Excursus Article: Christ’s Finished Work on the CrossRelated Media
Announcement To The World: It Is Finished!
The gospel is an announcement to the world of an accomplished fact. What God set out to do for mankind, He accomplished. The apostles declared this from the time of Pentecost (Acts 2) and beyond.
Salvation is available on the basis of a single condition: faith (or “belief”). Belief is not just intellectual assent that something might be true. Belief is a commitment of the will. It is the difference between walking alongside a pool of water (seeing it is there) and jumping into the water (experiencing the water personally). God acted; we are to respond to His action by saying yes and jumping into the new life God has for us. Those who respond with faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, receive a firm assurance of security (1 John 5:13), a secure new identity in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a true knowledge of God as seen through all that He has done through Christ’s finished work on the cross.
Six terms describe how our relationship with God is made new because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—Propitiation, Reconciliation, Redemption, Forgiveness, Justification, and Sanctification. These 6 relationship changes are the direct result of Christ’s finished work on the cross so they are often called “words of the cross.” We will cover them one at a time.
Word Of The Cross #1 Propitiation: “God’s Holy Wrath Is Fully Satisfied.”
It comes up time and time again. Women who know Christ and have trusted in Him for salvation and new life struggle with the notion that God is still angry with them because of something they’ve done in the past. Maybe that is how you feel.
Do you wonder if you have a flawed understanding of salvation? Is salvation just getting eternal life when you die? From what are Christians saved? When you study the New Testament, you see that we are saved from many things, including ourselves and our own flawed righteousness. But, the main emphasis is that we are saved from the wrath of God.
What does that mean? And, how does understanding that give you confidence that God is no longer angry with you or at you?
What Is The Wrath Of God?
In Colossians, Paul described God’s response to all evil and sin as righteous, holy wrath (Colossians 3:6). We must not project our experience with human anger onto God and assume that “His is the same, only bigger.” God’s wrath is not a mood or a fit of temper. God’s disposition toward sin and evil is as constant and unrelenting as His love and goodness. He hates and rejects evil with a perfect and holy anger. He will never bend or compromise with it. His own nature demands that He judge it through action. To preserve His creation God must destroy whatever would destroy it (Romans 1:18-20). Every wrathful judgment of God in the history of the world has been a holy act of preservation.
God hates sin. It incurs His anger. You can probably recall a time when you incurred the anger of someone you love and needed to make some kind of restitution to “appease” their anger. The act of appeasement leads to that person now being satisfied because restitution has been made, so the relationship can be restored. That is what God did for us. Romans 3:25 says that God presented Christ as a sacrifice of propitiation for our sins. Propitiation is an old word meaning “to appease, satisfy.” Some translations use the words “sacrifice of atonement” or “atoning sacrifice” instead. The concept of God’s satisfaction is the same.
God’s Wrath Is Fully Satisfied
God took action. God’s holy wrath against all sin is fully satisfied by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Because of that, God is able to extend mercy to every believer in Christ without compromise with evil. This is truth for you to know and claim.
Romans 5:9 says this, “Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from God’s wrath.”
There is no longer any sacrifice that anyone can ever do to appease God’s wrath against sin apart from what Christ has already done. Picture an empty altar—never again used. Jesus did the appeasement for you. It’s done, finished!
God Is No Longer Angry At You
Because you have trusted Christ and are now found in Christ, you can dwell on the FACT that God is no longer angry at your sin—ever! You CAN KNOW and live with confidence that God is SATISFIED…NO LONGER ANGRY at your sin because you believe in His Son.
Word Of The Cross #2 Reconciliation: “Our Relationship With God Is Restored.”
At some point in our lives, we all experience a personal relationship that is broken. You can probably think of one such conflict right now. Broken relationships cause pain and often leave us confused about how we can possibly fix them.
Most people want to be reconciled so that the relationship can be restored in some fashion. How sad it is when a broken relationship continues to remain broken and isn’t reconciled. What joy we experience when we see a broken relationship repaired and healthy again!
Reconciliation is certainly a reason for rejoicing, especially in our relationship with God! But, what does it take for reconciliation?
The Broken Relationship Restored
As Romans 3:23 describes, all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Before Christ, our problem was a state of alienation (separation) from God because of sin (Isaiah 59:2). There was an impassable barrier between us. A broken relationship. Some kind of reconciliation needed to be done. We couldn’t do it on our part—no matter how many good works we did. There was always that chasm created by sin between us and God.
BUT GOD did something about that! I love those two words in the Bible, “But God.” Whenever it looks absolutely hopeless for us humans, God steps in and does the exact thing we need. God restored the broken relationship by reconciling us to Himself through Jesus’s death.
To reconcile means to re-establish friendship between two parties, to settle or resolve a dispute, and/or to bring acceptance. Wow! Did we need that!
What was God’s motivation to repair the broken relationship? It was love.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Romans 5:10 says that God loved us so much that even while we were God’s enemies, He did what was needed to reconcile us to Himself through the death of His Son.
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)
Jesus Christ has fully paid mankind’s debt, removing the barrier between God and men. A bridge has been built through Jesus Christ. As we cross over this bridge by our faith in Jesus, our relationship with God is restored. God stands eagerly welcoming anyone who will believe the good news and come home (repent, Luke 15:7-10). And, even more than that, Jesus presents us holy and blameless in God’s sight. Reconciliation is a present reality for every Christian and is worthy of our rejoicing!
Living In The Present Reality Of Reconciliation With God
Because this reconciliation extends to everyone who chooses to receive it by faith, God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are to announce to others that they can have what we have in a restored relationship with the God who loves them.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
The same power of reconciliation is available to you through Christ for your relationships. If you are in the midst of a relationship that is broken and in need of reconciliation, pray that God would work His mighty hand in the relationship and provide you with His wisdom in pursuing reconciliation.
Restored…No Longer Broken
You CAN KNOW and live with confidence that the barrier of sin has been taken away and a bridge has been built between you and God because of Jesus’s finished work on the cross. This was God’s act of reconciliation offered to you because you believe in His Son. Your relationship with God is RESTORED…NO LONGER BROKEN.
Word Of The Cross #3 Redemption: “Purchased Out Of Bondage To Sin.”
Bondage. No one likes being in bondage. Whether it is to a person, a contract, a debt, or something controlling your life, bondage stinks. It stifles. It discourages. It makes you a slave of whatever is holding you “in chains.” Every person who is in bondage longs to be released from those chains.
Did you know that every human being born on this planet is born into bondage? I don’t care how much money or status you have. You were born into bondage. Bondage to what? Colossians 1:13 calls it “the kingdom of darkness.” Romans 6:15-18 describes it as being a “slave to sin.” The slave master “sin” calls the shots. Obedience comes too easily. It’s a trap. But, you are released from that trap the moment you trust in Jesus Christ.
The Bible calls this “redemption.” We sing songs about being redeemed. But, do we really understand what that means?
What Is Redemption?
The concept of redemption refers to recovering ownership by paying a stipulated sum. Or, it can mean to set something or someone free from bondage by paying a ransom, such as for a kidnapped person or releasing a slave to become free. Either way, a price is paid.
Biblical redemption is based on an understanding of the pain of slavery—a common practice in the Roman Empire at the time. Nearly 50% of the people were slaves—1 out of every 2 men, women, and children! The readers of the New Testament were very familiar with the hopelessness of being owned by a slave master, the buying and selling associated with the slave market, and the only two ways out of the miserable cycle, one of which was death. The other way was for you to be bought by someone and then set free. Jesus did that for us.
Jesus Christ Set You Free.
Jesus declared that He came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). It is through Christ’s blood (the purchase price) that we are redeemed. We are redeemed from the slavery of sin and from the empty way of life handed down to us by our forefathers.
Redemption represents an important change in our relationship with God. Before Christ, we were in a state of slavery to sin and to death (spiritual & physical). Biblical redemption means that we have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom to serve God in obedience.
The life of slavery to sin leads to someone offering their bodies to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness, free from the control of righteousness with no benefits, only shame. The end result is death.
The life of freedom leads to someone offering their bodies to God and His righteousness leading to holiness, lavished grace and eternal life. Their life is characterized by hearts under obedience to God.
Released…No Longer In Bondage
God chooses to redeem us. It is an extension of His love and His purpose for us.
- God redeems us to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and bring us into the kingdom of the Son He loves (Colossians 1:13-14) where we have forgiveness of sins.
- God redeems us from all wickedness to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).
- God redeems men and women from every tribe, language, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10) to be a kingdom and priests to serve Him.
When God redeems you, you become the possession of a loving, merciful God and can live in the security of your freedom from bondage to sin. And, here’s the best part. You have a new master now with greater power living inside of you—the Spirit of God Himself—who can give you freedom from any entrapping sin. Claim that freedom now. Choose to obey the Spirit inside you who will lead you and empower you to say “no” to sin.
Bask In The Freedom
You CAN KNOW and live with confidence that you, as a believer, have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery to sin and released into freedom as God’s act of redemption.
Are you experiencing the freedom from slavery to sin in your life right now? If not, do you have confidence that you do not have to listen to the voice of your old slave master sin? You have been RELEASED…NO LONGER IN BONDAGE.
“Redeemed how I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am.” (Fannie Crosby, 19th century hymn writer)
Word Of The Cross #4 Forgiveness: “Your Guilt Has Been Taken Away.”
Like the woman washing Jesus’s feet with her tears in Luke 7, many of us carry the guilt of our sins with us like a heavy burden, weighing us down. The continual reminder of our sins keeps us from experiencing freedom and from enjoying the relationship with God that we have by faith in Jesus Christ.
We don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: forgiveness.
All of our debt of sin before God is enormous; we are incapable of ever paying it back. You and I need to understand how complete and continual is God’s forgiveness of us. And, we need to know how to deal with any recognized sin in our lives so that we won’t continue to carry that burden of guilt.
What Is Forgiveness?
In the Bible, the term “forgiveness” means “to send off or send away.” Our sin is transferred to a substitute, Jesus, and taken away. People in Old Testament times were accepted by God and received eternal life in the same way as we are today: by faith in the merciful grace of God. For daily living, however, they had to bring their animal sacrifice to the priest. Their sin was transferred to that sacrifice, and they received forgiveness for their sins up to that point.
God promised His people that one day forgiveness would no longer be a temporary solution, but it would be complete and permanent. That happened on the cross through Jesus.
Jesus Christ Set You Free From The Burden.
As Paul declared in Colossians 2,
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
Once you place your faith in Jesus Christ, whatever you have done that was wrong in God’s eyes from the time you were born through the time of your death has been canceled. Taken away. All of it. Past, present and future. Nailed to the cross.
It’s even better than that! Paul writes in 2 Corinthians,
“that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthiasn 5:19)
Since your sins have been taken away, God is longer counting them against you. You are forgiven based on your faith alone. Sins are applied to Jesus who takes them on your behalf. FORGIVENESS: “Your guilt has been transferred to a substitute and taken away.”
Once you have trusted in Jesus, Ephesians 1:7 says that forgiveness is something we possess as believers. We receive God’s forgiveness for all our sins (past, present, and future) from the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. That is very important for you to know. Forgiveness is complete and continual.
Although our God does not hold our sin against us any longer, and His grace is continually forgiving us of sin, that does not give us permission to intentionally sin. Intentional sin does not fit with who you are as a forgiven Christian with a new life to enjoy. But, as long as you live in your earthly body, you will be tempted to sin. Sin will happen—whether intentionally or unintentionally. And, though our God is no longer counting our sins against us, we still must deal with the consequences of any sinful behavior.
As an already forgiven Christian, the biblical process for dealing with recognized sin is to remember first that your identity is child of God, then agree with God that you have sinned against Him, mourn your sin and depend on the Holy Spirit to help you obey God in the future. Then, trust in Him to help you overcome the consequences of any sinful choices you have made in a way that brings glory to Him.
Forgiven…No Longer Burdened
Dwell on the FACT that Jesus will cleanse your conscience from guilt. Will you take Him at His word? If there is any past sin for which you are still feeling guilty, claim God’s complete forgiveness today. Now, choose to believe you are FORGIVEN…NO LONGER BURDENED by your sin. Allow Jesus to cleanse your conscience from any residual guilt. Every time you think about it again, thank God for His amazing gift!
Word Of The Cross #5 Justification: “Declared Righteous In God’s Eyes.”
As a teen, I wrestled with the notion that I was not good enough to please God. I could never measure up to His standards of perfection. I was always guilty of not doing something right, of falling short of whatever it was He expected of me.
Then, I heard some good news when I committed my life to Christ and chose to follow Him. God declared me “not guilty” of all my sin. Not guilty? All my sin? Really?
Yes, dear believer, God declares you “not guilty” of all sin, once and for all, based on your faith alone in His Son. It is an amazing plan that is totally based on His grace towards you, not anything you have earned by your own efforts.
And, this one decision made by God the Judge on behalf of every Christian is one of the most important aspects of our relationship with God. The word used to describe it is this: Justification. And, the truth wrapped up in this one word has rocked the world for centuries.
What Is Justification?
Justification is a legal term that literally means, “to declare righteous, to declare not guilty.” English New Testaments use “justified” and “made righteous” interchangeably, but both mean just about the same thing. Justification represents an important change in our relationship with God. Our problem before Christ was our need for perfect acceptability before a holy God. We could never reach that on our own.
Justification is God’s act as Judge where He declares a guilty sinner to be totally righteous in His sight on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross and that person’s faith in Christ. This is possible because the sacrifice of Jesus Christ fully honored and satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God (“propitiation”).
Justification involves both a negative and positive aspect. Negatively, justification is the removal of guilt from the offender (“forgiveness”). Positively, justification is the addition of righteousness to the one who believes (Romans 5:17). This is called the “Great Exchange.” Paul describes it clearly in 2 Corinthians,
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus Christ Took Your Sin; God Declares You Righteous.
God not only declares you “not guilty” of all sin through your faith in His Son, He also gives you a new status called “righteousness before God.” That’s the end result of JUSTIFICATION: “The believer in Jesus Christ is declared righteous before God.”
It is not your own righteousness that does it. You receive this righteous status by faith alone and not depending upon any works that you do to earn acceptability in God’s sight, even after you are saved. The amazing thing is that God does this while we are still capable of sinning. When God looks on you, He sees His Son’s righteousness taking the place of your sin—even your sin after you’ve been a believer for a long time.
Picture an accountant’s spreadsheet dedicated to your life. On the left side of the page is the heading “your sins;” on the right side of the page is the heading “Christ’s righteousness.” When you sin (intentionally or unintentionally) for the rest of your life, God replaces that sin on the “your sins” side with Christ’s righteousness and puts your sin on His side—your sin is taken away (forgiveness). It is a continual balancing. Your sin never stays on your side of the page because God declares in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that He is “not counting men’s sins against them.” You are forever declared “not guilty” in His sight. Isn’t that great news?!
But, Wait, There’s More…
According to Romans 5:1-2, we now have peace with God as a benefit of being justified. We are no longer enemies but are reconciled to Him as saved ones. We are no longer alienated from God as enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior. Instead, we are now presented as “holy in His sight,” without blemish and free from accusation.
In Galatians 3:26-27, Paul declares that every believer is a child of God by faith and, therefore, clothed with Christ. When God looks on you and me, He sees Jesus and His righteousness, not all of our faults. It is an amazing plan that is totally based on His grace toward us, not anything we have earned by our own efforts.
Righteous…No Longer Guilty
If you are still wrestling with the notion that you are not good enough to please God, remember that no one can ever be good enough on his or her own merits to please God.
In Philippians 3:2-9, Paul considered his birth status, education, pursuit of knowledge, and zeal to get rid of Christians as evidence that he had plenty of reasons to convince himself that he was a “righteous” Jew and that God should have been pleased with his efforts.
But, after knowing Christ, Paul declared all those things that he once thought were in his favor to be rubbish, a loss rather than a win when it comes to faith. Instead, Paul discovered that knowing Jesus Christ as Lord was far better. He now preferred to be found in Christ with the righteousness that comes through faith, not by his own efforts. All Paul had to do to gain his new righteous standing before God was to trust in Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord. That is true for you as well.
Dwell on the FACT of your justification—being declared righteous so that you are now perfectly acceptable to a holy God based on your faith in His Son. How do you feel about this? When you are tempted to think that God could not possibly accept you because of your weaknesses and guilty past, declare this to yourself: “I am declared righteous in God’s eyes because of my faith in Jesus Christ.” You are RIGHTEOUS…NO LONGER GUILTY in God’s sight.
Word Of The Cross #6 Sanctification: “Set Apart As God’s Possession For His Exclusive Use.”
I was once an up-tight perfectionist. Yes, I admit it. My whole self-image depended upon being perfect in grades, piano performance and whatever got me awards for achievement.
Yet, my flaws kept getting in the way of getting straight A’s one six weeks so that I missed out on the “straight A’s” award for that school year. I was horrible in athletics so PE was my nemesis. Then, in college, physics knocked me down big time. I just couldn’t see how to get the answers to those problems.
My flaws were ever before me, and I sobbed when I couldn’t achieve perfection, which happened a lot. My self-image was tied to a losing cause.
Then, Jesus entered my life and showed me a new way to look at myself—through what He did for me on the cross. When my eyes stopped looking at me and my flaws and started looking at Him and my value in His sight, that burden of performance and perfectionism just rolled off my shoulders. It was the greatest relief I ever felt!
And, perfectionism has never controlled my life since then (although that tendency to evaluate myself and what I do with critical eyes remains latent in my personality). Through my faith in Christ, God looks upon me as already perfect, as flawless as the most perfect diamond. The Bible calls this Sanctification.
What Is Sanctification?
Like propitiation (word #1), sanctification is a word we don’t use in our daily vocabulary. To be sanctified means to be made holy. To be “holy” means to be “set apart for special use.” Because the two words—sanctified and holy—are so closely connected, they are used interchangeably in our English translations. They mean the same thing, though.
Sanctification represents another important change in our standing with God. Our problem before Christ was our need to be separated from the world and separated to God. This is accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as all believers are turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:17-18).
God demands that we be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). But, here’s the best news: God makes us holy in His sight by our faith in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10). His love chooses to do that for us. It absolutely amazes me that God looks upon me and calls me holy in His sight. Doesn’t that amaze you?
But, sanctification is more than just having a different status before God. We have a different purpose as well. Every believer has been set apart as God’s special, beloved possession for His exclusive use. To be set apart for special use is similar to using fine china and silverware for special occasions. It is the opposite of ordinary and common. Dear Christian, you are God’s special, beloved possession—called by Him to be dedicated to His service. You have a valuable purpose. How sweet is that!
You Place Your Faith In Jesus; God Declares You His Saint.
Sanctified ones are called “holy people” and “saints” in the New Testament, depending on the translation. You can see how Paul described the believers in the first couple of verses of most of his letters—i.e., Romans 1:7, 2 Corinthians 1:1, and Ephesians 1:1. Translators use various English words to represent Paul’s intended meaning, usually “saints,” “holy ones” or “holy people.” All of those are translating a derivative of the Greek word hagios, “holy,” meaning separated from sin and dedicated to God.
All believers are called “holy ones” based on their faith in Jesus Christ. You as a saint are identified by position, what God declares to be true about you. Every believer, including you, is one of God’s saints, totally loved and accepted by Him. You are considered a saint of God by His declaration, not because of your behavior. Although some particularly influential Christians have been titled “Saint” through the years as an honor for their service to God, this in no way negates the truth that every believer is a saint in God’s eyes.
Believers are made holy by Christ’s death on the cross in their relational status before God. Remember all those words we have already studied? You have been redeemed, reconciled to God, forgiven, justified and completely accepted by God because of what Jesus has already done for you on the cross. All of that contributes to God declaring you holy as one of His saints by faith in Jesus Christ. That is your status before God. Perfected…no longer flawed in His sight.
But, Wait, There’s More…
Believers are also “being made holy” in their thoughts, words, and actions by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is ongoing from the moment of salvation until the Lord comes or the believer dies, when our “being made holy” is complete (Philippians 1:6). The goal of the Spirit’s work is to transform us into the likeness of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) so that we become in thought and behavior what we are in status—holy as God is holy.
Perfected…No Longer Flawed
Dwell on the FACT that God declares you holy because of your faith in Christ. You are set apart by Him, for Him. In His eyes, you are perfected, no longer flawed. This is your status before God because of your faith. Your behavior matches your position when you submit to the Spirit’s work to intentionally separate you from what God calls sin and then commit yourself to being used for His purposes throughout a typical day as you care for your household, be a parent or grandparent to children, work for an employer, interact with people around you, and spend your leisure time.
These Gifts Are Yours, Sister!
Because of the cross, you can dwell on the FACT that God was fully satisfied by Jesus’s finished work on the cross. God is no longer angry at your sin because you believe in His Son. You can dwell on the FACT that the barrier of sin has been taken away and complete reconciliation between you and God is possible because of Jesus’s finished work on the cross. Your relationship with God is restored. You can dwell on the FACT that you, as a believer, have been purchased by the blood of Christ out of slavery and released into freedom as God’s act of redemption. You have a new master with greater power living inside of you, the Spirit of God Himself, who can give you freedom from any entrapping sin.
You can also dwell on the FACT that you are completely forgiven of your sins and that Jesus promises to cleanse your conscience from guilt. You can dwell on the FACT that you have been declared righteous (justified) and are now perfectly acceptable to a holy God based on your faith in His Son. And, you can dwell on the FACT that God declares you holy because of your faith in Christ. You are sanctified—set apart by Him, for Him.
Mankind’s disease was sin. Because of this disease, we were: 1) never able to make ourselves well, 2) in bondage to the disease, 3) alienated from the one who could heal us, 4) carrying the guilt of having the disease, 5) experiencing cumulative effects of the disease, and 6) unable to live a purposeful life. Jesus’s finished work on the cross removed all these effects of the disease so that “by His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24)—truly healed!
An understanding of Christ’s finished work on the cross is the basis for a firm knowledge of our identity in Him—a foundational truth for successful Christian living. It was totally God’s work to make sinners acceptable again in His sight. Our proper response is to trust and rest in His work, and to continually offer Him thanks from grateful hearts along with our willing service.
Now that you have a more complete understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross on your behalf—how does that make you feel? Believe it, sister. Embrace it. Relish in it. Bask in it. Anchor your hope in it.
As Paul writes in Colossians 3:12, you are dearly loved!