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.

Questions and thoughts

Looking at this post and the others here, which are so well put, it leads me to a couple questions for the group.

* Would this passage in Roman 5 coupled, for example, with Gal 3 point us to the reality of an exchange that took place at Calvary? Would not the Gal exchange of Jesus becoming the thief/the sinner/actually cursed by God according to Gal 3 not fully establish the completion of His substitution for our justification?

* Are we to believe that the existence of plenty of opportunities to reach souls for Christ means that His substitutionairy work was incomplete and insufficient? Is the blood offered for sin (Heb 9:11ff) not enough to cleanse (expiation) from sin and fully satisfy (propitiation) God's demand for a life as payment for sin?

* Does not the shedding of blood (death) of the Divinely appointed sacrifice not purge (ouchie word) or cleanse us from sin through forgiveness(Heb 9:22), and redeem (buy) us back from sin? Is that not what Jesus did on the Cross according to Isa 53?

* Does not the completeness of our justification along with the future (now and not yet) aspect of salvation ring true in Rom 5?

* Could Jesus have completely provided for the creation of a universal Gospel whereby social horizontal barriers are removed along with the spiritual vertical barriers ? In Eph 2 our Savior is said to have created peace in His own Body on the Cross: peace with God and each other and ourselves.

Some will reject the gift of salvation but that doesnt make the efficacy of Christ's atoning sacrifice less efficacious, does it? The reality of some not accepting His gift and trying to earn it with good works does not make the sacifice itself insufficient does it? Because that is what the idea of cooperation is really saying. Go back and read through the posts.

I am all for seeking God to use my pain to point others to the completed work Jesus did. If He didnt finish it then what is the point of following Him? Failure for any to be saved would still be in doubt. If He couldnt finish the job to completely provide salvation, then He isnt much of a Savior and He isnt a very good God either. If we hold that Jesus work does not provide completely for our salvation, and that we must work to complete what God started (just .0000001%) then salvaton cant be by grace (Rom 11:6).

Respectfully, no amount of good works now or later could finish salvation unless one adopted a view that we are partially the Savior of ourselves.

ML's premise seems to be that "It is finished" cannot refer to salvation because all are not saved. Does not the idea of our completing Jesus work not cast serious doubt over our means of salvtion being by grace? I grant you universalism is a dead end street and some people will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. Not all will be saved. But the Gospel is itself a universally available message; and a completely sufficient invitation to all to come to God via the Savior. All that is needed is for the Church to tell and live the Gospel message by a witness that is consistent in articulation and exemplification.

Our Christians works are demanded, not because we add to what Jesus completed. But rather Christ lives in and through us because Jesus completed work justified the ungodly, so He could place His heart within each of His children. We can and must show God's works because that is why He re-created us (Eph 2:8-10) in His completed salvation by grace.

In Christ,

Dan Fugett