This entry is part 12 of 16 in the series: The Fountain of Life (Flavel)
- The excellency of knowing Christ crucified
- Christ’s primeval glory
- Christ’s wonderful person
- Christ’s humiliation in his incarnation
- Christ’s humiliation in his life
- Christ’s prayer for his people
- The Lord’s Supper
- Christ’s illegal trial and condemnation
- The nature of Christ’s death
- ‘Father, forgive them’
- Flavel on Jesus’ cry of dereliction
- “It is finished”
- ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’
- The resurrection of Christ
- The ascension of Christ
- Christ’s exaltation
A summary of chapter 35 of The Fountain of Life, by John Flavel.
“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. And he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30
It is finished. This was uttered as a triumphant shout when our Lord Jesus Christ saw the glorious issue of all his sufferings now at hand.
It is but one word in the original; but in that one word is contained the sum of all joy; the very spirit of all divine consolation.
It must be observed, when we say, Christ finished redemption-work by his death, the meaning is not that his death alone did finish it; for his abode in the grave, resurrection, and ascension, had all of them their joint influence therein.
DOCTRINE. That Jesus Christ has perfected and completely finished the great work of redemption, committed to him by God the Father.
To this great truth the apostle gives a full testimony, Heb. 10:14 “By one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified.” And to the same purpose speaks Christ, John 17:4. “I have glorified you on earth! I have finished the work you gave me to do.”
I. What was the work which Christ finished by his death?
It was the fulfilling the whole law of God in our room, and for our redemption, as a sponsor or surety for us. His perfect fulfillment of the law was:
1. A subjective perfection. The work was perfect, because the person performing it was perfect.
2. An effective perfection. He fulfilled all righteousness, as it behoved him to do, Mat. 3:15. He finished the work his Father gave him to do.
(i) This was a necessary work which Christ finished upon the cross.
(a) It was necessary on the Father’s account. Acts 4:28. “To do whatever your hand and counsel had before determined to be done.”
(b) It was necessary with respect to Christ, upon the account of that precious compact that was between the Father and him about it. John 9:3. “I must work the works of him that sent me.”
(c) Had not Christ finished this work, sin had quickly finished all our lives, comforts, and hopes. Therefore it is said, John 3:14, 15. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so [must] the Son of man be lifted up; that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
(ii) As it was necessary, so it was exceeding difficult.
(iii) It was a most precious work; that work was dispatched and finished in few hours, which will be the matter of everlasting songs and triumphs to the angels and saints to all eternity. The mercies that now flow out of this fountain, namely, justification, sanctification, adoption, etc. are not to be valued; besides the endless happiness and glory of the world to come, which cannot enter into the heart of man to conceive. If the angels sang when the foundation-stone was laid, what shouts, what triumphs shall there be among the saints, when this voice is heard, It is finished!
II. In what manner did Jesus Christ finish this glorious work?
1. He finished it obediently, Phil. 2:8. “He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.”
2. He finished it freely. John 10:17, 18 “Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” He liked the work for the end’s sake.
3. He finished it diligently. As the life of some men is but a diversion from one trifle to another, from one pleasure to another; so the whole life of Christ was spent and taken up between one work and another: never was a life so filled up with labor: the very moments of his time were all employed for God to finish this work.
4. He finished it completely and fully. No hand can come after his; angels can add nothing to it. Whatever the law demanded is perfectly paid; whatever a sinner needs, is perfectly obtained and purchased; nothing can be added to what Christ has done; he put the last hand to it, when he said, It is finished.
III. What assurance or evidence do we have that Christ has so finished redemption-work?
1. The blood, as well as the obedience of Christ, was of infinite value and efficacy, sufficiently able to accomplish all the ends for which it was shed. There was enough in Christ’s blood to satisfy the utmost demand of justice: when that therefore is actually shed, justice is fully paid, and, consequently, the souls for whom, and in whose names it is paid, are fully redeemed from the curse by the merit thereof.
2. The discharge or acquittance God the Father gave him, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand. If Christ, the sinner’s surety, be, as such, discharged by God the creditor, then the debt is fully paid. 1 Tim. 3:16, he was justified in the spirit, that is openly discharged by that very act of the Godhead, his raising him from the dead. For when the grave was opened, and Christ arose, it was to him as the opening of the prison-doors, and setting a surety at liberty, who was confirmed for another man’s debt. Heb. 10:12, 13, 14. “After he had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God.” And what does he infer from that, but the very truth before us, verse 14 that “by one offering he has perfected forever them that are sanctified?”
3. The blessed effects of it upon all that believe in him: for by virtue of the completeness of Christ’s work, finished by his death, their consciences are now rationally pacified, and their souls at death, actually received into glory. If Christ had done his work imperfectly, he could not have given rest and tranquility to the laboring and burdened souls that come to him, as now he does, Mat. 11:28. Conscience would still be hesitating, trembling, and unsatisfied, and had he not finished his work, he could not have had entrance through the veil of his flesh into heaven, as all that believe in him have, Heb. 10:19, 20.
1. How sweet a relief is this to us that believe in Christ against all the defects and imperfections of all the works of God, that are wrought by us. There is nothing, finished that we do: all our duties are imperfect duties; they come off lamely, and defectively from our hands. It is Christ’s charge against the church of Sardis, Rev. 3:2. Though we cannot perfectly obey, or fulfill one command of the law, yet is “the righteousness of the law fulfilled in us that believe,” Rom. 8:4. Christ’s complete obedience being imputed to us, makes us complete, and without fault before God.
2. How dangerous and dishonorable a thing is it to join anything of our own to the righteousness of Christ, in point of justification before God. He will be all, or none, in your justification. If he have finished the work, what need of our additions? And if not, to what purpose are they? Can we finish that which Christ himself could not? It is said, Deut. 8:16. “That he fed them with manna in the wilderness, that he might humble them.” The quality of the food was not humbling, for it was angels’ food, but the manner of giving it was so: they must live by faith upon God for it, from day to day.
3. If Christ has finished his work for us, then certainly he will also finish his work in us. As he began the work of our redemptions, and finished it: so he that has begun the good work in you, will also finish it upon your souls. And at this the apostle says, “He is confident,” Phil. 1:6. Jesus Christ is not only called the author, but also the finisher of our faith, Heb. 12:2.
4. How excellent and comfortable beyond all compare, is the method and way of faith! Surely the way of believing is the most excellent way in which a poor sinner can approach God, for it brings before him a complete, entire, perfect righteousness; and this must needs be most honorable to God, most comfortable to the soul that draws near to God. How pleasing, and acceptable to God must be that faith, which presents so complete and excellent an atonement to him! One act of faith pleases him more, than if you should toil all your lives at a task of obedience to the law.
5. How necessary is a laborious working life to all that call themselves Christians? The life of Christ was a laborious life. Shall he work and we play? Shall a zealous, active, working Christ be reproached with idle, negligent and lazy followers? O work, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. 2:12.
Objection. But if Christ finished the work, nothing remains for us to do.
Solut. Nothing of that work which Christ did, remains for you to do. But you must work, to obey the commands of Christ into whose right you are come by redemption: you must work to testify your thankfulness to Christ, for the work finished for you: you must work, to glorify God by your obedience: let your light so shine before men.
Be you a follower of Christ. Imitate him in such particulars as these that follow.
(i) Christ began early to work for God; he took the morning of his life, even the very beginning of it, to work for God.
(ii) As Christ began betime, so he followed his work close. So zealous that “the zeal of God’s house eat him up.” He flew like a seraphim, in a flame of zeal, about the work of God. O be not you like snails.
(iii) Christ often thought upon the shortness of his time, and wrought hard because he knew his working-time would be but little. John 9:4. “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day; the night comes, when no man can work.” If a man have much to write, and be almost come to the end of his paper, he will write close, and thereby put much matter in a little room.
(iv) He did much work for God in a very silent manner. O imitate your pattern; Work hard for God, and let not pride blow upon it, when you have done.
(v) Christ carried on his work for God resolvedly. How did Scribes and Pharisees, Jews, Gentiles, yes, devils set upon him, by persecutions, and reproaches, violent oppositions, and subtle temptations; but yet, he goes on with his Father’s work for all that: he is deaf to all discouragements. So it was foretold of him, Isa. 42:4. “He shall not fail, nor be discouraged.” O that more of this spirit of Christ were in his people: O that, in the strength of love to Christ, and zeal for the glory of God, you will pour out your hearts in service, and, like a river, sweep down all discouragements before you.
(vi) He continued working, while he continued living: His life and labor ended together: He fainted not in his work: Nay, the greatest work he did in this world, was his last work. O be like Christ in this, be not weary of well doing.
6. Look to it Christian, that you also finish your work which God has given you to do: That you may with comfort say, when death approaches, as Christ said, John 17:4. “I have glorified you on earth, I have finished the work you gave me to do; and now, O Father, glorify you me with your own self.”
(i) If your work be not done before you die, it can never be done when you are dead. The body, which is the soul’s instrument to work by, is broken and thrown aside: the soul itself presented immediately before the Lord, to give an account of all its works. O therefore, seeing the night comes, when no man can work, as Christ speaks, John 9:4. make haste and finish your work.
(ii) If you finish not your work, as the season of working, so the season of mercy will be over at death. Do not think, you that have neglected Christ all your lives, you that could never be persuaded to a laborious holy life, that ever your cries and entreaties shall prevail with God for mercy, when your season is past: No, it is too late. “The master of the house is risen up, and the doors are shut,” Luke 19:42.
(iii) If your work be not finished when you come to die, you can never finish your lives with comfort. O what a dismal case is that soul in, that finds itself surprised by death in an unready posture! Well then, look to it that you finish your work as Christ also did his!