Did Jesus Die In Vain?   
Mostly from Raymond Kelcy
By Paul Robison

In the passage read from Philippians 2, did you notice in verse 16 how Paul said: “... holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain”?  The word “vain” is literally associated with a vase that empty or hands that don't hold anything.  Metaphorically, Paul is saying that he doesn't want, at the judgment, for his example and his work with the church at Philippi to be prove to be useless or without effect or to no purpose.  All the effort that he had given in converting others and in teaching others would end up being worth nothing.  A leader prayed the following for his son: “Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.  And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.  Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.  Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain’" (MacArthur).
 
“The New Testament assigns great importance to Jesus' death for our sins.  The fact of His death is mentioned more than 175 times.  His death is definitely connected with our salvation.  'Christ died for our sins' (1 Corinthians 15:3). '... that He by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone' (Hebrews 2:9). 'For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God ...' (1 Peter 3:18).  Many other passages could be cited to show the close relationship existing between Jesus' death and our salvation.  The vicarious death of God's Son has become a distasteful subject to many of our day, and they have omitted mention of the shedding of blood in sermons and hymns.  But the truth still remains that 'without shedding of blood, there is no remission [or forgiveness]' (Hebrews 9:22)(Kelcy).”
 
“Did Jesus die in vain?  Surely, the New Testament teaches that it was necessary, that it was the only way whereby mankind could be reconciled to God.  Atheists have made light of Jesus' death and have ridiculed the idea of blood atonement.  To make any statement which minimizes the importance of Jesus' death is sinful.  And any teaching which makes Jesus' death non-essential must necessarily be a false teaching.  There are many statements being made by people today which teach by implication that the tragedy of Calvary was needless.  But let’s give attention to several answers to our question: 'Did Jesus die in vain?' (Kelcy).
 
“Jesus died in vain if He was not raised.  'And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain' (1 Corinthians 15:14). And again at verse 17: 'And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!'  Paul is here showing the futility of our efforts to be saved and to preach the Gospel of Christ if the resurrection be not a fact. Indeed, all of God's efforts toward us and all our efforts toward God are vain if Jesus has not been raised from the dead.  But thanks be to God for another statement of Paul in this same chapter: 'But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.'  His death, then, was not in vain for His resurrection is a fact.  His death has the power to accomplish all that God intended for it to accomplish for He came forth triumphant over death (Ibid)!
 
“That the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb and that the tomb was empty on the third day is a fact not denied anyone [who reads the text unbiased].  The enemies of Christianity have felt compelled to explain the empty tomb, but no rational explanation has ever been found apart from the resurrection of the body of Jesus.  That Christ has been raised was the explanation offered by the first century disciples, and they believed this to the extent that they were willing to die for that faith. Here is something else that the enemies have felt the need of explaining: the faith of the early disciples.  Why did they believe that Jesus had been raised, and why were they willing to risk their lives by preaching the message?  There is no conceivable explanation expect that given in the New Testament.  Jesus was raised from the dead and the apostles and others saw Him after His resurrection.  To say that the apostles were deceivers or that they were all deceived does not satisfy the mind that demands a rational explanation.  The empty tomb and the faith of the early disciples are witnesses to a resurrection that cannot be silenced. They raise their resounding voices and testify to the fact that on the third day the body of Jesus was raised from the dead” (Ibid.).
 
“Jesus died in vain if one can be saved by the law.  In the Galatian letter, in which Paul argues in a masterly way that we are not under the law of Moses, he makes this emphatic statement in 2:21: '... for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.'  This was a problem with which Paul and the other apostles had to deal constantly.  Judaizing teachers were intent upon binding the law of Moses upon the New Testament church.  Paul fought the battle over and over.  We hear the noise of the battle in the letter to the Galatians.  Paul accuses those who were giving heed to these teachers of turning aside unto a different gospel, a perverted gospel (1:6-7).  He affirms that 'by works of the law, no flesh shall be justified' (2:16).  He denies that they had received the Spirit by the works of the law (3:2).  He insists that 'Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us' (Galatians 3:13).  Paul then says that the law 'was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come,' and the Seed was Jesus.  Further, since faith in Jesus has come, ‘we are no longer under’ the law, which was a tutor to ‘bring us to Christ’ (3:24-25).  In the famous allegory of the two women, Paul insists that the children of the law are not the heirs of God's promises (4:21-31).  He pleads with the Galatian brethren not to be 'entangled again with a yoke of bondage,' and says that those who would be justified by law have 'fallen from grace' (5:1 & 4).  He calls the Galatians 'foolish' for giving heed to teachers who would bring them again under the yoke of bondage of the law of Moses (3:1)” (Ibid.).
 
“But let's notice once again the passage with which we began our discussion of this point in 2:21: 'for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.'  That should settle the question of whether of not the law of Moses is yet in force.  We sometimes hear people today say that they believe the Old Testament is sill binding, and that they believe a person can be saved by keeping its commandments.  They must not realize that they are making a statement which, if true, makes Jesus' death a meaningless event!  For that reason, the idea that righteousness can be by the law must necessarily be wrong.  Any teaching which makes Jesus' death non-essential must be branded a false teaching” (Ibid).
 
“Jesus died in van if one can be saved apart from His blood.  That eternal salvation is by Jesus' blood is a great New Testament teaching stated in a multitude of passages. ‘In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins’ (Ephesians 1:7). ‘Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without spot’ (1 Peter 1:18-19). ‘To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood’ (Revelation 1:5). Now, if one can be saved apart from the shed blood of Christ, then Jesus died in vain.  Salvation by blood is a very distasteful subject to many modern theologians, and it has long been an object of the attacks by those who are atheists.  But he who believes the Bible must hold it as a very precious truth for the teaching is abundant that Christ died in order that God might have a ground upon which he could pardon humanity” (Kelcy).
 
“It is in order at this point to introduce another passage which speaks of the washing away of sins. When Ananias came to Saul to tell him what he 'must' do, he said, ‘Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16).  This definitely teaches that our sins are washed away when we are baptized, but it does not tell us what washes them away.  We have already heard passages which teach that sins are washed away by Jesus' blood, but these do not tell us when Jesus' blood washes sins away.  When we put both of these ideas together, we have the great truth that sins are washed away by Jesus' blood when we are baptized into His name.  It is not the water that cleanses; it is the blood that does!  We are not to look to the water for salvation, but to Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection that the water symbolizes.  We are to call on His name while being baptized.  We must be baptized in order to appropriate the cleaning effect of His blood. If we can be saved apart from the blood, Jesus died in vain” (Ibid.).
 
“Jesus died in vain if one can be saved outside the church.  In his address to the Ephesian elders, Paul made reference to 'the church of God which He purchased with His own blood' (Acts 20:28).  In another passage, Paul declared that 'Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her' (Ephesians 5:25).  Through the cross, Jesus reconciles people unto God 'in one body,' and that body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16).  From these passages, it can be seen that the church is insolubly connected with the Jesus' death.  He died in order that the church might exist.  He purchased the church with His blood.  To say that the church is not essential to salvation is to say that Jesus' death was not essential.  His death was in vain if one can be saved outside the church.  Remember, any teaching which belittles Jesus' death must be a false teaching.  Therefore, the teaching that salvation can be enjoyed outside the church is false” (Kelcy).
 
“Jesus died in vain if one can be saved by their own goodness.  Another idea currently held that eliminates the necessity of Jesus' death is that one can be saved by living a good moral life.  Is it not true that people could live good moral lives before Jesus' death and that they could do so without His dying?  If they could, then why did Jesus die?  Can we not see that to maintain that we can be saved by merely a good life makes the transaction at Calvary an empty and meaningless occurrence?  No effort is here intended to minimize the importance of a good life.  A good moral life is essential to one's being a Christian, but it, within itself, is not sufficient for salvation.  The Roman soldier Cornelius was a perfect specimen of morality, but he was told by an angel to send for Peter who would tell him what to do to be saved (Acts 11:14).  Other cases in the book of Acts in which good men and women heard the Gospel and were converted to Jesus by obedience to it illustrate the truth that more than morality is required.  We are not saved by human works that would occasion boasting.  We do not earn salvation.  Salvation is by God's grace, and not by human merit.  Those who say they can be saved by their own moral goodness may not intend to minimize the importance of Jesus' death, but this is exactly what they do!  If all people could only realize that this is the implication of such statements, then they would surely be more careful about their remarks.  Let’s constantly remember that any teaching which makes Jesus' death unnecessary is a false teaching.  We must teach people to be morally good, but we must point them to Jesus as the world's only Savior, and we must cause them to trust in Him and not in themselves and their works” (Ibid.).
 
Jesus died in vain if you remain and die lost. “The cross' very existence … is graphic evidence that He who died on it … was no insignificant Jew. Only One who had the power of life within himself could have so transformed defeat into victory and personal death into life for millions! Only the dynamic Son of God could have projected across the vast sea of time such an humble symbol with such a wondrous meaning, [a shaft of pure light and hope to penetrate a history filled with darkness]" (Osborne).  There was a young man who gave his life to save another man during a fire.  After a year or two, the parents of the young man invited the man who had been rescued over to their house for a visit. The man showed up drunk and was rude throughout the visit.  The wife sighed to her husband after their guest's departure: “How sad that our son died in vain.”  “In the day of judgment, you will stand before Him who died for you.  Will it be true in that day that His death for you will be in vain?  Will you stand before Him having failed to do the things He asked you to do?  Think of the shame you will experience when you realize that all He did for you was in vain.  Will God feel like that distraught mother?  He gave His best for you, but you did not give your best for Him.  You kept ignoring Jesus and living life on your own terms.  You denied invitation after invitation to have your sins washed away and continued to live outside the church and very much attached to this world and its goods. Yes, Jesus died in vain if you remain and die lost.  All His efforts on that day will no longer have any effect.  Please prepare so that when you stand before Jesus in judgment you shall not be put to shame.  Believe in Him, trust Him, obey Him, and serve Him faithfully every day of your life!  Live so that when life is over you shall have no cause for serious regrets.  Live so that Jesus' death will bring about your eternal salvation and an eternal home in heaven.  May it be true that eternity will reveal that His death for you was not in vain” (Kelcy)!  Don't let God say, “How sad that My Son died in vain!”