Justification and “It Is Finished”

Jesus Christ said from the cross, “It is finished.”

I’ve heard this phrase used many times in the argument about justification by faith alone.

I maintain that the faith that justifies is not alone. I think justifying faith works by love. Justifying faith does what God says. We know everyone in Hebrews 11 had faith because they did what God told them to do.

James says explicitly that we are not justified by faith only. Faith alone puts you on par with demons and people who wanted to stone Jesus (John 8).

But when a guy ventures into this water, he receives opposition. Apparently I am bringing people back under the law, teaching works righteousness, being legalistic, and denying Christ’s words that “He finished it all, there’s nothing else to add.”

Context is key to deciphering the meaning of any biblical phrase. “It is finished” has a context and the context is not about being justified by faith alone.

The immediate context of “it is finished” is John 19:30

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

What did Jesus think was finished when He said this? What did He just get done doing? The context shows that He just got done drinking vinegar. Perhaps there is something in the larger context bringing drinking vinegar and something being finished together. Let’s expand the view by going back to verse 28 and 29:

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

The word “accomplished” in verse 28 is the same Greek word translated “finished” in verse 30. “Fulfilled” borrows the same Greek root word as the Greek word translated “finished.” Therefore, accomplished, fulfilled, and finished are all related.

When Jesus said “It is finished” after drinking vinegar, it’s because that was the last bit of prophecy to be fulfilled in His earthly life before His death. “It is finished” has to do with fulfilling the scriptural prophecies of Christ’s earthly life. It has nothing to do with justification.

For a theological explanation of the same point, observe Romans 4:25:

Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Justification is based on His resurrection, which obviously was not finished when Jesus said “It is finished,” because He wasn’t even dead when He said it.

Saying “it is finished” as some sort of mantra that means there’s nothing for a believer to do after “getting saved,” is a wild  misapplication of this phrase.

Ignoring biblical context is the foundation of Justification By Faith Alone. The Bible says we’re not justified by faith only. Luther added “alone” to Romans 5, because it didn’t say what he wanted.

You cannot hold to Justification By Faith Alone if you are seriously considering Scriptural context.

We teach for doctrines the commandments of men, just like another group of people that thought they were justified by one-time acts.

Whatsoever things were written before time were written for our learning. Weird how we don’t pay any attention to what was written before time, but gladly adhere to an easy message by any guy who comes along. Odd, no?

%d bloggers like this: