“Christ died for nothing.” Every time I read the words, I feel uncomfortable. Saying them out loud seems inappropriate and irreverent. Just looking at them makes my stomach turn and puts a bad taste in my mouth.
This week the Church is reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as we anticipate the arrival of Easter Sunday. Many will hear the life-changing story. Some will watch reenactments of the gruesome events. Others will contemplate the failure of the Romans’ highly regarded justice system.
It’s difficult to grasp the full extent of what Jesus suffered at the hands of sinful men – not only the physical torment but also the spiritual anguish of being forsaken by His Father (Matt. 27:46). Can you even begin to imagine if all of it was meaningless?
The words “Christ died for nothing” come from a hypothetical (but impossible) assertion in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. His goal in the epistle is to remind his Christian readers that they are both justified and sanctified by grace through faith. Initial salvation and ongoing spiritual growth are both attributed to the grace of God alone. As Paul reiterates these realities in Galatians 2:21 he remarks,
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
The conjunction “if” tells us that Paul’s statement is hypothetical. If it were possible for people to earn and maintain right standing before God through the law, then Christ’s death was “for no purpose” (ESV), “in vain” (KJV), and “needless” (NASB).
As M.R. De Hann wrote in his commentary titled Galatians, “To be saved by the law demands perfect, complete, uninterrupted obedience. If this were possible for a sinner, faith would be made void and the sacrifice of Christ a needless, colossal blunder.” Later on he adds, “If the law could have given life…then Christ would never have needed to die…His death was all of no avail, if man can save or keep himself by works of the law.”
It is easy to assent to the intellectual veracity of Paul’s argument, but it is much more difficult to live consistently in light of its truth. In my head I believe that Christ’s death was both meaningful and efficacious, but sometimes my life subtly whispers, “Christ died for nothing.” Although I realize that “complete, uninterrupted obedience” to the law is not on my résumé, thus rendering me in need of a Substitute who kept the law perfectly on my behalf, I live as if I have the ability to earn the eternal acceptance and approval of God on my own.
All who experience the salvation of God do so by the keeping of the law. Either these individuals keep the law perfectly on their own (a theoretical reality, but a practical impossibility), or they trust in the perfect law-keeping of Another. There is no other Name, and no other way, under heaven by which men can be saved. If there were, Christ died for nothing.
Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
We've all heard of the seemingly unavoidable "freshman 15," but The Gospel Coalition has published an article about a different kind of "freshman 15." Instead of pounds, there are 15 tips you can "exercise" during your first year of college. First piece of advice on the list:
"There is no greater way you can spend your time, energy, and effort than pursuing Christ with all your heart. Education matters. That's why you're going to college. But pursuing Christ matters more. Remember, you can make only one thing your central aim in life. Make it the right thing. Ask God for much grace to keep him at the center."
Click here to read more about "The Freshman 15."
Do you want to change the world? CIU seeks to educate people from a biblical worldview to impact the nations with the message of Christ. But how does one go about doing that? Relevant Magazine takes a look at 6 habits the Apostle Paul mastered in order to change the world for the sake of Christ.
Click here to read The 6 Habits of World Changers and be inspired to change your world today!
The book of Ephesians is powerful and life-giving in so many ways, but mostly because of Paul’s bold instructions for Christian living and for its message of grace.
The Lord has used His Word and His people to teach me a lot about grace over the last year. It all began with a little book called Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (who happens to be a CIU graduate and Billy Graham’s grandson.)
In his book, Tullian stresses the importance and practice of grace in our Christian lives. Because, after all, it is by GRACE we are SAVED! It is by GRACE we are ABLE to mature spiritually. Not because of our constant striving or working or doing. It is by GRACE we are able to become holy, sanctified, and righteous before God. Tullian explains this kind of grace by saying, “When gospel grace grips your heart, life becomes all about gospel grace. When the gospel reorients how you think and feel and live, all of life becomes about the work Jesus accomplished for us, not what we can accomplish for him – or anyone else for that matter. We’re liberatingly decreased while Christ is gloriously increased.”
Learning about true, gospel grace has set me free from climbing the proverbial ladder to heaven. Understanding true, gospel grace has taught me that it’s not about me or how good I can be… it’s about Christ and what He has already done.
Studying Ephesians the past couple of months has only driven that point home even further. Paul tells us in 2:8-10 that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I have always understood that accepting Christ as Savior and believing that His atoning sacrifice for my sin is what grants me eternal life. But am I living in His grace by constantly “checking spiritual boxes” in my mind and by being enslaved to the notion that I must always “measure up?” No. Because that's love of self, not love of God.
Martin Luther sums up our plight best by saying, “The sin underneath all our sins is the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and that we must take matters into our own hands.” Learning to rest fully in God’s grace is a life-long endeavor, but I am thankful that no matter how often we take matters into our own hands; His grace knows no end.
God’s message of grace has transformed my life in every way. I hope and pray that you, too, will be awakened to “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Tullian Tchividjian shares about grace and his forthcoming book on his blog as he writes, "Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome." To read more of Tullian's blog, click here.
The free gift of God's grace cannot be earned. Spend some time reflecting on His grace today and on Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast."
1997 CIU graduate Tullian Tchividjian is the well-known pastor of a thriving church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. While thousands sit under his weekly teaching, his influence extends beyond the pulpit.
Tchividjian, the grandson of Billy Graham, is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, contributing blogger for The Gospel Coalition, an editor of Leadership Journal, and insightful author.
Tchividjian’s latest book titled Glorious Ruin: How Suffering Sets You Free was released at the beginning of this month. In what he describes as his most important work to date, Tchividjian focuses not on the why or how of suffering, but rather on the Who – a Savior scripture describes as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
I’m about halfway through Glorious Ruin and it has been simultaneously challenging and encouraging. Tchividjian’s perspective is fresh, yet steeped in the truth of the gospel. I hope to finish the book later this week, but here’s a preview for those who might be interested in reading further:
“We may not ever fully understand why God allows the suffering that devastates our lives. We may not ever find the right answers to how we’ll dig ourselves out. There may not be any silver lining, especially not in the ways we would like. But we don’t need answers as much as we need God’s presence in and through the suffering itself. The truth is that when it comes to suffering, if we do not go to our graves in confusion we will not go to our graves trusting. Explanations are a substitute for trust.
For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be Himself for you. And in the end, what we discover is that this really is enough.”
Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry
"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11
The Gospel In Four Minutes... Share the Good News with someone today!
While choosing a college is an important decision, it's not the MOST important decision. After all, it's not about where you end up, it's about who you become along the journey. As Christians, our calling is all the same. We are made in His image to share the Good News!
Fortunuately for us, any college is a mission field. No matter what college you choose, there will inevitably be people along the way who need to hear the life changing message of Christ. When you focus your heart and mind on His will and His way, you can trust that His plan for you will be perfect regardless of where you spend the next four years.
Click here to read Christian College Guide's article Right School, Stronger Faith.