I so often hear Christians say things like, "I thank God for the finished works of Christ! Because of His death on the Cross I am saved, and it is my faith in Him that pleases God". Or they will also say, "When Jesus bowed His head at the Cross, declared 'It is finished', and gave up His Spirit, this declaration means that my healing, deliverance, prosperity, victory, joy, peace, and everything else I need in life has been finished and is ready for me to claim". Then, this is my favorite: "I don't need to worry about spiritual warfare; I am covered by the Blood of Jesus, which means I walk in victory -- I am an Over-comer! I am a Conqueror by the Blood of Jesus!"
Now, I do not dispute the efficacy or veracity of any of these statements. I just want to explore our understanding of the "Finished Works", and what, if anything, should be our response. Is it enough to just declare it? Is that all that's expected of us in exchange for Christ's costly sacrifice? Or does God desire something more?
First, let me say that I could find nowhere in the Bible where the terminology "Finished Works of Christ" was used. It is my opinion that the Church has created such a doctrine, based on Jesus's powerful last words, It is finished. Rightly so, we recognize that the sin in the Garden separated man from his spiritual and physical relationship with God. But God did not destroy man, even though He could have, and started over. He always intended to "fix" the relationship; to provide a way for restoration and reconciliation. But there was a price to be paid -- a cup of wrath now existed and someone had to partake of it to regain possession of the original plan of man's dominion on the earth. We know that because of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies that attested to God coming to earth to rescue us.
So, let's consider what the "Finished Works" consisted of, and then determine what our response should be. While the Bible doesn't seem to use those exact words, there are words used to describe what Jesus accomplished in His work on the Cross: propitiation, redemption, and reconciliation. All three are words that are commonly shared across Christian denominational doctrines, but may not be clearly understood. Here are my understandings of each of these important elements of Jesus's finished works...
Propitiation - The satisfaction of God's Holy wrath against sin. Rebellion against God's commandments (in the Garden) results in the Wrath of God, and must be met with judgment. By dying in our place, and accepting our punishment, Jesus satisfies God's anger against all who believe in Him. Atonement and Substitution are double facets of Propitiation.
Redemption - The act of freeing someone by paying a purchase price; Deliverance by a ransom being paid; redeemed. All are bought; only believers are redeemed (delivered). Christ paid the penalty of death (required by God for our sins) by giving His own life on the Cross. When we profess our faith in Him, Jesus frees us from the guilt of sin and the punishment of sin, as well as the presence and power of sin. He introduces us to a "newness of life" (Born Again), never to be sold into slavery again. We are given an opportunity [through our free will choices] to grow and mature into His image.
Reconciliation - This term completes what Jesus has afforded us by His Work on the Cross. This is an act by God [alone] that brings mankind into a changed relationship with God; from wrath and separation to a relationship characterized by harmony, friendship, and partnership. But make no mistake, there is no give-and-take in this relationship -- this is an act of powerful Grace by the Father, offered to us, the guilty party!
These doctrines of our Christian faith clearly show us all that Jesus's death on the Cross accomplished for us. It is unmistakable that they are sufficient to pay for [and erase] all the sins of the world. But the work of Christ didn't end at the Cross! And this is what I mean by asking the question, "What should be our response to the "Finished Works" doctrine"? If we believe, by faith, then we should be aware that His work continues in the Present through the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When we say, "I abide in Christ, and He abides in me", the life of Christ is to be operative in our lives. In other words, we are to be functioning as Christ did; having an effect in the world, as Christ did; being relevant and significant in the world, as Christ was.
Furthermore, Christ's work continues through His intercession for us. He acts as our High Priest in Heaven, who mediates on our behalf when the Accuser of the Brethren [Satan] brings a case against us in the Court of Heaven. Because we are to be "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1), our response to Christ's present work on our behalf should be to imitate Him and model our lives after Him; interceding on behalf of our fellow Believers, as members of His royal priesthood on earth (1 Peter 2:9).
And of course, we know that Jesus's work is not complete and finished until He returns and reigns on earth! So we have all this evidence of the work of Christ -- past, present, and future -- and we are to respond to it by continuing His work. In John 14:12, Jesus clearly states, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. His works are to continue through us! That means healing the sick; casting out demons; cleansing the lepers [those who are discarded by society]; raising the dead; spreading the Good News that Salvation from eternal death is available, and that the Kingdom of God is on earth; interceding for others; preparing for His rule and reign on earth; and doing the work that God, the Father, shows us to do.
I simply do not believe, as some would say, that it is enough to understand what the "Finished Work" on the Cross was, or to only declare and claim it as part of our Christian heritage. Nor do I think that God means for us to rest in the finished work of Christ, as I have heard others say. We can be certain of the propitiation, redemption and reconciliation of the Finished Work, and depend on it for our eternal salvation. But, in the here and now, we cannot relax or take a rest from the work we have been charged with [again, read John 14:12]. There is work to be done in His Name; work to be continued, and we must DO it! Satan isn't resting, and neither should we. All we have to do is take a look at the world and see what failure to continue the work of Jesus looks like.
I will close by writing that we have an inheritance awaiting us in Heaven, and it's in addition to the incredible gift of eternal life. We will stand before Jesus and be overwhelmed in His presence, and then hear Him tell us how pleased He is with how we continued His work and served His Kingdom. Thank you, Lord, for the incredible price you paid for us! We thank you for being faithful to go to the Cross for us. We praise You for all You accomplished in the Father's redemptive plan of reconciliation. And we repent for not following Your command to do the things that You did, and for being inactive in all the ways You modeled for us. The state of the world is evidence of our negligence, and we are aware that we abandoned our responsibilities. Forgive us, Lord! Do not turn Your face from us, but help us to re-ignite Your Spirit across this land so that we might inspire, encourage, motivate, equip and train a new generation of followers to walk in Your ways! It's never too late with You, Jesus! We surrender to You, and declare our willingness to be obedient to Your commands. Lead us to renewal and revival! Amen!
Proverbs 24:11-12 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to his work?