Paid in Full

John 19:30 (RSV)
"When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, 'It is finished'; and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

What does the cross mean to you? Is it the consummation of the ages where complete atonement was made for our sins? Or is it just a down payment which requires us to perform some ritual to pay the remaining balance, or continue making payments with good works so that we may gain salvation?

There are some who live their lives according to the belief that they must perform certain rituals or good works in order to be saved. They have a hard time accepting the concept that God would bestow forgiveness and salvation freely. Salvation is sometimes seen by such people in terms of buying a house. Jesus provides the down payment for our home loan, and we must continue making payments on the remainder of the loan in order to keep the house and prevent it from being re-possessed.

This way of life stems from the unfortunate fact that in dealings with our fellow human beings, it is very rare that something is truly given for free. So it is not surprising that some people who come to Christ fail to understand and accept that Jesus' life, death on the cross, and resurrection was for our salvation apart from our works. When someone comes and says that God provides us with the gift of eternal life, that all we must do to receive it is accept it by faith in Jesus, many times people will say, "Yes, but you must do good deeds to receive the gift." "Yes, but you must put away all sin before coming to Jesus to accept His gift." "Yes, but you must allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify your life so that you will be fit for salvation." "Yes, but ..."

Fortunately, that is not what John 19:30 says. Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished!" The Greek text uses the word tetelestai, which means "paid in full", not "here is the down payment". This is like saying, "Yes, I am saved by grace, but I must do good works to keep my salvation, or perform this ritual or sacrament to complete my salvation." Or, "Yes, I am saved by grace, but I have to work to keep my salvation!" People who believe this way are in danger of consciously or unconsciously falling into the quagmire of legalism or self-righteousness. And both are not spoken of too well in Scripture. And worse yet, both condemn rather than save.

Jesus did all the works for us without our help. He didn't pay for some of our sins and then require us to pay the remaining balance with certain rituals or with good works. He paid for all our sins. Atonement for our sins was done once for all on the cross. It was not a down payment. The full price was paid at that time. God is not a loan company and His grace is not a loan. His grace is a gift. Jesus did not do an incomplete work and require us to finish it. It is like realizing that we cannot pay our way to heaven in even the least bit, and accepting God's full payment on our loan (our sins), which sets us free from debt.

If we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior our salvation is secure. In such a case, we would be covered by His righteousness and not our own. Our salvation is secure because the blood of Christ cleanses us, and continues to cleanse, from all sin (1 John 1:7).

In accepting salvation from God through faith in Jesus, we must learn to break away from the world's common way of thinking. When God says the gift of salvation is free, He means it. There is no fine print or some other catch. There is nothing we can do to work for it, earn it, or complete it. Nothing! It may be hard to see at first, but the change in life, the good works, come as a result of true faith. The Holy Spirit, who regenerates the soul into the image of Christ, sees to that!

We cannot take any credit for our salvation. Only Jesus can because He accomplished everything for us through His blood. The issue that faces people today is whether they will accept His gift, or insist they must perform a ritual or sacrament to complete it, or keep trying in their feeble ineffectiveness to pay for it.

May the Lord help us all not to fall into the trap of adding to His Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), thereby making it "a different gospel which is really not another" (Galatians 1:6-7), and which condemns to eternal damnation rather than saves.

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