A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
18th July 2008
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“It is finished”, cried Jesus as he died. His death brought to an end Satan's reign of sin and death. Jesus had endured the suffering for sin to the uttermost. He had learned what it meant to be obedient to his Father in a sinful world. He had been made perfect or complete as the sacrifice for our sins.
As he died and the curtain in the temple was ripped in two, the way to heaven was opened up. For the sin of the whole world was paid for, in that one death. This was the “one full perfect and sufficient sacrifice oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world”.
It was never repeated—for it could never be repeated. It was never repeated—for it never needed repeating. Jesus sacrificial death was sufficient for all sin for all time. To repeat the sacrifice implies that there is something insufficient in Jesus' sacrifice. There is nothing lacking. “It was finished.”
Whereas the Jewish priests stood daily offering the same sacrifices that would never take away sins, Jesus offered himself once for all to take away all our sins. And Jesus did not stay standing at this post daily offering sacrifices but sat down at God's right hand—having completed this perfect sacrifice and waiting for his enemies to be placed under his feet.
And in finishing this work, he finished the necessity of priestly sacrifices forever. No longer do we have mediators making intercessions for us. There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity—Jesus Christ our Lord who gave himself as a ransom for all.
The finished work of Christ on the cross of Calvary is a very great and important truth. It is vital that we continue to teach it. For natural religion is always trying to find a place for human contribution to salvation. People always want to do something for which they can claim credit. People always imagine that they are able to make amends for their sins. People foolishly think that they can make God their debtor by doing sufficient good works as to be able to demand reward from him.
But whenever there is an addition of human effort to the work of salvation—the sacrifice of Jesus is undermined. If Jesus' work was unfinished or incomplete then we have no assurance of salvation or forgiveness.
However, there are a couple of aspects of the work of Christ that are unfinished.
There are the sufferings of the Christ that are being filled up by the persecution of Christians. For as we suffer we share in the sufferings of Christ, and Christ himself suffers. On the Damascus road Paul was asked by the risen Christ “why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Many years later, this same Paul could say about his own sufferings that he was “filling up what was lacking in Christ's afflictions.” (Colossians 1:24).
But more important still is the ongoing work of Christ interceding for his people. For having willingly offered the perfect sacrifice in his death—Jesus our great high priest rose from the dead to sit at God's right hand. There he does the priestly work of intercession on our behalf. He pleads our cause to God as our advocate and mediator. (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25).
The intercession that Christ makes with his Father on our behalf is never our innocence or even mitigating circumstances. His plea before the Father is his own sacrificial death on our behalf—turning aside his Father's wrath on our sinfulness. For his death was a sacrifice of propitiation—turning aside God's righteous anger. Thus the Apostle John wrote:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2).
As our advocate he makes intercession for us. Jesus intercessory work is not a new or different ministry that he is engaged in. His continued work is the application of his finished work. For he pleads his own finished payment for sin on our behalf.