Bela Bartok’s famous last words are poignant and full of pathos:
The sad thing is that I leave with so much to say.
Bartok left behind unfinished works and his final words suggest he had more to offer still.
I was minded of Jesus’ last words at the crucifixion: ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30). At the point Jesus died, he did not feel there was so much more to do. The work of salvation – Jesus’ primary mission – was complete upon the cross. There was no more to be done, no more required. Satisfaction had been made for sin and its price had been paid.
Other errant views of Jesus’ work on the cross deny the force of his words. There are many who affirm that the crucifixion of Christ was necessary for salvation, but they deny that it is fully and finally effective for salvation. There is an acceptance that Jesus died for sin, but his sacrifice becomes but a means of opening up the possibility of salvation. Sure, it was required but it’s not all that’s required.
For the Judaizers in Galatians, we still needed to be circumcised and act in line with Jewish ceremonial laws. For the Catholics, we still need baptism and to partake of the mass. For the Mormons, there is still a need for baptism before we receive salvation. For the Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is still a need for ongoing mission work that will be used to top up your account with God. In each case, the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice is denied. It may have been required for salvation, but it wasn’t enough to earn it.
But Jesus was clear enough on the cross: ‘it is finished’. The work had been done. Peter makes it clear: ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). The apostle Paul understood it the same way: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast’ (Ephesians 2:8f). The work of salvation had been done in full on the cross. Salvation is received by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone (solas gratia, fide and Christus if that sort of thing floats your boat).
If you only had 30 minutes with somebody, what would you tell them? For me, that would be just about top of my list. Here is how we did just that this morning:
The Nature of Jesus Sacrifice (sermon audio)
Have a Good Friday.