The whole Christian system centers around the death of Jesus on the cross. He “died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6, 8). He “gave himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4). He “gave himself a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:6). He “laid down his life for us” (I John 3:16). In spite of these and numerous like statements of Scripture, certain things, if true, would mean that Christ died in vain.
• If salvation is by law of Moses: Paul argued: “If righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought” (Galatians 2: 21b). The Galatians had fallen victim to the teaching of Jewish Christians who sought to bind at least parts of the law (i.e., circumcision, 5:2–4; cf. Acts 15:1) upon Gentile Christians. If Moses’ law could have saved, it would not have been necessary for the Word to become flesh (John 1:14). The Hebrew nation had been under that law for 1,500 years by the time of Jesus’ birth. It was but a “tutor” that pointed to the Christ (Galatians 3:24); its sacrifices were but typical of the only “Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, emph. DM). Jesus slew the authority of Moses’ law on Calvary (Colossians 2:14). All who seek to justify religious practices by it (e.g., sabbath observance, priesthood, instrumental music in worship, holy water, et al.), by implication render the death of Jesus worthless.
• If religious division is right: Though diversity in religion (including various “world religions”) is applauded by the masses, the Bible condemns it. Jesus built only one religion/church (Matthew 16:18), and He intended for its members to be one, as He and the Father are one (which includes/demands doctrinal unity) (John 17:20–23). He did not even tolerate division in a single congregation of His church (I Corinthians 1:10–13). He died to establish this one body (Ephesians 2:16; 5:25). If Jesus is as pleased with the gross divisions in religion as with the one church He established, then “Christ died for nought” in that regard
• If the church is non-essential: Jesus “purchased” His church with His blood, which He shed on the cross (Acts 20:28). Jesus yes, the church no is still a common concept. If one is considering only man-made counterfeits of Jesus’ church, the slogan is true, for He died for none of them. His church consists of those who have been saved from sin and who will be saved eternally through His death (Romans 5:10; Acts 2:38, 41, 47). To include His church merely as one acceptable religion among the many implies that Christ paid that awful price for it in vain.
• If I am lost: Jesus’ death will have been wasted, as far as I am concerned, if I am lost. This will not be the case for others, of course. He “gave himself a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:6), so all have the opportunity to be saved. But as for me, if I am lost, He may as well have spared Himself the misery of the cross, for it was for nought. It behooves each of us to obey Jesus’ plan of salvation (Acts 2:37–41), whereupon He will add us to His church (Acts 2:47), thereby accepting the salvation He offers. We thus attribute the true value to His death in a very personal way.