30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (NKJV)
It is finished. What was finished? Certainly Jesusí mortal life on this earth. But the underlying Greek verb has a more substantial meaning. Teleos means to fulfill oneís task or complete a process, or even a religious obligation. Here on the cross, Christ fulfilled a plan set forth before the foundation of the world.
The Bible records a series of covenants between God and man. Yet the very first covenant was between the First and Second Persons of the Trinityóthe covenant of redemption. In that covenant, the Father and the Son were in perfect agreement. Sin must be dealt with, and the Son voluntarily stepped up to the plate in grace.
How do we know this? Remember that from Christís resurrection to his ascension, He taught His disciples many things, opening the Scriptures to them. Fresh from this teaching, Peter in his very first sermon after Pentecost, told the Jews:
23 Him [Christ], being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; (NKJV)
Peter affirms Godís eternal purpose in the cross. Peter reiterates this in his first letter, stating that Christís salvation for us was foreordained from the foundation of the world. In Jesusí great prayer in John 17, He clearly states that the Father loved Him before the foundation of the world. John refers to Christ in Revelation as the lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world. Thus, Christís death on the cross was no accident or last minute plan to rescue a universe out of control. No, God is totally sovereign over the universe. All things serve His eternal purpose, but thatís a subject for another sermon.
Why was Christís death on the cross necessary? Two reasons: Godís perfect holiness and Manís utter sinfulness. Godís holiness is perfect, and can be considered the sum of all His other attributes. In Isaiahís vision of Godís throne room in Isaiah 6, the angelic hosts are singing "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts". That 3-fold repetition is the ultimate emphasis in Hebrew, indicating perfection. No other attribute of God is so expressed. Repeatedly throughout Scripture, those who meet God immediately fall on their faces in worship, His holiness is so great and evident. Habakkak 1:13 tells us that God is so holy that He cannot even look upon sin.
Second, Man is utterly sinful as a result of Adamís fall in the garden. Paul nicely summarizes this doctrine in Romans 3:
10 As it is written:
"There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one."
13 "Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit";
"The poison of asps is under their lips";
14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."
15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known."
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (NKJV)
Doesnít leave much to the imagination. We are told that way back in Genesis 6 that every thought of man is entirely and continually evil. As John points out in his first letter, if anyone says they do not have sin, that person is a stranger to the truth. God goes so far as to say in Isaiah 64:6 that even what we consider our righteous works are as filthy rags. Now we have a problem. How does a sinful man approach a holy God?
Fortunately, God had that plan from all eternity. Paul tells us in Ephesians that God chose us before the foundation of the world, that salvation was by grace through faith, not of works lest anyone boast. Paul tells us that even our faith is a gift of God. This theme is reiterated throughout the New Testament, founded on Jesusí promises like that in John 15:16: we did not chose Him but He chose us. We see this plan being consistently worked out throughout the Scriptures. Immediately after the first sin, God told us of the remedy in the proto evangelica of Genesis 3:15. Salvation by grace through faith was reiterated to Abraham in Genesis 15:6, by Habakkak in Hab 2:4, in Psalms like Ps 46, and in the prophets like Isaiah 49:10, 11, and Jeremiah Chapter 31. Godís inspired word exudes salvation by grace through faith from every page.
It is finished. Just as sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam, so too eternal life entered through Christ, the God-man. Christ completed the drama of redemption through His perfectly obedient, sinless life, His death on the cross for our sin as our substitute, and His resurrection from the dead. Christ finished this salvation on the cross, making full payment for our sins. Finished, as in completed. Nothing can be added to this great salvation, and if anything could be, we donít have it. Remember us? There is none righteous, no not one. Christ did it all. We can only trust in His finished work. Through Christ, our sins are forgiven and His righteousness becomes ours before the judgement seat of God. There is no other name under heaven by which men are saved. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Broad is the road to destruction, but narrow is the way to Christ. No one comes to the Father but through Him. Not a popular concept in our pluralistic society. But then, it never was popular. We commemorate today that they crucified the Savior. In our pride, we like to get our salvation the old fashioned wayóearn it. But thatís not Godís way.
Proverbs tells us several times that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way death. What exactly is that end? Revelation 20 tells us that anyone not found in the book of life at the final judgement will be cast into the lake of fire for eternal torment and punishment. Some would say that sounds harsh, but Scripture tells us that is the only justice. Our salvation is not justice but mercy. We are saved from the eternal punishment we deserve solely by Godís grace. He chose us to rescue us from what justice requires, accepting Christís perfect sacrifice on our behalf. God tells us in Isaiah 45:18 that He is the Creator, the only God, and He declares what is right. The almighty, holy, just, sovereign Creator and Redeemer doesnít need anyone to apologize for Him. And friend, if youíre not resting totally in Christ alone for your salvation, eternity is a long time to regret your mistake.
From before the foundation of the world to the last day, salvation is of God, and solely for His glory. The only salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. The only thing we contribute is our sin that makes salvation necessary. The writer of Hebrews asks how we can be saved if neglect so great a salvation? The question is rhetoricalówe canít. So as we survey the wondrous cross and empty tomb, let us praise God and rededicate ourselves to glorifying Him in our lives through worship and obedience, that we may be His light in the world and draw others to Him, because it is finished.