Is Christ’s work unfinished?
‘The finished work of Christ’ is one of the dearest doctrines of all to Protestants (see January 2013 ET). When Christ died on the cross, he did everything necessary to save us eternally.
His death has paid the full price for the eternal salvation of his people. ‘When Jesus therefore received the vinegar, he said, it is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost’ (John 19:30). ‘But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10:12).
So while it is an essential truth of the gospel that Christ’s work is finished, it is also true to say that the Bible teaches us of ‘the unfinished work of Christ’, that is, what the Lord Jesus is currently doing for his people.
The Bible teaches that Christ’s saving work is both accomplished and ongoing! This will be so until all of God’s people have been saved ‘to sin no more’.
According to the Bible, there are at least four aspects of the continuing work of Christ.
Christ has not finished drawing sinners to himself. Jesus stated, ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me’ (John 12:32). For his work at Calvary in the past to make any difference to an individual’s life in the present, it has to be applied to the human heart.
Christ continues, by his Holy Spirit, to draw sinners to himself. He convicts them of their sin and lost condition, and gives them saving faith to unite them to himself.
The Shorter Catechism states: ‘Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of God and renewing our will, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel’.
It is as true to define a Christian as one who has been drawn by Christ to himself, as it is to define a Christian as one who is justified by faith, redeemed by the blood or saved by grace.
Christ has not finished interceding for sinners. Jesus is praying for his people. This is one aspect of his work as our High Priest. ‘[He] is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us’ (Romans 8:34); ‘wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:25).
Jim Packer provides us with an excellent definition of this unfinished work: ‘Christ’s intercession [is] that heavenly activity … whereby he makes sure that all who come to God through him, pleading his name, trusting him for forgiveness, access, grace to help in time of need, and ultimate glory, will not be disappointed … it is certainly and infallibly efficacious [effective]’ (God’s words, J. Packer, p.118).
He died; but lives again
And by the throne he stands
There shows how he was slain
Opening his pierced hands
Our Priest abides and pleads the
Of us who have transgressed his laws.
Christ has not finished preserving saved sinners. He not only makes us safe, but keeps us safe. If the barriers to our coming to faith in Christ were great, humanly speaking, so are the barriers to our persevering in the faith.
We face a continual battle against the world, flesh and devil, all of which threaten to make shipwreck of us and separate us from the Saviour. However, the Bible teaches that Christ keeps his own.
Jesus is stronger than Satan or sin. Jesus affirms concerning his own sheep, ‘I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).
The Bible teaches the eternal security of those who are united to Christ. The Christ who saves us is actually the King of kings. There is no higher authority than his. No natural or supernatural power is a match for him. Paul is persuaded that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:39).
The Shorter Catechism, in explaining how his kingship is an aspect of his being our Redeemer, states: ‘Christ executeth the office of a king in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies’.
Christ is infinitely worthy of our confidence and trust. He will not let us go. Some of the apostle Paul’s last recorded words were the confident affirmation, ‘And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever’ (2 Timothy 4:18). All of God’s children may make these words their own.
Preparing a home
Christ has not finished preparing a glorious home for his people. He is preparing a home in heaven for all who belong to him.
Remember those well-known words which the Saviour uttered in the upper room: ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions [lit. “abiding places”]. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:2).
Think of it! He is preparing a place for you. A place in glory, in God’s house, for all those he died to save. What must that place be like? The Christian’s glorious, eternal home will surely be greater than any human words can tell.
If you are a Christian then, and your faith is based on Christ’s finished work of redemption at Calvary, you can also rejoice and take great comfort from his ongoing work on your behalf.
Christ has some unfinished business! He is working for you today! He lovingly drew you to himself. He intercedes for you, keeping you in the protection of his work at Calvary. He keeps you from all evil and, in amazing grace, is preparing an exquisite home in heaven for you — a home in the Father’s house itself.
Thou art gone up before us Lord
To make for us a place
That we may be where now thou art
And look upon God’s face.
O think of the home over there
By the side of the river of light
Where the saints all immortal and fair
Are robed in their garments of white.