“It is finished! And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30)
What was finished? Everything! To be sure, there is so much that has not yet come. Jesus will return, our bodies will be raised up in imperishable glory, and the Holy City will descend upon the earth. Yet the Lamb had opened a new and living way for men to approach their Creator (Heb. 10:19-20). The sacrificial system, once trapped in an endless cycle of futility due to man’s depravity, had now been fulfilled. The seemingly insurmountable impasse between man’s persistent rebellion and God’s redemptive purposes had now been solved. The Mediator had come (1 Tim. 2:5). God’s own arm had brought forth salvation (Is. 59:16). What the Law could never do, God did! (Rom. 8:3)
And this sacrifice was complete. We have been saved to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). There is absolutely nothing that we could ever do to improve upon it. The lengths to which God went to secure salvation speaks of the totality of the accomplishment. He purchased the entirety of the price of our redemption with His precious blood (1 Pet. 1:19). There is no debt remaining for which we must account in our own strength.
We partook of the sweet freshness of this truth in the bright new dawn of our conversion. For all we had then was the filthy rags of our life of sin up until that moment. All we knew was the empty way of life handed down to us by our forefathers (1 Pet. 1:18). We were children of wrath and sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2-3). How fiercely did we cling to the cross for our righteousness! Only there!
Yet now we have come to the late noon of our lives. Years or even decades have passed in which we have known the ways of God. Our paths have been bent toward His commandments like a tree that has grown arcing toward the sun. No longer do we feel so desperate. No more do we feel so utterly helpless. And then we begin to imagine that somehow our situation has changed. We subtly feel as though it is our duty to maintain the basis of our glad acceptance by the Father. Alas, what folly! We cannot add to it. We dare not seek to supplant the everlasting efficacy of the cross by looking to the changes wrought in us by the Spirit or to the meager works we have accomplished by His grace. Only there! It is still only in His wounded side that the source of all of our righteousness is found. Yesterday, today, and for all our tomorrows it is only there!
Good news indeed! Oh what balm for the weary and guilt-stricken soul. And how utterly different it is from all the other religious systems of the world throughout history. Just as in Christ we find the mysterious conjoining of divinity and humanity, in the gospel we find two things that should be at odds sweetly mingling. On the one hand there is the unwavering demand for a heavenly holiness to pervade our lives (1 Pet.1:15-16), and on the other we find the constant refrain that our pardon from sin is an utterly free gift received by faith (Eph. 2:.8-9). It is by no merit of our own that we are saved, and yet this substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf should awaken in us a fervent longing to be most virtuous of all peoples.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)
And could it be that only when the one is seen clearly can the other follow? For so often we evidence the apprehension of neither. We wallow in worldliness and then attempt to manufacture self-righteousness. Away with both! They are odious to God. Let us ever drink freely from the wellspring of grace and be a pure and spotless Bride adorned with righteous deeds (Rev. 19:8).
May it never be that we boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to us, and us to the world. Only there!