Many people today are religious. They may belong to a denomination and attend services regularly. Others, while not belonging to any particular denomination, may believe in God, read their Bible, and pray from time to time. These are all “religious,” but does the fact that they are make them Christians? Are all religious people Christians?
In Acts 17, we learn that Paul preached to certain idol worshipers at Athens, He said to them in verse 22, “. . . ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.” The NASB translates this, “. . . men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.” These were religious people; however, not only were they not Christians, but they did not even have the proper concept of God.
Another important passage to consider is found in Romans 10. Paul said (vs. 1-2), “brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” These people were clearly religious because they had a belief in God and a zeal for God. However, they had never obeyed the plan of salvation (accepting Christ); they had never become Christians. Paul made it clear that they were lost and prayed that they would be saved.
Consider further the example of Cornelius. He is described as devout, one who feared God, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10). He was obviously religious, but was he saved? The answer is NO. Later, when Peter was defending himself for having gone to the Gentiles to preach, he quoted the words of an angel to Cornelius. The angel said that Cornelius was to send for Peter “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). Thus, prior to Cornelius hearing the words of Peter, although clearly religious, he was not saved.
I once saw a book at a flea market called, How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious. Whereas the opposite of this title is a possibility, (i.e., one can be religious and yet not be a Christian) the title itself denotes an impossibility. It can be said that all Christians are religious people, but all religious people are not Christians. A Christian must be religious, but just being religious does not make one a Christian.
We must never be satisfied to just be religious. We need to do what Gods Word says so that we can become a child of God and be saved eternally (note Romans 10:17, Hebrews 11:6, Acts 17:30-31, Romans 10:10, Acts 2:38).