Christ finished His main mission on earth by giving His life on the cross, saying, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30), but today some are twisting His statement into a false doctrine. They claim that since Christ said, “It is finished” on the cross, there are no “works” (no actions) men can do today that will have any affect on their salvation. This has led some to the conclusion that baptism cannot be essential, and that once a person is saved, there is no work he is required to do. Please notice the following points:
First, the importance of what Christ did on the cross should never be minimized. The veil of the temple being rent from top to bottom when Christ died symbolized the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was required for men to enter the Most Holy Place of Heaven (Matt. 27:51). Man could not be saved without Christ’s sacrifice, but if God says that men must obey His commands to access the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice, man has no right to say otherwise (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38-41; Rom. 6:16-18; Heb. 5:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 1:6, 7). Also, just because a good-hearted person wants to obey every command of God, that does not mean he is trying to earn his salvation. Satan uses derogatory terms such as “legalist” to try to discourage the faithful, but those who know the Truth and love God wholeheartedly will not be discouraged. The Truth is that salvation cannot be earned (Eph. 2:8, 9), but that does not mean that man can ignore God’s commands. God has repeatedly said that He will only save those who obey Him (Matt. 7:21; Rom. 6:16-18; 1 Pet. 1:22; Heb. 5:9, etc.). God by grace saves when man by faith obeys (Gal. 3:26, 27; 5:6).
The context of John 19:30 must be considered. When Christ said, “It is finished,” we must be careful when defining what He meant by “it.” His statement must be understood in the context of what He was accomplishing on the cross. He finished His main mission on earth via His death, which enabled men to become saved by contacting His blood through obedience (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-5, 16-18), but not all work was done related to man’s salvation.
Christ worked after the cross. The Bible literally says Jesus was “working” after He returned to Heaven, confirming the Word while the Truth was being revealed in the first century A.D.—“the Lord working with them” (Mark 16:20).
Christ is still working today. He is interceding, as the Christian’s High Priest: “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” (Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 1:7-9; 2:1). It is therefore erroneous to interpret Jesus’ statement in John 19:30 to mean Christ’s work on the cross was the last work that ever needed to be done related to man’s salvation.
Christ said that even belief is a work (John 6:27-29). “Work” is not a bad word, as so many seem to assume. A work is something men choose to do. Some works are not involved in man’s salvation (such as works of the Law of Moses, Eph. 2), and some are required, such as obeying God’s New Testament commands for salvation (Acts 10:34, 35, 48; cf. 2:38-41; 22:16).
After the cross, Christ gave His followers the greatest work the world has ever known. After His death and resurrection, Jesus commanded His followers to preach the Gospel to everyone and baptize those who want salvation – “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). That work will last until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). To say there is no work to do today is to do away with the greatest mission ever given to man.
Those who use John 19:30 to allege that water baptism is unnecessary are contradicting the very Lord they claim to serve. Jesus Himself taught the necessity of water baptism, which is why it was included in the Great Commission—to save people all over the world until the end of the world (Jn. 3:5; Mk. 16:15, 16; Matt. 28:18-20). Inspired men like Peter told people who already believed in Jesus to repent and be baptized to “save themselves” (Acts 2:38-40). Why would he say that if they could not do anything to affect their own salvation? The necessity of water baptism is emphasized throughout the New Testament (Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27; Eph. 5:26; Col. 2:11-13; Heb. 10:22; Titus 3:5; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21).
Christ will judge everyone by their works, not simply what they believe. This is plainly taught throughout the Bible (Psa. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:14-46; John 5:27-29; Rom. 2:5-11; 11:22; Gal. 6:7-9; Php. 2:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2, 3).
Christ commands His followers to be busy working. Inspired men like Paul wrote the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37), and Paul said the only thing that will “avail” us is “faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Again, these are not works of the Law of Moses (Gal. 5:1-4; Eph. 2:8-16), but working God’s righteous commands of the New Covenant (Acts 10:34, 35; Col. 2:11-17; Heb. 7:11-14; 10:8, 9). True love for God necessitates obedience: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 Jn. 5:3; cf. Jn. 14:15; 15:14). The Bible teaches that anyone who claims to be a Christian without obedience is lying: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:3, 4). “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him…” (Titus 1:16; cf. 2:11-14). James said that “faith without works is dead” (Jam. 2:26; cf. 2:14-25). The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the need for Christians to be busy working for their Lord after they initially become saved (1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9, 10; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:11-14), and how does the idea of “no work for men today” harmonize with verses like these?
“…in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Cor. 5:9-11).
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12; cf. Acts 2:40; 1 Pet. 1:22; Jude 21; Rev. 2:2, 9, 10, etc.).
“Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest…” (Heb. 4:11; cf. 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:3).
God has spoken plainly, but Satan does not want anyone obeying God or working for God, and he has deceived many through popular preachers and their numerous followers. Friends, there is work being done by Christ today, there is “work” (action) required to become a Christian, all Christians should be busy working for the Lord, and one day we will all be held accountable for the work we did or refused to do (Matt. 25:14-46).