Christ died in vain for all the nonchurch members who tell you when you visit, “Friend, I am not good enough to be a member of your congregation,” or who say, “When you church members stop being so hypocritical, then I will join.”
In the wedding service I use, part of the charge to the couple states the biblical truth, “Do not expect that perfection in each other that belongs alone to God.” There are still too many people outside and inside the local congregations that think that church members are supposed to be perfect. This mistaken concept clearly affirms that Christ died in vain.
Christ died in vain for church members who try to earn their eternal salvation from God’s wrath and judgment by doing good deeds such as attending worship and Sunday school, giving offerings, reading the Bible, praying, etc.
The Apostle Paul, Martin Luther and countless others tried to achieve eternal salvation this way, to no avail. Salvation is a free gift for us to accept by virtue of Christ’s death on the cross. All the good deeds that we do are only expressions of our sincere thanks and praise to God for this unmerited grace shown us via the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Therefore, the next time someone knocks on your door or corners you on the elevator or stops you on the street and asks, “Are you saved?” with a smile on your face and with a firm conviction, simply say, “Yes, I am saved for all eternity.”
By so affirming, we will not be saying that we have achieved Christian perfection, but that we are justified before God by virtue of what Christ has done for us on the cross, and not what we might have done.
Christ died in vain for all believers who insist that all other people who claim to be Christians must believe exactly as they do.
All the versions of the Bible that I have read clearly state that to claim that we are a Christian requires that we claim Christ to be our personal Lord and Savior, and to promise to rely upon the Holy Spirit to empower us to live as God wants us to live. To become a member of a particular congregation may require us to include other things, but those other things are not what the Bible proclaims.
In the Apostle Paul’s day, there were some believers who insisted that all new converts to Christianity must first become good Jews before they could be bona fide Christians. Both Paul and Peter adamantly opposed this false practice. We are saved by God’s work on the cross and not any good work that we might do. Thanks be to God that we do not have to become perfect before God will love and accept us as “children of God.” We only have to accept the fact that we are accepted just as we are. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” says it all.
I hope Christ did not have to die in vain for you.
THE REV. GENE NORRIS IS A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR IN AUGUSTA.