The death of Christ is one of the most horrific scenes in history. Innocent men have died before and since because of imperfect laws and judgments by men, but Jesus died even though He had not sinned, and no “guile was found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). Yet is was all necessary for the remission of our sins. The death of Christ is connected with salvation of men. The Hebrew writer said, “But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). Peter said, “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God; being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).
However, to many, Christ died in vain! So far as many in the world are concerned there was no reason at all for Christ dying and suffering as He did. Let us look at some of these whose lives and doctrine tell us that Christ died in vain.
If He Was Not Raised From The Dead
What good would the sacrifice have been had not he been raised? Our final resurrection from the dead depends on His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-14). Paul poses the question that if one admits that Christ is raised why should they deny that all will be raised? On the other hand, if there is no resurrection, then why would they argue that Christ has been raised? So our resurrection depends on His resurrection. And if there is no resurrection, then His death is in vain. His death was necessary only if He was going to be raised from the dead. Truly, He was “raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). But if He was not raised the apostles were false witnesses (1 Cor. 15:15). Yet there are many who deny the resurrection. The resurrection is the very apex of His miracles and if we can believe this, the other miracles are not hard to believe. Why would some think the death of Christ is important and deny the resurrection?
If The Law Of Moses Is Still Binding
Very few people in the religious world understand the relationship between Moses’ law and the gospel of Christ. Almost universally they try to follow both. This has been a problem from the beginning of the gospel’s advent into the world by Christ and His apostles. Today, ask nearly any person and they will tell you that the Ten Commandments of the Law of Moses is applicable to all today.
In dealing with the false teachings of that time, Paul in his letter to the Galatians dealt with this issue. In Galatians 2:21 he says, “I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Judiazing teachers insisted on keeping the law of Moses (Gal. 1:6-7). But Paul says that no flesh (Jew or Gentile) is justified (made right) by the law of Moses (Gal. 2:16). They had not received the Spirit by the hearing of the law of Moses, but by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-3). Christ redeemed all from the law for it was a curse to all who would continue to follow its precepts (Gal. 3:13). The Gentiles were not included in the law of Moses, and if the law of Moses could save, then the Gentiles would not have access to salvation (Gal. 3:14). The law of Moses was only added until the seed (Christ) came (Gal. 3:15-22) but now all are saved by Christ and His gospel, not by the law of Moses. But righteousness did not come by the law of Moses, but “a righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law of Moses and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe, for there is no distinction” (Rom. 3:21-22). Finally, Paul said, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law of Moses; you are fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4). One purpose of the coming of Christ was to take away the law of Moses and make possible a way of redemption through His blood. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin so Jesus had to come and make that sacrifice. So the truth remains that if one can be saved by the law of Moses, Christ died in vain.
If Morality Alone Saves
A large number of people believe that the death of Christ is unnecessary for they believe that they will not be lost if they live a good and moral life. It is rather a negative approach to salvation. Why should I be condemned if I haven’t done anything “that bad”? “I am a good person, and why should the Lord condemn me to hell?” it is said. But unless one says he has never sinned, then he must admit that he needs the blood (the death) of Christ, for only in the blood of Christ can one be saved (Eph. 1:7). Furthermore this admits that I can “merit” salvation, which the Bible teaches can never happen. It seems that some of the brethren are having a hard time seeing the difference in accepting God’s gift conditionally and meriting salvation. The fact that I must obey Christ to accept His gift is not to say that I merit or deserve salvation. However, if God must save me because I am good then we must be saying that salvation depends on goodness of man. Therefore, if I am good, then God has to save me.
All have sinned (Rom. 3:23 f; 1 Jn 1:10). Now since all have sinned, there are only two dispositions that God can make of sin. First sin must be punished, so God can take care of that for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). God cannot overlook sin and be true to His nature. Sin cannot go unpunished. So there is only one other thing that can be done. Since we have sinned we must either take the consequences or be forgiven of sin by the God of heaven. This is done through the blood (death) of Christ and Peter calls this redemption by the blood. We are not redeemed by material things “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We are “loosed” by His blood (Rev. 1:5). This is the reason Paul says we must be “baptized into His death” since it was in His death that the blood was shed (Rom. 6:3) as that is the only way we can appropriate the blood to our sins. When one is baptized into the death of Christ, he is washed in the blood. When one is baptized into Christ his sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38). When one is baptized into Christ, he “puts on Christ” (Gal. 3:27). When one is baptized into Christ, he is a child of God. How can one possibly say one need not be baptized into Christ when all these blessings come as a result of baptism? One cannot be saved by “morality alone” for there is nothing in this to take away sins. And since all have sinned, there must be a cleansing agent – blood.
If One Can Be Saved Outside The Church
This statement sounds so unnecessary since the saved are the church. We are “reconciled in one body,” which is the church (Eph. 2:16). The same writer says the Lord is “head over all things to the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22-23). If we are reconciled (made friends again) in Christ, then how can one be saved if he is not in Christ? But Paul said in Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy . . . .” So we note that reconciliation unto God hinges on the death of Christ. If we can be saved outside of the realm of salvation (the church), then His death (which purchased the church, Acts 20:28) is unnecessary. It was through the mercy and loving kindness of God that Noah and his family was saved from the flood. Yet they had to build the ark (by faith) in order to be saved. It was inside of God’s providential care and planning that these people were saved by faith. The ark was necessary. It was God’s plan for their salvation. Through the cleansing power of Christ’s blood, salvation is made possible to mankind. When saved from sins (when God forgives), the people were called and thus added to the church (Acts 2:47). It is a total misunderstanding of the way of salvation when men speak of being saved “outside of the church” for the saved compose the church. The church is nothing more or less than a group of saved people.
If We Reject His Cross
Jesus sole purpose for coming to earth was to die for the sins of men. He not only died, but took his cross and was thus crucified upon it. Jesus demands that all who have obeyed the gospel of Christ to bear their cross and follow Him. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 16:24-25). This cross must be borne daily (Lk 9:23). Anyone who bears not his cross cannot be a disciple of Christ (Lk 14:27). All Christians must suffer for the cause of Christ and not be ashamed of such (2 Tim 3:12 f; 1 Pet 4:16). Why? “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord” (Matt 10:24). “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you,’A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn 15:18-20). Yet, we know of an assurance, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jam 1:12).