody else does. The heart displayed in the video is solid, and he says a lot of right things. But he says a few wrongs one too, and while they aren't wrong enough to overreact, they are wrong enough to note with some cautions.

First, I think using the word "religion" in a negative sense can be okay. Most of us have done it. I've done it. When delivered in a punchy way with a clear context, it makes sense. Most reasonable people understand what is meant by the claim that "Jesus ticked off religious people." Yes, he did. And while we can bring in all kinds of assumptions to what exactly constitutes "religious people," the statement makes sense on the surface.

But in belaboring the point there is much more opportunity for error. Some make a boogeyman out of the idea of "religious people," by which it becomes clear what they mean is "traditional people" or the uncool. My feeling is that the Bible-thumping, starched suit-wearing, hellfire and brimstone religious people taking the fun out of fundamentalism are becoming fewer and farther between, while the church is brimming with self-righteous hipsters and cooler-than-thous. The Pharisees look like Vampire Weekend now. I'm not saying Jefferson is one of those guys; I'm just saying he's offering them red meat.

The way the fellow in the video defines religion, he is right to hate it. But the more he goes on, the less justification he's got for using the word religion. It's not religion that does all those things. It's not even the Law that does all those things. The Law is good! (See Romans 7:12, for instance, or 1 Timothy 1:18.) It's self-righteousness that does all those things. Religion is not, as the fellow says, a man-made invention: legalism is. And even as the Scriptures tell us the harsh things the Law does, it never gives us license to hate it.

So it's not the Law or religion the Bible is against, but legalism and "self-made religion" (Colossians 2:23). There is no room in the video's belaboring of the point, apparently, for "pure and undefiled religion" (James 1:27). It's important to make the "do vs. done" distinction -- vitally important -- but "do" is not bad. Jesus did not come to abolish religion, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).

And the really controversial point we ought to make is this: Jesus did not hate religion. He was in fact a religious person. We are used to using the words Pharisee or Pharisaical in the pejorative senses, as labels, but in Jesus' day, the most faithful, biblical religion going, for all its problems, was the religion of the Pharisees. Between Zealots on one side and Sadducees on the other, the Pharisees had carved out a decent niche as the "evangelicals" of the day.

The great sin of the Pharisees was not, in the end, their religious dutifulness -- they sought to interpret the Scriptures literally, were conservative in doctrine and practice, believed in the resurrection to come, and thought God's Word had immediate application to every day life -- but their self-righteous rejection of Jesus. And Jesus, believe it or not, was closest in theology to the Pharisees.

Jesus was a good Jew. He attended synagogue faithfully, observed the feasts and festivals and religious holidays, kept the Law (better than anybody), and made it his mission to obey God perfectly. You better hope Jesus was super-religious, in fact, because it's his perfect religion we rely on for our righteousness.

So, again: Jefferson Bethke is on to something good and right. But we are on to something good and right to make the right distinctions, lest we put ourselves in the Pharisaical place of saying "I thank you God I'm not like those religious people."

And again: the Law is not bad! It is good. And it is not gospel-shaped to hate the Law but to delight in it (Psalm 40:8 and all over Psalm 119).


Curtis said...

Good critique. I appreciate what he is trying to do and I think there are some points of very effective communication in there. Unfortunately, many of the people who see the video won't also see some of the thoughtful critiques of it, but I think God can still use it to get people thinking.

Pete Scribner said...

Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you. You have said (much better than I have been able to do so) exactly what I have been trying to communicate to many over the last day or two in regards to this video.

Hiram said...

Amen, brother. Thank you for saying this.

David said...

The "Church" is different than the religion I believe he is speaking of but there is still religion in the "Church". The "Church" I mean as the called out of Christ - His Bride. Thanks Jared God Bless Now!

stuart said...

Thank you and well said! I really do hope people don't miss the wood for the trees in your comments. I enjoyed the clip and thought he did a great job, but your correction is helpful and needed. I wonder if the point you are touching on is the possible reason it went viral. Because knocking religion isn't necessarily respecting Jesus.

Big Bill said...

I agree with this. But what about audience? 95% of the people who see this have the hijacked, skewed understanding of religion. I grew up in the same town as this young man and it is very hostile towards Christ and the majority of churches are so soft that the adherence to Biblical standards is almost non-existent.

Anonymous said...

When does he say he hates the law in his video? I'm not arguing, just asking.

SD Smith said...

Thanks, bro. Now I can just link to you instead of doing that work. Much appreciated. Thanks for not being cynically dismissive of the man, while being clear on how off-base his emphases are.

Christianity is a religion. The true one.

BG said...

Great thoughts. I've wrestled with how to verbalize opinion on this. I like most of what he says, but feel like it's harmful to the church. Yes, legalism is wrong and "cultural christianity" like we have in the south is just as fatal, and I believe most of his message is aimed at that crowd. Just felt like it gave more ammo for those who are against people in the church. The people who posted it on facebook and "amen"ing it are those who are "christian" but don't do church, so it kind of reiterated my thoughts of how it would be perceived. I'm not a big fan of the title either, as I feel people who won't even watch it will say something along the lines of "see, even Christians think church is bad" and to me that is damaging. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Always enjoy your blog and books.

Jared said...

Anonymous, he doesn't. He says he hates religion and that Jesus came to abolish religion.

The latter is untrue, and the former is misguided. Biblically speaking, religion is simply law-keeping, and the Bible says that's good.

I do agree with him that Jesus is better than religion, though. Just think he goes too far in a few spots. Words mean things, and if we're concerned about hijacking a word we ought not hijack it on the other side of the road but use it the way the Bible does.

Jordan said...

Yes! Thank You! Very well said.

Willis Zhang said...

Great critique! I love it when my Jesus loves the law and fulfills it rather than abolish.

Let's still pray for this video to stir hearts to come to Jesus!

Quiver of Arrows said...

Actually, the Law is dead. It was abolished, done away with and buried with the crucifixion. We cannot stand up u der the Law. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance, not the Law of God. It is for FREEDOM we have been set free, not for rules or Law or striving. Because of Jesus we no longer have the Deut. code of Law/ethics. Because of Jesus we no longer have the rule book. Do Paul and Peter both elaborate on ways to walk out our faith? Sure! They are encouragements, recommendations. If we fault in one of their recommendations we are NO LONGER distanced from God. If a commandment from the Old Testamant Law was broken, disregarded, accidentally broken the result was a distancing from God since He could not dwell with the unholy. When Jesus came, His blood sufficiently covered all of our sin (breaking of the communion with God) past, present AND future. The LAW was abolished. You cannot put new wine in old wineskins. The Law is obsolete. You cannot put the blood of Jesus in the Law container. The Law will burst OPEN and the blood wasted.

I believe that is what this video is saying. DO NOT MIX the LAW with JESUS. When we do we get RELIGION. A striving after Jesus, when in reality His grace is sufficient. With Jesus there is resting. With the LAW there is regulation and requirements. Jesus came to abolish the LAW and tear the veil between us and God.

Jared said...

Quiver, why do you say Jesus came to abolish the Law when he said clearly, specifically that he did NOT come to do that? See Matt. 5:17, for instance.

Jesus did not tear the veil between us and God by abolishing the law but by keeping it perfectly.

Can you find one Bible verse that says the law is dead?

The Law is not dead. It was never "alive" to begin with.

We die to the law when we die in Christ -- meaning, we are free from the law's curse and its condemnation through the perfect righteousness of Christ. His obedience becomes ours, so it is not that the Law has been vanquished but validated.

I agree that the Law is passing away, for we will not need its exposing and correction of sin in the day there is no sin to expose or correct, but the law of obedience to God's will is still in effect. I believe your comments are an argument for antinomianism.

The law is good when followed lawfully. That's what the Bible says, anyway.

Willis Smith said...

"And Jesus, believe it or not, was closest in theology to the Pharisees."

I'm not sure I understand why Jesus's theology compared to that of the Pharisees is relevant?

Isn't the video about the self-righteous behavior that comes with legalism?

If you could shed some light on this, I'd be greatly appreciative.

Jared said...

Willis, good question; thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

I point that out b/c I think it's helpful to have some historical perspective on just who/what the Pharisees were. The points I'm trying to make are a) that the Pharisees were unsaved because they didn't love Jesus, not simply because "they were religious people," and b) the Pharisees were basically the "Christian culture" of their day, if you see my meaning.

(I don't mean that they were Christian, I just mean that they were the leaders of mainstream, everyday conservative Judaism of which Jesus was a part. But we treat them as if they could never be "us" but are more like snake-handlers and hell-fire fundamentalist blowhards.)

Willis Smith said...

thanks for the clarification.

Religious behavior is not bad, but when there is no faith in Christ behind it, it is a destructive force, right?

JPB said...

Appreciate your gracefulness in your response to this. It is beneficial, so thank you.

In the push back on this video I haven't heard anyone talk about Galatians and I'm curious why.

Paul's point throughout (IMO) has much to do with correcting the misconception that life after salvation is somehow different than life at salvation. "You were saved by the spirit and not works. Do you think you are now going to be perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:1-5). For anyone who tries to add to that they are preaching a different gospel. Anyone who tries to say "do" rather than "done" in an attempt to achieve their own righteousness is wrong. In Paul's words they are to be cursed (Gal 1:8-9) and in the context of circumcision he says that he wishes they would emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12).

If religion is any way an addition to the Gospel then I think it is fair to say that it is hated. If your actions give the appearance that something additional is part of the Gospel it should be confronted (Gal 2:11-14). So we are set free from a means of righteousness...but we are free not as an opportunity to indulge the flesh but to serve through love (Gal 5:13-15).

As for the video - 100% right? No, but pushing lots of people (on both ends of the pursuing lives of holiness spectrum) to consider important things and for that it is extremely valuable.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you analyzed this piece. It's been sweeping facebook like storm because, like you said, it sounds good on the surface. But there are deeper truths not handled correctly, and some just plain over-stating and over-simplifying of the issues. There's actually been quite a number of similar videos going around lately... On the surface they look good... until you actually look at what they're saying.

Like you said, Jesus didn't come to get rid of religion... He came to fulfill it in the highest sense! True many "religions" today are nothing but man-made institutions, but that's not what all religion is. And there are so many meanings to "religious" now, and they have been over-used so that instantly we get a bad taste in our mouth when we say it... But it shouldn't be this way.

Like the guy said, religion doesn't save you, Jesus does... but this video goes beyond that and gives the impression that religion wasn't what Jesus approved of. Jesus was religious, we can read that, so saying ALL religion is bad is incorrect. We should be redefining "Religion," not denouncing it. Thanks for posting this, I'm linking it to my blog.

Jared said...


Religious behavior is not bad, but when there is no faith in Christ behind it, it is a destructive force, right?

Yes, deadly.

Anonymous said...

This is really, really good! Thank you!!!

Rebekah said...

He has received a good deal of criticism since this has exploded on the Internet. He seems to be responding to much of it very humbly:

Anonymous said...

Romans 10:4
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Ephesians 2:15
15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

Galatians 3:
1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing-if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? 6 Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no-one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
15 Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no-one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds", meaning many people, but "and to your seed", meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise

Jared said...


Context is a wonderful thing.

Romans 10:3 helps us understand Romans 10:4. And the ESV rendering of 10:4 gets at the sense of it: it is not "the Law" that is ended but the pursuit of righteousness through the Law.

The "end" of Romans 10:4 is not the "abolishment," but the "completion." In other words, Jesus checked off all the boxes.

The sense of Ephesians 2:15 is "commandments expressed in ordinances." This is not an abolishment of the moral law but the satisfaction of the law of blood atonement.

Perhaps I/we should have made this distinction early. I do agree that the laws of ceremony are over, fulfilled by Jesus and replaced by the ordinances of the church. But that does not appear to be the religion most people are talking about here.

Galatians is a wonderful book. It is an epic polemic against legalism, not a tract for antinomianism. I preached through the whole thing last year. Luther's commentary is very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the word for religion and law two different Greek words? Why when you use Matthew 5:17 you seem to use the word religion in place of law.

I couldn't find a translation that used Greek word for religion for Matthew 5:17

Jared said...

Anonymous, I'm saying according to the Bible, "religion" is "law-keeping." Yes, two different words in the Scriptures. I don't think I said anywhere that Jesus says "religion" in Mt. 5:17, but the meaning is similar: Jesus did not come to abolish religion -- in the biblical sense -- but to fulfill it.

The implication is that we are still commanded to obey the (moral) law -- which is summed in the law of love, which is summed up in the Great Commandment (which is law!) -- just that we are not to find our righteousness or justification there, but in Christ's perfect obedience.

Christian Family said...

Thanks for a great write up!! I have been concerned by this video but too busy in the last two days to put my thoughts on paper... thanks for your time and efforts...

keith said...

Two important things that seem very often overlooked as this video is critiqued - and both do drive me crazy:
1) This is POETRY - spoken word - not a theological treatise. we should critique it, or it at least understand it in its grammatical context - as we would the psalms or proverbs.
2) There is a description of the video that is posted with the video and seems to be completely overlooked:
"A poem I wrote to highlight the difference between Jesus and FALSE RELIGION" (emphasis added, not religion in general)... " He goes on to describe what is intended by 'religion' - self-righteousness/self-justification, religion that is man centered...

Adam said...

I think I may have to write a poem titled "Why I Love Jesus But Hate Christians"

Anonymous said...

Hello Jared,

To clarify what I have said regarding Matthew 5:17, I saw it in your 5th Paragraph.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." ( Matthew 5:17 NIV)

Now I agree with you that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or religion.

I still think religion and law are defined pretty differently.

I also agree that Jesus was religious, but He was pure in it.

"If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:26-27 ESV)

Now the definition of religion that I found from and defined by Noah Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language is this

- "1. (n.) The outward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a god or of gods having power over their destiny, to whom obedience, service, and honor are due; the feeling or expression of human love, fear, or awe of some superhuman and overruling power, whether by profession of belief, by observance of rites and ceremonies, or by the conduct of life; a system of faith and worship; a manifestation of piety; as, ethical religions; monotheistic religions; natural religion; revealed religion; the religion of the Jews; the religion of idol worshipers."

While the Law is defined quite differently.

- "1. (n.) In general, a rule of being or of conduct, established by an authority able to enforce its will; a controlling regulation; the mode or order according to which an agent or a power acts. "

There are more points, to long to copy, that you can find at the website ""

So of course I can see where Jesus would not want to abolish the Law because it is His will on us. However, you did make the "religious" people angry all the time because the way they were practicing their religion was not pure and undefiled. I am as well in this same boat and I praise the Lord for the grace He gives me.

Thank you for your reply and your review of the video.

Jared said...

Adam, I don't know if you're being serious or not, love for Jesus precludes hatred for anybody. And hatred for anybody precludes love for Jesus.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Excellent, excellent analysis.

Spike said...

The above post is the very best explanation of the law I've ever read. But it is beautiful meaty thinking that will help so much. We hate the law because it exposes us (it's main and proper Godly use. But we love it because of where it sends us and how it grows us. Of course one has to be trying to keep it or at least be hearing it for it to do anything. The proper use of the law is Gods use, not ours! So if one understands (easily) what this young movie maker's definitions of religion, church, and law are by the end of his video, and the video is all about explaining his definitions, then there's very little to disagree with.

Truly, anyone interested in the law/gospel debate should check out the above link. You'll be glad you did!

Anonymous said...

The problem with pharisees is not their religion, it was their doing it to receive applause, to political gain.. but inside, they don't believe a little bit in it.. it was more cultural belief than religious belief..

I agree that religion is not a great label... like Wright says:

"The ancient Christians would have been shocked to see their worldview labelled as a "religion." It was a philosophy, a politics, a culture, a vocation ... the category of "religion" is part of the problem, not part of the solution."

Anonymous said...

Philippians 3:8-9, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on FAITH." (NLT)....

Jared said...

Faith in what, Anonymous?


The empty vessel of faith is credited to us as righteousness. Whose? Christ's.

Through faith, his righteousness becomes ours.

gwmccubbin said...

Thank you for this post! This is much more helpful than the one over at Patrol Mag by Jonathan Fitzgerald. This article is actually good for edification. Thank you for showing us Jesus.

Megan said...

The Pharisees were good Jews. The Pharisees were religious. Jesus was a good Jew. Therefore Jesus was religious.

This argument is so full of syllogisms it effectively proves Jefferson right.

Jared said...

No syllogisms, just observations about the cultural context Jesus and the Pharisees lived in.

The Pharisees were law-keepers. Jesus was a law-keeper. But the Pharisees' condemnation came from arrogantly placing their hope in their law-keeping, not in Jesus. Their religion was impure; Jesus' was pure.

So it's not religion that's bad but the heart that trusts in it.

I bet Jefferson and I agree on that.

nhe said...

I thought Big Bill's comment here was most helpful. The audience for this would seem to be people who do not realize that "law" and "religion" are fairly synonymous concepts in the Bible, as Jared has pointed out.

I think this guy just generally views religion as "man's best attempt to reach God" via law, mushrooms, whatever....and in a general sense, none of that is good.......I don't think Bethke is at all intending to critique the Biblical concept of the law.

But Jared's clarification is well-taken......we tend to throw throw out the gospel-pointedness of Biblical law out with the religion bathwater.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article. I think nuanced teaching is often lacking even when gospel zeal isn't in the young evangelical culture.

One question for thought (to anyone): Would you leave a church if the teaching consistently was filled with these errors? Scripture is ringing in my ears as I think about this- especially Ephesians 4 on pursuing spiritual unity in the body, and passages on the need for reconciliation in the church, and putting away quarreling, etc...

But I have a friend who left his church for this and was accused of having itching ears (2 Timothy 4). He listened to this sort of teaching consistently from the pulpit over about a year of having been a member, and then finally talked with his elders about it. During the meeting they told him that he was trying to earn his justification any time he even mentioned pursuing holiness or seeking to please God (note that I didn't say earn God's acceptance, but to please him as a son) through discipline and religion.

I understand that there are heart motivations that I don't know, and only God and my friend can. But the essence of my question remains- if this sort of teaching were proclaimed as though it were the Word of God ("The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God" - Luther), might it be sufficient reason to leave a church?

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't think the video was supposed to imply "don't keep God's law." But at the same time what happened to grace? Someone said,"When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether." shown in Hebrews 8:13, (The Amplified Version) and many other verses in the scripture. Of course this doesn't mean go out and do whatever you please and He's okay with that DUH haha, but I think as Christians (as firm followers of Christ/having a relationship with God) that should already be a given. What Rob literally means is living like those Pharisees... Guys who knew the law inside and out (the same way we can know the scriptures inside and out) but did not live any of it, and like Anonymous said, did not even firmly believe it. Like you said though, of course we aren't under the condemnation of the law, which I think makes a huge difference in understanding law/religion/grace. So therefore I know where anonymous is coming from, because if we were under the law we would have been shunned a long time ago. We are no longer under the law but under his grace. Romans 6:14 and yes of course this does not mean we can go on to do whatever we please [like I said before], but at the same time having an explanation to a video that is not complicated to understand and is in its true context I feel has the potential to confuse some.
I get your point, but the video in it of itself can confuse anyone if they do not understand having a relationship with God and/or have the holy spirit. I feel that the explanation is somewhat unnecessary because people can take it another way too.
To me, right off sounds like you're defending religious people vs. people in love with Christ.

Like anonymous stated, the definition of religious updated in these times probably/most likely means something different than it did before..I think non-believers view anyone with a belief in Christ to be religious but it is the fruit of someone that makes the difference in them "glorifying the Father". Mathew 5:16 vs. someone who "believes" but continues to behave wordly. <--that is someone considered "religious" in these times. Someone who goes to a church and believes what the pastor/priest says but does nothing to show it. That is why he uses words like "blind", and "bondage".

Anonymous said...

Just as a comment on the comments:

Can we all (meaning fellow believers in Christ) recognize that Jared is our brother who is seeking to teach the gospel and its implications clearly just as we should long for it to be preached? I challenge anyone else who would put a slighting comment on here to post it with your full name.

But first, ask yourself if it passes the filters Ephesians 4 describes for speaking to fellow Christians. Are you speaking the truth (or inquiring about the truth) in love (Eph. 4:15)? Is what you're saying wholesome, helpful, and beneficial (4:29)? If not, exercise your true Christian liberty by not saying everything that comes to your mind.

Anonymous said...

"We are no longer under the law but under Christ" Says Paul in Romans. The life of Christ in us is the only reason we are seen as Holy, Righteous, Blameless, and Just.

The christian is not to live by law nor try to obey it. The christian is to die to self and allow the Life of Christ to endwel our humanity, control our humanity and direct our will. "for it is no longer I who live but christ lives in me.

Is it the fruit of the Christian? No! It's the fruit of the Spirit of God that dwells within. By trying our best to obey the law we will only fall short but by believing in the righteousness of God we are saved.


Jared said...

"The Christian is not to try to obey the Law"

This is heresy.

The desire to obey God is good and right and obedience is commanded throughout the New Testament. To say that we must obey is NOT the same as saying we ought to trust the law for justification. Nobody I've read so far is saying we obey to measure up or get approval.

Now I know you have Bible verses. I pray the Spirit will grant you understanding of them.

Jared said...

David and Christina, thanks for that.

I'm willing to bet most of the naysayers in this thread have never read any of my other posts. At the very least, they ought to read the Resurgence piece of mine linked in this blog post.

It's not often at all that I'm accused of legalism. It's usually the other way.

But while we must distinguish constantly between Law and Gospel, and preach the latter as the center and source and better of the former, we cannot ditch the former. We do not have license to.

Jared said...

Becky, I deleted your comment because I don't allow comments that consist only of links. Please provide some kind of contribution to the conversation or context, and I'll be happy to approve it.

Jared said...


The fellow in the video -- Jefferson Bethke -- and I have been in contact about his video and my post today. Great guy with a great heart. Very teachable and humble. I believe we are basically on the same page.

chrisblackstone said...

One potential cause of confusion is because this video was embedded on Facebook and blogs, the description on YouTube which explicitly refers to "false" religion is lost. If people had watched the actual video in context I bet a lot of "controversy" could be avoided.

Count that as another reason not to use Facebook. :)

Jared said...

Right. Very few people saw the description b/c they just viewed it in a newsfeed, not on YouTube.

But a point others have made previous is important too: when we say "religion," we understand that "self-righteousness" may be meant. But when the world hears "religion," they don't know the jargon. So they think we're saying Jesus hates "doing good works, going to church, being 'traditional'" or what have you.

Becky Pawelek said...

I think we should not look at this video in a negative way, but as an opportunity to lovingly discuss faith and religion. Here is another great perspective.

richard said...

Elizabeth Esther has a very insightful post on this, from a Roman Catholic angle.

Diana Su said...

It feels strange to me to say that Jesus was religious, simply because he was God and he was also man. Of course he obeyed the law. He is without sin. He is the perfect God man.

Christ is the reality of the law. If we come to the law without seeking Christ, that is religion. That's what the Pharisees failed to do. This is something we all struggle with to some degree as well. The law functions to expose us, and also shows us the living portrait of who God is. When we dwell in Christ, then the law is fulfilled. But we can't do it the other way around.

Mario said...

a few questions...wasn't it Jesus that healed on the sabbath, thus breaking the observance of the sabbath? didn't he make a common practice of this? weren't many of his parables bringing to light the contradiction of the "Pharisaical" interpretation of the law and the Father's love. didn't Jesus "teach" in every synagogue He came across and not merely "attended synagogue faithfully"? In fact was it not His teachings the reason the religious leaders of the time wanting to stone Him on multiple occasions and ultimately crucifying Him?

"I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose."(Matthew 5:17 NLT)

Wasn't the problem with the Pharisees that they were still trying to hold on to the law when the fulfillment of the law was standing right in front of them and proving it with power by healing the people in their midst?

" 23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.
24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus."(Galatians 3:23-26 NLT)

didn't Jesus come to overturn the religious mindset and not perpetuate it?

" 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."(Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)

Jared, I thank you for bringing this topic to the forefront. Keep up the good work, bud.
- Mario

Robert said...

Hey Jared, long time no see. Excellent response!

Jared said...

Robert, do we know each other?

Olivia said...

Great post! Someone referred me here today and I ended up quoting you in my own critique of the video. It seems to all come down to how we define “religion.” In the sense God approves of, it is obviously not bad – it is required!

Unknown said...

Hi Jared,
I write Spoken Word poetry in the Seattle area (same area as Bethke) as a part of a national ministry called the Sacrificial Poet Project. ( or After reading yours and Kevin DeYoung's critiques of Bethke's poem, I am convicted that I need a pastor/person-with-theological-training to review my poems before I submit them at Open Mics and Poetry Slams. If this sounds interesting at all, you can email me at, and check out my youtube:

in Christ,

Matt said...

I think the issue is that many people have grown up in legalistic churches that didn't understand the Gospel. They were taught that Christianity is: don't listen to this music, don't watch that, don't date, etc. We also have so many Christian groups trying to legislate morality. We have churches and "Christian" groups who give "religion" a bad name. So in many people's experiences - "religion" is viewed as the Pharisee, a set of rules to follow, law, legalism, self-righteousness, condemnation, etc. When people think "religion," a lot of people don't think of a way to follow God. They think - Rules! Condemnation! Self-righteousness! So when choosing words to contrast in defining what the Gospel is and is not, I think people understand the "religion" versus Jesus contrast in the video. The word "religion" would better be termed as self-righteousness, but that wouldn't flow well :) So, religion vs. Jesus might not be the most technically accurate choice of words, but I think in today's society - people get it. IMHO.

Jared said...

Evan, your humble heart is wonderful. I'd suggest that your own local pastor would be the best man for that job.

Maximus_Light said...

Here's the thing though:
Most people now understand religion as the legalism and tradition, the terms have been conflated not by this young man but by society and the common understanding as a whole. Now I'm saying that he shouldn't make the distinction, he should, but the fact is that using the semantics that people understand now what he's saying is exactly what you're taking about here Jared. I don't think he would be able to get to people if his started trying to correct semantics, frankly that's something that's getting away from his point. As it stands he did make your point in his video, just with different terms. The prejudices people have towards what religion is and what it means are something that takes a lot longer to change and get through to other people which would put the video off topic, so while I agree with you're point that the distinction needs to be made I also don't think there is an appropriate way to do it in a video that people will not take the wrong way. People will always take things the wrong way when their hearts are hard all we can to is follow God as best as we can and even then people will still refuse to listen.

So again, valid point but it's getting away from the point he's making and into things he cannot make happen. So I think that's important to keep in mind to, I think it's important to keep that in mind.

Heck, look at how that took to make clear and to try to avoid all misunderstandings. :S Sad state of affairs on all ends though when things get as bad as they are now that it becomes impossible to tell people with everyday language what it actually means without stumbling, it's the time we live in though.

I'd like to see a follow up from him or something else though to get at that point. I'd bet it'd be interesting.

Don G said...

As I watched the video, it reminded me a lot of some of what Tim Keller has to say about religion. He, if my memory serves me right, also says that Jesus came to destroy religion. Of course, I think most people know what he means. That Jesus came to destroy the mindset of the has become more than the norm, and that is legalism, moralism, or as Tullian calls it, performancism.

I believe this message was meant for an audience, that audience being those who have been wounded by people who say they follow Christ but lack any real evidence of Him. I am one of those people. So I really see no problem with what he says. Those who know what true religion is should understand he is not attacking that. But for those wounded by religion, those who don't understand that is what God wants, for them this message might open a door in their heart for understanding.

Nicole said...

I just wanted to jump in on a couple things. Forgive me if they were mentioned in earlier comments. I read a lot but not all. Let's remember that he didn't say not to obey God. He talked about before with his false 'religion' he was addicted to pornography and drank etc. He didn't say that he now has liscence to sin. It says in scripture that "the strength of sin is the law". This part of my comment goes out to many people who have commented above... Preaching the law will not lead to godliness. God's kindness leads us to repentance. I really loved the youtube video. I will echo a couple others... it was poetry, not a theological debate. I understand we need to redifine religion, but more importantly to me, many people are seeing this video which shows them the God they never knew of. They are seeing a God who loves people. As far as being 'hip' or 'cool' being the standard, I disagree. I think that the current movement of the church is beautiful and is starting to focus more on the heart of people than the (forgive the term) "religious" facade. I'm thankful for that. I see great awakening occuring in the church and I'm excited about it. I really do appreciate that you were so respectful of him in your post. To me, the reason it went viral is because it's showing who God is, not who Christians "should" be. I love it and I love seeing it posted all over. It's better than the "debatey" stuff that is such a turnoff for nonbelievers.

Robert said...

Jared, sorry, I thought you would recognize the email address. (I also thought loggin into my Google Account on this comment thing would include my last name). It's Robert Williams - I used to blog at Dead Man Blogging.

"Galatians is ... an epic polemic against legalism, not a tract for antinomianism." - I love the way you put that!

Big Bill said...

"Jesus has two enemies: sin and religion"--Mark Driscoll

Not sure if Jefferson's video is drastically different from Driscoll's, although I'd concede that Driscoll does a great job of defining the notion of "religion" better than Jefferson IF a person doesn't read the description underneath the original youtube. Thanks for the blog and discussion.

Diane Dean White said...

It's easy to use a soap box and make statements, and cling to a thought and pound a stake into the ground. I'd like to see this young man get some good guidance, but I'm very glad Jared, that you
wrote these truths out, and hope others will read and learn from what you are sharing, and not just listen to the video.

relationship not religion said...

The Pharisees were hypocrites, Jesus called them "white washed walls filled with dead mens bones" Mat 23:27.That was there great sin.
They were so tied up in tradition and showing how righteous they were that they lost sight of the God whom they were supposed to be serving. They made a great show of tithing their dill and cummin and ignored the weightier provisions of the law Mat 23:23.
Look to Mark 7 and see how they used their traditions to invalidate the law.
I agree with the video Jesus did not come to start a religion He came to nurture a relationship.
The Greek word translated religion in James is better translated worship, or religious worship not religion.
I don't practice a religion I have a personal relationship with the one who spoke when the universe leapt into existence.

Quiver of Arrows said...

Ironic, that this web site is titled "The Gospel Driven Church". Having read most of your rebuttals to this thread, in addition with being in shock that you call those who differ from your theology "that is heresy" the title might should be altered to the Jared Driven Church, or Law Driven Church. The Gospel of Jesus is one of grace not law.

And you commented that Jesus kept the Law perfectly.... Perhaps, you didn't read that part where Jesus worked on the Sabbath. Remember the continous scuffles with the religious leaders about working / healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus' work on the cross was not sufficient b/c he was a perfect law keeper, but because He was blameless in the eyes of the Father....a perfect, spotless lamb. His blood did the work...not His law keeping.

I encourage you to study encounter grace and to receive His unmerited favor and to rest in His perfect Love. Let His perfect love drive you to honor Him, to read His word with freedom, to be His hands and feet as an overflow vs. a burden. His yoke is easy (not rules, regulations and striving) His burden is light.

Sonja said...

This young man is from Mars Hill, very influenced from Driscoll's "Religion Saves" sermon and book. Mark denigrates the word "religion" in the modern context, but failed to teach what Jesus and His brother James meant by religion. IOW, the bridge was never built to begin an true historical context.

Very good post Pastor Jarred.

michael said...

I appreciate the content and tone of this piece Jared. And I understand that the word religion might be heard differently by different people. But hasn't Tim Keller been using the word religion in exactly the same way for years and people don't seem to be lining up to call him out for doing it in the same way that they are with this video.
( for the record, i like the video, love Keller, and don't think you're being unfair on the video... a
Although I dont like Tom Brady!)

Dmax said...

I was with you right up until you misquoted scripture for Matthew 5:17 to make your point. The word for Law in that passage can in no way be translated into religion.

Zach Hoag said...

Jared, I agree with you on the confusing nature of the video. Thanks for posting the critique.

And I also agree that 'religion' is not a helpful way of describing 'religious self-righteousness' - but for slightly different reasons. Namely, 'moral self-righteousness' or 'works based religion' was not really the problem that Jesus and Paul were addressing, at least not in the way that Protestants have grown accustomed to seeing it. Instead, it was primarily the socio-ethnic marker of 'law' - which became an occasion for boasting/pride among Jewish folks over and against Gentiles, women, and sinners - was the issue. Through his teaching and table practice, Jesus was demonstrating a resocialization of the covenant community by welcoming in the marginalized.

Similarly, Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. And I do think that while he saw ongoing value in the practice of the law's piety, he absolutely lambasted the socio-ethnic marker. "The law was like a babysitter for us, looking after us until the coming of the Messiah" (Gal. 3), etc. The main purpose of the marker was to keep God's people in line until the rescue could be completed through the Son of David. Beyond that, it's useless.

I also think that Jesus did replace the law's piety with his own kingdom teaching, in that way fulfilling it (via reinterpretation, getting to the heart, greatest commandments, sermon on the mount, etc.), but I am anabaptist :).

Jaxxxss said...

I think a few of the points here are valid, however I feel like it is inappropriate to critique his video. I had at least 30 friends on Facebook post this video (some of them non believers.) what example are we setting to the lost to critique someone's work they are doing for the Lord? We are all his servants and it is just poetry, not a theological statement.

Allison said...

Interesting, although didn't Jesus, by living a wholly righteous sin-free life, fulfill the law to set us free from it? The law IS good, but I do not think Bethke means to equate law-keeping with religion. Rather, he seems to criticize religion's fixation with law-keeping, which, when preached as gospel, leads to guilty shamefulness for those who fail and self-righteousness for those who at least visibly succeed. The Gospel is Jesus and what His blood accomplished. The Pharisees were so caught up in religiosity that they were too blind even to recognize the Messiah when He appeared before them.
Jesus's blood initiates a NEW covenant which inscribes the Father's law on believers' hearts (Jer 31:33). Ez 36:26-27 says that He will give believers new hearts and puts His spirit within them (also, John 14:16-17).
The gospel gets at something much deeper than religion. Jesus gets to the heart. He sets us free. This is why, as Jesus proclaimed, "It is finished!" And I believe it.

Brian Phillips said...

"The Greek word for ‘religion’ used in James 1 is used negatively in Colossians 2:18 where it describes false asceticism, fleshly works-righteousness, and also in Acts 26:5 where Paul speaks of his pre-Christian life in strict ‘religion’. It is also used negatively in the Apocrypha to describe idol worship in Wis 14:18 and 27.

So the word certainly has enough negative connotations to use as a title for the category of works-righteousness. In the Old Testament the prophets are devastating in their criticism of empty ritual and religious observances designed to bribe and appease God rather then serving, trusting, and loving him. The word ‘religion’ isn’t used for this approach, but it’s a good way to describe what the prophets are condemning." -Tim Keller

Jared said...

I hoped it was you, brother.

I have tried looking you up before over the last few years, even via your old blog. The last I remembered was your cancer scare, so -- please forgive me if this is offensive -- my fear in not being able to find trace of you in the blogosphere any more was that you had gone to be with the Lord.

Happy day!
Thanks for commenting. Are you blogging anywhere again?

Katie said...

Thank you for this. I have been unable to put into words what bugged me about the video, and you did an fantastic job in explaining exactly what I was thinking. I'm in my early 20's, and I can say that my generation really sees that loving and forgiving side of God. The God that truly wants to develop intimacy with each one of us individually. But I can also say that so many people in my generation see words "theology" or "religion" as almost satanic. This guy seems like a great guy in all. I really respect him and admire him for putting so much thought and effort into trying to say that we don't have to live according to legalism. I definitely see what he was trying to say and agree with that. A lot of people probably got great things out of his video. If people are seeing Jesus as the loving relationship-oriented person he is, hey that's great! But... many younger Christians are fully aware of that already. I felt a little nervous that many have yet another reason to believe that Christianity should not have any structure and we should just focus on our relationship. Thank you for disagreeing in a non-aggressive sort of way. People really needed to hear this

aileen ROD (ileanilaffiluv) said...

I love what you said here: "Right. Very few people saw the description b/c they just viewed it in a newsfeed, not on YouTube.

But a point others have made previous is important too: when we say "religion," we understand that "self-righteousness" may be meant. But when the world hears "religion," they don't know the jargon. So they think we're saying Jesus hates "doing good works, going to church, being 'traditional'" or what have you."
That was perrrrfect! :) exactly what the problem is haha! The whole problem is semantics..the meaning people give to religion, but the Word of course stays the Word!
David and Christina...I was the second anonymous and didn't have my name on here because I hadn't even seen the button before now to be honest, I just went straight down haha and by no means was I trying to speak "unlovingly" I was speaking as a Christian to another Christian (sister to brother) because as Christ followers I believe we should know what the guy meant..we all know what he meant because in reality the word religion as Jared beautifully explained, has turned into something negative within the Christian culture itself. So I apologize if my "duh" sounded mean but I wasn't trying to sound the way it might've sounded.. (again semantics lol)
Since I too see both Bethke and Jared as brothers in Christ I guess I thought I was just being honest and direct, suggesting that we all should know what Bethke "meant". He meant hypocrisy etc... and I appreciate all y'alls corrections of the word..It's unfortunate that it took on that negative meaning but at the same time we know that the whole point of being true Christians is to be light (Romans 6:14), and to imitate Him, who did not sin and was perfect. -He followed the Law perfectly but as He knows, we are not perfect. That is why many of us have said, he took on grace instead of expecting the following of the law because he knew that as humans (like the Pharisees) we can follow the Law and know it front and back but not live it. We can know it and still fail. Once again, that is not to say that we can use His grace as a license to sin, but as Christians we "get" that. (or we should if we can call ourselves such). And if we don't see that grace part though, what did Jesus do when He went on that cross. In a sense, that's the whole point and I think throughout Bethke's video by later statements following his first, I think he implied what he "meant." By alluding it in later statements like saying, "I was that kid being in church and viewing porn...yada yada.." and other statements... So this whole blog just seemed a little off to me at first because I think he implies what he's thinking as the video continues. (However I perfectly understand Jared's point now because of that comment he wrote that I quoted way above^ ;))
and I appreciate every correction and I did read Jared's replying comments..
It's just very simple, it's all in semantics...
I guess my whole point is, don't go to 2 extremes.. There's the law and then there's just being obedient to ALL of His commands as a bi-product of love for Him, vs. what I think he "meant" by religion (rules, rituals, etc. as an outcome to be justified when it was by His blood that we became justified.
(Romans 5:9)
Yes, the law are the standards we "technically" live by, but in reality I think it's His Word in its entirety, convicting us of sin by His Spirit. No more, no less:) AnYwaY, love you all! :0 )

Anonymous said...

Jared, the guy has proclaimed the gospel to over 6.5 million in less than 3 days – and plenty of unchurched people. he’s opened the door for many stone hearts.

while i may agree with you about a few of the things that you said…you’re shooting bullets against someone who attends a church that is associated with The Gospel Coalition (Mars Hill Church) and not helping the cause of christ. there are enough people out there bashing.

I hope you’ll take this in love and remove this post. I think he’s helping more than hurting (with minor inconsistencies) and you’re hurting more than helping the cause of Christ.

Jared said...

Firing bullets? Bashing? That's what you got out of my post?

I'm thankful Jefferson himself did not read it the same way, and I'm confident we are both sharper because of our conversation yesterday.

Thanks for your comment.

Robert said...

I think there's such an agist quality to the criticism that probably should be addressed further. Second, I think most people feel compelled to criticize it because they see less commited Christians approving it or posting it. Because in the man's own description, he says he is posting about FALSE RELIGION. There are no real charges that can be leveled against him. The writer does not speak for the youth of America. He speaks for himself. His understanding of the nature and relevance of religion is not wrong. For one to argue that Jesus was religious overlooks very basic texts and images of the New Testament. I'll just mention one. When Jesus died, the tearing of the veil in the temple highlights Jesus' dominion over religion. There was no more holy or sacred spot in all of Judaism. Everything it represented was man's religious way to get close to God. And yet it was blown away by the work of Jesus. He did not establish a religion. We use religion to understand who Jesus was and his relevance in our lives. Don't make the word "religion" sacred. It isn't.

Jared said...

No one's making "religion" sacred. I'm just using it in its normative, biblical sense -- law-keeping. And in that sense, Jesus was religious.

I agree, though, that if you define religion negatively -- which is a recent innovation that has its place, as I mention in my post in a paragraph most commenters seem to be overlooking -- then Jesus was not religious.

Jared said...

Gonna close comments now, folks. There no longer seems to be a discussion but just a bulletin board of "Thanks for the critique" and "You're a jerk for the critique," and once you've heard 30 of each of those, you've heard them all. ;-)

Jefferson Bethke and I have been in touch since yesterday on this whole thing, and I'm grateful for the Spirit of God in him. Grateful he was able to hear what I was saying about his video even if some of his defenders weren't.

Saved by grace through faith in Christ's perfect obedience all the way to the cross and empty tomb,