What is the finished work of the cross?

michael_legna's picture

One of the verses read at Mass today was from Heb 5 and it's contents got me to thinking about the common claim as to what is the finished work of Christ?

It is often claimed that the finished work of the cross as mentioned in…

John 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

…is our salvation.

In other words Jesus did it all, and we have no role in our own salvation.

But my claim has always been if He actually saved us by His sacrifice then all men would be saved – since He died for all men. This claim is in complete accord with the will of God.

1 Tim 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

But we know that all men are not saved

Matt 7:13-14 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So if it is not our actual salvation which is finished – what is it? Looking at what is taught in the book of Hebrews we see…

Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Through His sacrifice, He became the source of salvation. A source is something you draw from but it is not necessarily something imposed on you. This makes it clear that what was finished on the cross, by His sacrifice, was the offering of the gift, the making available of salvation – not the actual fact of personal salvation for everyone.

To go a bit further in our analysis of this verse we see how it is we are called to draw from this source – through obedience to Him. This too is in complete accord with the idea that we must obey the Gospel to avoid fiery indignation.

2 Th 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

This seems to me to show that the finished work of the cross was simply the offering of the gift, and that we must accept that gift through loving obedience to His Gospel. In other words we are not saved by merely having faith in Him as sacrificial lamb, but also in Him in His role as shepherd.

Louis Frey's picture

The world as it is...not as I'd like it to be

Peace Be With You,


I fully agree with your written statement and there is a prayer that sums this all up very nicely (it's also on CCEL). "The Serenity Prayer" by Reinhold Niebuhr.

In the begining of this journey toward home, I kept hitting walls as a man walking backwards would do. I couldn't see where I was going becuase I was trying to lead myself. Along the path I realized I was just another grain of sand on a very large beach and only could do what He gave me the grace to do. It's a day to day basis, each day being different from the last in some way or another. For some the words come easy to express the journey, for others its a matter of walking.

May the Spirit of Christ always be with You,